Farmers Farm…and Cows Do Moo. It sounds like a children’s picture book title, but is, in fact, the name of a handbook put out by Byron Bay council to introduce Seachangers to the realities of life in the North Coast NSW town.
Byron is a beautiful place, with perfect beaches, a chic-bohemian vibe, and a serious ‘culture shock’ problem thanks to its popularity with refugees from the Big Smoke. According to an article by Carolyn Boyd in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald (Domain), Seachangers complain to council that farmers are starting their tractors at 5am and their cows moo too loudly.
People move there thinking it will be just like the city, only smaller and with more opportunities to wear a bikini to dinner. They build enormous houses next to the neighbours’ simple fibros and wonder why they don’t get invited around for barbies. And, according to the article they don’t volunteer.
Small towns run on volunteers. Simple economics show that the fewer people you have paying rates, the fewer services you have. Leaving gaps that need to be filled. The streets of Fibrotown, for instance, are full of cars marked ‘volunteer driver’, ferrying members of the ageing population to their various appointments around town – and making up for the fact that there is little public transport in the area.
Currently filling page after page of the Fibrotown local paper is the ongoing debate about whether or not we should have two bins (waste, recycling) or three (waste, recycling, green waste). When I say ongoing, I mean about three months ongoing. Never in the history of the world has so much been said about litter. The trouble is that much of our area is given over to holiday houses, which sit empty most days of the year. Garbage trucks are still required to visit them weekly, however, covering a huge area. It’s a big expense. Do they really need to go three times a week? (Feel free to express your thoughts in the comments sections and I’ll pass them on to Council – or write a letter to the paper, to make it even more fun.)
Moving out of a big city is a big change. You can’t underestimate how much you will miss fresh Lebanese bread, or prosciutto from Norton Street Deli, or lamb souvlaki from Victoria Yeeros, or … must stop or I’ll be here all night. But there are other pleasures.
Last night The Builder and I frocked up (he looked ravishing) and attended a black tie event at the local Literary Institute Hall. Which sounds much posher than it is. To set the scene, one of my friends arrived in wellie boots so as not to sink knee deep in mud. It’s a little old hall, chock full of history (and, last night, inexplicably, pumpkins) and the event was a fundraiser to help with its upkeep. It was a rollicking good night, put on by a bunch of – wait for it – volunteers. Like a genteel B&S.
We moved here knowing that we were leaving our comfort zone and would need to actively search out new friends, new groups, new experiences. It’s not always easy – cleaning the house for every new person who visits, for instance, is tedious – but it keeps things interesting.Fortunately, we’re just far enough away from the fields that those pesky cows don’t bother us.