Settling into the rhythms of rural life
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Martin van Beynen
When Count Kim Dotcom arrived in New Zealand from bustling Hong Kong he was determined to build a new life in this bucolic land of the long white cloud.
He wanted a sprawling country estate which would afford his family privacy and repose yet allow them to become part of a close community.
The estate he had in mind was in fact something just like Hamperville in the charming backblocks of West Auckland where folks could still step outside their door and survey a landscape of generous lifestyle blocks and enormous homes.
After signing a rental agreement with the owner and quickly renaming the estate Dotcom Abbey, Count Kim and his household settled seamlessly into the age-old rhythms of rural life in the hamlet of Coatesville. He ensconced his pregnant wife and two children in the vast upstairs of Dotcom Abbey and the household staff, which consisted of a large number of footmen with extraordinary computer skills, took up residence downstairs.
The family and staff could almost feel the spirits of the noble New Zealanders who had occupied the mansion in the past, well, 10 years.
Despite the beckoning fields and country lanes, the life of the interior seemed more to Count Kim's taste. Locals did occasionally hear him talk about a strange cloud but no-one knew what he meant. The lights burned brightly at the abbey during the night and people imagined Count Kim pacing the cavernous corridors of the mansion in a sleepless but happy trance.
Count Kim was aware he needed to play his part in the rich and ancient traditions of Coatesville. Apart from presiding at the local fete where he manned the sausage sizzle and gave out prizes for the baking competition, most of his other duties appeared to involve money.
Wanting to appear fun-loving and generous, he funded the local fireworks display on Guy Fawkes night and when a city politician sought his help with campaign expenses, he was happy to oblige. After all, one never knew when one would need friends in high places.
Dotcom Abbey hosted various soirees and get-togethers and when Count Kim had his birthday he invited all his new friends.
New Zealand in 2012 was still a rigidly structured society where wealth determined how you spoke, where you lived, what education your children received and how you were regarded, especially by the powers in Wellington. But the world was changing and as the gap widened between the rich and the poor, the rich were digging in.
Despite its appearance as a comfortable refuge from the modern world, Dotcom Abbey was not immune to the winds of change swirling at its gilded gates.
The world was moving in unpredictable directions and Count Kim wondered where it would take them. He and the countess had tried valiantly to raise their children to respect the traditional values they had adhered to strictly all their lives. But it was increasingly difficult to keep the outside world at bay.
His pre-literate six-year-old, for instance, was insisting his parents pay for the Wiggles movie they had downloaded from the internet. She wanted to tidy her own bedroom rather than have the maid do it and, in a startling new development, insisted on making her own friends rather than buying them.
Count Kim also lamented the lack of a real service ethic among his staff. His butler wore headphones constantly and greeted him in the morning with a high five. When he served the drinks from the silver tray recently purchased at great expense from the Albany mall, he could not resist banging on it as though it were a bongo drum. The count wondered at times if in fact he was caught in a reality TV show.
The cook was introducing fad food such as lentils, pulses and beans to the household menu in an effort to improve the family's health. The great marbled roasts of meat and specialist sausages he loved were turning into a rare treat.
Disturbing events had also made him fear for his democratic rights as a New Zealand resident. A raid by police on Dotcom Abbey had resulted in a nasty backache and a short time as a guest at the local jail. Count Kim shrugged it off as unfortunate mistake but he knew the matter would not rest. All he could do was try to turn himself into a local hero while he fought to protect the imperilled lifestyle he so treasured.
There was no doubt the beloved Dotcom Abbey, which had been in his family for at least three years, was at risk but, with the determination born of desperation, he was prepared to fight.
- © Fairfax NZ News