A recent Listener article got me thinking about serendipity.

Having a long-term fascination for the word itself, it immediately conjures up exotica entwined with unpredictability and happy-go-lucky endings. To take it a bit further, it’s also recognising opportunities to extend learning even if things appear to go awry, ‘appear’ being the important word.

Serendipity is what keeps me fascinated when interviewing diverse folk. Starting out with a tidy list of well thought through themes and the unpredictable nature of what comes next. There’s always a gem or three or four to take away – especially with farmers.

Straddling a quad bike safely parked 3 or so meters away from myself seated in the lee of woolshed (sun crisping up the landscape), here’s an excerpt from a Golden Bay farmer:
Questions 1-20 ‘….yep’, ‘….narp’, ‘….not really’
me: anything else you want to add to that?
‘….narp’. He completed the verbal questionnaire with a dry ‘….bet that was the fastest one you’ve done’
me: yep, I reckon you’ve set the record for ’round here – 11.5 minutes.
‘….beauty’. Mutual nod. Quad bike fires up, heads out the gate, thin veil of dust rises along the road. I crack up laughing recalling the hour and a half spent the previous day with another local farmer.

This time in the Waikato, a lakeside farmer who’d put me off a number of times. Busy. Busy again and then just unwilling. But a time was made and armed with an intricately coloured soils map from 1927 (complete with the names of landowners from that era inscribed on each parcel), we talked and talked some more. Then ‘….come and let me show you this!’ A huge quilt in the process of construction pinned to the carpet in the lounge. ‘….keeps the wife out of mischief!’.

So aside from insights into water quality and current farm management practices in both interviews, I also came away in the first instance shaping ideas about character and in the second, entirely unexpected knowledge about handicrafts. No, none of that added to the reports produced but it adds to me.

2 responses to “Serendipity

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