I'm writing this from my new home in the hills south of Bendigo.
I have, at last, moved to the Country. Yes, Country with a capital 'C', because we travel up 3km of gravel-and-dirt-and-dust road to get to our property, we have tank water, the house runs off solar power and we have so much land that mowing the lawn involves borrowing a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep.
'I am moving to the country!' I've been telling everyone. Even the people who couldn't care less. 'I am moving to the country!'
It sounds like the name of one of those lifestyle shows on TV: 'Tune in at 7.30 pm on Friday for our new series, I'm Moving to the Country.'
And, stupid as it now seems, I imagined that the entire transition from town life to country life would run just as seamlessly as an episode on the telly. There'd be a slight hiccup or two, just for laughs, but by the end of an hour (perhaps only forty five minutes once we fast-forwarded through ads), we'd be settled and smiling. My house would be looking like something from the cover of Country Style magazine and I'd be sitting on the veranda, sipping tea from a stylish Marimekko mug while dinner roasted in the oven - a leg of lamb, pumpkin and rosemary potatoes. Heck! There was probably a self-saucing pudding in there too. Chocolate. With a baked custard on the side.
Oh deary, deary me.
There are disadvantages to having a fertile imagination.
Unrealistic expectations, for starters...
We moved on a weekend where State Emergency Services were forecasting monumental flash-flooding. It fizzled to an inconvenient drizzle but the lead-up to the move was a little stressful. Especially when they were telling everyone to stay indoors and keep off the roads. Didn't they realise we had a piano and six thousand boxes to shift?
In unpacking our boxes, we unleashed a plague of earwigs that would have done Moses proud. The earwigs have since been joined by a plague of millipedes. These nasty little critters seem to be vying with each other for the best places in our beds and underwear drawers.
On Day 2, the pump had a hissy fit, depriving us of running water. I went without taking a shower or flushing a toilet for quite some time - far longer than is socially acceptable, even in the most relaxed circles.
The fly-screens aren't yet finished (which goes some way to explaining the ongoing supply of earwigs and millipedes). Nor are the bookshelves, the solar-power system, the access to the shed or the drainage behind the house.
I spend my mornings spraying poison on blackberry bushes half the size of our house, rather than running through the hills singing like Julie Andrews.
And it was many, many days (not just an hour!) before I had the time to sit on the veranda. When I did, I flopped, moaning and groaning, into the chair, squashing dozens of earwigs into the wicker beneath my bottom. I didn't even care - about the carnage or the stain on my shorts. I settled down to listen to my bones creak and felt a pang of regret that we didn't even have the makings of a Vegemite sandwich in the pantry. And I drank wine because, frankly, tea seemed ridiculously inadequate.
Reality versus fantasy.
It's a killer.
But don't get me wrong. It hasn't been all plagues and storms and unflushed loos.
Despite the hiccups - or maybe because of the hiccups - there have been many wonderful things for which we are grateful.
The big move (furniture and boxes) was made light and cheerful by the help of faithful friends - those happy to sacrifice a precious weekend and work up a sweat. Just for us. That's priceless - and practical! We feel very blessed. Very loved.
Our first meal in our new home was not a roast with all the trimmings, but something far better - a picnic, brought to us by a dear friend and eaten, mid-move, with the other dear worker-ant friends. We nibbled and chattered and giggled amidst dusty boxes, mountains of scrunched newspapers, bubble-wrap, homeless crockery, earwigs, muddy footprints and half-assembled furniture. The mood was happy and relaxed and celebratory. I cannot imagine a better way to host our first dinner party.
The seeming catastrophes of pump and storm and creepy-crawly plagues have made us realise that, unless someone is hurt or in imminent danger, it's okay. Take three deep breaths and smile. We live in a civilised country and stuff gets sorted ... eventually. Showers. Who needs 'em?
And we are, at the end of the day (and all day long, in my case), dwelling in paradise - in a beautiful home on the side of a hill, with magnificent views, rich bird life, mobs of kangaroos, peace, quiet and fresh air. Because the pump now works and we can flush whenever we like!
Stay tuned for Katrina's Adventures in the Country - coming to you in 2018.