♫ Closer each day: Robe, SA ♫

My childhood was filled with a host of iconic Australian TV shows imported to Ireland via the BBC. My mother’s love of The Sullivans encompasses those itty bitty girl years in an all out she’ll be apples-style hug. I remember not being allowed to watch The Thornbirds. Then, when we were older staying up late on the weekend watching Bangkok Hilton with my parents and younger brother. Childhood centred around Neighbours on my road, we thought ourselves as fond friends as those in the theme tune. The less cool but oft watched Skippy, The Flying Doctors, and, a guilty favourite of mine: A Country Practice. I loved that wombat: Fatso. The more grown up Sons & Daughters deserves a mention for having a cheese factor of 100+ theme tune.

My Australian love affair started with the TV shows I watched as a young child and they remind me of summer holidays, no homework days, TV on days … rare little kid box-eyed days in a seaside town as mine. I recall playing outside with the children on my road, on the beach, in the fields, haystacks, and on our bicycles. Summertime in Ireland shone with images of Australia, as luck would have it, we rarely had any sunshine of our own. Australia was a sunny, bright, distant cousin twice-removed. All kids went into their own houses for lunch and before we went back outside to play we watched Neighbours. Yes, since the 80s, an Irish childhood lunchtime has been timed to the Neighbours clock.

Later, as a teenager, Heartbreak High and The Secret Life of Us were new devoted Oz TV favs.

There was another show though, that creeped in during the pre-teen years, and caused much heartache for me as a stalwart Neighbours fan. I didn’t want to be unfaithful … so it came to the point where I could either be a ‘dag’ and continue to obsess over Neighbours or learn to love its competing cousin: Home & Away. As I was an extremely serious little girl I decided to give them equal viewing. I had missed one episode of Neighbours in my whole childhood: I cried that day. Well, I had to make the same commitment to Home & Away: I had to also watch it every day. The peer pressure to be less ‘daggy’ made the choice for me … a unilateral 50 minutes of Aussie soaps every day.

Summer Bay did, however, resonant more than Ramsay Street as habitat environmentally. I am from a small seaside town. Actually, when I was growing up it was a village, it seemed to us to be tiny, nowhere, and far, far, far away from the city [25miles]. Summer Bay had beaches as did we in our little market-gardening seaside village. And of course, Summer Bay had the caravan park. My best friend’s dad owns a caravan park in Rush, so, I felt an affinity with Summer Bay that Ramsay Street and its suburban, populated, swimming-pooled back gardens could not match. Ramsay Street was too foreign for my pre-pubescent eyes. Summer Bay was a sunnier, surfier, yet daggier version of my hometown and I loved the extremities of ruralness that even my way, way, way out of the way town could not match.

Summer Bay was two hours on the bus to the city, Rush only one.

Summer Bay had one cafe, one surf club, one bait shop, and one high school. Rush had one general store, one community centre, one golf course, two beaches, two garages, two doctors’ surgeries, three churches, several sports clubs, ten pubs/bars (it is in Ireland), eleven shops, two butchers, one post office, one video shop, one amusement arcade, one credit union, one bank, one theatre, one swimming pool, two primary schools, one secondary school, and two caravan parks.

Rush was better than Summer Bay – its sexier, sunnier, far-off Antipodean cousin.

Robe SA is a veritable cosmopolitan version of Summer Bay, it’s like the Australia I had in my mind’s eye before I got here.

Initial musings on Robe: it’s a haven for surfers and watersports enthusiasts, there are many Rush/Summer Bay-styled bungalows and subdivisions, and on a brief tour around the perimeter I’ve seen abundant green nature, golden sand, and an alluring azure blue sea.

Robe, Sunday 6th to Wednesday 9th of January, 2013.

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