Calmful living

Calmful livingI was recently approached by Anna from an American website called Calmful Living, which focuses on “calm mind, calm body, calm living”. Anna had read about us, and felt that our lifestyle might be tranquility-inducing as people approach retirement. Following is a copy of her interview questions, and my response.

As you can see, life continues to go well for the Shedders.

When you first began contemplating retirement, what were your concerns?

My husband Rick and I had a nest-egg sufficient to support a careful retirement, but not a generous one. We knew we couldn’t afford to retire in Sydney, an expensive city – although that didn’t matter because we were keen to leave the Big Smoke anyway. A few acres in the country, not far from good services, appealed. But that raised questions of having to start all over again building community, of solitary hours after a lifetime with busy social lives – of loneliness. What about when you lose some of your health? What about when you lose a partner?

These were the issues that concerned us: enough money and a solid community.

How did the idea of co-housing with other seniors come about?

 We had friends, two other couples, that we often spent holiday time with. In our fifties, as retirement appeared on the horizon, we began discussing these issues with them. We really enjoyed – and profited from – our holiday time together and wondered about sharing our retirement. Was it conceivable that we could stretch our retirement dollars farther in a shared living situation? Could we avoid aloneness? Could we provide support for each other?

We voted “yes”. Over the next several years, we resolved the key issues, including a big one: where to live. We bought four acres in the country, four hours from Sydney, not far from the ocean, and near a medium-sized town with good facilities. Before moving onto it, we tested our resilience by finding a big house in the city and renting together for two years. That worked fine, so we set up a good exit agreement and went ahead with building on our land.

Our homeWe’ve ended up in what looks like a large modern home. It has three suites where each couple has a good-sized bedroom, sitting room/office, on-suite and deck. We share the kitchen, living room(s) and entertainment areas. We’re seven full years into the arrangement now.

How has this lifestyle reduced stress and improved quality of life for all of you? Feel free to give any examples of when living communally helped a tough situation resolve more easily. 

A few weeks ago, on December 31, the six of us sat down together in our lovely living room to review our year. We took turns talking through the highlights, low points and learnings of the year. As I listened to people speaking, I was overwhelmed with a sense of just how much our lifestyle has contributed to each of us. Someone said, “I feel that this year I’ve become who I always wanted to be, and that’s a result of this way of living.” Every single one of us expressed contentment about living in our cooperative household. It was an strong tribute to this unusual thing we’ve done.

As you can well imagine, we don’t live stress-free. There are differences of opinion to be worked through, minor grievances, differing priorities. We’ve had to learn to be good at communication and at give and take. But on the big things, the benefits really shine through. We’ve had injuries and surgeries, small and large (e.g. four hip replacements, one ankle fusion, one knee reconstruction). It’s been great to share the road to recovery with five other people rather than one overworked and frustrated partner.

SheddersI’d say our mental health has benefited as well. There is always someone to talk things through, to pull you out of a funk, to provide a different perspective. There are demands on our flexibility that might be challenging short-term, but long-term are making stronger, more resilient people of us.

We enjoy a lovely home and gardens, with six of us sharing the work. Rick and I go to Canada, where we were both born, every summer – and the house is cared for in our absence.

Best of all, we have a large and vibrant community around us. We profit from each other’s networks. We’ve all gained friends from my housemate’s yoga classes, our community choir, the book club, the garden club, the men’s group, the palliative care community. I’ve never had a richer circle of friends.

I couldn’t leave this question without mentioning how good it is to routinely share our evening meals together. Of course there’s always lively conversation, but best of all is someone else doing the cooking two-thirds of the time. A tiny sense of competitiveness means our meals are excellent and varied. As with most things, it wouldn’t be the same with just Rick and me.

How do you handle the obstacles that arise?

We have monthly meetings that are intended to anticipate issues coming up – expenditures, repairs, activities, guests. Every issue is a potential obstacle, but we find that by staying committed to talking things through, we avert most crises. It’s not always easy. We have to be willing to both say and hear uncomfortable things, and to deal objectively with differing opinions. It can be messy in the middle, but with careful communication, so far we’re come through every time with relationships even stronger.

Do you think we will begin to see more of this type of retirement? 

Indeed I do.

The way we live together in the western world has shifted dramatically over the last couple of centuries. We’ve changed from village living to extended family living to independent living. The opportunities and constraints of modern lifestyles are leading us in new directions.

