After 3 years in Paradise, the prospect of a career change plus the call of the bush have tempted us to do one last outback tenure and we’re now living in a police residence in Cobar.
Nigel applied for the job last year but didn’t receive confirmation until March this year. Luckily, without knowing whether the application would be successful, we decided to get our house spruced up for another round of holiday rentals just in case.
I say ‘luckily’ because, even starting preparations in January didn’t quite allow enough time for the ensuing planning, painting, pruning, purchasing and packing and it was only thanks to Anne stepping in to pick up all the last minute jobs that we managed to get away at all on travel day.
Our plan to restore our 13 year old rather tired-looking home to its former glory began with replacing our 2 ugly plastic toilet cisterns with bright shiny ceramic versions – unsurprisingly it was cheaper to replace the 2 toilets as well! Next was the front deck, which badly needed repairing thanks to Beary’s very long nails. Then drawers were installed in the 3 built-in robes (Yes I know – hardly essential but I’ve been wanting them forever!), old and unsightly shower frames were replaced with new shiny frameless ones and lastly fixed ceiling windows were replaced with opening windows to hopefully cut air conditioning costs in summer.
While the big jobs were being tackled by the experts, we set about to tackle more achievable tasks. Gardens were spruced, roller blinds were repaired, shelving was washed down so that crockery, pots and pans etc could be sorted into what stayed and what came with us. Oh and by the way, we also needed to buy a houseful of furniture because holiday houses are rented furnished… okay, so maybe that shouldn’t be on the job list….. more of a fun side effect really. So while the tradies were patiently hard at work, we were quietly sabotaging their work with obstacles in the form of excess furniture……… but not a complaint was heard.
Of course every move requires paperwork – starting with the mandatory inventory for the removalists (think listing every single item of house and garden furniture, then predicting how many packing boxes of “other items” (appliances, clothing etc) plus the stuff that doesn’t fit in boxes – garden tools, brooms, mops etc – and then putting a value on everything. New energy and gas plans had to be researched, chosen and subscribed not to mention change of address forms, pet registration and, unfortunately, new phone plans. I say unfortunately because after 5 moves to and from the coast, we’ve never experienced a smooth transition to a new phone plan.
Being one of those annoying people, who needs to be organised in advance, I decided to get the ball rolling so that our new phone service would be waiting for us when we arrived. My first attempt was made online with a very helpful ‘Chat’ representative, who walked me through the whole process. I explained that we weren’t moving for a couple of weeks and that we wanted to keep our existing NBN plan because our existing house was to become a holiday rental so we needed to open a new account in Cobar without closing the current account.
The process was going swimmingly until we got to the part that asked “how long have you been living there?” “What do I write if we haven’t actually moved yet?” I asked and Mr Chat replied “Just put 1 month”. To be fair, the page wouldn’t allow me to proceed unless I said that we were living there so it wasn’t entirely said representative’s fault when a couple of days later I discovered that our address had become our “old address” and our phone number had become our “old phone number” and the whole new plan had to be cancelled. Enter Nigel who, with much more patience than I could ever dream of, managed to sort the two plans so that sanity was restored.
Packing day was pretty much as chaotic as I had imagined. With 2 house-loads of furniture intertwined and spilling out into the living area, pool room and carport, separating “items staying” from “items going” was always going to be tricky. To their credit, the removalists managed to get it right and it was actually my fault that every single coat hanger in the house was packed and is now living at Cobar. Thank goodness there are enough beds to throw all the clothes over!!! Just joking………………….. Anne came to the rescue yet again.
The trip to Cobar was planned so that we’d arrive in Nyngan before dusk and stay overnight in our favourite Riverside Caravan Park, then wake up refreshed to travel the last hour and a half to meet the removalists at our new residence (for the next 4 years). It seemed like a well thought out plan except for two factors. The unexpected volume of roadworks added more than an hour to the trip. Note to self – check the traffic reports when travelling long distances into the bush! Worse still, we’d forgotten how much fun it is driving directly west as the sun is setting!
It was obvious from the carnage along the highway that quite a lot of really big kangaroos were coming to the verge at night to eat the new grass shoots from the run-off of dew. As daylight disappeared and with no street lights it also became obvious that the last hour and a half in pitch black would prove extremely stressful.
