Im getting to like the guy that watches the gate to Hobbiton.
I think his story is more interesting than what you can get to see of Hobbiton at the
I paid Hobbiton a visit on my way south last week. It was Spring and
the farmhouses were surrounded by trees in full frothy blossom. At the gate to Hobbiton
the farmers who own the land there were sorting out their sheep, which is a kind of
humble magic all of its own if youre not used to watching a good sheepdog work.
The elder farmer swore blue murder at the dog, the younger farmer was quite polite, but
in any case the dog knew his business well enough and controlled the sheep with an
imperturbable tail-waving enthusiasm.
Thats farming for you. Despite the horrible driving downpour
there was no chance of strolling onto the set unseen, had I been so inclined. So I
paid the watchman a visit instead. Imagine what his new job must feel like after spending
a few decades of his life in the serious work of saving people from burning to death
He remembered me from a few months back. When I last visited he was an
ex-fireman and looked like a typical cow-cocky whod spent most of his life
outdoors. He was puzzled by the mania for "The Lord of the Rings" that had
sent over 60 carloads of people down to the middle of nowhere to lean over the gate he
was set to guard.
Since then hes read the books and been taken on a tour of the
studios at Camperdown. Needless to say he now knows more about film-making in New
Zealand than I do. Hes fascinated by the people, who are the sort of people
youd expect to find in one of the most creative professions in existence.
More than that, hes become as big a fan of the books as
anyone Ive met, and he totally supports Peter Jackson and his vision for the
Which means unfortunately he isnt about to tell us anything
that hes not instructed to say, because hes very loyal to the film project.
He could confirm that a whole bunch of hedgerows had been trucked in to the set
(everyone locally saw that, after all) and also the fact that theres not much
work happening on the set now. The locals have estimated that theres no more
than two people working there now, and the army has gone home, leaving a humungous
road to nowhere. The sets being mostly left to age. And the interiors of Hobbiton
arent there at all, of course; theyll be in the studio somewhere. Wed
heard from someone that saw them building Bag End in styrofoam or something so no
So mainly we chatted about Tolkiens use of language and stuff
like that. Honestly, I didnt bring the subject up myself for a change! The watchman
had his own set of volumes to quote from.
If anyone is wondering whether LOTR will appeal to ordinary people
from all walks of life, or whether PJ is the man to make this movie, think about this guy
guarding the gate at Hobbiton. You couldnt meet a more practical down-to-earth
person, and if hes swept up in the excitement of this movie, I dont
see who is going to resist its appeal.
I went off and talked to other people. My search for really great
coffee in rural New Zealand led me to the Workmans Café in Matamata, and
the spirit moves me to spread the gospel on that. Great coffee there. Anyhow, by the
time I left Matamata I found out that people had collected truckloads of dead leaves
last Autumn for use when filming starts, so they can have Instant Autumn whenever they
want. Weird. They must have to put them in a coolstore somewhere.
Just think; one day soon the gate will open and therell be
trailers and truckloads of props, caterers and portaloos, vans full of lights and
cameras, and finally the cast and crew, all streaming down the fine new road to Hobbiton.
A temporary village will spring up overnight, have its moment of life, and then it will
all be over and theyll bulldoze the whole set into the ground as a safety hazard
We should petition them to keep it open as a tourist attraction
when filmings over.