When I first moved to Lord Howe, it was a bit of a shock to the system.
It was 2013, and my husband had accepted a role on the island. I was on maternity leave and we moved for what I thought would be a 12 month period with our 7 month old baby. It was to be an island adventure until my maternity leave was up and I returned to the job I loved. I was certain the move was temporary, as our lives, friends and family were back in Sydney.
Although my husband is from a very small community, I’d never lived in one. Sometimes I knew the names of my neighbours in the various homes I had lived in, but normally I did not. Not only did my husband know the names of all the people living in his village of 12 houses, his family was entwined in the local community with his mum being a respected school teacher and his dad a local farmer. They knew everyone within a 20km radius of the village as well as all the local gossip. It was something I could never imagine experiencing.
My first week was eye opening and I truly thought we might have made a mistake by moving here. I moved into a flat that not only had no internet, but no fixed phone line. Telstra only comes to the island for installations and maintenance every six to eight weeks and they couldn’t give me a date they would be here next. I also found out that the only internet supplier to the island wasn’t offering new connections due to the government’s promise to invest in satellite NBN. Lord Howe Island also has no mobile phone reception, so the only way to keep contact with my friends and family back home was to borrow other peoples fixed phone lines for a few short calls or use the public internet at the Museum who at the time were charging $50 for 5gb of data.
With my husband working long hours and because I didn’t know anyone, I spent a lot of time walking with the stroller along the roads of the island. I pondered our new life while walking, wondering if our move was a big mistake and I would be itching to get back to Sydney at the end of the 12 months.
Once out walking I had a strange sensation. Have you ever felt like someone was following you? I looked over my shoulder to see a car diving very slowly behind me. Once I turned and the driver saw my face, he sped up to be right beside me. He again followed me for a few seconds before winding down his passenger side window.
I didn’t know what to do so froze on the spot. If I had been on the mainland, I would have raced away to safety – would the driver drag me or my baby into the car?
‘Are you Danielle Nicolson?’ he asked and I nodded. ‘You have a package at the Post Office’. Then then wound up the window and drove off.
I found out later that he was the local post master, and he had been looking for a me since the mail had arrived off the ship a week earlier. Someone had told him it was that new lady always walking with the stroller in the mornings, so he decided to seek me out.
This unusual encounter gave me my real first taste of small community life on a remote island. It intrigued me, and made me realise I may have begun to live a similar life to that of my husband in his small village. Maybe there would be more quirky experiences to follow……. and there were. I’ll try to cover them in my next few blog posts!