A pitch for an original Netflix series


SYNOPSIS: A 5-part TV series about a trendy inner-city couple in their early thirties who move to the country to achieve their lifelong dream of getting chickens.




LORELEI is housesitting interstate, trying to write her first book, when she gets a call from her boyfriend JEREMY.


JEREMY: You know how we’ve been talking about buying a house?

LORELEI: Yes! I love that joke! It’s the funniest thing ever!

JEREMY: Well, I just bought one. In the country.

LORELEI: Oh … kay. Where’s the country?

JEREMY: Selby.

LORELEI: Selby? Where’s Selby?

JEREMY: It’s less than an hour from Melbourne on the Eastern Freeway.

LORELEI (thinks thoughtfully): Hmm, an hour. I guess that’s just like living in East Brunswick and taking the tram to St Kilda?

JEREMY: Yes! Plus, we’ll have a backyard so we can finally achieve our lifelong dream of getting chickens!

LORELEI: Oh my goodness! We have always wanted to get chickens! Selby, here we come!


We hear the joyful clucking of chickens as the title bursts triumphantly onscreen: MY HEART BELONGS TO SELBY: A True Story.




LORELEI and JEREMY move to their new house in Selby, a cosy township positioned at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. Placid sheep and goats graze on Selby’s sweeping, grassy slopes. In Selby, the general store, the post office and the bottle shop are all the same thing.


A quaint steam engine called Puffing Billy chugs exhilarated tourists very slowly through the town about ten times a day.


LORELEI: Selby is so charming! I can’t wait to get chickens!

JEREMY: Well actually honey, I’ve been researching the chickens and I don’t think we’re ready to commit to them yet. Too much work. Maybe we should just have some kids instead?

LORELEI: Sure, why not! I love Selby!


They kiss passionately as Puffing Billy toots in the distance.




Four years later


JEREMY is jiggling their wailing newborn, while LORELEI delicately tries to change the nappy of their sick toddler without getting poo all over her hands.


JEREMY: Do you think we might need to move to a bigger house?

LORELEI: But honey, we can’t ever leave this house! Both our kids were born here! And I always dreamed they’d grow up here too.  We’d affix a brass plaque to the front of the house, just like the house where Mozart was born.

JEREMY: But if we get a bigger house, you could have a writing room all to yourself instead of sharing a room with the kids.

LORELEI (turns on ABC for Kids, plonks the toddler down, and opens her computer): Great idea! Let’s start looking!




One week later


LORELEI has gastro and can’t go to the open house viewings that JEREMY has proposed for the weekend.


LORELEI (in between vomits): So, where exactly are these open houses?

JEREMY (tenderly removing a yo-yo of mucousy spew from her hair): They’re in Eltham. It has a similar vibe to Selby – you know, semi-rural, artistic. And it’ll be such a shorter commute for me!

LORELEI: Eltham?! I mean, I love Heide, but is Heide enough reason to move to Eltham?


LORELEI spews dramatically as Jeremy hurries away from the vomit and towards Eltham.


Later that night.


LORELEI: Well, thank goodness you didn’t like any of the houses in Eltham! Because I realised something while I was spewing into the toilet today: I really want to stay in Selby! It’s perfect for us here. I love how green it is, and how the cockatoos and kookaburras squawk like they are having a violent showdown at sunset. I want our children to have a big backyard to run around in, and I really, really want to achieve our lifelong dream of getting chickens!

JEREMY: Yeah, you’re right. I love all those things too. (pauses thoughtfully) Selby is less than an hour from Melbourne on the Eastern Freeway after all.


They kiss passionately as Puffing Billy toots in the distance, but JEREMY pulls away due to the lingering flavour of spew.




A few weeks later


JEREMY comes home from work and casually throws a real estate brochure towards LORELEI, who has two children sitting on top of her as she types frantically on her computer.


LORELEI (barely looks up): What’s that?

JEREMY: It’s our new house!


JEREMY: I put in an offer last week and the real estate just called me to say we got it. We’re moving!


