She’ll Be Right, Mate

New Zealanders like to characterise themselves as boasting both kiwi ingenuity and a healthy dose of the ‘she’ll be right, mate’ attitude. It seems the further south you get, the larger the ratio of DIY store floor area to town population and the stronger the ‘number eight wire’ mentality. Not only do I now know first hand what number eight wire actually is, I have also had ample opportunity to observe this mindset in action.

One summer Sunday is a case in point. Like every self respecting vehicle owner, we carry an angle grinder in the back seat, ‘just in case’. (The fact that it is still lurking in the footwell beneath layers of towels, newspapers, warm jumpers and overdue library books does seem to suggest we forgot it was there, but for the purposes of this story, it is totally intentional). On this particular Sunday, an old gallon drum and a desire for charred sausages conspired to make the tool’s presence a saviour, and the boys discovered that with the help of an angle grinder and a little imagination, a half gallon drum a couple of steel deckchairs can easily become a roaring barbecue. Job done!

Other solutions have been slightly less high tech, like using a vehicle tie down strop to reach the highest branches and shake down plums. Sure, ignoring the fact that climbing a ladder, crossing a shed roof and scaling a very juvenile branch in order to reach the launching point of said tie down might be considered slightly dangerous, but in this instance the mythical ‘she’ was fine and we had a solution to the problem of our vertically challenged stature.

Solving problems by scaling tall things or placing power tools in the hands of those who are not trained professionals is something we take for granted in New Zealand. Not so in other places, where the threat of lawsuits and the spectre of insurance fine print are always present. Our foreign friends are constantly marvelling at the risks people here are willing to take, while we are busy admiring the solutions that emerge from doing things outside the square – The RDR system is a prime local example. Left to our own devices, we know we’ll find a way, and fencing wire simply speeds up the process.

Going bare foot in the summer is something else that is taken for granted, and epitomises our attitude to risk. Put simply, if you do happen to step on a rogue piece of glass, it’s unlikely to cause any damage that an ACC form, a few stitches and a good dose of concrete pills can’t cure. At the end of the day, ‘she’ll be right, mate’.

Originally published in The Ashburton Guardian