Shaped by our environment

Photographs by Susan Prior. Above, Bedrock Cafe, Norfolk Island

Today, at Indooroopilly, we went to see The Greatest Show on Earth, the story of PT Barnum.

We went in the morning when the cinema was stirring into life, the smell of popcorn, soft swirly ice creams and coffee pervading the foyer. It was starting to tick over nicely, patrons trickling in. But by the time we uncreased our stiffened limbs a couple of hours later and headed back outside all hell had broken loose and the place was jumping. It was bound to be busy this long weekend – the last hoorah for many before settling into the routine of work and school for 2018.

We aren’t regular cinema goers. As we sat waiting for the film to start we tried to work out the last one we’d seen.

Lion?’ I volunteered, ‘or was it The Dressmaker?’

Either way, it was at least a year ago. I somehow doubt we’ll miss being able to see the latest blockbuster when we move.

Afterwards we headed through the sliding doors leaving behind the arctic blast that I always associate with Australian cinemas, into the humid heat and fug of the carpark. Chaotic scenes collided with my consciousness – noise, impatience, screeching tyres, queues of traffic – angry scenes, all reminding me why we’d decided to move to Norfolk Island this year. I don’t blame any one person in that car park. It is a by-product of where and how we live. We become hardened by the concrete surrounding our lives.

I often get asked the question: why Norfolk Island?

Knitting, Captain Cook's Monument, Norfolk Island

Knitting, Captain Cook's Monument, Norfolk Island

Last May, we travelled to the island for a well-overdue holiday, and it was then that I rekindled my love for this isolated place.

I used to live on the island back in the late 90s with my first husband and our two little girls. Apart from the desolate state of my marriage at that time, I was otherwise very happy to be there. I felt at home. I loved the locals; I loved the quirks that went with living there; I even learned to love the lack of choice. Take it or leave it – especially if unloading the ship had been frustrated by inclement weather, or by a sizeable swell battering the Cascade or Kingston jetties. You were forced to ‘make do’. And for some weird reason I found that intensely liberating.

I always used to joke that you never consulted a recipe book before deciding what to cook, you just framed your meal around what was available. Since then I have often regarded choice as being over-rated!

We are moving to, what is for me at least, a known quantity. The rhythm of the island is my rhythm. The people are my kind of people. Honest, often brutally so. Proud, sometimes to their own detriment. And seriously generous of themselves, their time and whatever else they have. These islanders are born patient. They understand waiting. They get that not everything is available exactly when they want it.

So, back to that question: why Norfolk Island?

Our surroundings and circumstances define the people we become. These things shape us. And that is the large appeal of the island for me. I want to live alongside people who are a product of a different environment. Not the brutal dehumanising city environment that fosters unyielding impatience and anger, demonstrated so ably in that shopping centre car park. But from an environment that has nurtured them to be who they are: accepting, resilient, generous, and kind.