The thorns amongst the rose

It’s official. We are now K-Town residents. 2848-ers. Country folk (well, kind of). The move was tough, as all moves are. But as our truck pulled in, wobbling with the weight of our life possessions, I felt a sense of great relief. The anticipation, the build-up, the unknown – well, we are now looking at it in the face. No more guessing.

Leo is passionately working on the house, day in, day out and loving it. Progress is slow, but satisfying.

We have rented close by to give ourselves a chance to get the house finished without choking on dust and depression, and this has proved a wise move.

This is the view from our temporary house. I spend a lot of time on the back-step.

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My job at the Kandos house is the garden. And boy is it a hard one.

To start with, it’s big. Much bigger than our Maroubra balcony and larger than any garden I’ve tried to tame before.

The garden has fruit trees, an old chook shed and plenty of space.

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I have transformed 3 gardens in my life. Somewhere between giving up late nights at the disco, and having babies, I found myself on my knees every Saturday and Sunday morning pulling at the suburban earth, hacking into mountains of weeds and coaxing stolen cuttings to grow. I had never gardened before and much to my surprise I discovered I have a green thumb. This is clearly a genetic fluke. My dad Don is a passionate gardener and I was raised in a thriving, lush backyard which was and still is, an oasis.

This 50 year old garden in Bondi, created by my Dad, is my inspiration. 

dads garden

My first garden challenge in my new home is the existing rose garden. If someone had of told me 1 year ago that I would be living in the Central West of New South Wales attending roses, I would have told them to get off the green stuff. But here I am.

Step 1 was to clear out the thick, choky, mean grass that was strangling the bushes

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Step 2 was to dig up a few bushes and relocate them. They fought hard, ruining my hot pink trainers along the way.

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I groaned and moaned as I struggled to pull up their root system which is probably as old as me. In between swear words, I admired their tenacity. They didn’t want to be uprooted. They didn’t want to face this unexpected disruption. They held on until they  were weakened and worn out by the battle. But change won out in the end. As it always does.

Step 3: I clumped them together against the front of the house to thicken the spindly row that was already there (I know it’s hard to see this improvement; you’re just going to have to trust me on that one).

roses

I also found a spot for my Bondi/Maroubra succulents that have been raised on sea-air and neglect. I have no idea how they will go in their new mountain setting, but they look pretty good for the moment.

My heavy river rock, that I have dragged between 4 apartments to use as a door stop, now has an outdoor spot too

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The move has left some of the roses looking a little yellowed and wilted, which Dr Google tells me is normal. I can relate to how they are feeling. Being uprooted comes with much bruising, and plenty of prickly thorns, as I’ve learnt this past few weeks. I suspect the roses and I simply need to find our new root system; tap into the surrounding nutrients; gets lots of sunshine and water; and settle. Watch this space.

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The butterfly starts to emerge

So while the rest of Australia was drinking beer at the beach last week to celebrate that strange period between Xmas and NY when everyone forgets to pay the bills, we donned masks and canvas gloves and got ourselves busy. With just 10 days until we pull up stumps in our beloved Maroubra, we had a serious deadline on our hands: to make the house (slightly) liveable so we can half move in. Our goal? To do the floors, clean 50 years of nicotine off the walls, and make the garden tidy again – all without killing each other.

But there’s nothing like knowing you’re about to be homeless to move things along and keep the peace. Step 1 was to remove the 400,000 staplers and nails that 4 layers of lino and old carpet had left behind. Nasty buggers but there was no way I was going to leave even 1 behind.

I pulled and pulled until my key-board preserved hands bled.

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We hired a big sander but Leo the pedant ended up doing most of the work by hand using this mini baby that my brother gave him last Christmas (thanks Kier, keep those Breville presents coming).

Leo treated the floor like he was creating an artwork

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And boy did the hard work pay off!

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While the floor sealer was drying we moved into the bedrooms to try and finish the painting. Our beachy blue has come up nicely. You’d never know we are 232 kilometres from the sea (not that I’m counting).

