Meet my neighbour. He has insomnia.
Earlier this week, I was awoken at about 2am by an almighty noise. It was definitely from an animal … or monster … and it emanated from somewhere near the bedroom window. It sounded like Satan trying to escape from hell. And he decided that our side fence was the right place to make his entry into the world.
Turns out that it wasn’t Satan. It was the cow from next door.
Yes, even as I type that, I find myself wondering: “How did I end up sleeping barely metres away from … a cow?”
This is particularly perplexing as I’m quite a fan of the Sparkling Concrete Jungle, otherwise known as the city of Sydney. But here on the outskirts of Melbourne, there isn’t too much concrete. Instead, there are a lot of undulating grassy pastures, a phenomenally bad internet connection and … yes … cows.
If you wander across the road there are even little lambs. And horses.
Ok so I didn’t write about these in my post. But check out the crazy arsed chicken eggs you get out here!
From this description it might sound like I’m in an outback station miles from civilisation. The reality is that it’s one hour from the Melbourne CBD. But it may as well be Pluto.
I never expected I would spend extended periods of time in what could easily be described as “the country” (despite it’s proximity to “the city”). But this year I’ve been busy expanding our Melbourne office. I also have five furry pets, so we found somewhere to live where they can frolic and gambol in the paddocks …. while I commute to work!
Anyone who knows me understands that I like high heels, taxi cabs, and eating out at new places. That doesn’t really happen here. Partly because I’ve eaten at the town’s four restaurants so many times now that I can memorise each of their menus. And partly because high heels would simply sink into the boggy paddocks otherwise known as our backyard.
However, those aren’t the only things I’ve adapted to. Here’s what I’ve learnt about living in “the country”.
1. You need to plan ahead – for everything
Need a new printer cartridge? Run out of foundation? Well don’t expect to pop down to the nearest Officeworks or David Jones makeup counter to stock up because … guess what … there isn’t one!
Well, not nearby anyway. So you need to plan ahead if you want to have the right stock of supplies, or it’s a two-hour round trip just to pick up a stapler remover. The best part is when you make that two-hour roundtrip, you come back home and realise as you walk in the door that you need some other crucial item. Totes fun.
2. Small town shenanigans
When you live in a small town environment, you get to know people. And you get to know their personal business. At first, it’s strangely intriguing. You discover all sorts of things about the people you deal with. It’s just like those small town settings in the movies where all the characters know who has slept with whom, and who got pregnant under the bleachers at the local high school.
Until you realise that you are one of those characters. And if you know about everyone else’s business, chances are that they know about yours too. Great.
Little doggie Rambo enjoying the country life
3. The internet speed is worse than what you’d get in a poverty-stricken third world country that has been rocked by genocide
I’m not joking. I’ve done a tonne of work in Cambodia. When I first started working there, there wasn’t a single ATM in the entire country. That’s what a technological backwater it was. Well, I can safely say that I’ve experienced internet speeds in remote areas of Cambodia that crap all over what I have to deal with a mere hour from Melbourne. Who’s the backwater now?
This area might be great to have cows, sheep and horses in your backyard. But don’t expect any locals to be rocking out with a great ecommerce store!
4. People eat their animals
I’ve always been perfectly happy living in a state of delusion. I’ve been just fine thinking that the meat I eat comes wrapped in plastic from the butcher or the supermarket. But here, some people eat their own animals. I’m not joking.
So one day there is a little piggy getting fattened in the backyard. The next day, it’s on the dinner table. I do realise that this little piggy probably had a better life than the ones you get at the supermarket or butcher. But sometimes I just want to believe that scotch fillet is really created in plastic.
5. It’s noisy, really noisy
Think you move out of the city for serenity? Think again. My home in the Sparkling Concrete Jungle of Sydney is like a haven of peace. I’m not too far from main roads – yet I don’t hear any of the traffic. It’s suburbia, yet I don’t hear my neighbours.
Out here, there are machines. And lots of them. Chainsaws, tractors, hay-makers, chainsaws, hole-diggers, tree-cutters, ride-on mowers, and did I say chainsaws?
I notice this because I do a lot of audio recordings – for podcasts, online courses and the like. In the city, I can go for an entire day without being interrupted by this kind of noise. But, in the country, I have to stop all the time because some machine is always chopping, putting, cutting or spluttering.
But there’s an upside
I know I’m painting a negative picture of life on the outskirts of Melbourne. But I’m just telling it like it is. Maybe most people have a romantic, idyllic idea of what this kind of lifestyle is really like.
Of course, I realise that in order to sound like a sane human being who isn’t too ungrateful, I have to balance the above statements with something positive. Like those parents who complain incessantly about their children and then catch themselves, adding: “But I love them to bits and wouldn’t change anything of course. The 100 hours of hell is worth it when they smile for a nanosecond.”
Best Devonshire Teas in the world. True.
So here is the upside. I never have to fight for a parking space on the main street. The Devonshire Teas here are seriously the best I’ve tasted in the world (and no Devonshire Tea in Sydney comes even close). There are countless world-class wineries not far away. My furry pets can frolic and gambol to their heart’s content.
Most importantly, the chainsaws, cows and non-existent internet motivate me to head into the heart of Melbourne at every available opportunity. And you know what? This place has to be one of the most stunning, elegant, intriguing and surprising cities on Earth.
And, I have to say … much as I ADORE my hometown – the Sparkling Concrete Jungle otherwise known as Sydney – I have to confess. I might actually adore my newly adopted city of Melbourne even more.
Now if only that cow would stop waking me up at 2am, I think this could work.