In Australia, The Red Shed

| 2/18/2013 6:21:06 PM

general store AustraliaOne never knows quite what to expect when visiting the “Red Shed,” in Kangaroo Valley. One could be met with anything from a therapy session, a philosophical discussion, a weather report, a tutorial on the Australian jazz scene, news about the death of a much loved local, ruminations about the latest book club choice, a heated theological debate, a birth announcement, trivia night dissections and scandals, oh, and of course, one could get advise on chook feeds, fencing, plumbing and so much more!

The Red Shed is the local rural supply store in Kangaroo Valley Australia. Kangaroo Valley has a population of about 800 and is 2 hours south of Sydney.  The Red Shed is run and owned by John Bacon and his partner Helen Gelberman. Their two teenage sons can also be found lugging bags of chaff and chook food, or answering the phone with their trademark exceptional phone manner, doing their bit for the family business.

When John met Helen in inner city Sydney 20 years ago, this quirky, unlikely pair took some time to amalgamate. Helen’s orthodox Jewish family accepted John and overlooked the fact that he was a) not Jewish and b) had the most heinously indigestible name of “Bacon.”

John’s background in teaching agriculture, and Helen’s degree in social work are the perfect combination for this small town business. The pair are creative and unconventional, and have an interesting mix of John’s self effacing, dark, witty British humour, and Helen’s special brand of Sydney western suburbs Jewish humour. Needless to say, when you walk into the Red Shed, you could well be either on the set of Black Adder or Seinfeld, depending on who is working that day.

One day I walked into the Red Shed to find John all dressed in a coat and tie (not his usual work wear). “Where are you off to today?” I enquired.

“Off to a funeral. Do you know Brenda Smyth-King? She died you know!” Stated John In a ‘John Cleesean’ way that, despite the sadness of the situation, made me laugh. Unfortunately, John had not noticed the mousy older lady who was browsing behind the isle containing the cattle horse and dog worming products. Clearly this woman did know the woman of whom John spoke, because a cry went out from behind the shelf as she heard the news of the funeral. We had to sit her down and comfort her!

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