Finally, colour!

Blue

My spirits began to lift (and not just because bum crack always makes me giggle)

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While Leo was tackling the window sills I decided to get moving on the lawn which was really bugging me as it had grown knee high. I gave it my best shot but I have a lot to learn.

If there are any whipper snipper instructors under 60 out there, please PM me.

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Afterwards I collapsed in a heap under our big apricot tree and had my first country wife disco nap.

It felt good.

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Next stop: KANDOS 2848.

Welcome to the neighbourhood

Neighbourhoods are funny places and can really determine your sense of connection and the happiness you feel (or don’t feel) when you pull into your street. I’ve lived in a few in Sydney – Bondi Beach where I grew up and spent a lot of my adult life, Maroubra, 7ks and 1000 miles away down the coast, Woollahra (a posh suburb where my girlfriend Carrie Ann and I partied like it was 1999 – because it was. Naturally our neighbours ended up hating us – as I would hate us too in my current life – but boy we ‘created some memories’ as the hipsters say). I also snuck in a few stints in London and New York where I miraculously managed to live in the best neighbourhoods on a waiter’s wage. I think I ate a lot of bread.

But I have never lived in a street that looked like this:

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Or this (note the industrial peek-a-boo – there’s a bit of that round here):

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Or one that is surrounded by mountains (Combamolang):

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Or one that has a house as cute as ours (?). I’ve nicknamed her Bella

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This weekend Leo and I got to be in the empty house for the very first time together. After an eternity of renting, we own our own house! We scrubbed and swept and coughed. It might not look like much, but if you peer very hard you will notice some tiny tiny progress.

The hideous carpet has gone:

Floor boards

We found some trippy lino. We’re ditching it but I do like the pattern:

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We made a decision to keep this linen press and use a dash of the green in our repainting

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We cleaned out the old garage (okay, Leo did) which will become my work space and guests’ quarters. Isn’t she charming!

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Here’s the inside [activate imagination now]. We found ‘1937’ carved into the slab

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(Don’t worry future guests, we will be adding insulation and heating. Cosy Swedish plywood box is the brief.)

I’m coming around

So there we have it. Another step forward towards our very unknown and unexpected country life future. I still get the wobblies and regularly have what my therapist would call a mild panic attack, but I can see there are possibilities and the idea of Change with a capital C sounds pretty damn delicious. So does the idea of ‘creating memories’ and I have heard that Carrie Ann who now lives in London is coming for a visit soon.

I’ve started looking for signs from the universe that this is the right thing to do. Here’s the first one I noticed – this rose survived the 42 degree heat wave last week.

Now that’s what I call resilience!

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A challenging state of affairs

It’s official. The house is now empty. Carol and Bob have moved down the road. They’re not happy about it mind you. They loved this sad, little neglected cottage too. But she’s now officially ours, asbestos, bad ventilation, lead paint and all!

When we pulled up, big storm clouds glared down at us. The house looked defiant against the ominous nasty black sky. A row of old rose bushes threw gorgeous hot pinks, reds and yellows into the strange light. I felt frightened, and slightly excited. But only slightly. What the fuck have we done?

Is this a sign?
Is this a sign?
Roses in kandos
Someone loved these ladies once

My in-laws, who now live down the road, strode in with me as Leo is working overseas. We flung open doors, ripped down curtains that almost disintegrated in our hands, and instigated the moment of truth: what lay beneath these old carpets? Sweet relief. Immaculate floorboards. Cypress pine we think. God bless dubious taste in floor coverings.

Thank you to whoever covered these floors 60 years ago
Thank you to whoever covered these floorboards 60 years ago

We found newspapers from 1947. I can’t wait to read them. I’ve saved them for my Dad. He was 17 when they were published.

1947 Sydney Morning Heralds
The headline is about a lorry full of lollies that crashed. Pics of happy kids grabbing booty!

The kitchen is tragic (but has a great old wood fire stove). She’s a Welcome Dover – is anyone knows anything about them please come over and teach me!

