• Lush Places

The Good Life: Profiles in courage

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

A big wuss makes an embarrassing confession. By Greg Dixon.

Hello. My name is Greg, and I am scared of chainsaws. Not all chainsaws, only my chainsaws. I have three: a big one, a little one and one on the end of a pole.

This may seem ridiculous, to be a fraidy-cat about chainsaws, but still own three of them. It’s like being a vegan who owns a meat works, or a teetotaller with a wine collection.

But when you move from the town to the country, you quickly discover there are certain things required of you as a born-again rural bloke.

Some are sartorial. It’s pretty much compulsory that every man, and I learned this from Miles the sheep farmer, must own at least one boiler suit. Unlike, say, an overpriced, off-the-rack number from Auckland’s Crane Brothers (I have one of those too), the $50 boiler suit is the suit for all occasions, from mowing the lawns, to trying (and failing) to drench Xanthe, to driving to Seeds & Cereals for more chook food. Also, and unlike my Crane Brothers suit, it’s much more forgiving if you gain a little, extra weight around the middle during the winter months.

Another now-you’ve-moved-to-the-country requirement is that you must shoot things. I don’t like shooting things. But not long after moving to Lush Places, I bought an air rifle to keep the rabbits down, and I have — thanks to much-more-manly Andrew from up the road sighting the gun — managed to keep the rabbits from taking over the place, even if I’m sad every time I get one. Wild rabbits really are quite beautiful creatures.

However the most important requirement, the one that really announces you as a proper country bloke, is the owning of at least one chainsaw. Actually, not owning, using.

I have been very good at the first. It’s the second bit I’m hopeless at. Not using them has been my guilty secret. For months at a time, they’ve sat untouched on a shelf in the garage, mocking my masculinity. And it’s not like there’s not plenty of work for them to do; our decrepit, gothic pear orchard (as you can see above, it is Wairarapa’s Sleepy Hollow) has been in need of a huge tidy-up since we moved to Lush Places.

Finally, I have gathered my resolve. This week, nervous as that vegan in the meat works, I began putting the big chainsaw to work in the orchard. It’s been hard yakka. But each time I got out there, fired it up and got working, I felt a little closer to the courageous fellow every country fellow needs to be.


And not just country fellows. Big city media types — of which Michele and I are minor, recovering examples — are needing to find their courage too, as their industry slides closer to oblivion in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

The recent management buyout of Stuff by its CEO Sinead Boucher is brave and encouraging. But more lionhearted still is the launch of the new magazine Here by journalist and editor Simon Farrell-Green.

Simon, who I worked with many years ago at Metro magazine, was the editor of the Bauer-owned architecture and design magazine Home, until Bauer shut down it, and the rest of its New Zealand titles, at the beginning of April, including the beloved Listener.

Those who have been following that sorry saga will know that Bauer has finally sold its Australian and New Zealand magazine titles to an Australian investment company, which is reportedly on-selling the New Zealand titles. As we have done for three, long months, we await further developments.

But not Simon. After the vile Huns shot his magazine out from under him, he decided to launch a new New Zealand design and architecture magazine himself.

With a little help from his friends, former colleagues (I have made a small contribution), architectural practices from around the country, and advertisers, he published Here’s first issue last week.

Call it moxie, chutzpah or guts, Simon’s exciting, new venture reminds me that, even in these troubled times — most especially in these troubled times — an old saw holds truer than ever: the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.

Oh, and my chainsaws.