Leon’ne and Michael Forster made a ‘tree change’ expecting to sit back and relax. However, this is not their style and it was not long before they found themselves in the thick of a new and exciting business. Michael tells their story.
Leon’ne and I left our Bowral home of thirty years to make the “mud change” three years ago. The kids had all left home, the old house and garden were too big and who needs a pool anyway?
Bowral is a far different town from the rural bliss we discovered there fifty years ago. Vast subdivisions have replaced the dairy farms and misty fields of old and the town no longer has the family butcher, baker and candlestick maker. These have all been superseded by supermarkets, shopping malls and franchises and the charming old main street now looks like Double Bay. When they started putting in traffic lights and people started tooting their horns at the slightest pause for a chat in the main street we knew the time had come to leave.
We had been coming to Mudgee for twenty years and decided it was the place for us. We found a nice old place in town that needed a bit of TLC. Being smallish that didn’t take very long. I did a stint as artist in residence for Helen at the Fairview Gallery, had a few good exhibitions and started to win a few prizes here and there so I was happy enough but we needed something to occupy Leon’ne.
When one of our enterprising daughters came to visit she discovered a neglected shop in the Town Hall Arcade between Market street and the Woolies car park. “You guys should try and get that shop,” she said. “You could put all that furniture you have in storage in there and Dad’s art on the wall and it would give you something to do now the house is finished.” And that was the birth of the Laneway Trader.
Once we opened the shop word got back about our little Mudgee venture to our old friends in Bowral who were also “downsizing” and moving here and there. They started bringing stuff up in vans and horse floats on consignment. As that source dries up we are getting more and more stuff from locals who are rummaging around in the back sheds and old houses looking for something “interesting” that some old uncle left there that they would like to on sell (or share as we are more want to say).
The Laneway has been great for meeting many nice and different people from the town and surrounds who stop in to trade this and that and have a chat. Having a chat is a great Mudgee occupation and everyone has a story to tell, which usually turns out to be a six degrees of separation thing – the world really is a small place. Within six months of moving here I had run across my old best friend who lived next door when we were five, one of my high school sweethearts I had not seen since we left school, a best buddy from “the boys” at school and a drinking mate from the seventies. At first I found this a bit scary – like my life flashing before my eyes as I was drowning – but I am still alive, my paintings are going well and the Laneway has become like a second home to hang out in where we are surrounded by beautiful things (and great art) that we get to share with other people. I am enjoying my new found creative role re-birthing old and forgotten furniture and Leon’ne has found many new friends to play with. All in all life is good.
Drawbacks? Four and a half hours from the nearest kid and grandchildren, it doesn’t seem to rain enough and there is no railway or picture theatre but that’s about it. The rest is good – good community spirit, good food, good wine, good coffee, good art and good people. Who can really ask for more?
You can visit Laneway Trader on face book or instagram; or drop into the shop where you will be warmly welcomed and encouraged to browse amongst the eclectic goods on display and enjoy Michael’s ever changing art.