The original Welcome Dover stove!

In the living room we ripped off an ugly sheet of plywood that was covering the old original fire place. With a little love, she has a good chance of showing her pretty face again. We’ve asked Rob our local handyman to do her makeover. He will need a lot of botox.

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We think the old fireplace has a lovely arch but won’t know until that lovely cement render is removed

So, depressed yet? I am to be honest – but with a little dreaming and a lot of luck I think we will get there in the end. Just not sure exactly how.

If I look worried it's because I am
If I look worried it’s because I am

A busy day in Kandos

On a recent visit to Kandos (the one before we had to ask our lovely tenants to move out because our Sydney landlord told us she wasn’t renewing our lease even though we’d just moved in. ‘Oh no,’ said a dear friend. ‘You’re Maroubra-ing them!’ Trust me, we did feel bad.

Anyway, on a recent visit to Kandos I took a stroll down the main street called ‘Angus Ave’ which makes me thinks the Scots may have been here before me. I saw about 4 people, 2 dogs and a couple of passing cars (it was after 3pm). When my girlfriend Kylie, who’d come along for the roadtrip, went to IGA later on she saw a young couple having a massive fight in the street over something he’d posted on Facebook. Don’t be scared I said, that could happen anywhere in Sydney and you wouldn’t even notice. She nodded and looked a little nervous for me. We city folk take a little adjusting to the regions.

But what a town! As neat as a pin and pretty too. You can tell there’s a lot of love gone into making and keeping this special little place so special. I feel like I could fall in love. Maybe. Hopefully. Soon.

Welcome to Kandos
Welcome to Kandos. Not even one letter is missing.
Adhoc Furniture
Can’t wait to get inside this wonderful furniture studio and have a peep. I hear they are lovely.
Kandos has its very own hat maker!
I nearly did a happy dance when I saw this hatmaker’s studio
Art piece in the shopfront window of Kandos Projects
Art piece in the shopfront window of Kandos Projects
And another. Can't wait to come back when the doors are open
And another. Can’t wait to come back when the doors are open
Wish I could revive Aunt Betty's Tea Shop. Just sayin!
Wish I could revive Aunt Betty’s Tea Shop. Just sayin!

Nothing will ever be the same again

In 84 days everything is going to change. Big time. You see we are moving. Not down the road, to the next suburb or even across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the northside where I’ve heard some people from the East go to die. No, we are moving TO THE COUNTRY. Not to Byron Bay or Lennox Head where everyone I know from Bondi now lives, not to Brisbane, Melbourne or some trippy Australian small city,  but TO THE COUNTRY. WEST. INLAND. AWAY FROM THE SEA. Good Goddess.

WHY?

This is something I ask myself every second morning and about every third day as I oscillate between excitement and pure terror. The long answer is that our family feels stuck and vulnerable to the heart-palpitating Sydney property market. The city is too expensive, too crowded, strangely lonely and sometimes mean. The short answer is that we need a change and we want to live without debt and all the toxic stress that comes with it. We have to get off this rat wheel. It’s making us dizzy.

WHERE?

We are moving to an ex-company town called KANDOS. Kandos had a thriving cement works which had its plug pulled 7 years ago leaving the locals nervous about their kids’ future and the continuation of the town’s good schools, hospital and IGA supermarket. Many pulled up stumps and left. Some stayed and wondered what will happen. And then the artists came. Lured by the stunning scenery, Wollemi National Park, the waterholes, the nice townsfolk and the breathtakingly cheap real estate, they’ve slowly begun to set up camp which has had a very mixed reaction (check out the Cementa Festival Kandos documentary, Welcome to Kandos). So to add to the demographic uncertainty our little family of 1 weird artist dad, 1 complicated writer mum, 1 10 year old with autism, and 1 eternally pissed off 5 year old, are about to join the mix. How fucking nuts is that!

Our new home
The 123 year old girl we’ve bought for the price of a good piece of art