Famous Ex-Fence


My ex-fence is famous. Wooden, 6 feet high, and covered in slightly peeling burgundy paint, at first glance it doesn’t look like much. Add a bag of old fabric, creative talent, and the challenge of producing a fantasy figure out of straw, however, and you’re looking at a different story. Resplendent in pink and green, Puff the Magic Dragon was voted number one in this year’s Methven Scarecrow competition, and with that accolade, the fence came into its own.

Erecting a scarecrow in NZ may seem rather redundant, as the large black birds have never graced our power lines. The nearest colony of crows resides ‘across the ditch,’ with magpies the closest we’ve ever come to encountering the jet-black silhouettes of Hitchcock fame. My first experience with an actual crow happened in Australia. While others were ogling the opossums and watching the wombats, I was intrigued by the croaky voices of the pitch-black pariahs. There was something about the sharp conical beaks, the beady eyes, and the sleek feathered pose that suggested the birds were ready to take flight and descend on an unsuspecting, scarecrow-less vegetable patch at any moment.

Of course, the lack of crows in New Zealand may not simply come down to our geographical isolation at the ends of the earth. We can’t rule out the possibility that the annual scarecrow competition in small-town mid Canterbury is doing such a good job that it is single-handedly keeping the non-native species at bay…

After all, the creativity displayed in some of the most recent scarecrow entries was formidable. No run of the mill rake-and-checked-shirt figures here – instead, the hay that stuffed the vast array of creatures had them fairly bursting into life. From the deliriously happy Spongebob replica, to the more sinister looking Gru of ‘Despicable Me’ fame, each creation was a real one off, and each carried a story. Those stories have ripples that travel far and wide – in past years, the scarecrow event has been enough of a drawcard to lure friends of ours down from Auckland to view the spectacle, so the fundraiser has influence, alright.

Coming back to the fence, the painted wood will never look quite the same again after its brush with the scarecrow paparazzi. Fairy wings, an old dog blanket, and some Hackney magic have assisted in a boundary-marker transformation. Briefly home to an award-winning scarecrow, the fence will live on in photographs, showcasing its background glory. And to think, I used to live behind that fence. It’s a tenuous association, but I’ll take it anyway.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

Ode To Gumboots

It’s a sad day when your favourite gumboots finally give up the ghost. There’s something about a really excellent pair of gummies that transcends material and style – after enough wearing, they come to seem like old friends. I’ve got a pair that have adventured halfway across the world, keeping my toes cosy and heels snug. They’ve trudged through ice and mud, forded rivers, run along beaches, been slept on by the dog, and stepped in more types of animal excrement than I even care to count. Lately, though, they’ve started to bite. Small nips at first, but now the gnawing on the Achilles in incessant. It’s skin against rubber, and I know this can only end badly. Still, I’m not quite ready to let them go. Thick woollen socks deployed as a last defence, I’m planning for their last hurrah.

Before we reach their last, let’s go back their first adventures. Despite multiple scrubbings, both boots still retain traces of penguin poo odour, that constant reminder of their past life protecting the feet of Antarctic tour guides. They started their service life in the far south, before being eased back into a temperate climate via the ski carpark of Mt Hutt. Soon they were being worn everywhere, and even dabbled in the realm of fashion. Whether teamed with floral dresses for that arresting “farm chic” look at inner city farmers markets, or worn as protection against errant snakes at an Australian A&P show, they were in their element.

In fact, they were so in demand that at one point they were subject to an actual shoenapping. Two, actually, because they were stolen and stolen back again…  In a story reminiscent of the dognapping that used to happen between my mum and my grandmother’s houses and the timeshare dog, the boots have made their way to Auckland and back again, smuggled in checked luggage and worn as trophies at the other end.

They’ve visited pubs (both blue and brown), hiked up glaciers, landed in the Southern Alps, and trudged to and from Supervalue at all times of day. Although they’ve been relegated to washing line duty of late (warm, dry feet whilst hanging the laundry are totally underrated), there is still one more adventure in my valiant gummies yet .The bite of the boots had me briefly considering sending them for a surfing lesson in Shark Alley, but I value my own limbs too much for that proposition. Upon what new grounds will their treadless soles tread? That remains to be seen. This gumboottour operator is open to suggestions – and on the market for some heavy duty strapping tape to boot. No matter the final destination, these favourite gumboots are going out in style.

Originally published in The Ashburton Guardian