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  • Writer's pictureKate Halfpenny

A new man has spiced up our marriage: Our golf coach

The minute my husband knocked off work on Wednesday, we took off for couple’s time. Not long ago, that would have meant vodka and a pinball showdown at Pixel Alley in Smith Street, Collingwood. Now it’s a 10-minute drive down country roads to meet the third wheel in our marriage. Steve. Our golf coach.

Golf. Ick! It’s long competed with river cruises and Ed Sheeran gigs for top spot on my will-never-do list. It felt depressing, awash with old dudes in poly-blend slacks, the sporting equivalent of a food court.

But that was when I was a city chick. Now, on the second anniversary of selling our city place to live in Ocean Grove, I have a golf glove, seven iron and clunky swing. I have plans for more clubs, shorts with an inbuilt belt and to get a lot better. We spend way more money at the driving range than at restaurants.

I love it all. My prejudices have melted away. My prerequisites for a happy life have changed.

This time last year I wondered if being one of the 32,000 who left Melbourne post-pandemic was a giant mistake. As the city reopened, I had FOMO. Chris was seriously unhappy. I worried about not just how far I could drive the Skoda with a tyre destroyed by a pothole but whether life in an overwhelmingly white town with ordinary food was making me daggy.

Yes. On top of the golf there was an obsession with practical clothes and – sexy as all hell – bird watching. Mornings in bed were dedicated to tracking lorikeets in the apple tree. Listening to ABC radio’s resident bird expert one week, I realised the caller asking how to stop spotted pardalotes bashing into windows was my husband (whose photo of a magpie in our yard got nearly 4000 Facebook likes!). Funny, not funny.

Would I recommend a move away from the city? Can’t do that. It’s on you, it’s personal.

We did the sums on renting a CBD one-bedder and living between two places. Then – and it sounds hokey – a weird alchemic transition kicked in. I decided to find and embrace the fun, not the gaps in it. Marching about in a wetsuit during work hours, the excitement of a nature strip sinkhole, freedom from overwhelming mortgage tyranny … so unreal.

What had I been thinking? I stopped fearing I was turning into a dag and started celebrating I was becoming me. It was like The Brady Bunch ‘new Jan Brady’ episode. All I had to do was not panic and know Melbourne is still there if I need it. Easy.

Would I recommend a move away from the city? Can’t do that. It’s on you, it’s personal, and depends where you’re at in life. Post-pandemic, houses in some regions are as expensive as cities so that advantage is lost. Don’t be fooled by a fabulous house anyway. Home is who you have to share it with.

We trek in dressing gowns for a spa and gossip with locals Murray and Veronica. Gary and Deb – who we met through the gym – rock up for kitchen discos with oysters and a guitar. Our neighbour Lisa lets herself in the side gate for a 5pm packet of chips and to swap one-liners. Our dog Maggie has two BFFs, Rory and Billie.

We’ve also built a professional network including GP, mechanic, vet and dog groomer. Andrea the waxer has a home salon with blue velvet couch and open fireplace. Sports masseur Brad has an Australian triathlon title and incredible fingers. Amanda at Bakers Delight and Stacey at the bookshop know what I want before I say it.

I’m still not sure this is our forever life, but it’s been a gorgeous reawakening via slowing down. I miss impromptu parties, hate that I’ve forgotten how to walk in my (dusty) Jimmy Choos and am freaked out the whole joint is like the set of Invasion of the Body Snatchers after 8pm. The mozzies are the worst. But two years on, I feel healthy and uplifted and can’t wait, not just for summer, but everything that will follow.

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