Working from home, the Australian Way — a.k.a The Bandicoot

Muriel
5 min readJan 29, 2022
The Bandicoot

Because of the pandemic, some of us have had to learn to work from home. I must admit that it has been a steep learning curve: I have never spent so much time at home. To make matters even worse, I am still getting used to living in Australia. What am I talking about? Well, working from home Down Under comes with a specific set of challenges, because there is always something to surprise me and keep me busy, even in my own backyard. Why? Well, because of the wildlife of course! In Europe, there is none -or next to none. That’s not exactly true: when I was growing up, in Provence, I was used to the deafening noise of the cicadas in summer. I remember that tourists were complaining about them because they couldn’t sleep at night. Poor Dears…I hope that they haven’t moved to Sydney!

Because over here, the disruption never stops. The kookaburras have invited themselves to a lot of my work meetings on Zoom, and suddenly nobody could hear anything because of their very distinctive laugh. Sometimes they make so much noise that I must retreat inside and close all windows to be able to continue my meetings. I have been swooped by magpies a few times on my road, always at the same place. I am pleased to report that it looks like the happy couple knows me by now, probably because my hair has become a black mane and they are very scared of me. Maybe they think I am one of their own? Mind you, I am still too traumatised to make friends with them and offer them some food. Magpies are huge -and quite scary, frankly- compared to the small European magpies. I kid you not: Australia is a giant Jurassic Park for magpies. They are feral.

Freddie The Seal

But I digress. On the bright side, Antoine the pelican is a loyal work colleague who comes to say hello every morning, on the jetty downstairs. From time to time, Freddie the seal is frolicking in the sea or sleeping on the rocks next to the beach. Last week he came with a companion. Freddie got lucky! I was very pleased for him.

Meet Antoine

In short, there is never a dull moment.

For a few months, at 4 am on the dot every morning, there were steps on the roof. One morning, the steps abruptly stopped after a stampede. The evening before, I had seen a pair of bright yellow eyes on my balcony. It was a powerful owl (If you don’t know what a powerful owl is, please allow me to explain: take a European owl and multiply it by two or three, and you’ve got a powerful owl). I tried to understand what had happened and quickly came to the conclusion that a possum was walking on my roof and it was killed by the powerful owl. It’s a tough world out there.

Because you see, in Europe, there is one type of rat, that’s it. Simple. Over here, you have bush rats, wombats, possums…and bandicoots (and I am sure that I am forgetting half of them). How do I know? Well, there are small holes in my garden everywhere. I seem to be spending my time filling them but they keep coming back, as if by magic. I eventually saw a bandicoot rummaging next to my flowers. That was the reason why I was finding new holes every day. To this date, I have no idea how to stop the bandicoot from destroying my plants, and I keep filling the holes every morning. It’s a battle I can’t win.

In short, in Australia, you need to become a wild-life expert. It’s a survival skill. Forget about the sharks and the snakes. Granted, the spiders can be a bit scary -did I tell you that I saw a golden spider the other day?- but it’s all the rest you need to worry about. Because you’ll go from surprise to surprise.

Can someone tell me what this is???

Still don’t believe me? Here is another anecdote for you: I was putting my rubbish in the bin for collection, and there was a bush chicken trying to find something to eat. I didn’t want to go -frankly, it couldn’t be bothered. I made sure that the bin was properly closed -I didn’t want the bush chicken to make a mess on the road. What can I say? There is always a surprise around the corner in Australia.

I really miss my office, because it feels so much safer than my backyard and I have never had such unexpected encounters there. Everything is taken care of and there is a lovely commercial gallery downstairs. Not to mention that the coffee is divine at the Italian shop. Ah, just the smell of it…

But we are not back yet and I am still spending a lot of time holed up in my beach shack. The kids are still at home. We are only going out when strictly necessary. The restrictions have eased, but going out still isn’t what it used to be. I take a Rapid Antigen test before going on a site visit (I work in the construction industry), and no later than this morning I got told off for not wearing a mask while walking on the street. We are not back to normal. In fact, I dread going out now. I don’t want to. I am becoming a hermit. I can see the appeal of not going out of the house. As in, ever. I might be suffering from a severe case of cabana syndrome. Or cabin fever. That’s because there is so much to keep me busy in my house. And who knows what my next encounter with a wild animal will be?

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Muriel

I am a French woman who used to live in London and has now moved to Sydney. Engineer by background. Turned lawyer. Turned writer. Wife, mum, friend, ultrarunner