Reflection and Writing in Robe

One of my favourite places is Robe, in the south east of South Australia.  It is a historic coastal village that is known these days for its lobster catches, most of which are destined for foreign tables, unfortunately.

At the end of the week I will be travelling to Port Fairy in Victoria for an annual sojourn with friends and on a whim I have taken the entire week off work, and have been spending the preceding days in Robe.  Here I have been writing, and walking and thinking and meandering.  Tonight, in honour of my impending birthday, which is one of those with a zero on the end, I am taking myself to a highly recommended seafood restaurant, and dining on lobster.  This is an extravagant indulgence but this birthday won’t come around again and I think I deserve it.

Robe is approximately four hours’ drive south of Adelaide.  When making long journeys by car, I borrow a couple of talking books from the library.  Listening to the story makes the time pass more easily.  Baz Luhrman’s film ‘The Great Gatsby’ is about to be released and before seeing it I would like to re-acquaint myself with the book.  It would be great, I thought, if I could find a digital copy of the book at the library so that I would listen to it in the car.  It seemed such a positive omen for this trip therefore when there on the shelf and right in front of me was a copy of Gatsby.  It was meant to be.  I listened to most of it on the way down and was captivated by the elegance of Scott F Fitzgerald’s writing.  It is something to aspire to.

I am staying in a motel, which is a little uninspiring, but is one of the cheaper options in town.  Of course I am paying the rate that applies to two people but that is what happens when you travel on your own.  In between discovering where the best coffee in town is brewed, I have also been working on a short story which I started some years ago and at that time, reached a dead end.  I have circumnavigated that block and finished the tale, in draft form at least.  That feels good.

I have also revisited a novel, based in Robe and which I started a decade ago.  Reading now what I wrote then, I realise how laboriously written it was and how much needs to be deleted.  The story itself, not totally plotted, has merit but the telling needs much work.  At least I have developed skill to the point where I recognise bad writing when I see it, especially my own.  I will pick this story up again and try to do something with it.

The weather is too cold for swimming in the sea, or even paddling.  Great for bracing walks along the beach though.  This is the view from the Town Beach.

Looking along the Town Beach

This afternoon, having finished the draft of my story, I wandered along Long Beach instead (yes, that is what it is called).  The tide was going out and I cannot resist looking for treasures that the sea might have yielded, like a perfectly formed fan shell.  There weren’t any but  I found a shell with iridescent nacre and also a bit of wave-buffeted and encrusted green glass.

Shell and piece of glass found on Long Beach

Shell and piece of glass found on Long Beach

In a previous post on Slow Writing, I mentioned my intention to acquire a fountain pen again and to write; write letters, write in my journal (as opposed to my blog) and to write those more intimate communications.  I brought the pen with me and yesterday, sat in the window of the local library, overlooking the foreshore and brought my journal up-to-date.  Sigh.  Why would I ever go back to work???

Time to get ready for my dinner.  Along with the jeans and woollen jumpers, I packed an outfit suitable for fine dining.  I shall wash and dry my hair, pull on my stockings and apply my most sophisticated face.  I am surprised that I have reached the age that I have, but fully intend to make the most of it.  Bon appetit.

Draw to the Coast

Do you ever dream of a sea change? I do … frequently. Apparently the term sea change is uniquely Australian. This is one of the things that I learnt in a seminar yesterday.

The Australian population is one of the most mobile in the western world, and we move commonly at times of life’s transitions. A female born at the beginning of this century has a live expectancy of 79 years. The closer she gets to that age however, the more her expectancy extends as by that time she has passed some of the earlier hurdles that could potentially cut her off at the pass, such as childhood or child birth. By the time this female reaches retirement age of 65 therefore, she still has 1/3 of her life to live. Makes you think about financial provision for the third age, doesn’t it? We have to provide for ourselves for such a long time for those who travel life as a solo venture, it’s even more important and just a little bit harder.

The time of retirement is one of those mobility triggers, as retirement is not necessarily spent in the same place as when one was in the work force. That means leaving a place of known community and probably established support. The choice of new location therefore is important as it needs to be somewhere that also offers support and the sort of links that might be required. Some people might think of moving to where the kids are, but given the mobility that I mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that the kids will stay put. Following them can be a bad bet and not terribly practical. A sea change can seem attractive when making these sorts of decisions.

It’s not all about retirement of course. Some people make the move to the coast at other times of life. They may live at the coast, but work elsewhere. There are those who work FIFO (fly in fly out) or DIDO (drive in drive out) and those who telecommute. Some even manage to get employment in the new location. The smaller size of the coastal communities is attractive – also age-friendly communities. It’s not uncommon for some people, in or around the 40s, to buy a second home on the coast. It is either used as an investment or as a holiday home in the short term, but long term there is the intention to use it as a retirement home.

Demographers predict that Australia has another fifty years of being skewed towards an ageing population. It is further anticipated that the draw to the coast will be significant over this period. It wont be an end-of-life movement but part of a cycle of migration. There may then be a return to the city in later years when greater support is required, particularly of a medical nature.

Older people today enter retirement with significant lifestyle aspirations. Even though they may percolate towards the coast, good transport options between there and the city are important. Also other community facilities such as the medical support previously mentioned, sporting, gyms, entertainment (coffee!!!) educational facilities, and libraries etc.

Coastal markets are lifestyle markets. As such they have always been popular through currently they are going through a weak spot. This follows the softening of real estate prices in most states. Inland prices tend to be a bit cheaper and so some people opt for the tree change instead and regional centres are currently undergoing a resurgence.

I love the Adelaide Hills, but the draw for me has always been towards the ocean. I have long dreamed of a dual existence – a city-based apartment and the home down on the coast to which I could retreat. I think of a smaller community and the bracing walks or paddling in the shallows. Coffee whilst the waves crash on the shore just metres away from the beach-front Kaf. Working on my writing, calmed by the ebb and flow that takes place outside my window. Some dream.

This weekend I am staying in a coastal village located about 1 hour 40 minutes south of Adelaide. It has a beautiful bay although the wind can bracing as it sweeps up from the South Pole. This is just rental accommodation – the YHA in fact. This hostel is having a half-price Spring sale. Perfect for me as I booked quickly enough to secure the Suite, which is a cut above the usual hostel accommodation.

I’m going to chill, to drink some coffee, to go for a walk along the beach and I’ll explore the local galleries and shops. I could even catch a movie this evening in an adjacent town that is large enough to sport a cinema. Depends what is showing. I’ve just had a quick peak at the website and might do the late afternoon session of Red Dog.

I’m also going to look at a local subdivision. I have visited this place before and was intrigued enough to monitor progress with interest and get regular email updates. It is not waterfront, but is set back from the beach by 200 metres or so. A tunnel takes a walking/cycling path under an adjacent main road and leads to the beach. The family who have subdivided their agricultural land have a dream of developing a precinct that has wetlands, a restoration of the local ecology, and with all dwellings built on strictly monitored environmentally sustainable principles. They have progressed well so far. Houses look out onto lagoons which have attracted local birds, amphibians, and yabbies. Flinders University is monitoring the progress. The houses all look interesting and it has a strong community feel.

There’s no way I can afford this but it ticks a lot of boxes for me. After all I am now in late 50s and relate well to the lifestyle transitional issues that the demographers are talking about. I also want more space in which to breathe. There’s no harm in just having another look, is there? If I could just somehow manage to buy the land in the first instance and build up some equity for a while before building … Perhaps a lateral solution will present itself. We’ll see.

Another comment about change was made in my seminar. Actually it was a quote by Charles Darwin.
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent, but those who are the most responsive to change.” Makes you think.