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