Two couples find their slice of paradise

28th October 2014

This is the story of two retired couples who have found their little slice of paradise.

It’s also about a famous Australian town; Deniliquin, they knew little about just a short while ago, but now love with a passion.

To start our story, let’s provide some background.

Charlie and Lynnne Davis lived in Melbourne and had travelled extensively throughout Australia, both for work and leisure.

Like an increasing number of Melburnians, they discussed retirement living and decided this would not be in the ‘big smoke’.

But where should they go? This was the quandary.

Charlie and Lynne sought the answer in their journeys across our vast nation – searching for a place that was ‘just right’.

On a map, numerous towns were marked as possibilities yet none seemed to have the X factor for which they searched.

Perhaps it was Echuca/Moama, the historic paddle steamer towns which straddle the banks of the might Murray River?

In 2011, on one of their many visits to Echuca/Moama – “we loved Moama,” Charlie says – they saw a brochure in their motel room providing information on Deniliquin and decided to take a trip north on the Cobb Highway to this southern Riverina town, which was a distance of 75kms.

“We had seen signs pointing to Deniliquin and knew it was mentioned in a Jade Hurley song called ‘Down In The Riverina’, but we’d never been there,” Charlie said.

Their first port of call after driving into ‘Deni’ was the golf club, nestled on the edge of the Murray Valley National Park, yet almost in the centre of town.

The adage ‘first impressions are important’ has never been so accurate.

“Everyone there was so friendly,” Charlie explained. “People were chatting away to us and genuinely interested in who we were and where we were from.”

Charlie and Lynne were impressed.

They went to the Saturday market in the beautiful Waring Gardens and were overawed by the atmosphere and the penchant of total strangers – people they had never seen – to smile and say ‘hello’.

They went to the bakery for a bite to eat, as well as the RSL Club, and on each occasion there was the same friendly, welcoming demeanour.

“We took some lovely photos and left Deni thinking ‘this is a great little place’,” Charlie enthused.

Charlie and Lynne had discussed moving from their suburban home in Croydon, without making any firm plans and locking in a timeframe.

However, their decision to move on was fast-tracked when the local council installed a speed hump in front of their house and effectively turned their street into a drag strip. It was noisy, especially on a Saturday night, and became even worse after a drop of rain (which is not uncommon in Melbourne).

A valuation was sought and two days after putting their house on the market Charlie and Lynne had sold for a very nice price and their minds quickly turned, in Charlie’s words, to “gee, we have to get our act together and find somewhere else to live”.

He jumped on the computer and started looking at houses in many towns they had short-listed as possibilities for retirement living and when he decided to check out a few in Deniliquin was pleasantly surprised at what seemed outstanding value for money.

“We sent off inquiries about houses in a number of locations, and the only person who made the effort to follow-up was Ashley,” Charlie recalled. He was talking about Deniliquin Deputy Mayor and real estate agent Ashley Hall, who phoned Charlie and offered any assistance he could provide.

Before long, Charlie and Lynne were in Deniliquin inspecting a vast range of houses including a magnificent four bedroom brick veneer with a swimming pool and outdoor entertainment area.

It was perfect … and better still with the negotiated price they had lots of money left over from the sale of their Melbourne property to spend on fully enjoying their retirement.

“The same quality house would have cost us at least twice as much in Melbourne,” Lynne said.

“We couldn’t believe it. We had our dream home, plus money in the bank.”

As Charlie and Lynne became acquainted with more local people their impression of Deniliquin as a friendly, welcoming town continued to be enhanced.

Everywhere they went, Deni was talked about in glowing terms.

“No-one was negative. Everyone spoke so highly of the town and we were blown away by the friendly country attitudes,” Charlie said.

They went to see local removalist Wayne Dunbar, and enjoyed scones and cream with a cup of tea in his lounge room, before he showed them his trucks and gave an estimate of relocating their furniture from Melbourne to Deniliquin.

Like the other Deni business operators they had met, Wayne was efficient and helpful and Charlie recalled that “everything was perfect and ran so smoothly”, all at a price that was well below the on-line estimates he had seen from city based removalists.

Charlie and Lynne settled into their new environment and went happily about the task of setting up their new home.

Whether it was at Harvey Norman, the supermarket, the pharmacist or any other store they visited as new customers the story remained the same – friendly, helpful service from genuine country people.

They needed a load of wood, so Charlie sourced a phone number and made a quick call.

“I had to leave a message, and simply said we had just moved to town, needed wood and gave the address.”

