AS SOON AS I achieved my escape from the groves of academia nuts, I moved to the land of macadamia nuts. The dream of every Anglophone man of letters is to become a man of the land. Shades of Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Allen Tate. Except that my heritage was not at all like theirs and my memories of the land were memories of toil. But as the vicar once said to me at the church fete: “You will come back to us.” And now I am the proud landowner of two hectares of rainforest and secondary growth and lantana. It is a new beginning, something the land always promises. I clear the lantana but so far do not till the land. My new experience is still limited. So far it has been a matter of clearing. Slashing and burning. To give an honest account of tilling and planting and harvesting, I have to return in time. I think back to my childhood and how hard it was, how much work was demanded to cultivate the land.
Though my father worked in the foundry in town, he was still very much the countryman. When he was taken out of school at 12, he went to work on his grandfather’s smallholding. Grandfather Haffner might have come down in the world. I cannot now remember if it was the Haffners, my father’s mother’s family, or the Wildings, who had lost their rightful land to lawyers – just as my mother’s mother’s family, the Griffins, had lost their orange grove near Sydney to the lawyers. It is a common enough story in many families and no less true for that. Even Cromwell was never able to subdue the lawyers.
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