I’ve just read an amusing column penned by my favourite medical writer, Dr Justin Coleman, in which he mused about life as seen while luxuriating on a beach at Byron Bay.
(I know we’re not supposed to play favourites, but let’s be honest, we all do, whether they be friends, colleagues or patients. But you have to maintain plausible deniability when it comes to your offspring.)
Justin’s column got me a-thinking about using places as status symbols / envy-elicitors.
I’ve spent most of my life living in places where other people holiday. I was born and bred on the Gold Coast, moved to Noosa as a GP registrar and have lived in the Byron Bay region for the past 22 months. If ever challenged, I would hastily defend my choice as being all about lifestyle and not a jot about status, but would also have to admit that I do like to geo-brag now and then, and achieve this by using gloat-worthy geographical descriptions.
Take my home in “Noosa” for example. Technically, I did live in the Noosa Shire for ten years (although the shire has been since been amalgamated) but the little country town in which I resided for much of that time, Pomona, was forty five minutes and a world away from the luxury and prestige of Noosa Heads. While its location could be accurately described as a small inland town 37km north of Nambour (Clive Palmer’s new heartland) and 37km south of Gympie (where Clive Palmer is thought to be far too left-wing), describing it instead as “an idyllic town in the Noosa Hinterland” conjures up a more enviable picture.
Likewise, my current home: Ballina. “Just south of Byron Bay” (31km) sounds more enticing than “east of Lismore”.
Mind you, as soon as I mention that I live only a couple of hundred metres from a picturesque beach, and not much further from the magnificent Shaw’s Bay and the mouth of the gorgeous Richmond River, I don’t have to do much selling!
Justin also made an interesting point about the girth of the typical Byron beach goer, or rather conspicuous lack thereof. The North Coast of NSW (as defined by Medicare Local boundaries) came in the top 10 “slimmest” regions in recently released figures, and the area around Bryon Bay (which includes hinterland towns such as Mullumbimby, Nimbin and Bangalow) would have no doubt helped to decrease the North Coast’s collective average BMI considerably. Mind you, it also helped to decrease the region’s childhood immunisation rates. We came in the top 10 for the slimmest (aka lowest) childhood immunisation rates (by Medicare Local region) too.
Interestingly, several of the Medicare Local catchments in the bottom 10 for childhood immunisation rates, were also in the bottom 10 for obesity rates, including Eastern Sydney and the Sunshine Coast. Probably not a chicken and egg conundrum, more a likelihood that conscientious objectors to immunisation have similar conscientious objections to eating egg McMuffins for breakfast and KFC for lunch.
Time for me to go for a stroll on my near-Byron beach before I prepare my chicken-and-egg-free Byron-style dinner.
To finish, I will just point out that I’m not the only one to use Byron’s name in vain. Even Ballina airport calls itself Ballina-Byron, proclaiming itself as “the gateway to beautiful Byron Bay”. But be warned, there is a long, albeit scenic, driveway. The taxi fare from the “gateway” to your hotel in Byron may cost you more than your airfare from Sydney!