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