October 10th, 2020On becoming a local
The Local corporate offices and my home in Wheatsheaf shared the Glenlyon General Store as our closest purveyor of essential goods, and maybe even a carton of milk or loaf of bread. The store carried an exceptionally fine selection of beers and wines, along with what had to have been the best collection of gins in Central Victoria.
It also, for an establishment so heavily invested in intoxicants, kept some quite quirky opening hours. Many was the time when my wife Carol and I felt done in by our day’s endeavours and ready for a refreshment from the store – which meant drinking gin and tonics at 3 o’clock in the afternoon because the store would be closing at 4pm – sharp – and is drinking elegant cocktails a morally, ethically or politically correct thing to be doing on a Thursday or Saturday or Tuesday afternoon?
Answer: well of course it is. Furthermore, many was the time when we’d be joined in our libations by a lovely couple, Kyle and Donna, who most likely had just completed another edition of their delightful, relatively new publication The Local and were rewarding themselves with a well-deserved nerve settler – lager beer for Kyle and chardonnay for Donna.
I felt a special affinity for Donna and Kyle’s efforts as independent journalists, as a 20-year employee of The Age newspaper. I’d joined The Age during the final decades of its run as one of the world’s great newspapers, fuelled by its “rivers of gold” classified advertising.
Gradually the rivers ran dry and The Age began settling into decrepitude. It was obvious that mainstream media was being strangled by the internet but what was also clear was that as the big-city papers withdrew, opportunities emerged for small local publishers to fill the needs of their communities. I saw what Donna and Kyle were doing with The Local and knew they were onto a good idea and I wanted to be a part of it.
The first few stories I wrote for them were vanity pieces. I wrote something about cutting myself shaving, which they used because it allowed Kyle to create a silly picture of me looking like Norman Gunston, my face dotted with scraps of bloody tissue. I also wrote an opinion piece about the roadkill carnage I saw each day on my commute between Wheatsheaf and Kyneton to catch the Melbourne train, and about how I wished drivers would slow down and have some care for the animals.
After I retired from The Age I started to write some more locally involved stories for The Local. Among my favourites was a series on some of the region’s excellent food producers.
Of special significance to me was spending a few hours in 2017 with the late former shire mayor Rod May in his home, talking about organic farming and his family’s long and colourful history on the land.
For my first dozen or so years living in Wheatsheaf I commuted to Melbourne five days a week. I left home in the dark and came back in the dark. I used to say that someone could paint my house purple with orange stripes (or solid black) on Monday and I wouldn’t know it until Saturday. I also had a running joke with Donna. She would ask if I knew so-and-so and I would say no and she would say of course you don’t. Well, one of the best things about working for The Local was it gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the incredible people who are your friends and neighbours, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Words: Jeff Glorfeld | Image: Kyle Barnes