Nick Cave sang that his lover turned him on "like an idea". Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody famously intoned that "from little things big things grow"...
And so it was with that seed and my family. That idea so excited everyone that in the end four houses were sold and three generations of us moved onto a 200 acre farm that had been soldier settlement land, then a dairy farm, spud paddocks and, finally, grazing land for beef cattle. That was almost ten years ago. In the meantime another generation has been born and my maternal grandfather has had his funeral here.
I didn't move onto the farm immediately. I lived in Darwin, moved back to Melbourne, then returned to Darwin again. Then, in 2005 I bought a cafe in Leongatha. It was an impulsive decision - one I often regretted and more often revelled in. That cafe, O'Malley's, became my number9dream. I created something unique, a place filled with art and great music, a place that was welcoming and inclusive, a place that served hearty fare and excellent coffee. I wanted to offer South Gippsland's left-leaning, artsy folk a place to feel at ease, to be with and to meet like-minded people. I also liked the idea of the 'third place' that I'd seen work so well in the UK. Unlike here, in London the pub was something of a community hub, a place for the whole family to go, to meet other people, to commune. There wasnt anywhere like that here. There was work and home, but no third place. Until number9dream. I imagined it and with enormous help from my family, my brother in particular, I imagined it into being.
What the cafe did for me was give me employment in Gippsland. And from that I had not only an income but also a reason to stay. It was the first time I'd lived in the country since leaving here at 17 to start university. It took 18 months of sitting on my hill to convince myself I could stay, that I could make a life here. I could see in my mind's eye the house I wanted to build. I could see just how and where it would sit on the hill. I would lie on the grass and look out to Mounts Saint Gwinear and Baw Baw and imagine I was sitting on my verandah.
|Looking north, towards the mountains|
In January 2007 I applied for a planning permit...
|A hill. A place for a house...|