At 8pm that evening there was a knock on the front door.

“Are you the bloke who wanted wood?” the caller asked, and received an affirmative response.

“Sorry, but for some reason my phone didn’t keep your number so I couldn’t ring back. If you want it, I’ve got the load here now.”

Charlie and the wood man proceeded to unload the trailer.

“He even helped me stack it in the wood heap!”

When Charlie needed to visit a doctor he made one phone call and quickly had an appointment. He’s been back to the same doctor several times, unlike many places today where you make a booking and get whatever doctor is available.

Lynne explained they investigated the availability of health facilities before moving to Deniliquin.

“We’re not getting any younger, so it was important the town had a hospital and good medical facilities.”

A new medical centre had not long been opened and they learned Deniliquin had a well-equipped hospital plus a vast range of ancillary health and community facilities.

They settled into their new home, with Charlie happy to look after his pool and gardens while Lynne was keen to get involved in community activities.

She was soon off to bingo sessions, playing lifeball – a game similar to netball but played at a slower pace – and invited to join other local organisations.

They became regulars at the RSL Club, enjoying a range of entertainment including shows by leading Australian performers.

“And every time we went to a show we met more friendly people,” Charlie laughed. “It’s just great. We went to the RSL Christmas party and paid only $20 which included our drinks, then booked into their Christmas lunch which was $50 and it was unbelievable.”

Charlie knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the food industry. He’s reluctant to talk about his former working career for fear he might get ‘roped in’, though suffice to say it was in hospitality.

“The RSL Christmas lunch was Salon Culinaire standard, and that’s coming from someone who was in the trade.”

A journalist from the local newspaper, the Pastoral Times, attended one of these functions and the following week Lynne and Charlie had their photo on the social pages.

“We’d never been in a newspaper,” Charlie said, adding he had been reading the paper on-line since they first became interested in Deniliquin and loved all the snippets of local information, including less significant activities which would not make the columns of city papers.

The enthusiasm Charlie and Lynne had developed for their new home town was so infectious that from phone conversations it rubbed off on Lynne’s sister who was on the other side of the continent.

This is where Greg and Jenny Harrison take up the story. They have travelled extensively throughout Australia, in particular during Greg’s career in the Army, before settling in Perth.

Jenny and Lynne are part of a family with 14 siblings who grew up in Melbourne.

Jenny explained they wanted to move back closer to Melbourne to be near family, but did not want to live in the city.

Lynne and Charlie spoke glowingly about the southern New South Wales town they now called home, and before long Greg and Jenny thought it might be an option for their relocation.

They had previously thought about moving to somewhere like Lilydale, on the outskirts of Melbourne, “but even it’s just another suburb now”.

“We had been to Deni a long time ago, so knew a little bit about the town, but we’d lived in Perth for 20 years so it would have changed a lot,” Jenny said.

Before you knew it, Jenny and Greg had flown across, bought a house in Deniliquin and were soon preparing to move to their new home.

Soon after arriving, Jenny said they realised the zeal with which Charlie and Lynne spoke about the town was well founded.

“We moved soon after Christmas and realised everything they said was true. The people are just so friendly.

“I was browsing in Rockmans and nearly straight away was chatting to the lady there … it was wonderful. I went to the hairdresser and the service was fantastic.

“You walk down the street and people smile and say hello. You don’t get that in the city.”

Lynne added: “When you’re out in the garden people drive by and wave. Not that we get much traffic; it’s generally pretty quiet.”

This ‘quiet’ is something else that has impressed Deni’s new residents.

“You can almost hear the quiet at night,” Jenny says. “It’s country quiet … no noise from constant buses or cars.”

Charlie remembered their many years in Melbourne and reflected, “it doesn’t matter where you are, there is traffic noise. All we hear is the occasional sound from the rice mill, cows in the distance when there’s a cattle sale and some shots from the gun club when there’s a shoot on.

“Living here is like being in a soundproof room. It’s magnificent.

“And there are the stars … we’ve had visitors from Melbourne who can’t believe the number of stars in the sky at night.”

Lynne and Charlie have had quite a few visitors, particularly friends and relatives from Melbourne who don’t mind the leisurely 3½ hour drive.

Nor do they mind the friendly welcome when they arrive.

“It’s such a relaxed atmosphere here. We’re relaxed nearly all the time,” Jenny says, acknowledging that is not the norm with city living.

“So that’s our story. We’ve moved here and we’re as happy as Larry.”

Her husband Greg, sister Lynne and brother-in-law Charlie simply nod in agreement.

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