Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Better Fit

The first time that we saw the house had been about 18 months earlier. We loved it then in an unrequited way. It was for sale, but I'd just changed jobs so we weren't buying. But we'd loved it and had put in an offer, only to withdraw it later. 

And there it was, back on the market. "Hey look", I said one evening browsing the real estate for sale websites "that restored post office is back on the market."

A week or two later Amy and I were still convincing ourselves that it was all wrong for us. After all we'd nearly bought it before and decided that it was all wrong. And it was a week or two later. Probably the best thing was to have a look at it again and get it out of our respective systems.


So on a Sunday morning there we were, meeting a different real estate agent out the front of The House. He was the only thing that had changed. The tenants who really didn't like us looking through the house were still there, still trying to make us uncomfortable still and hoping we wouldn't buy. 

And the house was still right for us. Built somewhere around the 1890s as the Post Office and Post Masters residence for a town halfway between Geelong and Ballarat. All the restoration work was done. The post office business had moved to the general store down the street about 15 years earlier, so the former post office made for an additional room. 

This town was more like us. Close to Geelong, and not too far from work. New people moving in - not former farmers, but people moving out from the larger towns. Friendly - hugely friendly. People waved. Said hello. Two pubs - both of them working. Football, cricket and netball clubs - but also a tiny and active historical society. Churches - but there was a local psychic advertising a show at the local cafe. And the most marginal ALP electorate in Australia. Not entrenched conservatives - a swinging electorate.

We made an offer, the owner accepted it and we went back to the town that didn't want us and began to pack.

Not all Country Towns are.....

They're not all the same you know. That's the mistake we made. And in hindsight, it seems obvious. Not all country towns are the same. And we were in the wrong one. 

The folks who were there were very happy there. Generations and generations of them. Good folks. Mostly farming families, and people and businesses who provided services for farming families. In winter they played in the football and netball teams and in summer they played in the cricket and netball teams. They went to one of the three churches in town. They went to the pub for dinner every once in while - special occasions -  for a meal and had a beer more often there. Their kids went to the local primary school, and when the time came for secondary school, they got the bus to the high school in the next town. Just like their parents had, and their grand parents too. When it was time to leave the farm - through age and the needs of the next generation - they moved to town - the opposite side of town to us - to be near the tiny bush hospital and 6 bed nursing home. A trip to Ballarat was a big excursion. Mainly it was to be avoided - why would you want all that hustle and bustle?

The thing was - that wasn't us and we didn't know it until it was too late. There was exactly no chance of either of us playing on the netball team. There were no kids with us, and the town made the  - inaccurate - assumption that we didn't have any. No generations of connected-ness stretched behind us, and we weren't bringing any with us. Our spirituality didn't include the any of the churches. The one place where we might have found some acceptance - the country pub - had been hit badly in the floods that happened 4 days before we moved in, and didn't look like opening again soon.

We found we were further from Geelong that we thought we were. When your friends tell you 'oh yes of course we'll visit', take that statement with a grain of salt. We'd moved too far away to drop in on. Or for us to drop in on friends. 

Without realising it, we'd  moved to Conservative Farming Country. And there is no room in Conservative Farming Country for a couple of woman who bring no children with them, don't play in sports teams but go to arts festivals in Melbourne instead, who like having big cities just down the road, have problems with organised religion, who commute every day to that big town of 90,000 people, and who just Aren't Like US.

There was a reason that this was one of the safest conservative political electorates in the country. Malcolm Fraser, that Prime Minister, the one who played fast and loose with the constitution and tossed Gough Whitlam out of office - had been the local member here for years. The town was proud of  their now retired local member. The longest serving Victorian premier - Henry Bolte - was born and grew up right here in this town. And Henry was certainly one of politic's great conservatives. No wonder. The town shaped him and Malcolm both.

We'd made a mistake.