It took root while I was thinking one day back in April about all the things Ben and I left behind when we left the home we used to share with my daughter's father. My losses were great, but my son's were greater because he had no control over the decision to move away from his school and his friends and a limited understanding of why it was necessary to move so far away.
At around the same time that I was having these thoughts, a number of things started to go wrong in our little cottage: the roof sprung a large leak, we were visited by several rodent guests, the oven decided it would stop working whenever it was raining, the washing machine decided it would only work when it felt like it, and half the light bulbs in the house stopped working all at once. Some of these problems were reasonably easy to fix. Others have been ongoing challenges.
So Ben and I came up with a little motto to help us put things into perspective and appreciate our house more during those times when we get fed up and want to rant about our house being too small or too leaky or that it stinks of dead rat-in-the-ceiling, That motto is: "it's better than camping" and it makes us remember all the things we have, like beds and hot showers and a computer and a power point to charge my phone.
And so, on that day back in April, I thought to myself, actually there's a lot to be thankful for around here. I started to make a list in my head and every so often, as the weeks went by, I'd add something to that list in my head. I'd go back to that list whenever I felt my thoughts returning to the things I had lost and left behind to remind myself of the beauty and fortune in our lives.
Tonight, I thought I'd finally get that list out of my head and onto this space. So here it is,
Ten Things I love about Here
1. There are three parks in walking distance from us
We visit them often when the weather is fine. Sometimes, we even go on a park 'crawl' and go to all three in one day. And it's as good for me as it is for the kids - it's a pretty good work-out chasing a toddler around a park! It's really quite embarrassing how quickly I work up a sweat and start panting.
2. We have the best of both worlds
We live in quite an unusual suburb of Western Australia in that our house seems to straddle two parallel worlds. On one side of the river near to us is the hub of urban life, but on the other lies a laid back of cul-de-sacs and cottages, some of which are among the oldest buildings in the state.
If we walk out of our driveway and turn left and walk for five minutes, we come to a mini suburban metropolis where we can find top-quality coffee, a library, three major supermarkets, a video store, a post office and a take-away pizza chain. Oh, and the liquor store I told you about in this post..
But if we walk out of our driveway and turn right and head for five minutes in that direction, we go past properties that are semi-rural, some with geese and chickens, some with horses and one with alpacas. Yes, that's right, alpacas. I was walking along one morning with my top-quality take-away coffee in my hand and all of a sudden, I looked up and there was an alpaca. I had to do a bit of eye rubbing.
This is where I planned on inserting a photo of an alpaca or a horse. I went walking this morning to snap one, but the blighters were all hiding from me.
3. We live in walking distance from a train station
I know that might not sound particularly riveting to some of you, but Ben loves train travel and after living so far away from any trains for such a long time, it's all seems rather exciting for us. We've taken a few trips into the city of Perth and also to Fremantle.
I don't notice the toots of the trains anymore as they come and go from the station. When we first moved in, I noticed them all the time. But it was strangely comforting because it reminded me that I wasn't completely cut off from the world the way I had been before.
4. This little corner of the globe is quirky (and we do like a good dose of quirk now and then)
This means our family walks are rarely dull. I'm not just talking about the people we meet either. We have a route that we follow when we're going for a walk just for some exercise and fresh air and along the way, in among the houses of the back streets suburbia, we pass a graveyard (which Ben always wants to enter), a caravan park, an antique shop and a veterinary clinic which doesn't look like a veterinary clinic at all because its premises is a rather rundown suburban house. We often hear a cacophony of assorted barks, squawks and brays coming from inside when we walk by.
5. We have corner shops - TWO of them - spoilt for choice
I was delighted and surprised to discover that there are two surviving corner shops close to us, when all over the country, these iconic institutions seem to be dropping like flies. It's even more surprising when you consider just how close they are to some of the major supermarket chains. But how could a supermarket ever hold the same intimacy as a corner shop? Actually, if I'm buying more than one item, the man who owns the one I go to most often usually tries to rip me off by ten or twenty cents each time. He looks over whatever I've put on the counter then just tells me a price. Maybe he's just really bad at maths, but I tend to think he's a very cunning business man taking advantage of the fact that he doesn't have to scan items or give receipts. If he managed to get an extra ten cents out of every second customer every day, that would really add up over a year. But I'm onto him. And I still love corner shops.
6. All is going well at Ben's school
He has really hit the ground running at his new school. He came in at week eight of first term and had been invited to two different boys' homes for a play before the end of the week. He's made friends with both boys and girls of different ages and backgrounds and never wants to miss a day of school. I try to remind him often that I'm so proud of how good he is at making friends.
The only real thing that's not going so well is his inability to stop talking in class. I think I will have to nominate his teacher for earthly beatification.
7. We have orchards, vineyards and rolling hills practically on our doorstep
There are two ways that we can drive to my parent's place from our house. The first way involves two highways and several sets of traffic lights and for a while I thought that was the only way. Then one day, we were out driving about and exploring and we realised that there is a back way to their house through the Perth hills. This way takes about ten minutes longer, but has winding roads through the bush instead of highways and beautiful scenery instead of traffic lights. I take the back way whenever I can (except at night because there's no street lights on those windy roads).
In some places, the scenery on this route reminds me of the landscape around parts of the south west of Western Australia, where we lived for two years before moving here. Driving through these roads, with their apple trees and grapevines, helps to ease the longing in my heart for the place we had to leave.
8. Our garden is full of endless surprises
When we first moved in , I had no idea that there were so many natural beauties in our garden. I was allowed fifteen minutes to inspect the house during the home opening before making an application for it, so there wasn't enough time to explore the garden in detail. Since then, we've discovered an olive tree, a locut tree, a jade plant (which is also known as a money tree apparently, so hopefully it will bring me good fortune) and as the seasons have changed, roses, lavender, hawthorn, black-eyed susans, nasturtiums and poinsettia have all sprung up and made our garden alive with colour and flooded with fragrance.
There's also this beauty whose name I can't remember. I think it starts with D. If anyone knows, please tell me!
9. I have neighbours who bring me food
This point will have a entire blog post complied in its honour one day I'm sure. On one side of us lives Fadima from Singapore, who brings us exotic spicy delicacies whose names I can't pronounce and on the other side lives Thuy from Vietnam, who brings us coconut curry and noodles and desserts made with banana and tapioca. I make them biscuits. They always tell me they were delicious, but never know for sure if they eat them or not :)
10. Happy people
Since moving to this area, I have been surprised and touched by how friendly so many of the people are around here. One thing I noted straight away was how genuinely happy the people who work in the supermarkets are. They seem to take a pride in their job en masse that I haven't observed in any other place I've lived in before. On two separate occasions, when I've asked ladies in Coles to help me find a particular item, they've ended up sharing their own recipes with me too.
I'll be honest and tell you that before moving here I had a preconceived notion that this was not a particularly 'nice' area and that the people here would all be rough at best and maybe even dangerous. Well some of them are, but most of them are anything but. They might not be 'refined', but at least they're not pretending to be anything they're not.
Recently, I was telling a friend of mine how amazed I was by how open and friendly the people are around this area. The place I lived in before had a reputation for laid-back locals and a welcoming attitude and yet, I found it was much more the case in this new place. And she said to me: "Maybe it's you that's different. Maybe because now you are free to be yourself and you don't have to worry about who you talk to anymore or what you say and you're not so full of anxiety, maybe that draws people to you".
I've been thinking a lot about what she said, and I think she might be onto something :)
Lizzi for her Ten Things of Thankful link-up.
What are you thankful for in the area where you live?