Architects are taking an interest; many councils and local governments are making it easier for people to create communal neighborhoods. There are intentional communities, cooperative houses, communes and ecovillages, all with the purpose of bringing people together in a synergistic fashion. Each has its own advantages.

Perhaps our own situation, where we have six people co-habiting the same dwelling and closely sharing many areas of the house, is unusual. It wasn’t easy to make happen, but so far the evidence is that we’re getting the results we wanted.


Community: anytime, anywhere

Eve and I were approached this week by Focus, a local community magazine, to be interviewed for an article on the Shedders. We do get a fair bit of publicity, and each time, I am reminded about what a smart (not to mention interesting) phenomenon we have created here in Shedders-land. Day to day, we just go about the business of living and getting along, so every now and then it’s good to stop and reflect on how we arrived here and just what it is we’ve got.

At any rate, the experience of writing a response to the editor’s questions had me extra sensitive to the power of relationship—exactly at a time when I came across an article about an interesting development in Bologna, Italy. Here an urban neighbourhood has come to life as a big-hearted community. I found myself captivated by a familiar old theme.

Via Fondazza

Via Fondazza, Bologna, Italy

What happened was this: a pair of lonely newcomers to the area put out the word that they’d be interested in creating a closed Facebook group for neighbours along their street. People responded quickly and positively, and the result is a thousand people who now feel like they live in a small town. They now know each other, exchange greetings on the street, socialise, have adventures and help out.

Here’s a sample story from the article:

A few months back, Caterina Salvadori, a screenwriter and filmmaker who moved to Via Fondazza last March, posted on Facebook that her sink was clogged. Within five minutes, she said, she had three different messages.

One neighbor offered a plunger, then another a more efficient plunger, and a third offered to unblock the sink himself. The last bidder won.

“Can you imagine, in a big city?” she said, still in disbelief at the generosity. “It’s not about the sink, it’s the feeling of protection and support that is so hard to find in cities nowadays.”

And another:

This year, a young woman expressed a concern for her safety and proposed a neighborhood watch.

Another resident, Luigi Nardacchione, responded that she should just call him if she was on her way home late at night, and he would come and meet her.

“I am retired, I have time, why shouldn’t I help?” said Mr. Nardacchione, 64, a former manager of a pharmaceutical company.

According to one resident:

“It’s the mental habit that is so healthy. You let people into your house because you know some and trust them enough to bring along some more. You open up your life.”

I like that last comment: you do open up your life when you let people in. Fear climbs into the back seat, displaced by trust and goodwill. We all know that sometimes trust will be abused, but how preferable it is to have our heads populated by positive expectations rather than wariness and isolation.Random acts of neighboring

If you’d like to read the entire article – which I’d recommend, especially if you’re an urban dweller – click here. Beware. Drop off a few flyers and you could find yourself in the middle of a social avalanche.


On an identical theme, yesterday I received an email from a dear friend who lives here on Mitchells Island. He and his wife have purchased 40 acres, and moved up from Sydney about a year and a half ago. They’re renovating their house and have built up a nice little farm with a bit of livestock. They’re slowly creating a new home for themselves, very different from the one they had in Sydney.

Here’s what my friend said in his email:

On this Sunday afternoon our neighbours (two farms up) held a luncheon at their jetty.  This was a splendid occasion on a beautiful sunny afternoon with one of their own pigs on a spit, cooked to perfection with fantastic crackling.  It was a party for the neighbours and we got to know everyone on our road. Gradually, we are really becoming part of our very local community.  

The significance of a community in a rural area really becomes clear after such a lunch.  All the people involved become important in one way of another in just being there and you know that you can call on them.…Out of this we might have access to a ram for our ewes, and we may provide the services of our bull to our neighbour’s cows…I know such a network will become more and more important for us in the future.

So, in much the same way that the Via Fondazzians built their community, my friend is part of building one among his neighbours. He’s enjoying the camaraderie (as well as the pork crackling), and he’s setting life up so it can be easier, more economical and fuller.


