It came as a quiet knock at the door one humid South Gippsland night.
In the midst of Kate and I unpacking from a largely uneventful moving house (as uneventful as moving can be, at least), a small figure appeared at our door.
I didn’t even hear it, to be honest. I was too busy with supposedly more important things, taking care of cleaning out the garage (so well, in fact, that we still can’t park cars in it…) with my headphones in listening to The Black Keys. But Kate went to answer it, and when she returned she appeared in the garage doorway, brandishing an odd assortment of things including a bag of something. She looked disapproving.
“You didn’t come to the door when I called,” she sighed.
“Sorry hun, I had my headphones in.” I attempted to justify my ignorance with an appeal to her sympathy, considering that literally anything to distract oneself from the pain of flattening endless cardboard boxes is justifiable. No dice.
“Well you missed Margaret,” Kate continued. “She’s our new neighbour. Saw the truck and thought she’d pop in. And she brought nectarines!” Kate held a plastic shopping bag aloft, astonished at this early display of good old-fashioned country hospitality. For two city slickers just moved from Melbourne’s outer-Western-suburb sprawl (see no evil, hear no evil…) this was something new.
“She also left us some brochures”.
Sure enough, a stack of paper brochures. A South Gippsland council “So You’re a New Resident” brochure, a brochure for the local golf club, a few touristy publications with things to do around the area, and a copy of the Sentinel-Times, our local paper. I’d read the Sentinel-Times once before- I sent an ex-journalist mate of mine a picture of the Vox Pop page. The question: “What do you think of this weather we’re having?”. Pulitzer prize-winning journalism this ain’t, but for a country town I suppose it’s pretty appropriate. (For the record, Adrian from Wonthaggi thought it was “Typical spring weather”. Classic.)
Margaret’s nectarines have been one of a string of assorted objects crossing the threshold of this house since we moved here to make our new life more comfortable. I mean, there’s the move itself, which was a great opportunity to make friends with the lady at the Rusty Windmill café round the corner when you’re ordering four coffees at a time for you and your new moving friends. However takeaway coffee is bloody expensive, so the first delivery was for some coffee for my espresso machine (judge me all you want, I’m from Melbourne). A kilo of ground East Timorese sleep-in-a-cup (just add water) please and thank you. That will help me unpack the rest of the boxes.
Next, a golf buggy. There’s more golf courses than you can shake a putter at down here, so I thought I may as well take advantage. I’ve always been one for spending as little money as possible on golf clubs, evidenced by the fact that my clubs were acquired free from hard rubbish collection and the bag up until recently was a gorgeous red vinyl number from the 70s. But hiring a buggy to cart them round at five bucks a time adds up quickly, so over the last ten years I’m sure I could have bought one of those newfangled electrical ones that drive themselves a couple of times over.
After ordering (the cheapest) one online to get delivered to the old house, they sent me the wrong one. I sent it back, they sent me a new one, that one got stolen off the doorstep in Sydenham, report to Police, courier company swears black and blue that they delivered it (with photo evidence), only to have it turn up back at the golf shop with a courier note saying ‘return to sender’! I’m still not sure how that happened (neither is Keilor Police…) but long story short it finally arrives at the Leongatha post office and we’re in business. Off to the golf club I go and no sooner had I been standing there than a membership form was thrust into my hands by one of the committee members. Sounds like that buggy might get a workout sooner than I thought…
Next was almost literally half of Ikea. Bookshelves, cabinets, cupboards, lamps… there’s more Swedish furniture in here now than there is in Sweden. Some of that is for a new home office setup for me, and Kate if she can wrangle working from home every now and then. If you’re planning on doing the same, walk past the ridiculously-priced desks but grab four of those ADILS table legs on the way through. Then go to the kitchen department, say to the lovely people “I would like one of your EKBACKEN benchtops in (insert colour here) please.” Attach legs to benchtop. Profit. Double desk size for half the price, although I must admit you do have to provide your own allen key doing it this way.
After that, we’re on first-name terms with the postie, receiving all manner of items to fill out the home office: new mechanical keyboard (with delightful clickity-clackity noises!) to help me with my writing, new speakers for motivational tunes, new mousepad with a moose on it (it’s a Moosepad!) and a bunch of other things. It seems like there hasn’t been a day where something new hasn’t arrived in our house, leaving a trail of (thankfully mostly recyclable) plastic wrapping and cardboard boxes in its wake.
But despite all this new stuff, it still doesn’t quite feel like we’re settled yet. Kate’s now had almost a month at her new job, where she’s flat chat sorting out the upcoming program of works for making the new road. I’ve spent most of the time here unpacking, writing, setting up, wiring, assembling and just generally trying to make myself as useful as possible whilst still not gainfully employed. Though that sounds like I’ve got a lot of time on my hands: I don’t! Joining the Drivetribe creators’ program to get my writing back up to scratch and working for MCNews.com.au at Phillip Island World Superbike has kept me very busy this last couple of weeks. So much for country life slowing down! There hasn’t been a lot of time to really put down some roots here and get in touch with the local community. So it was about time we rectified that.
There was another quiet knock on the door one overcast South Gippsland afternoon.
Kate and I were stood on the doorstep of the Timmins’ place, next door. Mrs. Timmins had stuck a note in our letterbox, saying that she’d love to meet us. So we did. Had a lovely chat on our way to the supermarket- they’re farm people from out of town, who’ve moved to the big smoke (ha!) as they get older. I’ve spoken more to them than I did to my previous neighbours in six months.
We’re hoping to build on that over the next little while and really get to know people. It’s time to get out there and meet the community and experience this place that we worked so hard to get to. And if anything, it’s an easy way of getting rid of your excess produce: our chilli plant has been going gangbusters lately, so guess what Margaret is going to get in return for those nectarines!
Chris Plumridge is a freelance audio producer, voiceover artist and writer from Leongatha in South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.