I’m not sure what Nigel was thinking as we drove through the night (did I mention we were driving separate cars?) but I was doing some serious praying – for the two of us – that any kangaroos would be considerate enough not to jump out onto the road until we had gone past. I can only say “Thank God” that we arrived safe but a tad exhausted at Nyngan.
The next morning we left Nyngan excited and apprehensive at the prospect of moving into our new home. While I was very grateful for the half dozen photos emailed by the property manager, it’s quite difficult to envisage a house you’ve never seen before, let alone to buy furniture for every room.
Our welcome to Cobar was slightly lackluster with no welcoming party and no sign of a front door key. So we stood in the street outside our new residence while Nigel rang the property manager.
From the one-way phone conversation I gleaned that quite a few changes have been made since our last outback tenure. Apparently police housing is no longer the responsibility of the Police Force and has been given to Properties NSW, who have instigated some other changes involving bonds and paperwork previously foreign to us – which were unfortunately sent to Nigel’s work email long after he’d left.
The outcome was that there was no way that the property manager would release any keys to us until we’d paid a bond, signed a lease agreement and jumped through a few other hitherto neglected flaming hoops.
So there we stood in the street – hungry, tired and somewhat confused until, with the removalists hot on our heels, Nigel came up with a plan to by-pass the hierarchy and see if the station had keys. The result was a much friendlier reception wherein keys were given and received and everyone spoke amicably.
Our next surprise came when we opened the door and realised that no one had cleaned the house in preparation for our arrival. After 6 months of emptiness, floors, windows, shelves and benches were covered with dust.
With the removalists due any minute and after several hasty phone conversations (catchcry – “no one told us when you were coming”) it became clear that the only option was to go ahead and unpack our furniture and deal with the cleaning later.
Our one saving grace was Naomi, the ‘emergency’ cleaner, who appeared out of nowhere and scrubbed and cleaned benches and shelving and then disappeared into the night. At least our kitchen items could be unpacked.
At around 9.30 and with nothing to eat since breakfast, we finally located the pots, pans, cutlery and crockery needed to cook and eat dinner and then fell into bed exhausted. While not the ‘Welcome to Cobar’ that I had envisaged, the next morning, with the promise of Naomi returning, we looked with fresh eyes at our new residence.
It’s probably the nicest of our 3 police residences and the first one with an ensuite and walk-in robe. There’s a gas outlet and while I’ll miss the wood fire I won’t miss the clouds of ash at cleaning time. The 4 bedrooms have become 3 and Nigel now has his own study/music room complete with guitars, huge desk, laptop and heater and even a comfy leather sofa.
Of course, I had no choice but to join Facebook’s ‘Cobar Buy Sell Swap’ and sell / give away the extra mattress, bed and bedside chests…… plus various appliances and the like, which have travelled from house to house without ever being used. With cheap /free items, everything literally went in seconds and we now have an uncluttered house.
BTW the most popular by far was Bowie’s bed, which I’d made out of timber bed slats, a new dog trampoline mat and aluminium poles to support the trampoline. I’d stained the timber dark brown and was pretty pleased with the result until I realised that he was never going to sleep on it. Apparently he prefers the floor!
We’ve had a chance to get out and about and so far, we’ve done a tour of the town (must remember to take photos!), had an enormous lunch at the Great Western Hotel and shopped at one of the two IGA stores – where you go to the checkout, pay for your items and then walk back through the store to the rear carpark!!
We’ve also met quite a few locals just from buying (firewood) and selling on Facebook and Beau has been introduced to his first emus at the local park. Plus we’ve even sourced my favourite Yellowglen Pink 65 …… and it was on special!!
Bowie seems to have settled in and my fears that he would hate being an outdoor dog may have been premature. Not only is there plenty of red dirt for him to dig (see nose) but he even knows how to pull Cats’ Heads out of his paws. Like most outback residences, the yard is huge and as long as we don’t forget to throw the ball regularly, he’s happy to explore his new outdoor surroundings.
So our “bumpy” start is now behind us and, although the LAM still has the email, it really doesn’t matter who forgot to tell whom when we were coming because overall, things are looking up!
I’ll leave you with a photo taken from the front porch. I’d forgotten how stunning the sunsets are.