How some buskers, a load of washing and 4 bucks can make everything ok

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The block of land we have been trying to purchase for two years is not ours. We thought it was. But it’s not.

On Friday afternoon at 4:55pm we got the call we weren’t sure we would ever get. It was the Shire letting us know the 21 day objection period had lapsed and we would be receiving our planning permit. It would be issued first thing Monday morning. The block was ours.

There was much excitement. We shared the news with you guys, popped the champagne (metaphorically – it was actually a beer and a wine) and informed the kids this was really going to happen. Really! After two and a half years we were off and racing on our journey to establish a sustainable home and business on 22 acres at Ky Valley.

Up until this point we had been cautious, telling ourselves it may not happen. This way, nobody got too attached to the idea. But on that Friday night – we all got attached. Very attached.

We woke up Saturday morning and loaded the car and caravan to head off on our annual beach camping holiday. Every year we look forward to our week without power, phone service or wi-fi with much anticipation. None of us even mind putting 20 cents in a slot to get a five-minute shower (Note to other campers: it is actually three minutes – the kids timed it).

We go to the same spot every year with two other families. Over the past couple of years there have been many traditions and rituals established, one of which is a ‘kid free’ afternoon for the mums. Of course, the favour is returned for the dads.

It was Monday lunchtime and we mums were doing the last-minute jobs before being set free – er, I mean before we went out for a lovely afternoon of tea and scones. I was in the caravan park laundry putting on a load of washing and discovered none of the machines would be available before I left. There was another mum in there doing her washing so we exchanged smiles and a discussion on the woes of keeping up with laundry whilst camping. She said her name was Susan. Susan offered to put my washing in when hers finished. I left her my four $1 coins (can’t they make Laundromat machines that give you change for a twenty?), thanked her and headed for freedom.

The hubbies dropped us at one end of the main precinct of Lorne – a small beachside town on the south coast. We mums piled out of the car and looked blankly at one another.

“Now what do we do?”

Someone told us the Angling Club at the pier was a fun place to have a drink. Given it was at the other end of town we thought it only made sense to stop at all the other lovely waterfront establishments along the way. We could even try out the wine at each establishment.

At establishment number three I was sitting on a cosy leather couch sipping a White Russian when my phone rang. I looked at it in surprise – remember we don’t have service where we camp. I answered.

It was a lady from the Shire.

She said something like this. “We are very sorry Mrs Booth but there seems to have been an administration error. The objector has contacted us this morning and informed us their Notice of Decision was sent to a different address than the one provided on the original objection documents.”

“Right. What does this mean?” I ask.

“It means the 21 day objection period never started. It means the objector now gets another 21 days to object to your planning permit and take the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.”

It means the objector discovered a loophole. It means even though the Shire told us the block was ours – it wasn’t, and may never be.

I almost choked on my White Russian.

I am not going to lie. I got off the phone and cried. Maybe it was the White Russian or maybe it was pure frustration. I felt overwhelmed that someone would go to such lengths to mess with our lives. Someone who has never met us. Someone who will not be impacted by our dreams one iota.

The other two mums finished their cocktails whilst allowing me five minutes to wallow in self-pity. I then blew my nose, splashed cold water on my face and we headed to establishment number four. Another round of drinks was ordered and it wasn’t long before the warmth and humour of my two beautiful friends had me giggling and back on track.

We ended up having a cracking afternoon. I had sore tummy muscles from laughing so hard. There is something cathartic about letting go occasionally. Yes, we may have consumed a little too much wine – but for a few hours we had not a care in the world, no washing to do, no tea to cook, no kids to supervise, no objectors to worry about.

If you haven’t given yourself a few hours out with your girlfriends in while – do it. Do it now. And have a White Russian while you’re at it.

But as good as my day was, I couldn’t shake a crappy feeling deep in my gut. There is something dark and sinister about a complete stranger meddling in your life. Why? Why would they want to do this?

Such negativity. I kept telling myself it’s only a block of land. There is nothing dramatic or terrible about this. It’s just crappy. People can just be crappy. Sometimes I get surprised when people are crappy – because I walk around in my little glass-half-full world expecting everyone will be kind and lovely and decent.

I woke up the next morning and remembered my washing. I headed down to the laundry to discover a blanket sitting in a machine on its own. Clearly my washing hadn’t fitted in one load. This meant someone had hung the first load and put on a second – using their own $4. I asked around our camp – nope, none of the dads or kids had done it.

Later that day I came across Susan (the lady from the laundry room). It turns out she had put my load of laundry on, hung it out and put a second one on to wash. I expressed my gratitude and tried to repay her $4.

“Nope” she said, “I was happy to do it. Think of it as paying it forward.”

What a simple, kind, lovely gesture. I wandered back to camp along the creek and felt myself becoming lighter and lighter. See – people are generous and thoughtful. People are good.

I started plotting all the things I could do to repay Susan. A bag of lollies for her kids? Nah, I don’t like mixing kids and sugar. A homemade slice? Bit hard to make in the bush. Hmm, I would give it some more thought.

That night the kids asked if they could go busking in the caravan park. We humoured them and said yes. We even snuck over to the neighbouring camp and asked if they would throw 20 cents in the guitar case.

More fool us. The kids ended up performing for hours to a rather large crowd and raking in $94 – not kidding. People were bringing them food so they would keep playing.

During their performance I noticed Susan and her small children sitting in the crowd singing along. I wandered over and sat beside her.

“Are these your kids?” she asked. “They are amazing!”

“Yep,” I replied.

She looked at me with a grin and said, “You just paid it forward”.
Yep, crappy things happen, but on the most part – people are good.

Blend it your way,
Leese x

Editors note: Fast forward nine months and the block is finally ours. Good things come to those who wait!

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