Bear with me for one more quote. I’ll give the last word on building community to housemate Eve, from her contribution to the Focus article:

In balance, I can say that our arrangement is the best outcome I could have possibly imagined for my retirement and ageing. We Shedders spark off each other and support our divergent interests. In some areas, we collaborate—that is, in our communities, in teaching, in networking. We support each other in staying healthy, encouraging physical activity and good diets. We have learned so much from each other, not always easily or gracefully. But most rough edges have been smoothed out over the years, and as a result there’s gratitude and love.

Welcome to the neighborhood

So many books, so little time

So many booksOne morning several years ago, new to this area and missing the camaraderie of my Sydney book club, I wandered into the Waterbird Café to ask its all-knowing proprietor if he’d heard of any local book clubs. “Funny you should ask,” he said. “A woman was in the other day asking the exact same thing.”

“Next time you see her, give her my number,” I said.

A few days later Desley and I met. We sussed each other out, and finally said, why not start something ourselves? We invited our husbands and began looking for others who might be interested in talking about books.

Thus a new book club was born.

We called ourselves So Many Books, So Little Time. Membership shifted a little over the first years, but eventually resolved into a group of eight: there was Rick and myself, housemates Eve and Daniel, co-founder Desley and her husband, and two of their good friends. For several years we met every four to six weeks. Our protocol was to take turns, an orderly one-at-a-time, presenting our thoughts about a book we had selected to read (you might imagine how hard it is to sit still while someone else expresses their provocative views). Then we’d dissolve into free-form discussion. Rarely did we all agree on anything. My club mates sometimes had excessively strange opinions. But I always gained a much deeper understanding of the book as everyone expressed their views and insights. I loved these discussions, even when I had to shout to be heard or sit on my hands to keep quiet.

We always concluded by selecting the next book, and over time we got good at selecting just the right one. The club was a raging success.


I finished my book and now I don't know what to do with myselfThere’s something about a book. And there’s something about people who enjoy reading books. Our Shedders community itself was born in part out of a love of reading. On our annual holidays together, some 15 years ago, we were not so much the types to kick a football around in the garden or drink ourselves noisy by the light of a campfire. More likely you’d find us sitting companionably reading, sometimes using a finger to mark our place while we shared an insight. We’d swap novels and give each other books for Christmas. (Not wishing you to think we were too cerebral, I should mention that we also went swimming, took beach walks, hiked, did yoga, and cooked meals.) (And then we’d get back to our books.)


But I digress. Back to the So Many Books club. A year or so ago it nearly came unstuck. Two of the group moved south a couple hours from here. Shortly after that, Desley and her husband decided to move to Bowral, some six hours away. We all met at their house as they were packing up, to have a last meeting and a sorrowful boozy lunch.

However, over the discussion of our final book (Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh), something unexpected transpired. Our enjoyment of the meeting made it inconceivable that we could abandon such a good thing. So we made the challenging decision to meet at each other’s widespread homes. We’d go to Bowral, stay at Desley’s, have a book club meeting, and spend two or three nights. Imagine sharing a house and three days with six people whom you know mostly through their opinions on books. Outrageous. But we were up to it.

So it happens that we’re just back from a weekend in the Southern Highlands. We took in the tulip festival, and I have to say, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the weeping cherry blossoms, thick and luscious, lining the streets of Bowral. We toured the countryside, taking in the hills and vistas. We bought croissants at the best bakery I’ve come across this side of France. The Southern HighlandsOver a couple bottles of wine, we took turns trying to remember what we used to do on weekends when we were twelve years old—and gained a real insight into each other’s childhoods in the process. We also sat around fiddling on our various devices. There was a time when all eight of us were quietly assembled in the lounge room, keeping warm by the gas fire, intent on our own contraptions – tapping away as we caught up on emails, researched, played games, read books. A bystander might shake their heads about such a gathering, but there in the moment we were just friends who had talked a lot and now were sitting in companionable silence.

And of course, we had a meeting and discussed a book.

That was, as always, the best part.


Which reminds me, I also wanted to tell you about the book in question: Mendel’s Dwarf, by Simon Mawer. Treat yourself to this excellent New York Times review.

I loved the book. Mawer has climbed into the mind and heart of a brilliant geneticist, who is a dwarf. Written from the perspective of this character, Benedict Lambert, you see clearly how the world views those who stray from the norm. Imagine every eye in the room turning to look when you walk in, and then carefully shifting its gaze away again. Repeat this experience everywhere you go, every time you go out, over and over. How would this shape you? And what if as a geneticist (and a dwarf) you came to confront the exact spot on the exact chromosome that can mutate and cause you to be the way you are? Imagine standing at a microscope and having to choose the embryo which is safe from dwarfism – thus keeping the future safe from beings like you.

