Sunday, 12 September 2010

Raising a young family in Hobart

My goodness! Chatting about my time in the Mother Baby Unit elicited some fabulous, thoughtful responses from you all. I am touched by your sensitivity, insight and warmth. Thanks to all those beautiful souls who left comments and especially those who took the time and effort to send me private e-mails sharing their experiences and offering support.

When I started this little series of posts, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. I didn’t know if people would relate or be scared off. PND isn’t your usual conversation starter, is it? Everyone’s experience is so personal and as I’m still under its sway, it was hard to judge whether my story would be interesting enough to engage you and whether the tone would be right. I didn’t want to betray any confidences or touch too closely on issues which caused distress to those close to me. I’m no authority on, or poster girl for, PND. Far from it. Judging from your comments, I am pleased the posts struck a chord in you. I hope that maybe, just maybe, someone reading them who does have PND might not feel as alone as I did. Or that if they know someone suffering from PND, they might have a bit more insight into what it’s like to have it.

Anyway, let’s change the tempo to something a bit more upbeat. So, what has our little family done in the year since we returned to Hobart? Well, Mr PB has settled into his new job, Joshua has been at Kinder three days a week at my old school, India has attended a delightful daycare two days a week and Sam and I have been at home together. We have fallen into a weekly routine whereby I have one day with the two boys, two days with India and Sam, one day with just Sam (my ‘easy day’ – it’s all relative!), one day with all three pixies and the weekend when Mr PB is very hands-on, looking after them as much as possible to give me a break. Of course, we do things together as a family then as well – it’s a tightrope walk making sure I get enough rest and family time combined.

So, I’ve mentioned before what it was like growing up in Hobart in the 1970s and 1980s. But how have I found it returning here to raise my own children? What has changed? Well, it’s been a pleasant surprise. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, Hobart’s population is about 210,000. We’ve found that makes it eminently more ‘liveable’ with a young family. While we miss Sydney’s stunning harbour, the fabulous ferries and our favourite haunts, getting around here is so much easier and quicker. We can be more spontaneous, not having to plan our travel so far in advance. Most places you need to visit are about 10 minutes away. We missed that handy convenience in Sydney. It means we fit more into our days. And that has to be a good thing, right?
Hobart viewed from the Eastern Shore with Mt Wellington in the background
Hobart is nestled in the foothills of the majestic Mount Wellington (known fondly as ‘The Mountain’ to Hobartians) and along the shores of the pretty River Derwent. That means we have easy access to both. In winter, the pixies love driving to the scenic top of the Mountain to build snowmen and throw snowballs at passers-by. Driving back down to Hobart with a snowman on your car bonnet is a winter ritual which makes the locals smile.
The good old snowman on the bonnet trick
Many locals either own a yacht or a dinghy or know someone who does so spending time on the harbour is popular in summer. The clean white beaches are small, unpretentious and undeveloped compared with Sydney as well as much more accessible and not nearly as crowded.

Over the past decade, gorgeous shops such as Store & Co, Mini Store, Love & Clutter, Inside and Norman & Dann have opened, bringing new ideas, products and energy to the city as well as much-needed freshness. Some old favourites such as Fuller’s Bookshop have moved to flash new premises. The CBD is very small and centred around small shops. When there was a large fire in the Myer department store in September 2007, the heart was ripped out of Hobart’s CBD. Myer has continued operating in the untouched other half of its building and opened its homewares department on another site. However, the fire site remains a sorry hole in the ground. Hobartians are hopeful that someone will rebuild there soon and maybe Myer can regain its mantle as the premier shopping destination. In the interim, however, these delightful new businesses have found their own niche which Hobartians have embraced.

The Hobart City Council has done a fabulous job, upgrading the children’s playgrounds with style and a good eye for design. The pixies’ favourite haunts include the ‘Train Park’ in West Hobart, the Long Beach playground in Sandy Bay, Princes Park in historic Battery Point and the playground at Marieville Esplanade, Sandy Bay. The latter is a five minute walk from our home so Mr PB and the pixies often set off there with their scooters and balls on the weekend. It is located on the foreshore, next to the Royal Tasmanian Yacht Club - a picturesque setting. Trying to find a carpark near the equivalent in Sydney on a weekend was always difficult. We are now relishing our easy access by foot.

