Not long after I moved to Queenstown I reinvented my corporate self into a sunflower grower. I didn’t want to work for an adventure tourism business; the pay just didn’t rate after my marketing manager salary + bonus and company car. I diversified. I tried something I would never have done while living in the big smoke. I became a flower grower. At the time sunflowers had morphed into a cuddly kitten equivalent. They were everywhere: on cards, knickers, T-shirts, posters. What the world needed was freshly picked sunflowers to adorn their kitchens; to give to their loved ones on Valentine’s Day. And I was going to be the quality purveyor.
I found some other ‘growers’. They were cagey to say the least. But a researcher near Massey gave me a few tips. I sourced my seed and ploughed the land. Put in a rabbit proof fence in a small arid patch in the Gibbston valley and off I sowed.
Talk about beginners luck. 12 weeks later (after tapping into a dam over the boundary for irrigation purposes) I was selling my blooms to Turners and Growers for $5.00 a head. I made mistakes and I learnt quickly. I inadvertently became a florist because the trendy cafes who bought my blooms struggled to arrange their heavy heads. As the craze caught on, I kept abreast of new hybrids thanks to my US based sister.
I also became news. My lovely friend Meaghan was a reporter at the Southland Times. I made the front cover one season. ‘World famous in Southland,’ I joked. But I enjoyed it all the while. I worked hard. My back often ached and my fingernails were always black. I thanked my lucky seedlings I hadn’t been born the daughter of a market gardener. Don’t use your back like a crane I reminded myself each time I hoisted heavy rubbish bin sized buckets of heady yellow blooms into my Landrover. My biceps bulged.
Queenstown had a population of 8,000, twenty years ago when I arrived as a virtual newlywed. I ran my deliveries round town in my jean shorts, black singlet and work boots. Dust and sweat no doubt on my tanned shoulders.
Soon after my husband and I dabbled in real estate in the seaside town of Riverton. Dubbed the Riviera of the South by hardy Invercargillites, who didn’t know better. We bought a crib with a mate and put in on our credit card. Then lashed out for an old hotel for not much more than a Jap import. I’m mentioning this, not because I can offer you any advice as a property developer, but because we hit the news again.
Crikey I even turned up in close-up black and white when I won the best dressed woman at the Riverton Easter Races. After a blue gin with the club secretary post win, I excused myself to return to my friends (who we could now accommodate in our pub turned guesthouse), via the ladies. I soon found myself cowering in a cubicle barely breathing. Two fellow contestants were talking about me.
‘Did you see that woman who won?
‘Gorrr, thet’s not fasch-shun.’
Admittedly I had hung my number over a cigarette burn on my Streetlife swing coat, as I jigged like a bored pre-race filly with the other contestants. And hoped like hell the judges wouldn’t notice the twist ties I hurriedly put around my plaits in our sunny estuary facing kitchen earlier. Despite having indicated that I like having my name in print I did not want to be standing around being judged by a man in a beige mac. I wanted to be back with my friends in the grandstand making $2 bets on horses called, Lady Jayne and Prince Scott A lot. With winning came protocol, cash and seed pearl jewellery. I suspect I was the first best dressed lady to canter around the birdcage on an imaginary horse while waving at my support crew.
However winning comes with a certain emptiness, when you haven’t worked for it. I had bought a nice hat for the races. But those ladies who’d laboured over their matching caramel toned suits and bonnets with chiffon bows deserved to win, not me.
I started thinking about this winning stage in my life, reading the Sunday paper yesterday. I wondered if I’ve got time left to do SOMETHING. Something that gets noticed?
Ten months and 40 blog posts in, is possibly a bit premature to expect a mention as a blogger-of-note. Although I’m heartened every time I see a bio beneath a mag story that mentions the writer is a blogger.
I’m not talking about getting my photo in the paper again (Meaghan has long since moved on). And I’ve too much crag and sag for that.
But I would like to write something good before dementia sets in. Not only for myself; I’d liked to achieve something in writery form that gives my children the incentive to aim high. Especially if they choose a creative life. I want them to pick away at their dreams, hold them close and realize that making-it-without-faking-it is far more satisfying.
Anyway I best shut up and get on with it. And btw to all columnists, comment writing bloggers and thought provoking journalists - I think you’re marvellous, so never stop. You never know, one day a Will I Am of the blogosphere may appear and sponsor us all so we never die out.
Or feel the need to be famous.
(photo by Meaghan Miller, 1995)