JEREMY: It’s got a writing room for you!

LORELEI: But … but … (whispers hopefully) … is it in Selby?

JEREMY: Yes! It’s still in Selby!

LORELEI: That means …

JEREMY AND LORELEI (in unison): It’s less than an hour away from Melbourne on the Eastern Freeway!

LORELEI: Oh thank goodness! I love you honey! And I love Selby!


They kiss passionately as Puffing Billy toots in the distance.


All of a sudden, JEREMY pulls away from their embrace.


JEREMY: There’s just one thing.

LORELEI: What’s that honey?

JEREMY: The new house has a huge backyard! We can finally achieve our lifelong dream of getting chickens!

LORELEI (pauses thoughtfully): Babe, I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept in years. I really can’t be bothered getting chickens anymore. Can you?

JEREMY: Yeah nah. You’re right. Two kids is plenty.

LORELEI: Oh, thank you honey! (She looks towards the camera and smiles winningly.) And THANK YOU SELBY!


They kiss passionately as Puffing Billy toots in the distance.





Hume Hwy

1. The 1970s. We were from Hawthorn and the trip along Sydney Road to get to the Hume took us through other worlds. We’d fall silent when we passed Pentridge and I’d mouth, silently to my brother, IT’S A PRISON. A lot of the highway was single lane. Overtaking lanes were treated with reverence.  Craigieburn seemed a long way out of the city. We drove through country towns rather than past them. Every time there was a sign in the road that said ‘Dip ahead’ my brother and I would bob up and down, like dancing cockatoos. We thought we were hilarious. We spied, with our little eyes. We tried to work out what each other was. (Animal, vegetable or mineral?). Dad played tapes of Rod Stewart, Little Feet, Elton John and Steely Dan. As we were not allowed to eat junk food, EXCEPT WHEN WE’RE ON LONG DRIVES, I took advantage: ate meat pies, hamburgers with the lot, iced buns. I drank milkshakes. Then, as often as not, I’d throw up by the side of the road.


2. Three weeks after I got my license I shared the driving when a group of us headed up the Hume to Sydney, then onward to Brisbane. The trip lasted twenty-four hours. We only stopped for hamburgers and then rolled the car after failing to take a curve properly sometime around dawn. We got up, shook ourselves off, and kept driving. I played Michael Jackson’s The Wall as often as my fellow passengers allowed.


3. Driving back from NSW, in my boyfriend’s Wolsley (circa 1950). There was no air conditioner and the thermometer in the car read 50 degrees celsius. To stop my bare legs sticking to the leather seat I put my feet on the dash. I played Michael Jackson and Madonna until my boyfriend objected. We negotiated. The Angels, Cold Chisel, Paul Kelly. We were agreed on AC/DC. Highway to Hell. It was all a bit of a moot point as we drove with the windows open, which meant we couldn’t hear much above the whoosh of the road. Occasionally. we’d put the radio on to listen to the news but the signal flickered in and out. There were whispered warnings of fire that we ignored until we saw flames leaping in the trees on either side of the road. I remembered what I was taught at school. Stop the car. Cover yourself with a wet blanket. Lie low. Don’t run. We kept driving.


4. 198something. Carpooling with a guy I didn’t know well at the end of a group weekend away somewhere I can’t remember. We’re driving late at night and a kangaroo leapt out of the darkness. I had no idea the crash and thud would be so loud. The driver goes out and dragged the animal’s body to the side of the road while I sit there and cried. I’m not sure if he killed the kangaroo or it was already dead.


5. 1986. Driving to Terip Terip with friends to watch Halley’s Comet. Tents were packed in the boot. We squinted into binoculars and exclaimed at various silvery blurs. Convinced they were Halley’s Comet, not the Milky Way you always see in this part of the world, away from the city lights. In retrospect it seems very unlikely we saw the comet at all.


6. Driving to Sydney, against the stream of trucks headed towards Melbourne, the occasional one flicking on its high beam for a lark.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, year after year, decade after decade.


