The Good Life

There’s a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude to spend­ing when you move to the coun­try, but it doesn’t mean no more buy­ing.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - Michele He­wit­son

Some­times when I was an Auck­land per­son, with a job in the city, I would wan­der around at ­lunchtime and look at the shops for some­thing to buy. I usu­ally ended up buy­ing a small cake.

When I was a young per­son, I got a job at what was then called the Post Of­fice, in the Re­gional ­En­gi­neer’s ­Depart­ment, which was ­some­thing to do with ­tele­phone wires – I never quite fig­ured it out – and as part of the deal, they gave you a cheque­book. I used to tot­ter down to Smith & Caughey’s at lunchtime, in my stilet­tos, to the make-up coun­ters to buy red lip­stick and black eye­liner and to the hosiery depart­ment to buy fish­net stock­ings, which I’d take home and rip holes in so that I could take my cheque­book out on Satur­day nights and pre­tend to be a rich punk rocker.

I was even­tu­ally hauled be­fore the of­fice man­ager to have a strip torn off me and my al­ready stripped stock­ings for all of those cheques. In­suf­fi­cient funds ex­isted, ap­par­ently. He said: “We are not a bank.” I said: “Why did you give me a cheque­book then?”

I have never been very good at get­ting on with man­agers, balanc­ing cheque­books (if they still ex­ist) or shop­ping.

I was born to live in the coun­try.

I have given up on lip­stick; the midges get stuck in it and that is not an en­tic­ing look – even if I was still pre­tend­ing to be a punk rocker.

I have given up on high heels. I have Red

Bands for home and my new, beau­ti­ful R.M. ­Wil­liams boots for town. These boots are the most ­com­fort­able shoes I’ve ever owned and they are also the most ex­pen­sive shoes I’ve ever owned.

I have holes in my He­len Cherry mo­hair jumper. Greg said: “Why don’t you buy a new jumper? You’re go­ing feral.” I could sew the holes up, I said, show­ing them to Carolyn, who milks the sheep. “Why?” she said. “You live in the coun­try now.”

She has a point. I do have an­other jumper, for town. The only sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween my two jumpers is that one does not have holes. Two jumpers seem an ad­e­quate num­ber to me. You don’t want to go ­splash­ing it about in the coun­try – you’d look like an Auck­lan­der. Also, it is quite ­ex­pen­sive liv­ing in the coun­try be­cause of all the things you re­ally do have to buy.

Some of the things we have spent money on since mov­ing to the coun­try in­clude: waratahs (these are fenc­ing things, I think); a dark blue boiler suit for Greg to mow the lawns in (these are de rigueur for the coun­try; ev­ery­one wears them, so if you didn’t know bet­ter, you might think the ­coun­try was one big ­com­mu­nist state where the dress code is ­pre­scribed); and ki­los of apples for feed­ing the rams.

I have also bought a shiny red bi­cy­cle, with a bas­ket on the front so I can ride into town and pre­tend that I’m the old­est hip­ster in ­Master­ton. The Artist said: “How is your bi­cy­cle rid­ing go­ing?” I have man­aged to ride to the let­ter box and back. The Gar­dener, who is a true gent, said, ­valiantly on my be­half: “It’s for emer­gen­cies.”

I had not rid­den a bi­cy­cle since I was 10. I feel 10 again while wob­bling my way to the let­ter box.

For my birth­day, I am hop­ing to get a swing, to hang from the big old oak on the drive­way, and a chest freezer, to stick in the garage. I need a chest freezer be­cause peo­ple in the coun­try are very kind and are al­ways giv­ing us bits of dead an­i­mals. I need a swing be­cause in the coun­try you can ­pre­tend to be 10 again and no­body can see you do­ing it.

On ya bike: the old­est hip­ster in Master­ton.

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