Paul and Gail Falloon

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WHEN they decided to have a change from Jersey and to give themselves a challenge, Paul and Gail Falloon had no idea it was going to lead to 12-hour days, seven days a week, for nearly three years.

The couple sold their house in Jersey, packed their belongings and set off for a new life in Australia in June 2002.

But all they did for the next three years was work and their advice to anyone thinking of emigrating by taking on a business is to ‘think seriously about it because it’s not going to be easy’.

Both had good jobs in the Island – Paul with JJ Fox, in a business he had worked for ten years, and Gail in administration at Jersey Water, where she had worked for 12 years.

They met in Jersey in 1978, Paul having been born in northern Ireland and brought up in Scotland, and Gail, from Yorkshire, and were married in 1992. And they worked together for some years in the hospitality industry, running pubs such as the Earl Granville, the Bond and St Aubin’s Wine Bar, which is why they settled on the running on a coffee shop when they moved to Australia.

‘We didn’t leave Jersey because we didn’t like it,’ said Gail. ‘I think we felt we needed a change and we thought Australia was the place to go – the weather was a deciding factor.’

They had to make a decision while under the age of 45 to obtain the business visa they wanted. ‘You run a business and in two years you have to get to a certain turnover and employ a certain number of staff for so many hours to qualify for residency,’ explained Gail.

Staying with Gail’s brother to being with, they considered hundreds of businesses.

They finally decided on the Benesse Coffee Shop in Bunbury, which they built up to a hugely successful business. But it meant long days, at the same time as they were building the four-bedroom house they now own nearby.

‘In the first year, we had four days off. In the last 12 months, we didn’t have one day off,’ said Gail. They ran it for a total of three years in the end, Gail doing all the cooking and Paul serving in the shop. ‘I could do 130 meals in a day,’ she recalled. ‘It was work, work, work. We didn’t really have a life. We were like robots.’

Both were keen runners and Paul, also a keen triathlete, when they left Jersey, and their one break from the shop during those years was an hour with the local running club on Thursday evenings. But they still went back to work afterwards.

‘We have made a lot of friends, through the business, and in the club – and it was fun when we were not too tired to enjoy it,’ said Paul. ‘And Bunbury is very similar to Jersey with a population of around 80,000.’

But while there are many familiar faces now when they walk down the street – which is also still the case in Jersey, as they found on a short return visit– they remember how difficult it was to begin with.

‘It was difficult,’ said Paul. ‘Even though we had Gail’s brother and his wife, we still felt quite lonely because we’d left all our friends back here.’

It took nine months for the business to be sold, after which the couple thought about returning to Jersey. ‘Then I said that we should give it another year when we have a proper lifestyle,’ said Gail. ‘And our attitude has changed.’

Both have new jobs, which they are enjoying, Paul selling wines for the Margaret River Company, which means travelling 200 to 300km a day, and Gail, coincidentally, with the local government water company.

They have taken up the training again Paul making up for lost time by completing three marathons in a year (all in around 3hr 16 min), followed by a half iron man event– a 2km swim, 90km cycle ride, and 21km run.

They also appreciate the scenery in an area which attracts thousands of tourists each year. ‘The Margaret River is very scenic and there are coastal runs with stunning views,’ said Paul. ‘The beaches are tremendous, miles and miles – they are lovely – and we live five minutes from the beach.’

Looking back, he is philosophical about their decision to move. ‘If we’d realised what we were going to be doing for three years, we would not have done it,’ he said ‘But then I would hate to have stayed and got to 50 and regretted not having given it a try.’

They have another big dilemma now. They will lose their Jersey residential qualifications if they do not return this year, 2008, Housing having granted them a year’s extension to the five-year break normally allowed.

They must decide whether their future residency will be in Australia – where they now have a good lifestyle, are making friends, seeing new places and have guaranteed good weather for at least nine months of the year – or in Jersey, which they know and love, and where their old friends are, but where house prices are much higher and weather not quite so appealing.

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