The Good Life
In which our columnist dreams of following in another countryside chronicler’s steps.
One of the nice things about moving to the country is that you get any number of send-offs at which people say goodbye and tell you how much they will miss you. (And then they come and visit and so miss out on the chance to miss us.) It is a bit like being at your own wake but better in that, obviously, you get to go home after all the old stories.
Of course, given that most of my old friends are hacks, those stories inevitably involved too much drink and just the right amount of black humour and lashings of rude observations about former colleagues of dubious talent.
A conversation at farewell drinks at the pub with my now-retired editor, The Headmaster, about moving to the country, went like this.
The Headmaster: “What are you going to do in the country?”
Me: “Write a column about what I do in the country.”
The Headmaster, whose retirement hobby appears to be honing his already sardonic sense of humour – when he really ought to be playing bowls and collecting those beige cardigans with the faux leather buttons – thought this most amusing. I could, he suggested, hardly maliciously at all, become Masterton’s equivalent of Evelyn Waugh’s hapless nature columnist, William Boot in Scoop, the best and most savage novel ever written about hacks.
The name of Boot’s paper is, memorably, the Daily Beast. Neither of us could at that moment remember the name of Boot’s column. This was quite appropriate given that we were at the pub and given that the name of the column – I looked it up the minute I got home – is Lush Places.
When I mentioned this to a recent visitor from the big smoke, it was suggested that I could change my byline on this column to William Gumboot. Oh, ha-ha. This is what comes of letting hacks into your country house.
Actually, I have long fancied being a nature columnist, although I fear I am lacking a crucial talent (in addition to not knowing anything about nature beyond buying hundreds of plants online). Waugh’s Boot was reputed to possess “a particularly high-class style”, exemplified by this: “Feather-footed through the plushy fen passes the questing vole …”. You have to admit that is about as high-styled as it could possibly get. I don’t think my observations on the pongy state
of rams’ bums in winter quite cut it.
We have decided to aim for some high style in another arena. I may have mentioned that many of the posh piles around here have nobby names on even nobbier signs. We can’t do anything about the non-poshness of our pile, but we can have a sign. We have commissioned The Artist to make us one. The name of our pile will, of course, be Lush Places.
It’s perfect. We do live in a place so lush we still can’t believe it belongs to us. (And it will remind us, fondly, of all our Auckland friends, none of whom are lushes, currently.)
We drive into town, along our driveway where the golden elms are now in leaf, and call out to the lambs who skitter off, their silly tails aloft. We turn right and the Tararuas are before us and, often, a, ahem, questing hawk above us. One of us will say: “I can’t believe we live here!” It may not last.
As I predicted last time, Masterton is now officially the Most Beautiful City in the country. I consider myself to be, if not yet officially, the Prophet of Masterton. I am awaiting a call from the Mayor offering me the keys to the most beautiful city. When I mentioned this to Greg, he made a snorting noise not unlike a coughing sheep and reminded me that I had suggested the slogan: Masterton: More Beautiful Than a Ram’s Bum. I was, he said, more likely to be given the Order of the Boot.
We can’t do anything about the non-poshness of our pile, but we can have a sign.
Home sweet home: a lush place.