The Big Issue : Edition 528
THE BIG ISSUE 13 – 26 JAN 2017 21 She maintains humility, but is smiling and proud. But where do they find the time? It’s a known fact that the maker of the cream cakes works in an office all day and helps out on the farm. One woman always makes a buttered, cayenne-laden scone that is very addictive and generates much applause, but she finds herself caught in the bind of expectation and must provide her dish into eternity. As is the way, these extraordinary women’s skills are undervalued and taken for granted, but I am in awe. Earlier this year in my endeavour to fit in, I decided to try something completely different and joined the annual fun walk. I arrived just as the sun was emerging. The fun joggers jostled out front and we fun walkers surged forward. We were off. Well, everyone else was off. I was moving, but at a snail’s pace. It was like strolling beside a moving walkway at the airport. Old people (even older than me), fat people, women with pushers, and kids were all in front shouting and laughing and charging ahead. Very soon I was last. There were two women behind me, but they turned out to be marshals who weren’t allowed to pass. One competitor was wearing thongs, but she passed me too. She drifted back every now and again for a chat, and then passed again. Perhaps I lost time when I paused to accept a lolly from a kind lady outside her house. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had that plastic cup of water or a wee at the halfway mark. Perhaps I could blame that cyclist who nearly ran me over in his rush to the finish. “I’ve never walked 6.5 kilometres in my life,” I announced to no-one in particular as I crossed the finish line. I looked for the crowds clapping and cheering, but it was all over red rover. People were more interested in eating egg-and- bacon rolls and browsing the Farmer’s Market. THEY SAY THIS is a retirement town. The estate agent who sold me my house thought so. He showed me the clinic, the hospital and the Retirement Village before the house. “I like to walk my dog,” I said, so he showed me the walking track, the forest and the creek. “You can ride a bike if you prefer,” he said. “It’s flat as a tack.” He’s right. This land is so flat; they say you forget how to walk on hills. I’ve heard tales of local folk struggling to stay upright in alpine country. They stagger about like sailors on sea legs. It’s said they lean too far into the hills, like a motorbike on a curve. Visiting Melbourne’s CBD is a strain on the calves, particularly up Collins Street. Like many women, my path has been determined by economic necessity, but I’m starting to imagine a future for myself here. I’ve fallen in love with the glittering Milky Way at night and the screech of corellas in the morning. After the squash of the city, it’s a thrill to plant trees in my quarter-acre block and watch them grow. But I am still caught between two worlds. I can no longer refer to myself as a “city person” and yet I am in a perpetual state of not-being-a - local, despite a growing repository of local knowledge (I could tell you, for example, a thing or two about blue tongues, red-bellied black snakes, blue- green algae, yellow rosellas, clearance sales, walking tracks and where to find the library). It’s a delicate balance, straddling two worlds, living here on the border between the bustling metropolis and life in this peaceful country town. I have to admit that, despite regular visits, I’m no longer “in the know” in the city – not up with the latest cafe, play or fashion trend. Nor am I au fait with the latest dairy farming techniques, water debates, trends in tractors or crocheting – let alone the intricate details of who’s related to whom. I have my L-plates for country living, but like all learners, I will sometimes swerve off the road. At a barbecue I looked up at the darkening sky and, with naïve delight, said: “Oh, look! The moon!” But it wasn’t the moon, was it? It was a roadside lamp. Naturally, my local friends broke into hysterics and pounced like a pack of gleeful dogs. “Know-nothing city slickers! Wouldn’t know a moon from a lamp.” But here I am, a country woman, whether I like it or not. Yesterday, in the main street, I saw an elegant lady hunched on her scooter, hair as white as cottonwool. She nodded politely at a man speeding the other way, his Australian flag flying. I imagined myself at their age. This town is so flat; I’ll be able to scoot to the shops in no time. » Dr Merrilee Moss (known as Moss) is an award-winning Victorian playwright who moved to the country a few years ago.