Country life is a wonderful thing. The following post from Andrew Boyd – known as Facibus on the net – stunned me with the similarity to the place I have moved to. It shouldn’t be so surprising because Robertson is only a half hour drive from where I now live. I have been there many times when we’ve had a day out driving.
In 2003 I moved to Robertson in the Southern Highlands of NSW to live with my then-fiance. At the time it was a sleepy village of 1,000 souls, mostly harmless. After living in the dry areas around Canberra the lush green grass and remnant temperate rainforest plants made it seem like the garden of Eden – that and being in love.
I found the locals fairly evenly divided between newcomers and those who had grown up in the area. The “weekenders” or “yuppies” as they were known locally were usually refugees of the urban hell of Sydney – much beloved of the real estate agents and members of the Robertson Business Association (in itself, sometimes known as The Mafia).
A village also fairly evenly divided in their future vision of the place – some saw Robertson as the new Berrima (as opposed to New Berrima itself, a fairly working-class hamlet between Moss Vale and Berrima much noted for it’s roving dog population and dead car bodies). The Mafia saw a thriving quaint tourist trap, swarming with well-heeled Sydneysiders ever-ready with their wallets. A lot of other people just wanted the tourists to f*ck off and leave them alone – they had come to Robertson to get away from that kind of thing, or had grown up in a place that they wanted to never change. For myself, I was happy if I could park my car in the main street on the weekend to go and buy milk, and good luck to those that made their living off passing fools.
A note here on the Famous Robertson Pie Shop – the locals knew (and still do, so far as I know) that the best pies are down in the village itself, in the bakery – and to say “I know Robertson, I’ve been to the Pie Shop” is equivalent to saying “I am a proud member of the Young Liberals” to those in the know. I’ve eaten at the Pie Shop myself, some days they had nice chips – but the pies were nothing to brag about, and not a patch on those at the Gunnadoo Bakery in Bungendore. But I digress.
When I first moved to Robertson, like all good small country towns, there was a Chinese restaurant in the Bowling Club. Albert’s was run by, well, Albert. A great bloke who had been there for years and made the best Lemon Chicken I’d had in my life. He was part of the villiage, part of the charm. I literally wept when some short-sighted people ran Albert out of town by refusing to renew his lease. Bastards.
The only other restaurants in town at the time were:
– Chats, a burger and chips sort of place (excellent chips) at the motel
– The coffee place at the Old Cheese Factory
– The bistro at the pub
– Last but not least, Pizzas in the Mist – God bless them, excellent wood-fired pizza and fairly adventurous (their Peking Duck Pizza was my favourite, and I can still smell it as I write this years later).
We later got another three cafes, Albert’s became the Bowlo Bistro, the Old River Grillhouse opened (and while the service was surly, the steaks were excellent), and the pub food got better quickly with a change in management.
I mentioned that Chats was at the motel. In a village of 1,000 people, there were lots of “Thes” – The Traffic Light, The Cemetary, The Oval, The footpath, The Pub, The motel, The Hardware (store), The Supermarket. The only things that came in multiples were real estate agencies and antique shops.
The people were generally great – except for the aforementioned bastards, they know who they were. Behind the scenes there was a fair bit of quiet desperation going on – jobs not easy to get unless you brought work with you, and money was tight for a lot of people. Lots of gossip about – we won’t go there today. Some great characters, and you just knew that every time the police were called to the hotel that it was out-of-towners that were to blame.
The relationship with my then-fiance broke down last year – and my relationship with Robertson changed with it. We’ve since sold the house there and divided the proceedings, each going their separate way. I miss the mist and the call of the bower bird, the constant year-round green-ness, the friends I made there, the slow pace of life. I miss some of the people – if you’re passing through, and stop at the petrol station (not the tractor shop), remember me to Steve, and to the supermarket, to Neil and Heather, and to the Community Technology Centre, to Melissa.
My life has since moved on – I’m back consulting based out of Canberra again, and while I enjoy it, I sometimes long for the view from the Cemetary, the chips from Chats, the pies from the bakery, and the smell of the pizza oven starting up in the afternoons. I went back there with my new lady earlier this year to show her what I missed about the place, and the people who were worth talking to were still worth talking to and were nice to her. Them I miss.
Facibus is the nom-de-net of Andrew Boyd, consultant Information Architect and food-fan. Facibus means “we make” in Latin, and is one half of an obscure motto. You can find him at several blogs in the blog-o-sphere, including On Blogging Australia. Thank you for writing this wonderful post, I appreciate it!
I have not yet been to the Robertson Pie Shop and after reading that am somewhat glad. ;) The slow pace of life is exactly what I am appreciating here in our new village. People say hello. On the surface it seems nice but I am sure beneath it there lurks a few bastards. I am yet to get involved in the community but once we’re all settled in there will be no stopping me. ;)