7. Early 1990s. Heading to Terip on a Friday night, the Hume pushing north, then north-east through drought. I see a tree on a hill in the distance and to the right that looks like a rooster. I call it the Rooster Tree. I tell people about this amazing discovery only to find out that everyone knows about the Rooster Tree. Grass is the colour of straw, the earth pale yellow clay. A blank slate for the setting sun that turns straw into gold.  One trip, after it has rained, the green is so vivid I become disorientated and I think I’m lost, or have taken the wrong road.


8. In 1993 I left Sydney for Melbourne. I did not drive down the Hume as often , but then I headed back south along the Hume, my red Mazda 323 full of belongings, because seven years had passed, it was a new century, and it was time to return home. Twelve hours of hard driving. It was raining.


9. My girlfriend and I drove to Seymour to buy a Burmese kitten. We had bought our Burmese, Bird, a few weeks earlier, but she was lonely, so we returned to get her brother, the only unsold kitten in the litter. We assumed his square over-sized head and crackly meow made him less appealing to the general public, but we decided these were the precise qualities we loved. We called him Wilson. It was an awfully hot summer’s day but nonetheless I needed my hamburger. I pulled into a roadhouse by the side of the freeway (the days of highway were long gone) and got myself something to eat, but it took forever and I returned to the car to find tiny Wilson on the floor beside Virginia’s feet, panting, and drinking water out of a plastic container. He was very hot. We will never, neither of us, drive past that servo again without remembering the time Wilson drank water in the car when we first got him. Even now that he’s an old cat, and not so long for this world.


10. I was tentative as I drove past Kilmore East, then turned right off the Hume, heading in the direction of Flowerdale and Kinglake. I wanted to understand the scale of the fires that ripped through Victoria on February 7th, but I didn’t want to gawk. Black trees. Charcoal gashes slashed across hills.


11. I’d been away a few years, driving the multi-lane freeways of America. I missed the Hume and its modest two-lanes. The glimpses of the old highway off to the left or right. Old bridges. I held my hand up in front of me as I drove. The veins on my hands have become bigger, bluer, slightly gnarled.  I fancied the road was an extension of one of those veins, winding its way through my heartland. Every time there was a sign in the road that said ‘Dip ahead’, I bobbed up and down like a dancing cockatoo. I used to watch the scrappy gum trees that lined the road, strobed sunlight, and go into a kind of trance. These days I concern myself with questions regarding the trees’ names: Ironbark, Manna, Peppermint. I consider the verge, that strip of land between the road’s edge and the paddocks, vestiges of uncleared land that provide habitat for bees and other creatures. Were those vestiges always so full of road kill, I wondered? Dozens of Roos.  Sometimes wombats, echidnas or wallabies. Mowed down by trucks mainly, but also, no doubt, by fools like younger me. We need wild life corridors – but from where? And to where?


12. I often used to wish that I lived in a city that went up, not out and as I drove up Sydney Road it seemed my wish has come true. SO. MANY. APARTMENTS. But the city moves ever outward as well. It used to end not far from Coburg but these days it keeps pace with the car for at least another 20 k. There are urban growth corridors. Developments. I’m teaching in Wangaratta, and as I drove it struck me I must have driven this road, or an iteration of it, hundreds of times and it’s not just the Hume that’s changed. Recent trips have seen me napping. Legs up on the dash, timer set for 15 minutes. Once back on the road an archipelago of petrol stations and fast food joints float in and out of my peripheral vision. I play Michael Jackson. Beyoncé. Kanye West. TLC. Don’t go Chasing Waterfalls. I listen to podcasts, most of which are various expressions of despair about the Trump presidency.  But the sun still sets to my left , the full moon still rises to my right. Fat as butter, golden as a sun, large as the sky.


If you happened to be driving from the city to the Melbourne Cup, you’d whisk through our shopping centre, Newmarket, in the twinkling of an eye.

