| The Good Life

Gen X may be seen as a bunch of slack­ers, but this one claims to have es­caped the mould.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - GREG DIXON

Greg Dixon

Her­cules com­pleted 12 labours and the An­cient Greeks called him a hero. I call him a bloody am­a­teur. If there’s one thing you learn quickly about own­ing a bit of land, it’s that a proper bloke’s work amounts to more than do­ing a dozen labours in a leisurely 12 years like that show­boat Her­cules. In fact, a proper bloke’s work is never done.

Those who have had the grim de­ter­mi­na­tion to get through any of my pre­vi­ous col­umns will prob­a­bly re­call that since mov­ing to the coun­try, I’ve sin­gle-hand­edly lifted the na­tion’s slug­gish pro­duc­tiv­ity by mow­ing vast lawns, cut­ting up mighty fallen trees and solv­ing a par­tic­u­larly vex­ing lo­cal wa­ter cri­sis. I have been a whirl­wind of ac­tiv­ity – and an unceas­ing, dogged whirl­wind of ac­tiv­ity at that.

None of this sur­prises me. Al­most as long as I’ve known me, I’ve ­con­sid­ered my­self a rel­a­tively hard­work­ing and prac­ti­cal fel­low who can, if he puts his mind to it, solve most prob­lems and do most prac­ti­cal things.

My lot, Gen­er­a­tion X, may be viewed as a co­hort of de­pres­sive slack­ers who’ve never grown up, but this one learnt quite young how to do more than ad­ver­tise him­self on so­cial me­dia. I learnt how to change oil and spark plugs and set the tim­ing on a car (when you still could with­out a com­puter) and do such things as change fuses and wash­ers, mend a punc­ture and use a ham­mer and paint brush with­out a se­cond thought. As a gen­er­a­tion, we learnt how to do th­ese things from our par­ents – not the in­ter­net.

Un­like the next gen­er­a­tion. If you were to ask me how many mil­len­ni­als I thought it takes to change a light bulb, I would say 20: one to google how to do it and the other 19 to take self­ies with the re­sult.

So if I don’t quite see the late great Pine­tree Meads when I look in the mir­ror, I cer­tainly don’t see a quixotic mil­len­nial with a so­cial me­dia fetish ei­ther.

Of course, one of the most baf­fling bits about the busi­ness of be­ing alive is the yawn­ing gap be­tween who you think you are and what oth­ers think of you.

One friend, who knows me as well as any­one, ex­pressed enor­mous sur­prise when she learnt I was sand­ing and paint­ing var­i­ous bits of our Auck­land house be­fore we flogged it to some sucker ear­lier this year. She was even more baf­fled by the prospect of my mov­ing to the coun­try. I think she sus­pected it was fake news.

Mind you, my own dear mother, af­ter see­ing a photo of me en­gaged in the ob­vi­ously manly and prac­ti­cal pur­suit of cut­ting up that mighty fallen tree, com­mented, in the tone of the not-quite-con­vinced: “Yes, you look quite the part with your hard hat and chain­saw.”

The space be­tween what we know we can do and what other peo­ple think we’re ca­pa­ble of may as well be the dis­tance be­tween the Sun and Moon – but per­haps only be­tween us and those who think they know us.

For my lat­est Her­culean labour – hav­ing fin­ished mow­ing the vast lawns, spray­ing the vast drive­way and trim­ming the vast hedges

– I re­placed our rusty, leaky let­ter box, an an­tique nailed in­eptly to a fence post, with a mag­nif­i­cent Pine­tree Meads of a let­ter box. In less than a cou­ple of hours all up, I’d dug the hole, braced and aligned the post, con­creted the base, filled in the hole and fit­ted the let­ter box.

I thought noth­ing of it. In­fu­ri­at­ingly, Michele said, “You’re re­ally get­ting quite prac­ti­cal, aren’t you?” For­tu­nately, our ru­ral postie pulled me from my sulk.

The fol­low­ing day, hand-writ­ten on an en­ve­lope of seeds, was all a rel­a­tively hard­work­ing and prac­ti­cal bloke re­ally wants to hear: “I like where you have your mail­box. Thanx”.

I couldn’t help my­self: I in­sta­grammed the re­sult.

In­fu­ri­at­ingly, Michele said, “You’re re­ally get­ting quite prac­ti­cal, aren’t you?”

The let­ter box: be­fore, af­ter and re­viewed.

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