In 2011, I was offered a job with my husband in a rural settlement and rather than commute from Auckland (which I was beginning to consider to be a horrible place anyway), we moved. Last week, we moved again but this time further still from Auckland to Thames. Our jobs are still in “the rural” as I have lovingly been refering to it, so this was really about lifestyle- commute to work, live where we want to play. Obviously not a light decision, and so I’ve come up with some musings.
I had a baby last year, and it is without competition the best thing I have ever done. Caitlin Moran has written an excellent piece about why women should have kids (equally as good is her compelling argument for why women shouldn’t), and she is right. But wonderful as it is, being a mum can be lonely and, especially in the early days, having a 40 minute drive to civilisation was not always appealing. We have a cat napper who sleeps well in the car, but alas, getting places at specific times was not always achievable because of nap times, etc. I take great comfort in knowing that mum friends of mine have also found it lonely in the busy-ness of larger cities where friends also don’t take the “come any time” invite seriously. Now that we’ve got a proto-walker who gets bored easily and sleeps only twice a day, having Kids Music, Toddler Time and whatever the Tuesday thing at Life Equip Church is called just 5 minutes down the road is, frankly, a relief. I also take comfort knowing that the Coromandel is a good place to bring up kids. Country kids are full of adventure and seem to have a greater sense of wonder. Maybe? I have certainly had that perception of late. Our local, excuse me, our formerly local primary school has a calf club day every year where each child brings in their calf, sheep, goat or chicken and they do a set of tasks and get judged. What a great day out. And, the children seem really proud of the day and their fund raising efforts. I compare it to the last city school fair I want to in Remuera which had a beer tent for the adults to take a “break” in, complete with beer maids. I didn’t see many kids involved in that school fair at all, mostly parents. I know which one I want more.
The very cliched line about everyone needing good neighbours is so true. We’ve lived next door to all sorts of weirdos over the years- case in point the woman in the building across the car park from us when we lived in Sydney who I saw chasing the bloke around the kitchen with a frying pan. At our last flat in Auckland the woman upstairs was a genuine recluse. Of all the places I’ve lived the neighbours in that house we the most entertaining. The family across the road were all the proof I will ever need that you can be white trash and live in Remuera, and in the flat next door we had over the course of a single year a student, a taxi driver and a baker who were all lovely but evidently fussy about an inch of water in the bedroom after rain. But far and away the best neighbours I have ever had were my neighbours in the country. Not only on each side, but down the road, across it and up it. Everyone wants to stop and chat and are so friendly: just 2 weeks ago Neville from 7 houses up gave us some golden queen peaches. I only know him to say hello to, but he couldn’t stand seeing them waste and there are only so many peaches a man can eat. When did that last happen in a city? But it’s not just Neville, Joy next door, Paul and Tina from up the road or even Lyn at the shop, just about all my day to day interactions were positive and made me feel good about where we lived.
When the news got around about our move I got stopped and called at over the fence while on the afternoon sleep/walk. Congratulations etc, and then “It’s always the young ones who leave”. For us, part of the decision was about the services. We had a late night dash to the after hours clinic in Pukekohe with a sick child which was not fun. Of course, by the time we got there the car-ride sleep had done wonders. The doctor was very patient with the new parents and their newborns first cold, but what if it had been more serious? I know I am not calm under pressure and 40 minutes with a genuinely sick child would be torture for me. Another consideration was internet access, or rather dial up. Remember dial up? You thought it died with the widespread installation of broadband but it lives on it the country and is still as painfully slow as it always was. Our options (until 2020) are dial up, satellite and mobile. Satellite is expensive and still patchy. Mobile is also patchy, and on the right plan is only moderately costly. But, again the twin considerations of the baby and my only brother and his wife moving overseas were big factors in wanting access to services.
Perhaps the only service done MUCH better in the country is the post. Rural delivery is truly wonderful and I miss it already (it’s been 4 days). Our (ex) postie delivers everything so no “card to call” slips when you’ve missed the courier, and no junk mail. Well, he did deliver junk mail but early on I mentioned that I didn’t really read it so he stopped delivering it. Rural posties also collect post from home addresses, just pop the flag up and away it goes. I am sure that if the post was this good in cities too the postal service wouldn’t be in so much trouble.
Tank water is great, and I will miss the taste. It just tastes nicer than town supply- I can’t put it any more simply than that. We have always been fairly conservative water users, but being on a tank has been quite a good experience even for us. Call me a Greenie if you must, but water is precious and I have a greater appreciation now that we’ve had both a declared and undeclared drought to live through while on the tank supply.
Finally, my only food point, is that I enjoyed being able to by ice cream at supermarket prices and frujus in boxes of 8 and not have them melt before I get home. I’ve got chiller bags and ice packs but you know, it’s never quite the same.