It’s a block and a half of Racecourse Road in Flemington, an old-fashioned street of peeling two-storey Victorian buildings. It’s got a few nice trees, but apart from its sprinkling of Asian and African restaurants and its small, hard-core caffeine outlets, it’s just a classic, modest, suburban strip where you can buy booze or food or a newspaper, return a library book, or catch public transport to the city. The 57 tram runs along it, and the Craigieburn train line crosses it on a bridge near the huge old pub, the mighty Doutta Galla.

On Racecourse Road, Chinese and Somali grocers unload deliveries to their battling stores. The opshop ladies patiently scoop up armfuls of useless clothes dumped at their door under cover of night. Druggies and their dealers slink along close to the gutter. Bulked-up gym junkies bound out on to the pavement and stare at the world with unblinking eyes. Old alkies sprawl spitting and cursing on the bench outside the pawnshop.

I can get a nod or a smile or a good morning out of most of these citizens, but the newer ones, people who move along the street in fluttering ankle-length robes and white embroidered caps, or with their heads shrouded in scarves or grandly bound in folds of stiff striped cloth, tend to practise what I think of as guardianship of the eyes. Not that there’s hostility: my anxious grandson bounced out of his first day at primary school and declared that he had ‘made two friends, one white and one brown’; and at school concerts the women in hijab laugh and whoop with us and ululate at the kids in their wacky home-made costumes. But on the street there’s little or no cross-cultural eye contact, none of the mutual acknowledgement I’m always longing for—until the day when, for a reason nobody could have foreseen, it burst out among us.

My grand-daughter and I stepped out of a café at ten o’clock one morning.

Something was wrong, we could feel it. Where was the noise?

Traffic had slowed and stopped. Fifty metres away, under the railway bridge, a cluster of police cars was parked nose to tail in a triangle: they seemed to be protecting something on the ground.

Robed men and taxi drivers were spilling out of the Sudanese café. One of them saw us hesitating. Instead of blanking me in the customary way, he looked me right in the eye, held my gaze, and said in a low voice, ‘Somebody jump.’

The traffic lights at the bridge were blinking emergency. My grand-daughter, in a panic, leaned forward to break into a run, but we could not get home without passing the cop cars. A crowd was gathering on the intersection, lining up along the pavement edge, every head turned towards the three cars and whatever it was they were shielding. The girl pushed through and took to her heels up the crescent. I stayed.

Shoulder to shoulder we stood, women, men, pressing close on the pavement, breathing together in silence. Some people’s mouths were open, seeking more air. Everybody needed to stare. I wriggled forward to the gutter. On the black bitumen, in the space that the cop cars were guarding, lay a deflated hump of orangey-brown cloth. A small woman beside me, tightly shawled and scarved, turned a stark face to me and whispered, ‘He dead?’ ‘I think so.’ She kept staring at me. Her eyes filled with tears, and so did mine. I wanted to put my arm around her, or take her hand, but we just stood there, packed in with the rest too tight to move, all of us strangers except that someone had jumped from our bridge, and broken himself on our road.

An ambulance slid in. Men in uniforms and hi-vis milled about in the shadow of the bridge, trying to make themselves into a screen. But when the paramedics lifted the hump off the bitumen, an arm flopped out. People uttered gasps and low cries. It was a white arm, or rather, pink: a young man’s arm, hairless, chubby, with a small tattoo near the shoulder. Hastily the ambos covered it and loaded him into the vehicle. The doors slammed and they drove away.

The crowd let out its breath, and began to loosen. Nobody was speaking, but faces of every colour, age and gender were open, chins high, eyes wide and undefended, heads turning this way and that, glances meeting and holding. People needed to look at each other. It was as if we were reluctant to disperse until someone had made a sign of reverence, some symbolic gesture understood by all of us that would express our horror, and fear, and pity, and more than that, a sudden comradeliness, the solidarity of the living.

I called the police station. I said I was a writer who had seen the dead man on the road and wanted to tell the story of how his death had momentarily changed things. But the police officer said, ‘We don’t give out details of suicides. So there’s nothing I can tell you.’ I took a breath to say I didn’t want his name, only his age, but I knew the cop had a lot of other things to deal with, and I didn’t want him to think I was some sort of morbid nutcase, so I hung up.