The novel dips into eugenics, and has you contemplate a world without serious physical defects. No achondroplastic dwarfism (and no Benedict Lambert). No ALS (and no Stephen Hawking). For me the book came to be about the painful beauty of diversity, and about the impossible choices we will increasingly have to make as genetic engineering becomes the air we breathe. Shall I scan my genes for any lurking danger? Do I want a boy or a girl? Blond? Dimpled? How tall?

A good book can stay with you for a long time.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

[Author’s note: Groucho obviously didn’t know about
my new Kindle paperwhite, which would allow me to read even inside a dog.]

Come fly with me

Helicopter at sunset over SydneyOh, Bronwyn.  I feel embarrassed to be joining the long list of detractors having a go at you at the moment. It’s too much like shooting fish in a barrel. However, you make it irresistible.

I mean, seriously, who charters a helicopter to avoid a one-hour car ride? Are you the kind of fabulously wealthy person who can snap your fingers and a helicopter appears? And even if you were that kind of wealthy, what on earth would make you want to do it? We know of people who could and would, for example Donald Trump – but then it’s not really a good time to be emulating him.

And Bronnie, on the public purse?! Words nearly fail me. My imagination doesn’t extend to hiring a helicopter, compliments of the taxpayer, for a tiny ride to a personal, partisan event. It’s painful to contemplate. I’m in Canada at the moment, and you’d think the turmoil Bronwyn Bishop plays the evil queenof Australian politics would be far over my horizon. However, I am unable to avoid a glance at the Sydney Morning Herald every now and then – and I find the entire news front is dominated by your shenanigans. Even the Canadian papers are having a laugh about it.

(For those of you from other parts of the world, who might be forgiven for not having noticed these Aussie antics: Bronwyn Bishop is a political VIP, Speaker of the House and favoured child of the Liberal Abbot government, who was recently discovered to have spent $5000-something for a helicopter charter for a short ride to a Liberal Party fundraiser. It hasn’t been going well for her since.)

I mean, our legislators could be finalising the new laws currently under discussion which will help to keep out asylum seekers (please note: that was irony), or revoke dual citizenship from people who might have communicated with an enraged Muslim (ditto), or increase surveillance aimed at omnipresent terrorists (ditto; sigh…). But Bronwyn’s exploits are keeping them busy in Parliament.

It would be an interesting mental exercise to calculate the cost. Consider several hundred parliamentarians on decent salaries, each spending several dozen hours on Bronwyn’s spending idiosyncrasies; then there’s all the staff involved who are busy finding evidence or finding excuses, and all the lawyers who are circling at several hundred dollars an hour—all at the taxpayer’s expense. That $5000 might have been bad enough, but it was only a molecule on the tip of the iceberg. If I were a less peaceful person, I would be beating my head against the wall.

$5000 might not seem like a lot of money, but in some circles it could go a long way. For example, my garden club spent hundreds of woman-hours fundraising to buy a swish new chair for the oncology department at the local hospital. Surely the heavens would have smiled on a politician for pouring $5000 in the direction of health care. Or think what the local public school, where I listen to the littlies reading, could have done with $5000 aimed at its dog-eared reading materials. That $5000 would even have filled a few potholes on our bedraggled local road. Am I incredibly naïve for thinking that a politician, who has chosen to make a career out of serving the public good, wouldn’t think of those kind of things as an alternative to chartering a helicopter? Doesn’t anyone in Parliament think that way?

But I guess Bronwyn was in a hurry that day. Or perhaps she was caught in the rapture of it. Picture the helicopter blades whipping dangerously through the air above you, while you smilingly hold your hair, skirt and dark sunglasses in place. The urgency of it! The raw power of that warlike machine! Part of me can really understand the thrill.

However, let us rein in those rogue emotions for a moment. Consider the possibility of an entirely different way of being. Imagine Bronwyn pulling up to her event in a little red Smart Car, where she’s been getting dictation done into a recorder on the seat beside her as she drives (I can tell you from experience, there is precedent for this).  Maybe I live on a different planet, but it seems to me that that arrival would garner a certain respect from people, and might even loosen their pockets for the Liberal coffers.

