Things That I Found By The Side of The Road, While Taking The Long Way Round.

By Insider – Suzanne Peri-Chapman

I was in Southland last weekend, for the last pool game in Invercargill, followed by another game in Dunedin the next day. I drove from Invercargill to Dunedin, taking the “Long Way Round” as they say. I’d definitely recommend a few road trips during Rugby World Cup, as there are lots of things to see that aren’t rugby. Especially useful if you happen to be the partner or travelling companion of someone who lives and breathes rugby, and you don’t.

You can be pointing out the daffodils growing by the side of the road, while he (yes, I’m making that assumption) is recounting, play by play, the talents of his team, who managed a win regardless of the one-eyed ref who couldn’t spot a forward pass if it was handed to him on a silver platter carried by Pinetree himself.

Unless you’re prepared for a long session of relationship counselling, at this point a comment along the lines of “Mmmm – really?” or the old standard, “Yes dear” is advisable. Followed by a seemingly casual “Oh look” at whatever you may be passing at the time. Note that “whatever you may be passing at the time” can be fairly startling, as in the case of the topiary, which I was passing, but pulled over to look at more closely. Had I really seen an emu and an elephant with a monkey on its back, carved out of foliage?

The answer was yes. I had just driven into a very small town in rural Southland, Edendale, having slowed rather rapidly in response to flashing police lights – not flashing at me, but at some unfortunate just ahead. There’s nothing like a moment of Schadenfreude to make a road trip just that bit more pleasurable. This slowing down allowed me the time to do the very necessary double-take at the topiary on someone’s front lawn.

I think the big bird is an emu, could be an ostrich, but it also resembles one of those dipping toy birds – I half expected it to move there and then. There’s an elephant next to it, which in scale must be one of the smaller variety of elephants, complete with tusks. The extraordinary thing, in this display of extra-ordinariness, is that there’s a monkey, still in topiary, on the back of the elephant. They’ve cleverly allowed the foliage on the monkey to grow a bit, which makes it a slightly different colour, just like a monkey would be if it was on the back of an elephant. Naturally.

I’m so pleased I came across this display in the middle of somewhere – I love the imagination, the effort and the downright quirkiness of it. I suppose I could have knocked on the door and asked all sorts of questions about it – why do it? Who started it? What does it mean? But, I prefer the randomness of the experience; simply to see it, enjoy it, and drive away again with an indelible memory.

There were other objects of interests on this short trip – the blue Morris Minor up on poles in a paddock, and the “Wool and Dag Buyer” place – I shall leave it up to you to work out what a Dag is.

So the moral of this story is, do take the Long Way Round, with eyes wide open, and give a nod to the enthusiasm and occasionally, downright barminess, of the things you find.

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