When I got home my grand-daughter and her mother were sitting entwined on the couch, not talking, just looking out into the garden.

I joined them and we watched the lorikeets squabbling in the branches of the palm tree. In a while I walked back to Racecourse Road to buy something for dinner. The shopkeeper was a sweet, warm, funny man who knew everyone’s name and circumstance. We talked in whispers about the man who had jumped, perhaps he was only young, we thought, perhaps even a teenager, for some reason we felt sure he was very young, oh, his poor parents. I knew nothing about the shopkeeper’s family but suddenly he began to talk about one of his children, a boy whose illness he, the shopkeeper, had always stoutly maintained was only something that his wife was imagining, that there was nothing wrong with him, nothing at all – but she had insisted and now they had a diagnosis, and then the shopkeeper began to cry and I cried too and we stood there facing each other over the counter, wiping away our tears, and he handed me my parcel and I gave him the money, and I thought, as I walked home again beside the railway line, trying to think of a prayer or a poem or some words with meaning, that the boy who jumped had cracked us all open, that conversations like mine and the shopkeeper’s, gentle revelations and exchanges of sorrow, were probably happening in every shop on the street and every house and flat in the suburb, and that this was the boy’s gift to us, although he could not know it; and although it would be of little comfort to his family, I wished they could know that a tide of sorrow for their boy had passed through our whole neighbourhood and broken our hearts and joined them to each other, even if only for one short hour.


The Night Reverses is a unique two-man show that remixes poetry into a live music improvisation. Performing a selection of spoken word, Nathan presents Geoffrey with a high-risk challenge in front of a live audience. Upon hearing each piece for the very first time Geoffrey immediately replies, freestyling the poem into a groove via a loop machine and his finely-tuned instinct for soul, funk and blues. 


1. Lake Wendouree

We can start at the lake
and keep going round, or launch
from the Olympic Rings, rowing across
that weed-free strip cut fresh by somebody
each morning. We can stop for the swans
and cygnets parade-making wherever they like,
for kids on training wheels learning how
to ride, putting distance between themselves
and their parents. We can savour the view
on a sun-clapping day straight through
to Mt Warrenheip—there are photos of it,
competitions full, and that oil painting hangs
in the gallery. They’d also like me to mention
the Gold Rush, the Uprising, the birth of
the Ballarat Star, the begonias and busts,
as we board the tram, the Arch of Victory
and the Avenue of Honour.

2. Lake Wendouree

But I can only tell you about the boy
down the road, one kilometre from shore,
from the private school boat sheds and
glass-walled mansions with ornamental
bird feeders in their yards. Just one kilometre,
where teen mums push their prams along
the bitumen, and police tape decorates
the streets for months, because cops
come to put it up, not take it down.
There is a boy named Jadyn and a new
volunteer helping with the Reading Program.
She asks, If you could go anywhere in the world,
what’s one place you’d like to go? Jadyn says,
Lake Wendouree, because he’s never been,
because his mum has never owned a car
and he doesn’t know what ‘overseas’ is.
Because he can’t imagine anything bigger,
better or so impossibly far away. He’s never
had the opportunity, just one kilometre
from shore. And they’d like me to mention
the swans and cygnets, the families and
Botanical Gardens, but here’s the view of
the lake in the mind of a boy who’s never
had a chance to see it. Somebody cuts the lake
each day, everything beneath the surface,
for the rowers to row past Mt Warrenheip,
like that oil painting in the gallery.

3. Lake Wendouree

But I can only tell you I don’t know
Jadyn, or whether his mum owns a car.
I made up his name because the story I heard
is a good angle for a commissioned poem.
It’s true, I get to write the script, all
from a position of privilege. It’s true, along
with the swans, the view and the heritage
they’d like me to mention. I can’t decide
what I owe Ballarat, aside from—the lake,
and the lake is round. I park beside it,
framing scenes, hawking them as ‘home’.
To contest it here in three parts, continually
jogging the beat, knowing that the word
Wendouree translates to, go away. I remain
on the edge with best intentions, meaning to
go beyond. And yes, we get sun-clapping days.
We bloody know it can get bloody cold!