We do have to be a bit careful about this shooting of fish in the barrel: Bronwyn isn’t the only one of us guilty of confusing the source of respect. My own life rules for living well in community occasionally fall into disarray around me. I’ve been known to go unconscious about the consequences an action might have on myself, as well as on others. I sometimes spend where it’s unnecessary, or try to impress people, or get jealous when someone has more helicopters than me.

And while we’re practising a little humility, let’s remember that sometimes indulgence is just plain fun. We can’t afford to get too righteous about someone succumbing to the odd bit of extravagance.

But I’m not sure Bronwyn’s indulgences have ever been giving her fun—and they’re sure not fun now. So loosen your hair, Bronwyn. All of us old dogs can learn a few new tricks.

Fly girl

Shedder postscript. When we first started our Shedders adventure, I had a concern that we might turn out to have different spending habits. Perhaps someone would be more lavish with the communal pot than Rick and I, or more miserly. But it hasn’t worked out that way. We talk things through to our mutual satisfaction. There are no taxpayers’ dollars to rely on here, so we’re all responsible. Spending on behalf of others can work.

Fly 4

Mothers R Us

The temperature dropped to 9 degrees last night, which surely means that winter is on its way. And that in turn means that many of us Mitchells Islanders will be partaking of our annual migration to warmer climes over the next few months. Our good friends Kerry and Gordon leave on Tuesday for the Galapagos, then on to Europe, New York and Japan. Rick and I head off for Canada soon; in July Eve and Daniel take in a wedding and some touring in the USA; in September Judy and Michael will go dancing their way across Cuba and the southern United States.

My mother surrounds meAnd what that means is that we won’t all be together again until the end of October. So we decided we should get together for a farewell-to-travellers’ dinner last night. As icing on the cake, housemate Judy suggested that, since the dinner would be on the eve of Mother’s Day, we each take the opportunity to honour our own mothers by telling some of their story.

So after indulging in one of Rick’s Massaman curries, a fine Penfold’s red, and some champagne, we talked about our mothers—one at a time. You should have met these eight mothers! I wish you could have gotten to know them all as I did last night. We were shown photographs, we had bits of letters and interviews read to us, and we were told remarkable stories. We’ve heard about these mothers, but last night each one came alive in our imaginations, as never quite before.

They were a varied lot, these mums. The oldest was born in 1905, the youngest in 1921. One had died in her thirties; only one is still alive, at age 93 (my own lovely mother). They were all deeply influenced by the Great Depression, and were young women through World War II.

There was a politician’s wife, a famous model, and someone who had been visiting family in Poland when the Germans invaded. Someone had run a number of family businesses. One had nine children. Four of the eight mothers were farm women. There was an artist, a drummer, a couple of gardeners, an accountant, some seamstresses. Several began a second career or took up studies when their families had grown. In keeping with the times, most ran a tight ship. All had been tested by and survived serious challenges: abandonment, bad marriages, loss of offspring, being judged by family and community. Religion, divorce, war and poverty all had their impact.

There were wonderful photos; I stared into those faces to see what I could discern about these smiling women with their arms around children who I know today as 60 and 70 year olds. Old photos are always like that: they hold their secrets, some of which I couldn’t begin to guess at. We became present to a very different time: a more conservative time, a time of fewer choices, when things moved more slowly. We could sense a culture by which our own has been shaped.

If you met my mum you would understandAs people spoke, a few shadowy silhouettes slid into the room with us. The children we were when our mothers were young women showed up as the stories were told: there was a little Eve helping to hold the family together while her mum had a rough patch, as well as a little Judy swaddled in family secrets and a little Michael dealing with his mother’s illness. Also there in the room we could sense fragments of our mothers in who we are today: ”Aha! – I see you in what you’re saying about her.”

The love each of us had for these women who gave birth to us was palpable, as well as how much they mean to us now. And we could feel the love they clearly had for us, and for our siblings. Their courage, beauty, exuberance, commitment and caring filled our living room.

This parade of mothers populated my dreams last night, and they’ve been strolling through my head since. I hear echoes of their voices and the click of their high-heeled shoes. I sense their strong feelings and their brows furrowed with concentration. They are women from the past who have had an immeasurable impact on people I love in the present, and they came alive last night.

