He’s wisecracked to a million visitors – but Tom Cruise fooled him.
There can’t be many people who’ve chatted to movie superstar Tom Cruise in their own front garden and didn’t have a clue who he was.
But Lindsay Westaway has.
And not too many could say they’ve unwittingly given Britain’s richest aristocrat, the Duke of Westminster, a bit of Kiwi lip – then got an invitation to his house.
Westaway’s done that, too.
But as he’s welcomed more than a million visitors to his isolated Walter Peak homestead during the past 35 years, the larger-than-life farm show host could be forgiven for letting a few famous faces slip through the net.
Several times a day the 63-year-old granddad treats hordes of tourists piling off the Earnslaw vintage steamer from Queenstown to a two-hour blast of rapid-fire patter.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a punter or a well-heeled celebrity – everyone gets the same treatment at the high-country farm attraction.
“A few years ago everyone kept asking me what Tom Cruise had been saying to me,” Westaway says. “I had no idea what they meant until it was pointed out
I’d been entertaining one of the world’s best-known film stars on my front lawn.
“I didn’t know who Tom Cruise was. As far as I was concerned, he was just a bloke who’d come over on a wee trip to see the farm.”
And mega-wealthy landowner the Duke of Westminster – thought to be worth a staggering $17.5 billion – was so impressed with Westaway’s banter, he asked him to stay in touch.
“I told this guy on a tour once I thought he was a bit of a bloody Pom,” Westaway explains.
“He agreed, and when we got talking he said he had a few investments in Britain.
“As he got on the boat to leave, he handed me his card and told me if I was ever in London to please come and look him up.
“I couldn’t believe it when he turned out to be the Duke of Westminster. I just thought, ‘oh dear’.”
Westaway and his wife Dianne have called isolated Walter Peak home since they moved there from Canterbury in 1974.
The main transport to and from the farm is a 40-minute trip on the Earnslaw from Queenstown Bay. Otherwise it’s a 230km journey to the resort by road.
“Not too many folk can say they get chauffeured about on an old steamship,” Westaway grins.
During their time there, the Westaways raised five children, who were educated at home by former teacher Dianne until they were old enough to board out at high school.
The kids even learned basic maths by counting the pikelets made by mum for the tourists – she’s prepared more than two million down the years.
These days about 15 people live and work at the farm and adjoining restaurant – but it’s not a life that suits everyone, Westaway admits.
“It’s pretty remote. Someone once lasted just three days.”
It’s meeting and entertaining people that gives Westaway his biggest buzz.
During farm tours he delivers a non-stop stream of deadpan jokes – like how beef from his Highland cattle has such a low fat content that it’s proven “suitable for vegetarians”.
He also explains how he gets instant condensed milk – by “condensing the cows into a small pen and milking them through the bars in the fence”.
To balance time cut off from the outside world, the Westways make use of a property they have in Queenstown and also travel to warmer climes overseas during winter months when the farm is closed to tourists.
“The way I look at it is that we have the best of both worlds,” he adds.
“We’ve got the world coming to us most days with all the visitors – and have the beauty and tranquillity of the place when they’re not here.”