Fresh air, cheap houses, gourmet produce … Every time I visit Albury I want to move there. Really. It helps that my parents-in-law live in fantasy land. They have a brand new house with every mod-con, even a ducted vacuum system. Ooooh, I’d love a ducted vacuum system. The in-laws serve fancy nibbles before dinner each night: assorted cheeses, dips and pate. There’s an endless supply of Moet. Well, that might have been a one-off father-in-law’s 70th birthday thing… The sheets and towels are washed with fabric softener. There’s central heating. They won’t let you to lift a finger. It’s like staying at a five-star resort, for free. Every morning I sneak off at 6am and explore the town. I head down the main street first. It’s a proper, living main street, which is so cool (and rare these days). All those quirky little shop windows fascinate me. And, bugger me, there’s even a Jones The Grocer. Shopping malls aren’t nearly so much fun (except in Hawaii). All the other early morning risers greet me with cheery hellos. Even the local drunk is friendly. “You jush look more bewful every time I shee you …” he offers as he staggers past. Later, I trawl the streets for real estate porn. The old houses in Albury don’t look like the old houses in Sydney. They have this quaint, red-brick architecture that’s possibly more Victorian than New South Welsh. And all the gardens are filled with flowers and fruit trees (oranges, plums, apples, lemons, walnuts!). I was quite taken by a house around the corner going to auction, until my father-in-law informed me the abortion clinic was next door, and gets noisily picketed every Thursday. Although, it would provide lots of cathartic opportunities for yelling “shame on you!” at the hypocritical bastards. Yesterday morning, we went en masse to the farmer’s market. We bought fresh strawberries and raspberries and bread and washed-rind cheeses. I got Sprog 2 a sausage roll the size of a house brick. Sprog 2 started whingeing about sharing her savoury house brick with her cousin. I got very cross. My exact words went something like this: “Your behaviour is unacceptable. I am very disappointed in you. Everyone else is behaving nicely, except you … ” etc. Sprog 2 burst into noisy tears. (Husband just popped into the study, suggesting that I had added: “And I don’t like you anymore”. I most definitely didn’t say that, but it sheds an interesting bit of psychological light on the way Husband reimagines my relations with the Sprogs.) After a lunch of fresh bread cobs, ham, roast chicken, trout pate and washed rind cheese, we toddled off to the local cinema. Then we returned to fantasy land, where my father-in-law prepared a barbecue with all the trimmings (and more lovely bubbles). Today we’re heading to a rambling plant nursery in the country with a gourmet restaurant, for the official 70th birthday celebration. And so, aside from my argument with Sprog 2 – and Husband’s dodgy reimagining of it – the weekend has been delightfully idyllic. OK, a 365-day-a-year life in Albury might not be so uniformly lovely. But a girl can dream, can’t she?
TONIGHT’S DINNER: More parent-in-law largesse. Bring it on!