Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bright lights, big city

Driving out of Melbourne last week, dodging rain and slow pokes in the fast lane, I could physically feel my lungs breathe deep, exhale and relax again, as if I’d been holding my breath for the past 24 hours.

A flying trip to catch up with a long lost favourite cousin, in the Victorian country town I grew up in, turned into a three night sojourn across the state. On a whim (okay, maybe I’d been planning it for weeks, but only just managed to convince ST it was a good idea at the last minute) we ducked down to Melbourne to see the footy – my type of footy, AFL. And before all my gorgeous Melbournian friends jump up in disgust, I’m sorry! But we literally arrived with enough time to scoff some awful food court fish and chips before cheering Geelong home at Etihad, sleeping off the cheap wine, gorging breakfast in Hardware Lane, jumping in the car and navigating our way back out of that bitterly cold, windy city.

According to Google Maps, we’re about 760km from Melbourne via the most direct route, with the last 130km of that being dirt roads. It’s a long trip home, especially when you have to stop along the way to do the grocery shopping – Here’s a picture of my pantry so you can really envision what the “grocery shopping” involves.

But I digress, also according to Google Maps, Burragan is 891km from Sydney (but of course you have to cross the Great Dividing Range which really slows things up), and 817km from Adelaide – so I guess you could say we're pretty “central” really! “Huge house, renovators delight, open fireplaces throughout. TLUG plus more off street parking. Extensive backyard with room for sheds and pets. Situated in quiet cul-de-sac, fantastic central location!”

It doesn’t take long to adjust to the spaciousness of station life - and suddenly the city feels suffocating.

Months ahead I’ll plant the seed of a big city trip in ST’s mind, craving the excitement of shops (Oh! How I love shops!) and real coffee (Oh! How I love to shop all morning and then stop to refresh with real coffee!) and restaurants (Oh! To shop, have coffee and then go out for dinner!). And within 24 hours of actually arriving in the city, I’ll be hyperventilating having to cross the road without a pedestrian walkway.

On a fleeting trip to Sydney last year, I actually tried to go down an up escalator. That’s right folks – the fluid steps were coming up towards me, but of course, I’d already committed my body to going down. Stepping on, my legs were thrown backwards, while my body – and arms laden with a day’s worth of shopping – continued to fly forwards. Thrusting my arms out to save myself, my bags, purse and umbrella cascaded over the edge of the escalator, tumbling down who knows how many flights of Myers…. And from my lips escaped a booming, “Ssshhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiii – ver me timbers!” – Except maybe that’s not the exact phrase I used at the time. Did I mention I was in the kids section?

Since living out bush, I’ve also been known to strike up in depth conversation with city strangers, whom I forget probably aren’t as interested or inviting as my Burragan neighbours. ST calls it “doing and on-and-on-and-on-er”. One time he lost me in crowded mall after a spruiker asked me how my day was and I stopped to discuss this with him. The salesman was left laughing as ST grabbed me by the arm and dragged me away saying, “You just say, ‘I’m not interested thanks’, and keep walking like everyone else does Bess!”

And it’s not like I was born being completely inept at traversing city protocol. I did live in Brisbane for 18 months after leaving home at 17. And there were certainly many Melbourne holidays dotted throughout my childhood. And I’ve survived trips to Singapore, Hong Kong and Shenzhen without any issues (well, except for the time my brother and I spent an entire afternoon drinking cocktails at Raffles and then paid a rickshaw driver our last $20 to take us back to our hotel, and he dropped us in the middle of nowhere instead – click here to watch it!)

So the only thing I can put it down to is being totally acclimatised to a space and time different to that of the city. A space where you can breathe easily, and a time when you’re not going to get ploughed down by a delivery van if you’re a little slow on the zebra crossing.

So city friends… you might just have to come and visit me instead! It’s not that far after all… Pretty central really.


  1. Bessie, love it! I totally get your acclimitisatiom; yesterday I travelled home from the Torres Strait, where I have been living/working in community for 4 months of this year(so far!!), this morning I "needed" to approach my female de-hairisation program(waxing)!!. I hop in car and drive to town, 15 ks away. Acclimitisation process,was, forgot to puton seatbelt, had difficulty rising vehicle speed to above 20 km/hr, when reach said local town, automatically go to say, "good morning" to everyone I come across! OHHHhhHhh and apparently local townspeople don't speak Torres Strait Creole!!!! Ooooppssssies
    Robyn W

    1. Hahaha, love it Robyn!! What was the response from the person you tried to speak TS Creole to?? haha!! Yes there's all sorts of acclimatisation perils, especially when it comes to driving!

  2. Great writing Bessie! I seem to be having the 'opposite problem'(?) to you at the moment...let me explain... As you know, I am a country gal at heart, and I am trying to make my life involve more countryside experiences. Hence, whilst in the city, I try to find 'nature' experiences to ward off the normality of suburban life. So, there I was (approx. 1 hour ago) strolling through the pseudo bushland near my house, enjoying my solo relaxation, when suddenly, a male, medium build, Caucasian, red hair, dark cap and glasses, appears walking on the narrow path towards me. Normal? Wait - what is that there, that fleshy appendage protruding from his pants?! No! It couldn't be! Is it? Oh god, I'm about to walk past him..heart rate quickens...will he attack?! Oh good lord! It is what I thought!! Don't look, walk faster...good, now break into a casual run onto the main road...note the street the Police. Why did the creepy man have to ruin my 'back to nature' experience? I guess he just took 'getting back to nature' a bit too literally. Eww x 1900000000. Did this comment relate? Sorry Bessie, hope it was entertaining (?). Thinking of you out in the Never Never x Karina T.

    1. Oh. My. God. KARINA!!!!! Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, EW.... and also, I'm kind of dumbfounded - because you're actually not the only person I know who this has happened to in Brisbane! A good thing I got out early? I think you should come and stay with me for an extended period xx