UP & LEAVE
There is an understory that goes with living on the south coast of NSW. Many people move to the area in search of their “sea change” but chasing that “dream” is not always easy. Many people work jobs (or multiple jobs) that they do no enjoy - just so they can continue the coastal leisure lifestyle. Businesses go under all the time, change names, change hands or are sometimes just left to the mercy of the coast, for vandals and the weather to just destroy it all.
The coast is beautiful (I mean, we love it) but can lead to lifestyle over anything. It is a place of hardship and lows, positives and highs. There are a few shops that seem to have made it work, a surf shop that’s been there longer than I have, and a few tradesmen that seem to do okay. There is a central motel lit up in green and blue lights that has changed management a few times but stayed the same for as long as I can remember. It often says no vacancy in the summer and they have loyal regulars that come every year, which keeps them going. There are a few more motels like this.
Then there are places like the small café in a lane way off the main street of Merimbula. When I was growing up it served a pretty classic Australia lunch menu and did so fairly well. Now it seems that every time I return to Merimbula it has a different name and interior. Italian for a while, then I think Greek, then a "modern Australian menu,” with intermittent ‘for sale’ signs in the window. The tourist shops, they do okay in the summer but as soon as the tourist are gone they have no business and have to shut. Kite shops, novelty shops, a teddy bear shop - knew that would fail. The caravan parks and things are packed in summer but pretty much dead in the winter. The coast hibernates.
I thought moving to Wollongong would give me a different outlook on coastal living, but really it’s the same. Great lifestyle, lots of struggling business.
The tires sitting in the backyard are off cars a man bought and tried to redo or use, ice cream trucks, multiple business ventures, get rich fads, all failures. Now his backyard is a small business graveyard. His backyard wouldn’t be the only one like this. The beaches and the surrounds are so beautiful all along the south coast that much of this “understory” goes unnoticed. Many people leave because of the lack of work and no tertiary education options. But it’s hard to leave for good, lots of people go and come back. Try and fail then try something else. - Jacob Ramsay 2013
Jacob Ramsay is a photographer and school teacher now living in Wollongong NSW. He was adopted from Sri Lanka at 6 weeks old by two middle class Australians, small business owners living in Merimbula on the far south coast of NSW. More of his photographs can be seen at flickr.com/jacobramsay