The Salamanca Quarry development has also injected pleasing vitality into one of Hobart’s main shopping and entertainment areas. Growing up, the area was a deep, disused quarry which served as a vast carpark. Some clever design and innovative use of space has resulted in an area which is a favourite for locals and tourists alike. Swish apartments at the back of the old quarry now overlook a communal piazza with the brilliant Socrates toyshop, caf├ęs, clothes shops, restaurants (including the fabulous Smolt), the quirky Hobart Bookshop, offices and bars on each side with a stunning Stephen Walker fountain sculpture in the centre. You may have seen photos of Hobart girl Crown Princess Mary of Denmark’s young children playing in the water there during one of her family’s visits. The pixies enjoy doing that, too – it’s a popular spot for Hobart littlies.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark watching Prince Christian splash in the fountain
The quarry area then opens out into Salamanca Place. This is a row of sandstone buildings which were formerly warehouses for the port of Hobart Town back in colonial times. They have since been converted into delightful restaurants, galleries, craft shops and offices. India’s preferred haunt is The Faerie Shop, an enchanting treasure trove which stocks everything fairy-related including the divine German label, Die Spiegelburg, and hosts fairy parties for Hobart littlies. There are also many interlinking laneways which were built during the thriving whaling industry boom in the early and mid-1800s and which house small galleries, a theatre, artists in residence and shops.
Saturday at Salamanca Market
Visiting the renowned outdoor Salamanca Market is a favourite ritual for us. This lengthy stretch of road is closed off from traffic every Saturday and lined with stalls selling locally grown organic fruit and vegetables, freshly cut flowers, fine Tasmanian arts and crafts, old silverware, jewellery, clothing, preserves, jams and bric-a-brac. There, you can actually meet the people who create, make or grow what they sell. Buskers, especially youngsters, abound, singing tunes and playing instruments. This morning, we enjoyed selecting the freshest daffodils and most vibrant freesias to brighten our home.

We are also delighting in introducing the pixies to the places and activities we loved as children. Yes, on the whole, it has been a good move for our little family. More of that to come – it’s time to turn in. Good night!



  1. Isn't Hobart great? So close to everything and I'm also happy to see great shops like Store and Co appear. If you need more, Melbourne isn't too far away. I just wish we had Ikea!
    obart is a great place for families.
    Hope you're having a nice weekend!

  2. Sheesh, I just wrote my comments and they've gone - darn pesky computer!! I was going to say that I think Hobart is a great place. It's so nice to see good shops open too - though Ikea would top it off! I'm very happy to have been born here :)

  3. Hi Sarah They both turned up! Ah yes, we do pine for Ikea - it used to be at our local shopping centre in Sydney so we really miss it. Fingers crossed they come down here. Having a DFO would be great as well - let's hope they do end up moving to Cambridge as mooted. Yes, Hobart is a lovely place.I'll do some more posts some time about the city's history as well. J x

  4. Oh, I do so agree that Ikea would top it off! Actually, I'd be happy with Ikea online, apparently they used to deliver to Tassie, but certainly not anymore.

  5. Sarah, there is a FB group 'Bring IKEA to Tasmania' and I think they mention some people who take orders and drive it over on the ferry. There are also some IKEA stores which post to Tasmania. There's probably a minumum order, though -I haven't tried it myself. Let's just keep crossing our fingers they move here! J x

  6. Jane, I think it is so fabulous that your little goes to the same Kindergarten that you did as a special! I loved hearing about Hobart, as I have never had the pleasure of visiting Tasmania...something I would very much like to do. Hobart sounds like a fabulous place to raise children :) Lol - I miss Ikea too, 6 hour drive either way for us, which I guess is closer than for you!! Wishing you a wonderful week ~ Tina xx

  7. Thanks, Tina. It is lovely for raising children, I agree. If you're ever down here on holiday with the family, I'd love to meet up. And as for Ikea, it's a one hour plane trip to Melbourne but that makes it a bit expensive! J x

  8. I love Hobart too! After living in London for nearly 3 years it was delightful to come back to Hobart which is beautiful and accessible and a great place to have kids. What you can't get here just involves a quick trip to Melbourne or Sydney - thank goodness for Virgin Blue!!

    P.S. Was directed here by Sarah (oeshe & doots) - we're in the same mum's group!

  9. Hi Ange Welcome! I agree with your sentiments entirely. I was a bit hesitant at first - only flying in for quick visits over the past decade or so made it hard to assess what life 'on the ground' with the pixies would be like. We've been pleasantly surprised. The limitations which used to annoy me pre-PB now don't fuss me as much - I suppose my perspective has changed. J x PS So excited Sarah has started her new blog!

  10. Yes, it's been a pleasant surprise, Le. I wasn't sure what to expect, living here with children. Much better than I'd hoped. J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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