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Marcus Lush and son Tracker

Devoted father Marcus Lush’s little angel is a chip off the old block.

By Alice O'Connell
It's likely that the last two years are ones that Marcus Lush will look back on as a time in which he got one hell of an education. The adventurous television presenter, whose sharp intellect and quick wit has also made him a favourite on the radio, has been on his own journey of discovery of late.
He's become a first-time father – something that in hindsight, he says, he was "completely unprepared" for – and no longer commutes between Auckland and Bluff, instead calling Cromwell home. The Central Otago town is also where he's had a change of vocation, choosing to spend his year away from radio enrolled in the local polytechnic where he is studying, of all things, stonemasonry.
Oh, and he's just weeks away from welcoming his second child into the world.
Yes, it's been a rather hectic time for Marcus, but equally, being a student again has allowed him plenty of time to get to know his gorgeous 20-month-old son Tracker. And as the Weekly takes a day trip to nearby Queenstown with the pair, it's evident just how strong their bond is.
"We've been very, very lucky with Tracker," Marcus beams. "He's been an angel boy from day one."
Marcus grins as he recounts his first summer in Piha with Tracker, later taking him on South Island adventures – putting him on his back for long walks around Wanaka, out to playgrounds and feeding ducks in Queenstown. When his partner Vanessa Underwood, a sign language interpreter, returned to work two days a week, Marcus spent more one-on-one time with Tracker.
"I absolutely loved it. It was a really special time for Tracker and me. Even though he wasn't walking or talking at that stage, it was really important for our connection."
X is for kisses: Tracker, like his dad, knows how to win Kiwi hearts.
But Marcus admits it took him a while to get his head around looking after a newborn. While he'd spent time around children before, he was unaware of time frames and that they were "so dependent and helpless" for such a long time!
"I thought they'd be walking and talking, and you'd be able to have a conversation with them at six months. I didn't realise it takes two or three years to get there! It has made the small milestones more exciting, though. It has been very revealing."
While he confesses that he'd never had a strong urge to have children, it all changed when he met Vanessa. She wanted them, suddenly so did he, and it all fell into place. He'd had partners before who already had children and, in some cases, he felt like somewhat of a parent to them, but having his own has been a completely different kettle of fish.
"Vanessa said, 'We'll have this baby and it'll be fine – life won't be much different!' But life is really different. It's funny, though, because I love it."
It's funny too because until now, Marcus was something of a lone ranger. Answering to no one, he said it was a life spent mostly enjoying his solitude.
"I spent a great deal of my life on my own, doing what I wanted," he admits. "Having a partner and a baby has been quite an exercise in selflessness, which I'm probably not the best at, if I'm honest. It's a different sort of life, but now it seems like the most natural thing in the world."
And so it wasn't long until the conversation of having another began. "We're pretty into Tracker. It would be a lot of love for him to handle if it was just the one, so I think it's only fair to have another."
This time around, Marcus has found the pregnancy a lot calmer and quicker now that he knows what to expect.
"Mind you, I haven't been the one who has had to be pregnant," he quips.
With baby number two expected to make an arrival in late September, they're again choosing not to find out the gender. After being completely off the mark with his prediction that they were having a girl last time, Marcus says he's staying well out of it this time. "I'm not even involving myself in thinking about it!"
Working as a tradesman has been an eye-opener for this famous Kiwi. "It's been humbling," he admits.
They've got a few names picked out for each gender, but they're keeping the shortlist to themselves. One thing's for sure, though, like Tracker "Alpaca" Lush, they're not likely to be your run-of-the-mill names.
"They're all unusual!" laughs Marcus. "There are a few we're a bit embarrassed to say, because, well, it's not a world that likes unusual names."
But Tracker, or "Trackles" as he's often lovingly called, has certainly grown into his moniker, and even those who may have been disapproving at first have come to love it. Marcus says his biggest worry, now is how Tracker will react to having a brother or sister.
"I imagine it will be a lot for him to accept, because he has been our whole world for so long," he says quietly. "And I really don't want this to be a tough experience for him. I love him to bits. But I know in the long run, having a sibling will be more fun for him."