It was a great exercise, which I strong recommend. There are still a few hours of Mother’s Day left. Especially if you haven’t seen your mother for some time, grab some friends and take a half hour each to bring Mum to the table with you.

And if you can’t get to it today, do it next week—because, actually, any day is a good day to acknowledge one’s mother and reflect on one’s roots.

Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out.


Judith Lucy is all courage

I could count on the fingers of a half-a-hand the number of times our household has gathered in the entertainment room to watch a real-time TV show—but the exception happened this week. As I forewarned you recently, we were to be featured in the final episode of Judith Lucy is All Woman. So last Wednesday evening there we all hovered, waiting for the show to air at 9:00 pm.

None of us were nearly as buoyant as usual. I spent the waiting time working at a hangnail that was deeply troubling me. We were all well aware of the (admittedly slight) chance that the day of filming we’d undertaken with Judith and her crew about a year ago could result in an ego massacre. But there seemed like a very good chance that our exposure could be downright embarrassing.

To our immense relief, neither of those possibilities eventuated. Judith, who wrote and featured in the show, was as enthusiastic and kindly as the day she visited us. We were Lucy 1there to help her make the point that there are alternatives to traditional living arrangements, and that when you and your friends say, in an affectionate moment, “Gosh, we should all live together,” you can actually make it happen. She wanted the message out that there are unconventional ways of approaching retirement and old age, and ours was one such story.

So in the end I was happy with our little segment, and, to tell the truth, proud to be part of the episode and of the whole series.

Here’s the official line from the ABC site:

“One of Australia’s favourite comedians, Judith Lucy, is out to discover where women are at in modern Australia and what it means to men – talking to people from all walks of life from all over the country.”

Well, that happened in the series—but underneath this mere voyage of discovery, Judith Lucy is a lot of womanJudith was clearly out to make point: that feminism is not dead; that women should, and do, rock. The final segment of the program, a collage of powerful Australian chanteuses singing Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman”, fired an emotional canon at her audience. Go for it, she’s telling Australian women. Roar.

However, in my view the real contribution of the series lies another level deeper. Judith becomes a strong voice for both women and men making big choices, taking risks, having adventures, living sometimes on the edge. Throughout the series, she role-models courage, good humour and a willingness to shine—or flounder. As a girl, she says, “…it didn’t occur to me that there was anything I couldn’t do”. She acknowledges that during the filming of the show, she’s “…met so many people who are going against expectations”. She adds, “Doing this show has really stopped me wanting to judge other women’s choices.”

Get in the game, she’s saying. It doesn’t even matter what game, but get in and play Judith Lucy takes aimhard. You’ve got to be in it to win it. I’m told by the show’s producer and director, Anna Bateman, that some 600,000 Australians watched the show on Wednesday. That’s a lot of people who might be out there taking a few more chances today as a result.

In the segment featuring the Shedders, Judith sits at our table and speculates on moving in with us. In the somewhat unlikely event that that should happen, life will get a lot more colourful here on Mitchells Island. You can’t be around Judith Lucy without taking big bites of the apple.

If you’d like to view the whole episode (I recommend it), or the entire series, you can see it on ABC’s iView. (For those of you off-shore who’d like to see the whole show, let me know and I’ll set you up with a link.)

To view just the Shedders segment of the final episode, click here.

