Saturday, April 1, 2017

Run To The Hills

I work outside now. I used to work inside, in aircon in front of a screen. And now I work in the full sun on a mountain in a physical job. And while there are many differences between indoor, passive and outdoor, active work, the one I didn't anticipate is how sweaty your undies get. Seriously, it's like I've weed myself every hot day. And the other day, after working in the full sun, with the temperature peaking at 37 degrees I physically couldn't roll my undies back up after peeing. They just say there, scrunched in a tightly wound ball below my knees. And it occurred to me that this is literally the extent of my issues with my job now. Sweaty undies. No more dreading Sunday evening, no more tight pit of the stomach when thinking about deadlines. No more sitting at a desk like a pale lump. And I've never been happier.

While Sydney’s astronomical house prices have proven a disaster for some, for us, it was the catalyst for the biggest and most amazing change we've ever experienced - moving to the mountains. We are serious westies now, we went west and just kept going west beyond the west you think of as “west”. Beyond Mt Druitt, beyond Penrith even. You will know I am a westie now if you've ever witnessed me trying not to swear in front of a child. Anyway, west is best, and let me tell you about. The short version is this: we bought a house with a yard, got pregnant as soon as we moved (after trying for ages), I got the job of my dreams, we made some of the best friends we've ever had, are close to family and live the most pleasing outdoor life surrounded by some of the most breathtaking landscapes you'll ever see. I grow my own artichokes for fuck’s sake. Nick saw what he thinks was the Penrith panther at the end of our street. My friends go canyoning after work. I DROPPED MY PHONE IN A CREEK TAKING A PHOTO OF A YABBY DURING A REGULAR DAY AT WORK AND IT’S AN IPHONE 7 SO IT WAS FINE!!!! Sorry, I got carried away. I don't know how better to emphasise that I hike down to creeks while at work and also that the iPhone 7 is amazing without that horrible muddle of underline, caps and bold. And now that I've written those sentences I feel like I can't stop at a short version and will have to give you a long version of why life is better up here... We basically pooed our pants with fear moving away from Sydney, but the things that make the mountains so amazing outweigh those poo pants ten to one.

Being outside: We went to a night time talk about the stars recently. Within five minutes of arriving we were surrounded by a fog so thick I thought I'd suddenly developed cataracts. It was the type of weather I like to describe as “murdery” because you could easily run someone over in your car, drive off and no one would be able to see you. Or sneak up and stab them, your identity cloaked in the fog. Either or. Not that I've thought about it much. Anyway, you couldn't see anything in this mist. The guy giving the talk ended up having to discuss the constellations in front of flapping sheets of A3 paper instead of the actual sky and he knew NOTHING about stars. I'm pretty sure, at some point, he said Alpha and Beta Centauri were the same thing. He also referred to a star, whose name he couldn't recall, as “this is, I don't know, some star, whatever”. Cut to us bailing from the talk. My mate Mat, who is a mountain veteran and knows the area like the back of his hand took us, in the dark, on a Tuesday, down into a canyon that was full of glow worms. The walls of the canyon were a sea of blue lights and when we couldn't see the night sky because of the fog, it looked like the heavens. Who does this shit mid-week?! We do now apparently.

The people: The mountains is both very gay and incredibly friendly. I went to a gay disco in Blackheath with a phenomenal drag queen Shirley Bassey and danced my heart out. There was no traffic on the way there and the men were gorgeous. Plus the song selection was ace.  Beyond the gay community, the people are amazingly kind. When Max and I had a car accident, three people came around to our house to check we were ok. With presents no less. Chocolates! Flowers! And beyond their kindness and gayness, everyone here is so trusting. So much so that when I had friends to dinner, and the local ice addict came to our door ranting and raving about the first prime minister living in the house down the street, one friend actually googled it to check. To his honest surprise, it turns out the first prime minister didn't live there, but bless him for giving the ol’ neighbourhood junkie the benefit of the doubt. Katoomba is pretty much like living in a scaled up, Aussie version of the town in Doc Hollywood. Which has been my dream ever since I saw the movie Doc Hollywood.

Work: I work at possibly the most magical place in the world. The view is phenomenal, birds follow you around and sit on your feet like you're a King Gee clad Snow White and the people who work there are the most filthy mouthed bunch of Wombles in the world and I couldn't love co-workers more without it being inappropriate. When I was on maternity leave Max and I were told we weren't allowed to attend a social event with a group of older bushwalkers because NO BABIES ALLOWED, and I was devastated. I drove out to work, sat at the lunch table (in my designated spot which my friends saved for me for a year) cried my heart out and my work mates literally lined up to hug me better. I hadn't worked there for a year, but they kept my spot warm and loved me fiercely when I needed it most. Just to give you some contrast, when I worked in the city I was once told, by someone I looked up to as a potential mentor, “don't go and slit your wrists, but no one likes you. Maybe you should change your personality? People don't care what you have to say, their eyes glaze over when you speak.” While, clearly, my personality is the it took me about a year to get over being ripped apart like this at work. So to show up to a job where I told them in the first fortnight of knowing them that I was pregnant, and would need to leave in seven months for a year and get the response “YAY!”, restored my faith in people. Also, the fact that I can now throw around botanical insults, like telling people that if they were in a plant family they'd be in Lamiaceae, or just pointing at an agapanthus and saying “that's you”, is sheer joy.

Everything else: living is cheaper, the air is cleaner, you can grind your own peanut butter at the co-op, my mum lives here, Tara Moss lives here, magic mushrooms grow here, sometimes it snows, you can grow cold climate pants, no one judges your kid if they're not wearing pants or choose their name daily and I can't think of the last time someone told me they were “busy” in response to the question “how are you?” If you disregard the lack of racial diversity, the low vaccination rate and the angry deli girl at Woolies, we're basically in utopia.

I suppose the point that I'm making here is that the mountains is the best place ever. And you can find your mountains too. If you are constantly whinging about the same stuff, either try and change it or shut up. Sydney is expensive, so go somewhere else. Your job is lame, do something you like. You hate your friends, stop talking to them. Just tell them you dropped your iPhone 6 in a creek.


  1. Hi Maz Caroline just showed me your little story. It's such a gem that it compelled me to make a comment on Facebook for the first time in my life. Don't ever change. Ced xx

  2. Hi Maz Caroline just showed me your little story. It's such a gem that it compelled me to make a comment on Facebook for the first time in my life. Don't ever change. Ced xx

  3. That is so sweet, thank you Ced! And I'm so impressed with myself that I prompted you to make your first comment ever xx

  4. Wonderful Maz. I can't tell you how much I enjoy your writing. More! More!

    1. Thanks so much Meg. I'm going to try to write more for myself this year, I feel so good when I do, I just have to make the time!