Coun­try Squire

ROB IN­GRAM ON THE DAN­GERS OF BE­ING SWEPT UP IN THE RO­MANCE OF A RAM­SHACKLE COUN­TRY COT­TAGE.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - OC­TO­BER 2017

THE TRUE NA­TURE of the Aus­tralian coun­try bloke — and those elected to rep­re­sent him — is widely thamisun­der­stood.misun­der­stood.few­peo­ple,forin­stance,re­alisethat there are more romantics per head of pop­u­la­tion here, than any­where else on earth. For ev­ery Aus­tralian bloke whose am­bi­tion is to be locked in a Dan Mur­phy’s store overnight, or to land the rich­est tri­fecta ever recorded on a Mel­bourne Cup, there must be 50 whose dream is to own a coun­try cot­tage. On week­ends, like lem­mings, they plunge over the es­carp­ments of the Great Di­vid­ing Range and scam­per through farm­lands and ru­ral vil­lages in search of an aban­doned chook shed they can ren­o­vate into a ram­shackle coun­try cot­tage. And the al­lit­er­a­tion of ram­shackle and ro­man­tic is far from co­in­ci­den­tal. There was a time when I would ask The Cho­sen One why she thought a sur­vey might have found coun­try folk more pos­i­tive and op­ti­mistic than city res­i­dents, and she’d an­swer, “Limited education op­por­tu­ni­ties, I sup­pose.” But here I am ask­ing her why she thinks Aus­tralia might have more romantics per head of pop­u­la­tion than any­where else in the world, and she an­swers: “To plant a garden is to be­lieve in to­mor­row.” I tell her that I’ll plant a garden when the rain stops. “De­spite the fore­cast, live like it’s spring,” she says. Clearly, she too, has swung from cynic to ro­man­tic. It’s not that I don’t like na­ture. I like old-fash­ioned plea­sures like fresh air and sun­shine. I like the coun­try be­cause there’s room to crack a whip. I don’t have a whip… but I like hav­ing the room in which to crack one. But it ain’t all ro­mance and na­ture out here. There’s noth­ing like unim­proved ru­ral acres, frag­ile fences and the du­bi­ous ro­mance of res­i­den­tial ramshack­le­ness, to call on the la­tent me­chanic in a man. Not to men­tion the call-out fees of ru­ral tradies. Noth­ing ru­ins a good in­voice like the ser­vice call and mileage fees at the bot­tom. I used to have the me­chan­i­cal prow­ess of a Smurf, but out of eco­nomic ne­ces­sity, I can now get the ham­mer and re­pair ev­ery­thing from a ce­ramic fuse plug to a leak­ing tap washer. The ro­man­tic who snaps up a tum­ble­down pigsty for the price of a wa­ter­front apart­ment in town, imag­ines that there’s grace and in­tegrity in ex­er­cis­ing his cre­ative fac­ul­ties with tool box and work­bench. How­ever, in the back of his mind, he needs to re­mem­ber that ram­shackle is an early stage of derelict and that the grow­ing list of main­te­nance chores will even­tu­ally out­pace him. He needs to know that the last ro­man­tic to re­side at his ad­dress has gone into liq­ui­da­tion, as­sisted hous­ing and delu­sional de­gen­er­a­tion — in that or­der — in an at­tempt to bal­ance his cre­ative fac­ul­ties with his phys­i­cal and men­tal re­sources. Mean­while, it’s back to the top pad­dock for me. Yes, it’s true that the grass is greener on the other side. But nearly al­ways it’s be­cause the sep­tic tank is over­flflow­ing. This time, I too will use cre­ative fac­ul­ties in­stead of the ham­mer… and tell vis­i­tors the bog is a re­cent land­scap­ing fea­ture to re­mind us of the beau­ti­ful marsh­lands of France’s Ca­mar­gue. Maybe I’ve dis­cov­ered ro­mance, too.

“AUS­TRALIA MIGHT HAVE MORE ROMANTICS PER HEAD OF POP­U­LA­TION WORLD.” THAN ANY­WHERE ELSE IN THE

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