Remember Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain? You should, she was awesome. So awesome, she won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her portrayal of hard-scrabble Ruby Thewes, who saves pathetic gentlewoman Ada’s (played by Nicole Kidman) life by teaching her how to run her North Carolina farm during the American Civil War. In one particular scene, Ada is hiding under the porch from a bolshie rooster. Ruby wrings its neck and cooks it.
Now, I’d like you to imagine, if you will, another character made famous by Miss Zellweger: Bridget Jones. Let’s say, that after her life went all Samsung Note 7, Bridget found herself Darcy-less and living in a one-room bach, a single woman of significant uselessness, surrounded by trees, not a modern convenience in sight, falling over a lot. Are you imagining? Good, because that is my life at the moment.
Living in the country requires a practical mind. I do not have one. You need to have a plan, and candles. And be able to dig a deep hole. Lessons are often learnt the hard way: holding down bits of wood with your bare feet while sawing them on the back steps is not a super idea, given there’s no cell phone coverage and an ambulance, should you be able call one, takes 35 minutes from town. Could I tie a tourniquet? I don’t think so. I can do a lovely table napkin, though, and make a face towel look like a slightly flaccid swan. Best get to know the neighbours.
You need mental fortitude and muscles to live in the country. After months of sawing wood, my right arm is absolutely massive, making me look like Popeye after only one can of spinach. While this means I tend to paddle in circles, I will soon be strong enough to start the lawn mower, a man job if ever there was one. Things you also need a man for: opening jars, climbing on the roof to discourage blackbirds from nesting in the chimney and doing something about the decomposing possum slumped face down, white nubs of vertebrae exposed, at the bottom of the old water tank.
I briefly thought about going on Tinder, because you never know what people have a kink for: there might be someone out there who gets off on manual labour, some kind of horticultural BDSM type, and all I’d have to do would be go out into the garden every now and then and shout at them while they pushed the lawn mower around in a ball gag and leather shorts. But women are currently leaping off balconies to get away from Tinder dates and a friend told me she went on one where the guy said, after she started hysterically crying about the end of her marriage, “Shall we just have sex anyway?” so I did the man-things myself. Cue Gloria Gaynor soundtrack.
Speaking of surviving, the Tamster has some wacky idea I’ll grow my own salad greens and wee pots of herbs to save on the groceries, but she comes from Winton. Although, there are spring lambs in the back paddock, and they look delicious. Their mothers make a heck lot of noise, perhaps they read my meat-loving mind.
When the sheep noises get too much, I come into town, my enormous arm hanging out the car window, and marvel at the modern conveniences: bath tubs, flush toilets, washing machines and best of all: television. Tell you what, if you haven’t had a TV for a while, even sport is interesting. Sometimes, watching the news at a friend’s house, I swear that lovely Peter Williams is smiling right at me.
Inside the nice warm library (where the internet is free) on a rainy day last week, I suddenly realised there was little to distinguish me from the other homeless people. I too, was soaked through and ponged a bit, I too talked to myself occasionally. More of a thoughtful ‘hummm’ than out-and-out ranting, if you know what I mean – and of course I’m not homeless, I have a roof over my head, a nice warm bed to sleep in and yesterday connected the gas bottle to the hose thingie without help from anyone. I might be the Bridget Jones of Cold Mountain right now, but one day soon I might be a Ruby Thewes. A danger to chickens. A strong, independent woman. Who probably shouldn’t light any matches.