Our Redlands Story Competition winning entry (Veronica Mahony-Hodges)

I”m tense, uptight, nervous and I should’nt be because I’ve just enjoyed   a grand re-union with all my former workmates. We’ve reminisced about old times, had a good bitch about how things to-day are not done as well as they were in “our day” and most of gloried in the camaraderie that no number of years apart is ever going to change. BUT – the party has been held on the north side of town and I am out of my comfort zone. In fact I feel like a country hick. This is suburbia and I feel overwhelmed by a sea of rooftops, narrow streets, cars both moving and parked and driving habits I had forgotten existed. And – there is not a tree to be seen anywhere. Has’nt anyone on this side of town ever heard of trees? It’s depressing and I want to go home.

Driving south on the Gateway I feel my body relax because up ahead I can see the magic words – “Cleveland Exit – Access to Bay Islands.” Oh joy. And oh sympathy for all those who have to keep driving straight ahead.

I turn on to Old Cleveland Road and instantly I have a taste of what is to come. The road is so wide it somehow makes the traffic feel less frenetic, but most of all it’s the trees bordering both sides of this famous old road that bring a welcome calm to my over-stressed system.  Apart from the shopping hub at Capalaba and the odd houses dotted here and there I know it’s going to be like this all the way through to Cleveland. The road divides and whether I keep left or veer right I know I will still end up in Cleveland – the beauty of my decision being that even the huge overhead road sign is set against a backdrop of greenery.

Finally I reach Cleveland, the heart of the Redlands, the end of the line where the railway station, despite it’s modern re-build, could be straight out of Petticoat Junction. Across the road is Raby Bay Harbour Park where work employees are sitting on the lawn eating lunch while diners  at the many waterfront restaurants admire the luxury boats moored in the harbour.

If I swing a left into Masthead Drive I know that shortly I shall see the boats moored in Raby Bay, their masts perfectly still on this glorious winter’s day as the sun bounces off the water like crystals. It’s picture postcard perfect. People are strolling along the foreshore while at the far end the dogs are romping happily in the off-leash area. And this is mid-week. If I come here on the weekend it will be packed with visitors from all over Brisbane who flock here for bar-b-ques and birthday parties and the local markets. It’s hard to believe that just a short hop from here one can jump on to a ferry and find yourself on beautiful Moreton Bay visiting the islands. This is home Redlands style.

I hope that the heritage of this wonderful area can be preserved. My dream is that one day I would see all the shop fronts and commercial buildings in Cleveland done out with beautiful signwork as they do in Kilkenny City in Ireland, but for now I can live with it because this is life in the Redlands, so different from anywhere else in Brisbane that you may as well be living in  another country. Civic pride is everywhere with mass plantings of both native and exotic trees along all those oh so wide roads where even the centre strips of the main thoroughfares to so neat.

Having lived down here since 1994 and now happily retired here I know that anywhere I go in the Redlands I shall never be far from the water or that magnificent bushland. Wellington Point,Victoria Point, Cleveland Point , beautiful Redland Bay – the names themselves evoke images of another world. Brisbane has bus stations, the Redlands has ferry terminals. And the place is so full of history – after all it was once  under consideration  for being the capital of Queensland. And just in case you start taking anything for granted, there are places appropriately named such as “The Lighthouse Restaurant” and “Star of the Sea Catholic Church” to remind you that everything down here celebrates the nautical theme.

It’s a softer lifestyle – slower, relaxed, like a holiday, yet thousands of lucky people  live and work here and like me, if they occasionally feel a little like a country hick, well, who cares.

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