Stop calling small towns 'tight-knit communities'

JANE BOWRON
Last updated 08:47 07/01/2013

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Jane Bowron

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OPINION: Don't you hate it when friends colonise your other friends?

A pal with a small child was visiting and asked, when her little girl became scratchy, if she could put her down to sleep in the spare room. To make the room more child friendly I dug out my old bear and his life-long companion, Lambie, who has a turnkey in his under-carriage which plays Mary Had a Little Lamb, when you wind him up.

I've had those stuffed toys ever since I can remember, so they are beyond tatty, the bear with different buttons for eyes, stuffing oozing out and bald patches all over his ravaged carcass that lends him the appearance of the English Patient after the plane crash.

Some kids find him scary, possibly because he is my personal Picture of Dorian Gray, but the little girl embraced him and from the strains drifting down the hallway appeared to have wound the bear up something shocking.

After the visit the bear and the lamb stayed put as it seemed cruel to return them to the gloom of the bottom of the sewing basket.

After all those years of faithful service, a room with a view was the least I could do for them. To my astonishment the cat has taken a passionate interest in them, sequestering himself in the spare room cuddling up to them, only coming out to feed and give me a piteous "Hey, No Fur, you're so last year" glance before rushing back to his new friends.

"Excuse me," I told him in no uncertain terms.

"Thems and mes go way back long before Benecio Johnny Come Lately came on the scene."

It fell on deaf ears. Yes, it appears the motley crew has become, to use a hackneyed expression, a tight-knit community.

If I hear that expression on a news item again, I'll throw a dead cat at the screen, as it appears in the narrative with what a friend with malapropism tendencies calls muttonous (monotonous) regularity whenever a tragedy befalls any small town. A reporter will stand in front of a straggly collection of townsfolk moseying around in the background, as we are told how the brave tight-knit community (TKC) are reeling from the tragedy and pulling together.

Then in subsequent news items relating to the event, dazed and confused members of the TKC are unearthed from their warrens dressed in what most people would wear to drain a swamp in, to deliver clunking truisms about the main characters in the drama - close friends and family wisely declining to appear.

Before you point out that small towns are impoverished, many of their inhabitants without money for smart clothes to don for the cameras, is it so bourgeois of me to expect a citizen forewarned they are to be filmed or photographed, to drag a comb through their locks, or wipe splodges off their jumper fronts?

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In saying that, I remember interviewing a chief executive once and asking if she'd mind if the accompanying photographer take a snap of her and she repaired to her bedroom to apply makeup, eventually returning a finger- drumming hour later looking absolutely no different than before.

I suppose I sound like Dame Kiri when she made me cross by saying a few years back that Kiwis should stop wearing jandals, and look at jandals now - all the stars are wearing them.

I just want us to stop saying tight-knit communities when really we're incredibly loose-knit communities, till something momentous happens - like an earthquake.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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