You could say that Gold Coast writer Ben Allmon took a long road to finding his calling. Fortunately for him, he managed to get a book out of it.
Foot Notes tells the story of Ben’s 1000 kilometre walking journey down Australia’s coastline in an attempt to promote his debut album. With $50 in his pocket and a sleeping bag, it was a last ditch effort after years of trying to make it as a success in the music industry.
“I had a very narrow definition of what success was,” he recalls.
“I judged it as a lot of us do; how many album sales you have, how well known you are, and that was the only way to define it.”
Ben hoped that his quirky album “tour” would attract a grassroots following (“There’ll be heaps of people following me with bongos and guitars and we’ll stick it to the man!”) and some much needed publicity. It didn’t.
“As Foot Notes reveals, I’d always thought of myself as a musician,” says Ben.
“Then I got to the end and realised that I’d always been a writer and the music had just kind of been a vehicle for it. I’d always preferred the lyric writing part.”
Ben is engaging and self-deprecating, with a twinkle in his eye and a cheeky smile. While I can certainly picture him on a stage, our long, meandering conversation leaves me in no doubt that words are definitely his “thing”.
Following the big realisation, Ben then went on to carve out a career as a freelance journalist, writing for Jetstar Magazine, Aurealis and The Writer, among others. But it was Foot Notes, the story of his trip, that kept a hold in his mind.
Ten years on from Ben’s misguided-but-ultimately-fruitful journey, the book and its companion album have been released into the world. The story is described in its blurb as “A tale of sand, songs, survival…and untimely erections.” Being the gutter mind that I am, I have to ask the obvious. Ben laughs, turning a little pink.
“Well. We walked into Broome’s Head (an unfortunately titled town),” he explains.
“And as a lot of guys have found at certain times, I just walked in very excited for some reason. Maybe I’d had too many coffees that morning. Anyway the store owners were treated to a whole lot of me whether they wanted it or not. It’s amazing I wasn’t run out of town.”
As can be expected, Foot Notes is brimming with tales of quirky Aussie townsfolk and odd experiences. But Ben was particularly touched by the goodness and generosity he encountered along the way.
“The garbo in tea gardens who gave me most of my lunch, who worked two or three jobs so his daughter could be the first person in their family to go to uni, the woman who saved me when all I had was 40c,” he recalls.
“All of those people showed me what actual success and a good life is, what a hollow and meaningless thing I’d been pursuing.”
“That’s the thing with Foot Notes,” he continues.
“It’s kind of a celebration of the best side of human nature, and Australians’ best side. We hear we’re racist, we’re bigots, but when you get people one on one they tend to be pretty decent by and large, even if they’re a bit rough around the edges.”
Ben’s literal and metaphorical journey took nigh on ten years to reach publication, but now that things have started, there’s no stopping him.
His second book is an anthology of short stories entitled Mr Ordinary Dons a Disguise, which is set to be released by the end of the year, and he’s currently collaborating with a photographer friend on a poetry and photography book.
As for what comes next?
“While I’m still physically able I want to do stories that involve risk or physical involvement,” he declares.
Of course he does.
You can pick up a physical copy of Foot Notes at Big B Books in Burleigh Heads, or hop onto benjaminallmon.com.
IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography