When I was growing up, I dreamed of moving to the city – of being surrounded by lights and people and noise. Now I live in London and pay sky-high rent, I see the benefits of quiet country life. But back then, nothing was more appealing than escaping the forests and mountains in exchange for fast-paced life.
You see, I lived in a teeny, tiny place in the middle of nowhere in Canada. That place was Sinclair Mills, but technically the land my family owned was all a part of Dewey. As we were the only residents, I crowned myself mayor at the age of 8. The “town” down the road had a population of around 65. One year it reached 71 and I got rather excited. Everyone even had a “party line” – which means our phone lines were shared. The number of times I listened in on people’s conversations and got the local “scoop” is, I’m convinced, what first sowed seeds of wanting to be a journalist. Though, not the phone-tapping kind, of course – what I was doing was perfectly legal!
You tend to carry that childhood with you no matter where you go. And this is why when I first saw the Jack Daniel’s ads talking about Lynchburg, Tennessee (where the whiskey’s made) with its population of 361 (though, that’s now been debunked) and saw people like “Goose” (Randy Baxter, who works for the distillery) and other residents talking about life in a small town, I instantly took a shine to them. Of course the ad was designed for marketing purposes, but people that come from teeny places like Lynchburg tend to be down to earth folks who will tell it straight. And then tell their neighbours. Who then spread the word.
Recently, I managed to grab a few seconds to shake hands with and chat to Goose and his colleagues Mark and Weejie (who make up the “Lynchburg Three”). They were in London to light up what has to be the most exciting Christmas tree I’ve ever seen – a 26ft tall towering wonder made from 140 used whiskey barrels flown over specially from Tennessee for the installation. It sits squarely in Covent Garden and is well worth visiting when you’re in the area simply because of, well, the obvious – I mean, c’mon, a Christmas tree made of whiskey barrels? That’s the stuff dreams are made of!
Goose – who was wearing coveralls, a big comfy jacket, and a dusty cap – spoke with a lovely drawl and called me ma’am. Addressing the crowd, he looked entirely out of place in comparison to the shiny, city people speeding past him, but to me, he was an echo of the home of my childhood (not that people have drawling accents in northern Canada).
As he pressed a big red button to light up the tree and a group of carolers emerged from the crowd singing carols, I felt ever so Christmassy. And I was reminded that a bit of country living is nothing to be ashamed of – I just wish I could tell my 8-year-old mayoral self that!
The Jack Daniel’s Christmas tree will be in the east piazza of Covent Garden throughout the holiday season. The Jack Daniel’s Holiday Select 2012 whiskey – released specially for Christmas – will be available to buy at a kiosk on-site.