• Lush Places

The Good Life: Whistle while they work

The joys of watching Miles the sheep farmer dig a hole. By Greg Dixon

I miss watching Dad work. Growing up, I could spend all weekend doing it. It wasn’t hard; Dad seemed to work all weekend.

The Dixon Doctrine was that Saturdays and Sundays weren’t for anything as louche as a lie in, they were for chores. I mean, really, how could you be inside watching telly when there were lawns to be mowed, cars to be washed, paint to be splashed about, and wallpaper to be hung? Madness!

If those jobs had been done, he would work on his beloved vintage car, a wreck of a thing which he was slowing turning into a work of art. Watching him muck about with the Worsley Hornet was more exciting than watching him paint, though it sometimes required him to lie underneath the Hornet, meaning I could watch only his legs working.

When I was old enough to tell the difference between a screwdriver and a spanner, the vintage car also presented me with a chance to help.

“Would you get me the wrench,” his legs would call out.

“Big or small?”


Like a terrier after a ball, I would dash for his neatly organised wall of tools, find him his big wrench and bring it back to him. Helping out adults, I learned, was enormously satisfying, especially if it mainly involved just watching.

Dad lives in Tauranga these days, so watching him work on weekends is now, sadly, out of the question. Besides, I believe he’s moderated his views somewhat on the necessity of working from first light on Saturday until after dark on Sunday. Apparently outings, to the local Coffee Club say, are now permitted.

Anyway, I couldn’t help smiling fondly to myself about those halcyon days of watching Dad work as I watched Miles the sheep farmer work.

A week or so back, he’d come over to fix one of our fences. A strainer post needed replacing, which meant digging out the broken remains of the old one. By the time I’d spotted him at work, he’d dug nearly a metre down around its base, but still couldn’t get the blasted thing out.

We stood, the two of us, glaring at it like we wanted it dead. Eventually, I asked whether it might help if I got my huge digging bar from the shed. He agreed that it would. I ran like a terrier etc.

“You must be very proud of that,” he said, when I returned with it. I suspected he was taking the piss, and said so. He may have smiled; artist's impression above.

In my hands, the bar did little more than loosen the soil just a bit so that the old post moved just a bit. Fortunately, Miles had a better idea. I watched him use fencing wire, a chain fence strainer and a nearby tree, to lever the thing out. Then I watched him use his chainsaw to cut a foot for the new post, attach it with number 8 wire and staples, and get the whole thing in the ground.

When it came time to get the soil back into the hole, I saw my moment to shine. I grabbed the spade and, with the expertise of someone who types for a living, pushed the soil back in, thinking all the while that helping out adults was just as satisfying now as it had been when I was a kid. Especially, when it mostly involves just watching.


It seems like our beloved Listener disappeared as long ago as the late Crustaceous period, or perhaps even earlier, say around the time Winston Peters entered parliament. And since then, we could all have been forgiven for falling into despair, and believing it lost entirely.

Well, its readers finally have something to celebrate, perhaps with a nice cup of tea and a gingernut. A week ago, the new owners of Bauer Media in New Zealand and Australia, Mercury Capital, announced in an email to subscribers that the Listener will be returning in early September.

While it’s too early to say whether The Good Life will be back, it isn’t too early to say this: hooray!

(Image copyright: Murray Ball)