Shedders at twilight

Shedders strolling into the sunset


Judith Lucy meets the Shedders

Many moons ago, comedian Judith Lucy showed up at our house. She had two cameramen, a sound guy and a director with her. She walked up to our front door (a half hour after she had made a quiet back door entrance, during which time she got Judith Lucy 1dressed, put on her signature red lipstick and fixed her hair in my ensuite bathroom), rang the doorbell and greeted us warmly, while two cameras rolled in the background and the director signalled the six of us who live here about where to stand. We’d been contacted by the producer a few weeks earlier, and asked if we Shedders would be willing to be interviewed for a segment in the Judith Lucy is All Woman show, scheduled to air in the far-distant future. Judith wanted to explore alternatives to standard ageing accommodation, especially with women in mind. She’s a take-the-mickey-out-of-you interviewer, but usually in a respectful way and always in aid of something (a) with viewer-allure, and (b) of social importance. So with some trepidation, and after much internal discussion, we agreed to the interview. You can imagine the somewhat nervous group that met her, shaking hands and smiling broadly for the cameras. Having to get through a day of being interviewed and filmed was problematic enough, but what about down the track when the show gets aired and we have to handle the embarrassment of facing our community? These thoughts were in our minds as Judith radiantly made her way into our home. At any rate, Judith and her team were lively, fun-filled and passionate people, all of them interested in how we manage our co-householding arrangement. She filmed us having a semi-normal house meeting, captured us putting lunch together (out of the barbecued chicken and salad her crew had brought with them), and interviewed us separately and jointly. She, Eve, Judy and I had a girl-chat standing in front of the Yoga Shed, all of us worryingly miked. After Judith and the crew left that afternoon, the Shedders dropped into chairs for a glass of wine. We could have taken off our smiles at that point, but we didn’t really need to. It had been a fun day and the team had been engrossed in our lives and our approach to ageing. Almost a year has passed since then. We received word a few weeks ago that the show was going to air, and that we would have a segment in the final episode. That happens (get your calendars out) Wednesday, March 18, on ABC at 9:01. Four episodes have been aired so far. So I’m giving you advance notice, and you’ll be watching it at the same time we are, though perhaps not as nervously. I may change my mind about having alerted you after viewing the episode—but I think no matter how the Shedders come out in the wash, there’ll be interest value. Note: Viewer discretion advised. Judith is notoriously bawdy. Take heed via this blurb on the trailer for the show: “One of Australia’s favourite funny ladies is back with Judith Lucy Is All Woman. If you’ve ever been a woman, been in one, or come out of one, this six part series is for you.” Consider yourself warned.


Speaking of co-householding, I recently read an interesting snippet from a Vancouver paper about a housing phenomenon that’s sweeping the Vancouver area. Apparently, foreign investors—often Chinese—have been buying up pricey properties in Vancouver and its suburbs. So there are a lot of big houses—mansions, really—that have been put up for rent. The rent tends to be far more than the average family can afford, and any families with that kind of money are investing in their own homes. So who can these offshore owners and absentee landlords lease their houses to? You may have guessed it: cooperative householders. The ideal market turns out to be young urban professionals on nice salaries wJudith Lucy 2ho can’t possibly afford a sprawling mansion of their own, but would rather share one than live alone (for more rent) in a tiny downtown apartment. By living this way, tenants get a beautiful home and gardens, heaps of space, nicely outfitted accommodation—and a community. Two or three friends get together, make the decision and take up the lease. Then they canvas their own communities for a few other people who’ll occupy the remaining bedrooms. The group sets up house rules, organises regular meetings, and somehow manages the myriad conflicts that come up and require communication. These households are also somewhat careful to stay below the radar. Most Vancouver suburbs have ancient legislation in place which specifies that only families may occupy a home, or a family with at most one or two satellite individuals. Councils have traditionally wanted to have some control over the tenancy of properties (likely to control prostitution), but are turning a blind eye to this new phenomenon. What can be wrong with people who live peaceably, pay the rent, don’t make more noise than anyone else on the street, and help keep the pressure on housing down? For the whole article, read here. The article resonated with me in part because we Shedders, as you may remember, put ourselves in a similar situation before we built on and moved to Mitchells Island. We decided to test out the prospect of buying (and living) together by renting for a year or two. For a visceral experience of that period, sample a chapter or two from my book, Shedders: for example Heaven on the Harbour or Yours, Mine and Ours. House on Tambourine BayI have very fond memories of that time. After two years of communal living, we’d met our main objective of seeing if we could live comfortably together. We relished living in a big house right on Tambourine Bay, and appreciated the economies. It felt like we were leaving a smaller footprint on the planet, while still having a somewhat luxurious lifestyle. It felt sane and sensible. It was also fun, and I discovered that sharing in this way had great benefits. It led us to where we are today—which you’ll find out about on the Judith Lucy show. So—who knows what Judith Lucy will do with us on the upcoming segment? But I suspect the show will reflect what the six of us, and all these young professionals in Vancouver, have discovered: a small co-housing community is a fun, economical and healthy way to live.


Judith Lucy 4“Great comedians have time for a sip of water after delivering a punchline. There were times when Lucy could have gone to the bar for a glass of red and we’d still be laughing when she got back.” – The Age