So I get on the train and sit beside the writer Carmel Bird and we talk.  Talking, we get around to favourite authors.  I tell Carmel when I’m reading the works of the Polish writer Hanna Krall I know why I write and when I stop reading her I slip back into my usual state of uncertainty and doubt.  I’ve been trying to contact Hanna Krall for a couple of years, I say.  I’ve written to her English publishers and to people in Warsaw and the States.  They have all been very polite but no help.  I went to Poland to research the youth of a dear friend whose life I wish to celebrate.  Poland, I say, resisted me.  It remained closed to my efforts.  ‘I feel as if I’ll never find someone who knows Hanna Krall.’

Carmel says, I know someone who knows Hanna Krall. I’ll send him an email.  (I’m speechless).

The following day I get an email from Carmel giving me Stefan Ehrenkreutz’s  phone number.  I call Stefan.  He asks me, so what is it you want to do?  I tell him, I’m going to write a book celebrating the life of my old friend Max Blatt.  Max, I say, was a German Jewish Socialist intellectual who lived in Breslau and resisted the Nazis.   I tell him I’m going to Breslau – which is now Wroclaw and is in Poland these days and is no longer in Germany.  I say I would also like to contact the Polish author Hanna Krall.  I ask if he has heard of her. Stefan is enthusiastic about the project and says at once he will give me an introduction to people in Poland who know Hanna and who will talk to me when I get to Wroclaw in May.  I say to him,  This is amazing for me, Stefan.  Poland has stayed closed to me, even when I visited.  Well, he says,  there is a time when these things open for us, Alex.  I say, that time is now, Stefan, this moment, talking to you.  Poland is opening for me!

On Saturday I’m out shopping with my wife Stephanie and we run into the author Robyn Annear and her partner David Bannear.

We’re outside Fig cafe so we decide to go in and have a coffee.  Robyn tells me about a video she has made for Carmel Bird’s web page.  So of course I spill the beans and tell Robyn how Carmel has connected me to Poland and to Hanna Krall in a way I could not have imagined.  Oh yes, Robyn says, Carmel is the magical connector.

Living in Castlemaine this is what happens. It’s typical of this town.  I search the world unsuccessfully for a connection then by pure chance I sit next to Carmel on the 9.47 to Melbourne on a Tuesday morning and  she calmly connects me.  As if this is what she does.  When I tell her two days later I have received a lovely warm response from Hanna Krall to my email, she tells me she is moved by this.  These connections forming the bonds of friendship!  Robyn is right.  It is magical.  It is Castlemaine. It is community.  I have never known it so richly as I know it here.

Of course there is also another side to Castlemaine, as there it to the Moon, the dark side.  I may speak of that dark side later, here we’re on the sunny side.




I’m always looking out for deer,
searching the gaps between the tall trees,
watching the road ahead,
sitting still in the clearings.
But they remain hidden.

Worse, they’re forbidden.
Stretching back their ballet-dancer ears,
alert to any approaches,
nibbling the undergrowth,
rubbing against the aromatic sassafras.
Each hair singled out by the early morning light,
long eyelashes the colour of ginger snaps.

There’s hundreds of them, invisible, criminal.
Phantoms, elusive as gold dust.

Maybe I’ll see one on a moon-soaked night,
on a winding road,
silent, poised and mystical.
The way Miyazaki sees a deer.
With flowers for eyes,
a gaze that will turn me stone.
A light step or two, a turn of the head,
the blessing of being ignored.
Like being painted into a picture
from a photograph
you didn’t know had been taken.

I understand their trespass, but I also understand my own.

They are storybook creatures – foxes too – made of pure delight.
They have homes, with fireplaces
and kitchen tables.
They tuck their fox children into bed.

