City mouse becomes country mouse
Do you know the children’s story, an Aesop fable about the City Mouse and the Country Mouse – well this sort of reminds me of that tale – at a stretch!
I wrote this on my Facebook page earlier this week:
So many memories….this month it’s been 30 years since we packed up our city lives in Newcastle and moved to the country (we really were ahead of the times). I can clearly remember those first few days here, getting used to a small town where everyone knew we’d arrived and who we were, riding my bike everywhere with Eliza on the back, taking the girls to the pool, getting ready for the new school year and coping with the heat!
We couldn’t imagine living anywhere else now and love the life we have here, although technically we still aren’t considered locals.
Looking back, we are all glad we accepted the move and the start of a new adventure.
The back story to this is typical of many other teachers wanting to get ahead in their careers at the time.
The Mathematician studied to become a teacher under a government scholarship scheme back in the late 70s. We were married in early 1980 and saved to buy own first home together which we achieved a few years later.
He was able to note down his selection of areas and schools to be sent to once he graduated and of course he was sent to a school in the very opposite direction of his requests!
After living most of our lives on the south coast of NSW we were destined to become city mouses in the city of Newcastle further up the coast of NSW.
But we moved on with our new life together and took it in our stride, moving away from family and managing quite well. It wasn’t as if we were half a world away!
We were keen to start a family once we had our house and we welcomed our first daughter in mid 1983, bringing her home to a partly renovated, but still functional space. She didn’t care about the state of the house! My father had been far more concerned when he saw the house we’d bought, saying it should be knocked down!
Two more daughters were added to our family over the next few years and we enjoyed our lifestyle in suburban Newcastle. Life wasn’t easy on one wage but we managed OK. I was able to return to part-time work in the bank after a few years.
Making the move to Tumbarumba
The Mathematician undertook further study to gain his ‘list’ so that he could apply for Head Teacher positions. We were keen to look at country positions, as although we enjoyed the lifestyle we had, we were keen to bring our daughters up in a smaller community and in the countryside. We were ahead of our time with wanting a ‘tree change’.
In late 1990, (like 23 December), we were informed that he’d been successful in gaining a Head Teacher position in Tumbarumba – a place we’d never heard of, let alone been to! It’s in the Snowy Mountains area of southern NSW.
I remember asking my aunt who lived in a nearby town, what Tumbarumba was like, and she was silent for so many minutes I wondered if the line had been disconnected! Finally she said, ‘well there’s a lot of trees’, it was a case of what she didn’t say! Apparently she was horrified we were going there!
We travelled down to see the town after Christmas that year and managed to find a house to rent which was hard at the time, and still is to this day, and arranged our move for the following month to be ready for the new school year. So much change in a short amount of time!
We met some lovely local families and the town had a good feel about it, but it was so much smaller than I was used to with shops shutting for lunch and everything closed at lunchtime on Saturday, not to re-open until Monday morning! I had to lose my city mouse expectations!
I remember the day we visited was blisteringly hot, the area was dry and yet there were still wood heaps in all the yards – later I learned they were for the winter wood fires that everyone had as heating! Wood carting was something I would become accustomed to seeing, starting in January and continuing most of the year!
When we packed up our little city house and moved I felt sad, but also excited about new horizons and challenges ahead. The girls were sad at leaving their friends but accepted the move quite well.
Our first few days were interesting! Everyone knew who we were without the need to tell them anything. I took the girls to the local pool and it seemed that every face turned towards us as we entered. The pool manager said ‘you’d be the new maths master’s family‘, and I wondered if I had something tattooed on my forehead. I asked him how he knew who we were and he just smiled wryly, and said it was obvious, they’d heard a new maths master was coming with a wife and 3 young daughters, and here I was…
One of my biggest lessons was timing. I was used to travelling across a city to get anywhere and allowing time for that, but in Tumbarumba I didn’t need to allow any time and so was often very early for appointments!!
Another lesson I learnt early on was that many people were related in town and to watch what I said in case I offended anyone.
I also learnt to always have a full tank of petrol in the car ready for any midnight emergency dashes as fuel wasn’t available after about 7pm until 7am the next day! This was brought home again to me this week when I made the rookie mistake of not having enough fuel to leave when my daughter was having tests on her unborn baby and I wanted to get there to help out – a 3 hour drive away!
Town has changed a lot over the past 30 years, it’s much more accepting of new arrivals, not as insular or isolated and the community spirit lives on. It has been a great place to bring up our daughters and we have all thrived in this environment. We’ve made many life-long friends and connections and feel a part of this vibrant little town.
It’s a beautiful part of the world and although a long way away from anywhere, it’s a perfect location as a base for us now that we’re retired. I was continually asked where we were moving to once we retired, as if we couldn’t wait to get away, but we aren’t going anywhere! we don’t even know where we’d consider moving to if we wanted to move, which we don’t!
When we arrived we were considered as ‘blow ins’, like bank staff, forestry workers and other teachers – we were all expected to move on after a few years – but many of us have stayed on. Apparently you’re not a local until the last people who remember you arriving have died!
In response to my Facebook post (above) many fo our local friends say they consider us as locals and welcome the fact that we moved here all those years ago, and stayed on! I felt refreshed by their sentiments. We have both become very involved in the local community and feel grateful for the acceptance and welcome we received all those years ago.
We went on to buy a house and make a life for ourselves and haven’t regretted the decision we made 30 years ago, to become country mouses!
Little did we know that the next year, 1992, we would be moving the family across the world to live and work in England on a Teacher Exchange for a year swapping our lives with an English family!
You never know where life will take you unless you boldly take the opportunities as they are presented!
Thanks for dropping by, I hope you’ve enjoyed my story.
Linking up with Denyse for #lifethisweek with the prompt of Back to…thanks for the memories!
Also linking up with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share where there are some great bloggers joining in!
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