Friday reflection: What you need to know about a tree change

I currently live in Wauchope NSW, which is 20km west of Port Macquarie; have been here since 1983.

After five years of study at UNSW (for teaching), my first job was in Kalgoorlie WA (height of nickel boom; collating field reports from their five areas of operation).

Returned to NSW and first teaching appointment was Tenterfield (three years). Then transferred to the Riverina town of Temora (four years). Promoted and moved to Hay NSW (six years). Transferred to Kendall Central School (25km SW of Wauchope; 17 years). The secondary section of that school was closed and transferred to Camden Haven High School (4km east of Kendall). It is a very large ‘mixed mode’ school i.e., it teaches both face-to-face and distance education students). Retired from that school after eight years there.

Read more: Exercising mind and body

It’s hard to say if and where I can claim to be a local. The usual number is about 30 years and so I claim to be a Wauchope local.

Sorry to bore you with a history lesson . . . I taught history and English (and sometimes geography) and have had two books (on little-known events from WW I) published since I retired.

Country Lifestyle
Most of us realise that living in rural areas is significantly different from living in the ‘big smoke’. However, there are always those who don’t fully realise that moving from the city to the country is more than just a change of scenery. Potentially, there are some beneficial changes in lifestyle and possibly living costs; there are also adaptations to be made.

Read more: Loneliness of the long-distance swimmer

No longer are country towns places where “farmer… (bounce) on barrel mares” as Kenneth Slessor noted in his poem, Country Towns. They are significantly larger and more vibrant than the towns he wrote about. For this writer, born and bred in rural NSW, they are preferable.

However, there are key aspects of which some ‘tree changers’ may not be aware. In most country towns, especially the smaller ones, the locals will not only know your face, they will also know your name and probably want to know your background as well. For some, this will seem invasive. Newcomers also need to learn how the rumour grapevine works; ignore it or at least verify the information yourself.

More significant than these aspects is the fact that they will want you to get involved and encourage you to do so. The locals rely heavily on the ‘blow-ins’ as they are affectionately known. Upon my arrival in one country town, I decided to visit one of the local pubs for a quiet ale. Within two hours I had been asked if I wanted to join three different community groups. I’d have to say that I felt chuffed.

Read more: The simplicity of being a kid back then

Obviously, this community spirit is vital for the town’s continued existence. This is particularly evident right now as people band together to assist with the clean-up from the devastating floods.

Over the years, in a variety of country towns, I have noticed something about them which is less well known. For want of a better name I will call it the “local legend syndrome”. The locals will talk about current citizens and their previous sporting expertise. Such discussions will be fondly repeated for the benefit of the newcomer. In some instances, the newcomer may be a former sporting legend himself but what can he do?

If he recounts his achievements, he runs a substantial risk of being seen as a skite; if he says nothing, he may incur an injury from having to bite his tongue.

 I recall one ‘blow-in’ who arrived in a western country town. Upon hearing that the local rugby league team lacked a good, attacking centre he informed all and sundry that “your problems are now solved”. Later events proved that he was about as useful as the proverbial “ashtray on a motorbike”.

Human nature can be like that. Whenever sportsmen gather to discuss past achievements there is a risk that they will become even bigger “legends in their own lunchbox”.

Have you ever considered a tree change? What is attractive about moving to a country town? Have you thought through all the consequences of such a move?

Friday Reflection is your chance to write on any topic that stirs you. Simply send your contribution to [email protected] and put Friday Reflection in the subject field. The editor will select one offering to run each week and the writer will receive a $20 gift voucher.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Written by Greg Raffin