Wet-nosed, they are deadly and innocent.

Such creatures call at night when distance and location is warped for us.
When shadow candlelight could count as an ancestor.
By day, sound is sharp and direct –
a king parrot whistles
and it’s a beacon to its perch on the low branch nearby.
When cockatoos wheel and screech,
they’re as boorish as drunks on a pub crawl.
How did they strike the early European arrivals
used to flitting and birdsong?
Nature here screamed in their faces.
So they brought their more genteel wildlife with them –
the storybook creatures,
fawns and cubs under their arms –
to make everywhere more like home.
Squinting across valleys with eyes stinging
they fantasised estates,
and across them on horseback well-groomed riders potting
compliant game.
And their quarry disappeared into the
backstreets and the forests, to be branded thieves and vandals.

I understand their damage, but I also understand my own.

In autumn the weather here gets psychedelic.
The sky turns melted saucepan and the sun lights every tree like butter
just before the toast.
Tiny leaves float through the air like ghosts on their way to a festival.

And the fog, nature’s magic trick,
hides whole hillsides, or hovers above creeks as a
mirrored twin.
Turns branches into antlers.

I hope I’ll see a deer in autumn.
There will be sky crystals and it will be cold.
All the mountain ashes will be expecting snowflakes,
and the ground will be wet and soft,
a nutritional blanket.
And he will flash in my torchlight,
a tawny brown coat glinting and shivering.
His eyes will shine like a cow’s
and I’ll be completely disarmed.
I will see geraniums blooming, a tiny sugar skull earring,
and glitter will ripple across the ground where his hooves touch.
The puffs of steam from his nose will spell words in the air I can read
but never again recall.
I’ll feel warm despite the air.
And I’ll say nothing.

Taylors Lake



“I have a surprise for you. We bought a house!”

“What? You and dad are in Syria, how did you sign a contract?”

“Your uncle. Oh darling, its’ beautiful.”

“Where is it?”

“Huge! Five bedrooms, high ceilings, solid construction.”

“Uncle George can’t read. What were the contract terms?”

“It’s got a bar, a pool, three bathrooms and a jacuzzi!”

“Mum, which suburb!?”

“Real marble countertops, none of that disgusting veneer or fake stone tops. You know the master bedroom has two walk-in robes.”

“How far from the city is it?”

“Concrete slabs! Concrete, darling. Solid construction not like those horrible weatherboard homes they build everywhere here. Might as well use cardboard. They fall from a gust of wind, rot from the inside.”

“There aren’t earthquakes here.  Or bombs.”

“I like solid construction. I swear, darling, if I see one more rotting weatherboard house being marketed as having character I’ll vomit, I’ll kill myself.”

“We don’t need a reinforced concrete home.”

“It’s got an atrium and a bar, three balconies!”

“Where the fuck is it?!”

“Taylors Lakes!”

“Oh god.”

“I’ve sent you the link. I’ve been glued to the real estate dot com on my Ipad. Have a look. What do you think habibi?”

“I think it was designed by Tony Montana. You couldn’t have checked with us maybe?”

“You’re all so busy with work and uni, I didn’t want to trouble you.”

“You and dad are in Syria. You got our illiterate uncle to sign a contract on our behalf. We now have to go in debt, for a Scarface/Liberace fusion, in the middle of nowhere.”

“It’s got a pool! And a pool house with an outdoor shower!”

“Do you know how hard this will be to maintain?”

“So many palm trees, like you’re in the Comoro Islands, darling. You know, II was thinking acreage in Little River. That would have been a dream, but the Chinese have beat us to it.”

“We would’ve been happy in a tiny apartment near the city.”

“Darling, don’t upset me, buying an apartment is like buying air.”

“You won’t be living in it!”

“They’re a bad investment. And horrible, plastic finishes everywhere. I’d get a heart attack just inspecting one.”

“We’re gonna live on a highway.”

“An outright scam! All these idiots paying hundreds of thousands to be packed like sardines in prison cells. This is a house. A real house with your own land.  Land never loses value. No matter where it is.”

