GETTING THE F**K OUT OF THE CITY

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By Olde Smiddy

Reception is variable. One bar common. Two bars infrequent. SOS is comparable with one bar. As far as I can tell the signal is determined by time of day and weather. This may not be the case entirely but when you are used to unhindered function of devices living in Melbourne, central Victoria’s lack of connectivity is unfamiliar for a city dweller. There is no NBN and if you don’t have 4G coverage then contact is going to be sketchy. I have 3G coverage.

Sketchy is my new telecommunications plan.

I came out here to house-sit my friend’s property and I wouldn’t call myself incapable in a rural environment, but the habits we are used to are the ones that come to the fore during the first few days. There are certain spots in the house I can stand like a scarecrow with a mobile phone pointed at the roof and the reception is better. I’m giving less of a shit about being connected as the first week passes. A lot less. I’ve found the sketchycrow routine very overrated.

I’m alone and the disengagement from the sprawl is not unpleasant.

My main responsibility is to look after the animals. There are two dogs: an old terrier and a young heeler. I take them out on a run each day, a loop through the bush my mate showed me. The old dog would probably get to the bottom of the hill and turn back to the house at the creek.

The old dog has completed the entire run every day. That’s after I got us lost — just a bit — on the first day when the directions of “right-right-right then left-left-left” got tangled on the last (sharp) left and I continued running on the main track. Going straight ahead was actually a “left-left-right” course. Me and the young dog slowed and looked around. It was beautiful, but cold and unexpected.

And the old dog turned straight back around from where we came from like we were idiots. He was puffing. And he got us home.

Swagger.

I have been letting him into the house at night to sleep by the fire for a bit while I cook or watch movies.

If you ever have the opportunity to watch Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, attempt to insert your own head up your anus. That would at least involve the benefit of exercise. I’m researching for a screenplay while I’m here and Tree of Life was one of those rare moments as a writer where you think, “Well if that pile of shit got made…”

The chooks produce plentiful piles of shit. And eggs for breakfast. What beguiling and freaky creatures. One swashbuckling chook has been getting out twice a day. I’m fairly certain I found the chicken-sized gap in the wire where the escape has been happening. I put some large stones down. The jail breaker with a beak may be plotting a new coop skedaddle, but hasn’t been sighted in the last 24 hours. The goats, where she hangs out are nonchalant.

I am loving the goats. I love their eyes and the way they posture with such grace and can shift immediately into “seriously get stuffed” mode in a blink of said beautiful eyes. They are getting used to me and less skittish when feeding. The sheep in the surrounding paddocks look after themselves. I just need to head count a few times a day.

Time spent in isolation is also a personal head count. A breather from the metro bedlam. There is a hammock here and I can drink stout and smoke in the afternoon. Watch Peregrine Falcons over the gully. The fire has to be kept burning which means getting up in the night and putting a log in the wood heater, but it is little price to pay when you don’t have to be up at a certain time. More importantly, allowing the winter to sink into the house here can be bone rattling. I worked that out when I let the fire burn dead on the first night and spent the morning wearing a doona cape.

I’m travelling back to Footscray on Saturdays to play baseball and see my wife and daughter. When they ask what I’ve been doing I may tell them the bit about some very good dancing to Cameo’s Word Up! in my undies. Of course you can also dance in your undies to Word Up! in the city, and well, but stars sparkle that bit more funky for Cameo out here.

And please, send any hate mail on postcards. It’s nicer.

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