First published in SMH in 2001
A sea change isn’t for everybody
Give me a home where cows fart and roam? I’ll stick to the city, thanks, writes Julie Ihle.
“Pig’s arse” yells a man with a beetroot face on a country road when his tyre blows. That’s what you do on country roads when you’re a stressed-out social worker with three kids going off the rails and a marriage badly in need of some zing. This is the face and sound of the new Sunday night family viewing show – Always Greener. Essentially, Always Greener is about a family from the city who trade places with their country cousins and life, we are promised, will never be the same.
It means well. In an effort to capture the quirkiness of SeaChange there are farting cows, cutesy intros with dictionary meanings, and rather good-looking naked persons. But so far there are no grey-eyed neurotic magistrates to capture our imaginations and, sadly, no bitey ex-journos who shape up nicely in a wetsuit.
However, SeaChange and Always Greener both deal with a theme with which we are all very familiar: that of escaping to the country to find yourself.
Apparently we are even following the advice dished up by Sunday night TV and buying up all available patches of land out of Sydney. In places like Bowral, Terrigal and Jervis Bay there is standing room only. More and more little sleepy coastal hamlets that stepped straight off the set of SeaChange are getting taken over by a set of trendified concrete villas with names like “Shades” or “Solaris”. Everyone, it seems wants their own slice, however gentrified, of the coastline.
But why is this? What is driving this urge to surge north, south or even west? Is it some nomadic wanderlust for the wild, untamed spaces? Is it some pagan throwback desire to commune with the stars, the waves and the cowpats? Or are we more practical than that? Is it because now that we are wired to everyone else, we see no need to be living on top of half the bulletin board? Or maybe it’s because we’re now living longer, and if we take our anti-oxidants, we’ll have an extra 10 years up our sleeve which we figure we may as well spend on the Narooma golf course?
Or is it nothing like that at all? Is it just that we envisage pursuing an unlikely romance with a Diver Dan look-alike who knows how to do manly things like fish and drink beer, but also can pull a mean espresso? Do we have visions of spending Tuesday nights at the Tropical Star’s Film Night, and joining the local musical society?
Whatever the reason, we are certainly pursuing it fast. If we keep it up we could end up a nation of tiny towns, rather than a lot of empty space with a few congested cities. It would be just like Federation all over again. And each town would have its own services, as it would mostly be populated with city people who are used to such things. We would preside over the re-emergence of the butcher and corner store. Post offices and banks would return, and regional airlines would have a reason to fly again. By our own self-indulgence, we would reverse world trends and knock globalisation on its head.
I, for one, hope this happens and, for the record, I will be staying in the city. Without all those pesky crowds, getting to sporting and cultural events won’t be mission impossible, driving to work will be a breeze and parking will no longer be a bad joke. Parking meters will be relegated to the museum, and traffic lights – who needs them? But then again – those country pigs might fly.