You get to a point in the sunset of life where you start to wonder.
Are things better somewhere else?
What if we pulled up stumps and moved to the seaside and lived in a shack with wooden shelves stacked with wine, books, fishing rods and canned peaches, a vegetable garden and an old dog?
I could spend my time beachcombing with a salty beard and muttering to seabirds like an old sailor who lives on dreams.
The chief gardener could spend her time polishing driftwood and picking the seeds out of sunflowers.
We both grew up by the sea and have memories of breezes and deserted beaches with endless horizons. But reality can be harsh.
We recently spent a week on Victoria’s southern coast in a small beach town which I won’t name in case the inhabitants send me fish guts in the post.
It was a quiet place with double-deck homes secluded by tea trees and long dirt driveways.
The high street consisted of a real estate agent, a post office-cum-bottle-shopcum grocery store, a joint selling bait and beach gear and an open-front restaurant bar that served a slab of vegetarian risotto which could stun a shark from 10 m.
The beach was beautiful and long and populated by what seemed to be scallop and pipi-searching families with buckets.
Before we travelled I Googled my way around the south coast, looking at sandy beaches and private driveways.
I checked out land prices and thought we might sellup the Shepparton verandah shack and build a shipping container home with sea views.
After 22 years in one spot I needed a new view.
The bush had become a trash can corrugated with dirt-bike tracks filling with coke bottles and disposable nappies.
The verandah was sagging, the wisteria was winning, and windows were jamming. Inside, doors were sagging and paint was peeling. Things were falling apart.
In this new place, things would be shiny and designed for relaxing and entertaining.
It would have an underground wine cellar and everything, including the wine supply, would be sustainable and lowmaintenance.
People would gather for Pinot Gris evening barbecues to discuss Hemingway and the day’s fishing.
Instead I found a community that seemed entirely populated by Airbnb trippers or day spa retreats.
There didn’t appear to be any sort of local community at all.
We may have picked the wrong place, but I suspect a lot of beach towns are like this — they are the domain of seasonal businesses and the tourists they depend upon.
Wintertime would be different — and lonely.
To buy any sort of residence with a sea view or a sense of splendid isolation would demand the retirement fund of an Australia Post chief executive.
So we returned to our paint-peeled verandahsagged bush home on the edge of Shepparton and sat on the verandah.
I got some binoculars and we looked out at the old trash-covered bush.
We spotted a kingfisher on our pool fence — its turquoise-green sheen showed it was the sacred variety.
Then — strike me down with a feather — it was joined by four others.
We had five sacred kingfishers sitting on our fence shimmering in the cloudy beams of an orange sunset.
They stayed for a long time catching flies and frogs before leaving one by one into the evening.
You can try to put a price on that, but I can tell you it’s not covered by an Australia Post boss' salary.