• Lush Places

The Good Life: Hip to be square

Could Lush Places finally be fashionable? By Greg Dixon.

I was never a punk. I have never been a yuppie, or a metrosexual or a hipster. I was never trendy.

For a while, I thought I should be a socialist. With the help of a Che Guevara poster and a Mao badge, I gave it a try. It didn’t take.

Mind you the Mao badge did fool the fellow behind the counter at Revival Records, a new and second-hand vinyl store which, many years ago, did business on Auckland’s Victoria St West.

He was so convinced by my badge, he became a very shouty fellow indeed. So shouty, I fled the shop. In retrospect, when you are a wet, middle-class twit pretending to be a rugged, young socialist, wearing a Mao badge is poor form, most especially when it is just a month after a massacre in Tiananmen Square.

The species of poser I would like to be now is a bon vivant. I am sure this would appall that pretend socialist with his Mao badge. Fortunately for him (unfortunately for me), a lack of style and funds prevents me from even pretending to be such a thing.

No matter. Michele and I have, inadvertently, become something that’s much more trendy. We are, or so it seems, participants in, and perhaps even purveyors of a fad with the unlovely name “Cottagecore”.

According to an article on Radio New Zealand’s website last week, Cottagecore is “an aspirational form of nostalgia that celebrates living a slow life in which nothing much happens”, which makes it sound like pining for life in a retirement home.

The article went on to suggest one could “[fall] into the Cottagecore pool” by simply moving to the country, specifically to a lifestyle block, and advertising this fact on social media with images of one’s “designer” chickens and homemade sourdough. Guilty as charged, I suppose.

Ordinarily, I’d have thought no more about such clickbait. The author, who happens also to have moved from town to country, was just serving up the usual sort of gee-whiz bunkum about social trends many journalists — myself included — bang out for a pay cheque.

It was nonsense, alright. But I couldn’t escape the exciting thought that maybe Michele and I and the four hens of the apocalypse were finally trendy, and without even knowing it. It seemed too good to be true.


It was. A more nuanced consideration of this alleged phenomenon, written for the New York Times, describes a social media “movement” for millennials, one that has likely never heard of something called a lifestyle block. Instead, it pretends to a frilly, girly, idealised country life of meadow flowers and lambkins and freshly baked pies, while ignoring the mud and the shit and the hard work. Cottagecore is about style, not reality, and it sounds like piffle to me.

And so, too, is the proposition that there is anything novel about yearning for another life, a better life, a simpler life. That is the human condition.

In New Zealand’s story, it is the reason so many left Europe for the other side of the world in 19th century. And that restless desire to find another, more authentic way of living is with us still.

The late, wonderful writer and journalist Gordon McLauchlan thought that in most New Zealanders there are two people. One, he wrote, is a person exhilarated by company in the streets and the pubs of the towns, and is comforted by the anonymity of crowds and “by the wombs of small, curtained rooms”.

The other is “healed by quiet and the greens and russets that mottle the hills and gullies of the countryside; and feels balmed by the moist smells of trees in spring and the musk of leaf humus and animal droppings; and feels freed by the sense of space with the skyline rolling away and none of the tidied right-angles or studied curves left by the slider-rules that draw our urban geography”.

Michele and I once lived the first person’s life. Now, we happily live the second. And that has nothing to do with pretending. Or with a silly fad.