Marcus says he and Vanessa have actually already started discussing baby number three. "It's been so chaotic, how much more chaotic can it get?" he laughs.
It's a conversation they'll revisit after this baby is born, discussing how well they'd cope with three – or more – as Marcus admits he's only got a few more years on the clock. While he reluctantly acknowledges he has recently celebrated a milestone birthday (he'll leave you to guess which one) – "I don't want people to think, 'God, I didn't realise he was that old!'" he exclaims – Marcus says being an older father hasn't worried him so far.
"I do get a bit ahead of myself thinking, 'What will happen when he's at school and the dads have a running race and I'm that bit older?' But you know what? I can't think of any other instances where being an older father is going to trip me up. I feel quite youthful for it all."
Going back to studying has also made him feel surprisingly young and Marcus says he has been relieved to discover how quickly his mind has bounced back to student mode. "Learning is really good. I love that stuff! I'd be quite happy to learn something every year."
He's rapidly coming to the end of his one-year course – a certificate in stonemasonry. It's something he's been drawn to for many years, interestingly, since he nearly bought a quarry.
"I saw one for sale and I thought, 'That might be quite nice to buy, and build your own house out of the rock.'" Then during a drive, he saw the Cromwell campus of Otago Polytechnic promoting the course and thought it was an excellent idea. He's a man surprisingly big on hunches, and after getting Vanessa on board to move, his year off work was quickly shaping up to be something quite different. "There are some things in my life I've just had a hunch would work out, and this was one of those," he says. "It's all that follow your heart kind of stuff, but it has panned out."
The much-loved Kiwi broadcaster has been working as a stonemason and remains a hands on dad.
It's meant days in the elements of the wild, wintery south, learning to design and construct stone features, with on-the-job experience. And just as fatherhood has provided countless surprises this year, so has hanging up his microphone to be a tradie. After years of trying to stay under the radar, he has gone completely unrecognised in his new role. After all, few would expect that the man in old work clothes building them a wall was in fact the well-known media man. And it has come as a shock just how badly people tend to treat tradies – while still expecting a top-notch job.
"It's been really humbling," he muses. "People deal with you in a lot more of a direct way when you're a tradie. It's 'Can you make sure you clean up your rubbish?' or, 'Don't leave the hose out, it might freeze!' Suddenly, you're not a person."
Marcus says it has also been a lesson in remembering how to deal with people and why it pays to treat others with respect. Once the course is over, he hopes he can integrate his new skill into his life – perhaps building walls for friends, or one day making the stone home he dreams of. But 2016 has a whole new set of challenges in store. There's another TVNZ show on the cards, and he'll be returning to the airwaves, this time replacing the Weekly's own Kerre McIvor as the night announcer on Newstalk ZB.
It's a job he has done before, and as he begins to remember what it's like to work nights on air, it's obvious that it gives him a thrill. "I've always loved going in with a blank piece of paper, turning the microphone on and getting all these threads of conversation that you can tie together. It's magic when you finish, and you think, 'Wow, we learnt so much, we had these laughs.' What an amazing job."
Something he thinks may take a bit more getting used to is the complete change of work hours. Having spent years getting up at 4am for RadioLIVE's breakfast show, he was used to being awake before Tracker, doing the first feed and playing with toy trains before heading to the radio station. All that will change when he'll be coming home after midnight from his 8pm to 12am show. He's got a plan, though. The family is heading back to Bluff – where he'll be doing the show from – and he's making some adjustments to their home.
"I'm in the process of building a shed in the garden!" he announces – and he's deadly serious. "Oh, yeah. I'm not stupid. I don't want to be in the thick of things, especially with a new baby. I'm building myself a man cave!"
But he's hoping he might just get lucky one more time.
"It might all work perfectly, especially if it's a lovely child, like Tracker. And let's hope it is. He is an absolute joy."
Location thanks to Commonage Villas [commonagevillas.com] (http://www.commonagevillas.com/).

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