The lure of the unknowable
HAVING had my fill of staycation (Departure Lounge, January 24-25), now I discover there is a new made-up nonsense known as a runcation. It is a vacation during which you run and run, which clearly is not of the restand-relaxation variety so, quite frankly, why bother.
I am far more pleased at the prospect of inventing places, which is what The New York Times has just done, creating an internet sensation by mistakenly running a piece about the small central Asian nation of Kryzbekistan instead of Kyrgyzstan. An apology was swiftly published. The Twitterati went wild: “Gutted! I have always wanted to go to Kryzbekistan!”
Jan Morris caused havoc with her 1985 novel Last Letters from Hav. So persuasively did she write of this intriguingly complicated but made-up place that travel agents were berated by angry customers who did not believe there were no direct flights, let alone five-star hotels.
Ever since reading Tintin tales, I’ve been intrigued by Borduria and would have loved to venture there and perhaps to its pesky neighbour Syldavia. I so wanted these Balkan countries to be real and to learn Bordurian, if only to swear at a certain pompous primary school teacher in (surely) the one language she couldn’t understand.
I’m intrigued, too, by comic strip character Dilbert’s muddy Elbonia; all of JRR Tolkien’s magical lands; creations such as Loompa Land and Lilliput and, of course, the parody places of Phaic Tan, Molvania and San Sombrero from the terribly funny trio of Rob Sitch, Tom Gleisner and Santo Cilauro.
The Shangri-la of James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon? Yes, it does exist, not only in properties of the fivestar hotel chain of that name but in the northwest of China’s mountainous Yunnan province. The city’s name is purely strategic, aimed at luring tourists; prior to 2002, it was known as Zhongdian in Chinese and Gyalthang in Tibetan, but maybe such expediency was a curse as much of the historic old town was burnt down a year ago.
Then there are names that transcend place to become synonymous with design and lifestyle. Provence is one; the Hamptons is another. We are rebuilding a beach cottage in the latter style on the NSW central coast. Our tradesmen know their Adirondack chairs from their Balinese daybeds and have entered into the spirit of things, even though we are rather a distance from Long Island.
Is there an architect in the hamlet of East Hampton, I wonder, who at this minute is designing a home for a client in the Killcare or Woy Woy style? My quest for a Hamptons kitchen has led me to a local supplier who’s so enthusiastic she assures me the company has just the thing. Here it is! The Ponderosa!
Serves me right. Blow me down, Little Joe Cartwright, now I am on the run.