Opinion

Looking to move to the country? Here’s all the dirt

Sally Hopman26 July 2022
Empty plates on a table

When your invite says “bring a plate”, here’s a handy hint – put some food on it, regardless of how pretty your plate looks naked. Photo: Sally Hopman.

When it comes to moving to the country, there are a load of rules. Problem is, though, that most are unwritten – and you usually only find out about them after you’ve broken them.

It’s just that there are things you can do and things you should not, but it’s hard when you go in blind. Like when you go to an event for the first time, usually in the village hall, mostly for a good cause, and you’re always asked to bring a plate. It’s best if you actually put something on the plate. Like food.

Royal Doulton with handpainted periwinkles, but bereft of tucker, just won’t cut it. Like cake, you need a knife for that.

It’s wise to live somewhere and ideally die there before you start becoming known as A Borrower. You will be judged. It’s not just a matter of returning said item ideally before you kark it, but it’s the way it’s returned. If you borrowed it dirty, you return it clean. If you borrow it clean, you return it that way too, otherwise your name around town will be well, dirt.


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People look out for each other in the bush, sometimes a little too much. I remember moving to a village not a million miles from Canberra a couple of lifetimes ago. Someone came to stay and parked his car, with its not local number plates, out the front of my cottage. He hadn’t been there an hour before someone dropped in – not to see me, borrow sugar or discuss the meaning of life, but to ask who he was.

He said, wildly – because he came from the city and clearly didn’t know better – “a friend”. By the end of the week, a matter of days, I couldn’t have been more scarlet a woman had my name been scrawled across the village noticeboard in lipstick under the headline “For Sale”. Ah, those were the days, my friend.

Don’t go to someone’s place for dinner, even if they invite you, when you know you will never return the favour. Or if you just have to invite them back – because they’re holding your dog/child hostage – do so on a State of Origin night and mention that your TV doesn’t work, beer makes you fart and you’re getting your Scrabble set out especially. (Actually, ignore the beer/fart bit. That may work in a way unintended.)

Never, ever criticise anyone else’s dog, even if it bites clear through to your other leg. It will be your fault because “my dog has never done that before”. Anyway, it’s rarely the dog’s fault, it usually is the owner’s. So bite the owner. I don’t think there’s a Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Humans, yet.


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Never get really drunk or even mildly sloshed at the village pub. You mightn’t remember what you did but everyone else within a 10km radius will. And they’ll have pictures. They’ll also remind you of whatever it was you did for the rest of your life. And probably longer.

Don’t sound off about anyone ever unless you’ve read their complete family history. In small towns, chances are the people you’re having a go at are related to whoever you’re talking to. It’s all relative. Literally. And they’ll know where you live.

Be prepared to get really fat. Village folk can’t seem to swallow their tea unless there is a vanilla slice the size of a brick to go with it. Mostly home-made, unless you are, like me, the world’s worst cook and buy stuff from supermarkets or cake shops, rip off the wrapping, punch a hole in said cake to make it look not perfect, and present it as your own messy work. It’s OK to feel proud – it’s one of those unwritten rules we didn’t mention earlier – with baked goods, you can never lose (weight).

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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One Response to Looking to move to the country? Here’s all the dirt

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Maree Myhill Maree Myhill 6:02 pm 28 Jul 22

Great story!

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