“Wendy doesn’t even have a license.”

“What’s far today will be near tomorrow, habibi.”


I never really noticed the seasons when I lived in the suburbs. I was aware of them only in terms of the effect that they had on my body – making me shivery or flushed with heat. I did not notice the world beyond my skin – the unfurling of new leaves or the way the earth was drying in a sudden, ferocious wind. Our farm in Silvan becomes a wonderland during spring, impossible to overlook or ignore. The grass wakes; stretches. The thick red muck of the paddocks firms back into solid earth. Our lawns are dotted with daises, then dandelions and then cape weed. Our orchards fill with the flicker of loose blossom petals and across the paddocks, willy wagtails and magpies collect horse hair and scraps of hay to make nests. Dazed copperhead snakes slither out from their winter nooks and sun themselves on our back verandah. We drink the last of Ben’s early autumn brewed beer and eat the blueberries I froze at the end of summer. We make marmalade and preserve lemons and eat the silverbeet that’s lasted so beautifully through winter.


It was winter when we moved to our farm, but I didn’t notice the seasons until a hot, dry spring came. Spring has a smell – more than flowers or mown grass. There is an elemental quality to it. Deep, cold earth. Hot metal and honey. There is wind, in spring. The howling of a world in transition; firming and greening and shaking. Our spring wind carries with it the voices of the strawberry farmers from next door; the chirpy music of the tulip festival over the hill and the rumble of our neighbour’s tractors as everyone gets ready for spring and summer crops.


There is something immersive about spring on our little farm; a sort of coursing, impatient liveliness that demands attention. Deep into the night, my husband and I talk about fencing and irrigation; about pest control and composting. So much of the rest of our lives falls away. We are consumed by all the living things on our property in a way that we never were when we lived closer to the city.


I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, first Prahran and Ormond and then on the cusp of the suburbs in the hilly town of Belgrave. The seasons were peripheral. So much of my life was lived indoors. Even when I tried growing things on balconies and in tiny raised beds, I would often trip into impatience, into the impossibility of growing anything substantial from a seed. I would forget about my little plants for long stretches. I would shut off from the weather and the wind. But, growing things, I notice the seasons more.

I notice the buds starting on the snowball bush near our front stairs.

I notice the new shoots on the rose hips; the way the vegetables I let winter in the garden bolt quickly to seed. I have learned to taste rain on the air while the sky’s still blue.


Growing food is an exercise in faith. In believing there will be another year; another season. There is a comfort in this, particularly for an anxious person. You enter a more primal part of your brain no longer dictated by hours and weeks and months, but instead by the slow cycling of seasons over many, many years.  I have learnt that it is useful to be engaged in things outside of your body. That the more I tinker and plod in the garden, the fewer panic attacks I have. My anxiety – always there – sometimes loses its hard edges. It is something I did not recognise the value of until we moved here – to be taken up with planning and touching and remembering.


This remembering is never more apparent than it is in spring. Where the mistakes and triumphs of previous seasons are examined, shifted, pulled into planning for a future that stretches on into something endless, not tethered to weeks or months. We spin stories about the gardens – what they were and what they will be. We map previous seasons into little notebooks. But most of our garden stories are, as yet, fiction. Ghosts of previous seasons and imaginings – dreamings – of things that are not yet real.


It is easy to forget about the borders of your body; to exist more wholly as part of this small, complex world of blossoms and bees and fresh shoots and all that pulsing green. To exist in the fictions of what this season may hold; to slip your hands into dirt that is both sun warmed, yet still damp from winter’s drizzle and hear the whip birds and the king parrots and let everything else slip tiredly away.


I’m looking forward to the bounty of summer. To days that are so long, we can be careless with their light. To apples and berries and bare feet. To the caramel that will come, as the rich green of spring surges and passes. Yet, it is in this moment – of thrashing green and winds and flowers – that our property is at its most magical. Consuming. When you can slip your hand into in-between soil and forget the boundaries of your body.