Amazingly, we have just notched up a world record in terms of address book entries for the Lings. As of August, we will have lived in the same country for over five years, which beats our previous record set in London nine years ago. I am actually feeling rather unsettled by this realization, though I would hasten to add I have no desire to start back into the rounds of international maneuvers and jump yet again into another strange school system complete with a maternal dress code that I am guaranteed to fail.
Thinking about our various moves has made me realize that there are a number of factors that I now regard as essential to my domestic harmony on the expat circuit, or, to be more specific, what keeps me happy, in the sense of where we live. Obviously the biggest factor is going to be friends but there are a number of physical elements that really drive what makes a house a home for me, and, by implication, the family.
So here goes in no particular order with my wish list for wherever we live:
Our home must be near an international airport for those inevitable Thelma and Louise escape-type fantasies that I run in my head. There is no point in imagining myself flinging open the taxi door and shouting grandly, “Take me to the airport and make it snappy” if it is going to take three days to get there.
Likewise, it’s got to be close to a bus stop or train station. Had I wished to qualify as a taxi driver, I would have done something about it by now. I have no desire to qualify merely by default, based on the number of hours shuffling teenage members of the family to and from their social and sporting engagements.
Top of the list has to go to a café or coffee shop to which I can escape with book/newspaper on a regular basis. The quality of the coffee is not actually a prerequisite on this one, witness I spent a great amount of time in America in Starbucks. In Sydney, where they take their coffee seriously, I am spoilt for choice, though I have to do a plug for my current favorite, Arena’s Deli in Mosman, where I get a fabulous life-reviving cup of coffee every morning, and a chat with Joseph, the affable proprietor, as a bonus.
Being walking distance from a library, post office, and bookshop is something that has always been high on the list. I am now adding: close to a decent cinema. We have a fantastic local independent cinema, complete with a Wurlitzer organ to add to the impressive atmosphere.
I also love being close to the sea, coming from the U.K. where you are always relatively close to water, I think I would find it hard to live somewhere completely landlocked. Sydney Harbor is a backdrop to my daily life at the moment and gives a boost to my day whenever I glimpse it, even on a grey, morose day like today.
Having looked back at the list, I can now see I am calling down the hands of fate and it is guaranteed the next place I will find myself living will be in the midst of a Mongolian Desert and how you will laugh at the thought of me looking wistfully round the steppes (not sure I am geographically correct here) for the nearest library and coffee shop.