Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Geography Project

Recently, at the request of my friend Lisa, I wrote a short blurb, with pictures, about growing up in Australia then living as an expat in England and France. It was a contribution to a geography project that her niece in the USA was working on. Lisa is an American married to an Englishman and living in Belgium. Like many highly mobile expats of our generation, she has a wide circle of peers and friends, so her niece received contributions from Switzerland and Turkey (who also wrote about living in Russia and Egypt) amongst others. I thought I might as well share what I wrote on the blog.

Growing up in Australia

I was born in Australia in 1959, in the south-eastern State of Victoria. My family were farmers and I went to a very small rural school with 22 pupils and one teacher until I was eleven years old. Then we moved further north, to south-east Queensland. At first we lived on a farm but when I was fourteen we moved to a small town. I went to High School there, riding my bicycle to and from school every day, with 350 other students. We were very lucky because the Minister for Education lived in our town, so we had an exceptionally well equipped school for such a small town, with a new science block and a good library! I finished school in 1977 and went on to study Business Management at an Agricultural College about an hour away from my parents place.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

My parents were keen naturalists, and members of several birdwatching and natural history societies. As a family we travelled widely in Australia, often with other naturalists who were friends of my parents. They had kids about our age too, so several families would spend time together, camping at the beach, in National Parks or in the desert during the school holidays. Between us we could identify everything we saw in the natural world and it was a wonderful childhood where we were encouraged to respect and learn about nature. In the 1970s this made us rather an unusual family in a small country town. Other kids in my class were spending their holidays at the beach, surfing and fishing. I never learnt to surf and prefer the mountains and the desert to the beach.

Moving to England

When I was 36 my husband and I decided to quit our jobs in Australia and move to England. I was lucky enough to get a job with the National Trust, the largest heritage and nature conservation organisation in the world. I worked with many dedicated people in the Historic Buildings Department and my job was to organise training in how to care for the historic collections in all the houses the National Trust owns. I got to go all over the British Isles as part of my job, visiting historic houses and working with professional conservators. I learnt about textiles, furniture, ceramics, glass, stone, clocks, paintings and natural history.
Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The view from my office window in London.

Moving to France

After twelve years in England my husband and I decided to move to France. As both France and the United Kingdom were part of the European Union, and by this time we both had British citizenship, we had the right to live and work anywhere in the EU, and chose to exercise this right. At the time of writing, Britain is planning to leave the EU, and so we have had to take steps to protect our right to continue to live in France. It has been a challenging and stressful time, but we are happy in France. We live in a small town right in the middle of France, in the Loire Valley. Once again I am involved with local natural history societies and enjoying living in a rural location after some years in the big city of London. I work as a guide, taking people to see the famous chateaux of the Loire Valley, as well as wineries and other less well known sites.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Participating in the anti-Brexit demonstration in London in October 2018.


chm said...

Susan, you seem to have had such a wonderful childhood. I am, retrospectively, envious!

Susan said...

I certainly had access to a lot of interesting places and people.

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