'If I give up my job, will you give up yours?'
Elm Cottage, an 1860s miner's cottage, is Lois and Bill Galer's weekend getaway, until one Sunday, when they question the wisdom of packing up and returning to busy, city lives. Questions are quickly followed by some deft calculations and the realisation that a change of life-style is possible. Before long the pair are announcing to their astonished friends and family that they are moving to Ophir.
Ophir, a small town in Central Otago: population 50. A place that consistently records the coldest and hottest temperatures in New Zealand. In Time to Smell the Roses, the author writes lovingly about the spectacular landscape, the changing seasons, the rhythms of daily life. She brings the reader along as she faces the reality of restoring Elm Cottage: beginning with the leaning mud-brick wall and resident possum, to poring over plans with the architect and discovering the past behind walls. Tradesmen arrive and disappear, a garden takes shape, the townsfolk visit, a hoar frost settles: Lois Galer revels in the simplicity of life in Ophir.
Time to Smell the Roses is a celebration of restoration, in the broader sense, and the pleasures of marrying the past with the present.
Galer paints a wonderful vignette of small town life. This small town could be anywhere in the world - small town life is all the same where-ever you are in the world. You get to know all the neighbour, their foibles, the pain, the laughter, the smiles and tears.
Reading Galer's book took me back to the small town I grew up in in England, and including the 40 years to be considered a 'local', whether it is Otago or Norfolk.
Along with their picture they paint of small-town life in Ophir, they paint the characters well, and their life prior to committing to living full-time in Ophir, the work needed to make their house habitable, the work needed to get an extension built, the backpackers, gardens and the ever present boundary problems that seem to be prevalent in Ophir.
This book will not interest everyone, but it held me enthralled until the very last page; maybe it was the familiarity that held me captivated; maybe the story instead. Whatever it was, it made for a very enjoyable read. I do hope everyone who plans to leave city life behind for a life away from the rat-race in the country read this book. It should be considered essential reading.
Galer also paint a vivid picture of the seasons in Ophir, describing the countryside with a rich palette of colours and tones for every season described. Whether Galer writes any more books on Ophir remains to be seen, I know she has a couple of other books, however, I do feel this is her Magnum opus.
Part of the reason I rate this book so highly is because I can relate to many of the experiences she tells about Ophir life. Despite having never been to Ophir I can only say 'Well done Lois' - you have captured my childhood experiences of small town life, and I guess many more can say the same.
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"It is a curious thing... that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste."
Evelyn Waugh (1903 - 1966)