By EDWINA FREEME
It started with a drinking game. My husband and I would sit with a glass of red in front of Escape to The Country and have a small sip every time anyone asked to be shown period homes and then complained the ceilings were too low and the house too dark.
Or, anytime they specifically requested an eat-in kitchen, an Aga, and visible beams and were then put off because said property was too near the M1 or the A32 or the V65.
By the time then inevitably fell in love with a barn conversion in Sussex they couldn’t afford, our glasses would be empty and we would be deep in conversation.
This moving to the country thing. Could we do that too?
Late last year, we did it. I threw in the towel on what was probably the best job I’ll ever have, we packed up our young daughter and life in the ‘burbs of Brisbane and moved out of town.
We now live in an incredibly rundown Queenslander house on 11 acres of snake-ridden farmland in the Lockyer Valley, about an hour west of Brisbane.
We’re above the flood plain, which is what everyone always asks about first. The second thing they ask about is the snakes, at which point we put on our most resigned faces and shrug. They’re just a fact of life here, you know? You do what you have to do.
I think that implies we’re out there, calmly knocking them over the head with a shovel (which is of course, incredibly dangerous, somewhat immoral and highly illegal), but I can assure you our approach is more from the shout-at-them-until-they-take-off-and-then-stay-inside-for-the-next-week school of reptile management.
Our property is more of a renovator’s dismay than delight. It features not one but two rundown houses, each seemingly trying to beat the other in a slow, creaky race to collapse.
The main house is a rambling expanse of rusted pressed metal ceilings, breezeways, VJ walls and rotting timber. At one point, someone thought it was a great idea to wrap the whole structure, including all its verandahs, in an unlined metal cladding which means on hot days – and it’s always hot here – it’s not unlike living in a tin can.
She was undoubtedly a grand old girl at one point. Now, she’s just – in the words of our usually-more-diplomatic friends – a dump.
There’s no denying we’ve questioned the sanity of our move on many occasions. It’s a LOT of work, trying to bring 11 acres of overgrown land back under control.
It’s even more work when there are two houses desperately crying out for love and attention.
But for all the many moments of looking at each other and questioning the sanity of doing this, most days we’re happy with our choice. On afternoons when I would previously have been in the office and my daughter in daycare, we can now generally be found in the shade of our large tree, reading and drawing and waving at the horses that live all around us.
Through the day, the window from our kitchen shows an ever-changing display of brightly-coloured birds and butterflies. Kangaroos come up into our garden to forage for food. Our neighbours drop in on foot or horseback in the afternoons for tea dates and play dates or just to share stories and gossip from the neighbourhood we have been so warmly welcomed into.
At night, we go outside and sit on the back steps and search the stars for the constellations we could never see from our home in Brisbane.
We’re happy here.
And, we can’t even hear the M1, which is the most important part of any escape to the country, after all.
Over to you. Which is better? Country or city…