Country Style - - MY COUN­TRY CHILD­HOOD -

ONE OF MY ear­li­est mem­o­ries is my dad’s work­shop in Mudgee. He used to make guitars in an old shear­ing shed and I re­mem­ber his tools, the smell of the wood shav­ings, and gen­er­ally hav­ing an in­ter­est in what he was do­ing. He planted a small vine­yard on the prop­erty, too — a cou­ple of hectares of shi­raz and caber­net sau­vi­gnon grapes. Mak­ing and fix­ing things has al­ways given me a lot of plea­sure, and I guess I get that from Dad. I was a placid kid and I would sit and oc­cupy my­self for hours draw­ing, play­ing with stuff, fig­ur­ing out how things went to­gether and how they worked.

When I was about four, we moved to the NSW Mid-north Coast. It was a bush block, about 40 hectares. We grew lots of ve­g­ies, but we weren’t farm­ers. A lot of the peo­ple had moved there to be in na­ture, rather than to farm, and they were in­ter­ested in sus­tain­abil­ity, which was a pretty out-there con­cept in the early ’80s. Our house had so­lar power and rain­wa­ter tanks; lots of peo­ple had the same — mud-brick houses and wind gen­er­a­tors.

My mother used to read The Lo­rax to me all the time, and it had a pro­found ef­fect on me. I read it to my son now. He loves it, even though he’s a bit young to un­der­stand it. It’s amaz­ing to see how rel­e­vant the story is to­day, and to think about how pro­gres­sive it was to talk about that back then. That book in­stilled in me an aware­ness of look­ing be­yond the pic­turesque, to see what you’re re­ally look­ing at. It had a big in­flu­ence on my un­der­stand­ing of land­scape.

Me and my brother, Carlo, fought a lot, but we also got along well. Liv­ing out in the coun­try, you didn’t have your mates next door to play with, so you play with each other. We al­ways wanted to live in town so we could ride our bikes with ev­ery­one else. We had friends, but there were dis­tances in­volved. That’s why you had to learn to ride things and drive things.

To get to school we had to catch the bus at the end of our two-kilo­me­tre dirt road, so from the age of nine, I’d drive the car to the bus stop, with a booster seat. I also learnt how to fix the car. Same with my mo­tor­bike. If it stops and you’re half­way to the mid­dle of nowhere, you need to know what to do. I think it’s great to know prac­ti­cal stuff like that. City kids were very dif­fer­ent. They didn’t know how to change a clutch ca­ble or work a lawn­mower.

Even as young kids, we’d take mo­tor­bikes and go off camp­ing with our friends for days on end. You’d know there was some track over the moun­tain, and you’d spend a cou­ple of days get­ting there. It was great. We didn’t have to be pro­tected from any­thing be­cause we were out in the coun­try­side. There was never a sense of dan­ger. We had a very free and beau­ti­ful child­hood.

I feel priv­i­leged to have had those early years in the bush, get­ting to know the nat­u­ral world. I think it’s vi­tally im­por­tant, too, that we learnt things like the names of trees at school. If you don’t know what some­thing is, you don’t think about it or care about it.

I’ve lived in Syd­ney for years now. I love the city, but I also love the soli­tude of the coun­try. I en­joy a great mix of both. I go out into the bush for days at a time, take all my food, and don’t see any­one. You can re­ally fo­cus and slow down. Paint­ing out­doors, I’m in ab­so­lute bliss. I feel ut­terly at peace.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM LEFT Baby Guy with his brother, Carlo, and grand­fa­ther, Ron­nie, in 1975; Guy’s father, An­thony, driv­ing a trac­tor at their Mudgee vine­yard; 11-year-old Guy, driv­ing the fam­ily’s “pad­dock basher” to the school bus stop; en­joy­ing the view from a rock shelf.

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