There are few sentences I had never anticipated saying, ‘my new neighbour is a wombat’ being one of them! And whilst we have yet to meet I am very much looking forward to the moment when we do.

Everyone told me “don’t talk to the neighbours, not yet, wait till the trees have come down”. It was usually said in jest, but nonetheless I heeded this advice. So I continued to arrange a succession of tradesmen to begin the beautification of Sherwood, my new country “cottage”, which included council approval for the removal of fifteen trees from my heritage listed land.

Builder, rubbish skips, trucks, plumber, electrician, carpenter, structural engineer…..they came, they conquered and stage one nears completion. Mid stream last Friday I started moving in the furniture despite the gyp-rockers not having finished their final sanding and the forty degree summer heat.

Then Monday afternoon my tree guy Jeremy calls from the backyard – the neighbour over the side fence wants to chat. I breathe in and walk out into the garden fearing the worst, that the noise, trucks, deliveries etc have been too much for my new tranquil rural community. I could not have been more wrong.

It seems Marian from next door just wanted to say hello, welcome me to the street and chat about the bower bird living in my Cypress Pine. Thanks to her visit, Jeremy managed to save the nest and the eggs before we trimmed back the lower limbs. We even cleaned up the branches that had grown over on to her property.  I have since learnt that the activity at Sherwood has been quite the talking point with general approval of the long overdue maintenance. New life has come back to the house and who does not love a makeover! and it seems some of the locals have even Googled me.

Within a few hours Ronnie from the other side was at my back porch with a welcome gift – wine and chutney. By now I am in love with the entire street despite an emotional meltdown on Sunday when I wondered what on earth I had let myself in for. I have also now figured out where the enormous cat, that keeps wandering in the chat to Bruce and Max, lives.

To answer everyone’s question…yes I love a drink, just like you!

Curiosity got the better of Ronnie and she happily accepted my offer to venture in to survey my renovations. She approved and after an invitation to her place she will be my first point of call for all future interior advice. Seems we are both all about open plan living and we laugh about my decorating challenge for the “porno master bedroom”. Bridget then arrives to talk me off the ledge I found myself at the night before with Thai takeaway and wine in her hot pink hockey gear. The image still scares me but order had returned when she finds me deep in conversation with Ronnie. Crisis adverted, sanity restored.

Locking my car and front door before we head next door to meet Ronnie’s partner Justin was my first rookie mistake. We shared a giggle and that’s when the story of the resident wombat under her house unfolded.

It seems I share my retreat with many varied creatures from the Magpie family that wanders on the lawn each morning to the resident Kookaburra clan in the gum in the front yard and chatty possums out each night sharing tales of their adventures to anyone that will listen. The good news is that most of the brown snakes stop before they get to my driveway to feast on the mice that live near Ronnie’s chicken coup but the red bellies will wander in at their leisure. And I have already had many eight legged encounters…… they don’t tell you that at the first real estate inspection.

The next two days is a succession of introductions and wonderful local tales. I am exhausted, but it is that happy kind of tired you feel when you know you did the right thing. For the first time a story I was told in Derby, NT, many years before seems somehow very relevant. The pilot of our charter plane that flew us over the Buccaneer Archipelago told me of his first dinner with the locals when he arrived in Derby a few years before. It seems that the locals delighted in taking out the new arrivals for dinner on the mud flats that surround the town and are littered with salt water crocs.

They set up a long table complete with linen, crockery and silverware and dine on the flats as the sun goes down. The joke being that everyone finds a reason to leave before the sun sets so the unsuspecting new arrivals spend an uncomfortable hour alone about a kilometer from dry land surround by the swooshes of hungry reptiles as they hunt for dinner all around them.

Now I wonder what the Berrima community has in store for me in the coming months. I secretly hope it includes an encounter with the hairy marsupial that I keep hearing so much about.