Blog post and images by Jen Angel.
I met Gen a couple of years ago when her daughter started at my daughters school. Over those couple of years, our friendship has been growing and getting to know this genuinely funny, kind and beautiful person has been wonderful. Last year I was lucky enough to spend time with Gen backstage while she was in the play True Minds by Joanna Murray-Smith. I loved every minute of it. I have seen Gen with her theatre family, and it made me realise how different this world of hers is in comparison to the world I share with her here in our big garden in The Hills. Gen shares with us in this article how she and her family came to live in The Dandenong Ranges.
We’ve been happily living in Upwey since March 2010.
Prior to that, we’d lived in Thornbury, Brunswick, Sydney and West St Kilda.
In 2009 my Dad passed away and we spread his ashes in the Dandenong’s. He’d always had an affinity with the hills, whether he was working up here as a builder, or relaxing at a picnic ground with loved ones. I grew up in Knoxfield, so we weren’t far from the hills. Anyway, when we were driving through Upwey Tecoma and Belgrave on the way to scatter Dad’s ashes, my Partner commented on how beautiful this area was, and asked what the names of these suburbs were. He grew up in Perth you see, and although he’d lived in Melbourne for over 13 years by this stage, he’d not seen a great deal of the hills in that time. Once I told him the names of these places, he was asking me about real estate prices etc, and he was soon on the hunt for our first home that wasn’t a rental.
We didn’t look for too long before we found the place that we now call home. There was much more bang for your buck up here in the hills in comparison to the areas we’d lived in prior to that. And the sense of community was evident pretty early on in our hunt for the right place. Locals seemed to be really familiar with one another down at the shops etc. There was a sense of a shared history in Upwey which doesn’t necessarily exist in suburbs closer into town, as the demographic seems to change more rapidly there than up here. Not that it’s a negative thing for an area to change it’s make up often, but there’s something kind of nice and “old school” about people knowing who each other are a bit more here.
When we first moved here I was in a series of ads for the ANZ that were quite popular. It was kind of hard to just be out and about doing day to day things anonymously without being recognized from the ads. This was fine and understandable (sometimes annoying), and in a way it was probably an easier way to start to get to know people – being a newcomer to the area and all. It opened up a conversation which then made a connection, which then lead to ongoing connections, which for the most part would then become friendships or relationships of mutual respect. It’s meant that I and my family were now becoming a part of this community, and the longer that time goes on the fact that I’m sometimes on the telly becomes less and less important, but conversations about the kids and local and global issues are of more interest to other community members and me.
One thing that did strike me as odd when we first moved up here was that the area wasn’t as multi cultural as I’d been used too. This seemed (and still does to a certain extent) slightly unusual, and a bit 1950s Australia or something. I can understand, with how the winters can be up here – not to mention all of the critters and creepy crawlies we get etc, that this could be a deterrent to some cultures (especially from warmer climates or built up cities), but I feel it’s a bit of a shame from a selfish point of view not to have that cultural exchange as readily up here as I’d had in the past.
Who knows what the future holds??
Photos by Jen Angel to see more go to her blog A day in the life of everyday people.