A weekend in the muntryside

The warm night air blew down Victoria Street. As I crossed the road, I saw a giant penis waddling down Manners Mall, testicles jauntily lurching from side to side. It was Wellington Sevens weekend. I ducked down a side street and fled to the safety of my flat.

All I knew about the Wellington Sevens was that it was some sort of rugby tournament and spectators wore costumes to the games. Indeed, I hadn’t really given it much thought until a few weeks before when people started asking me if I was going to the Sevens. “Uh, no. Should I?” I’d ask. “Oh my God! It’s so much fun! This year we’re all dressing up as sexy pirates!”

Nothing could quite persuade me to go, but I thought I’d check out what life was like on the streets of Wellington around Sevens weekend.

Over at the Wellingtonista, the Masked Barfly had given fair warning of the munter component that Sevens attracts, with his/her Waitangi Weekend Venn Diagram, but I just didn’t realise how extremely muntery it would turn out to be.

Friday was the first day of the Sevens, so I went for a stroll along Cuba Street. Already I spotted Afro wigs and women in slutty dresses. Oh, hang on – let’s paraphrase that quote from “Mean Girls” about Halloween costumes:

Sevens is the one time of year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.

So Cuba Mall was full of Sevens-goers in their costumes. There was also a group performing a bit from a Fringe Festival play. Someone dressed as a road cone walked up to the performers and sat down, attempting to bring some hilariousness to the performance. When the performers acknowledged the road cone and started to incorporate it into their stuff, the road cone seemed to freak out and rapidly waddled away.

“Hey bro, hey bro. That place has $3 tequilas, so we should go there later.” – Papa Smurf (or at least someone wearing a lot of blue paint).

I took a walk along the waterfront and witnessed the following:

  • Guantánamo Bay prisoners (orange overalls and – oh dear – a teatowel on the head
  • A Buddhist monk peeing in a bush, while having his photo taken by a Buddhist monkette.
  • A man in a white lycra tights who had adjusted his crotch so much that the green paint on his hands had left marks all around his groin.
  • Sexy pirates, sexy Marmite jars, sexy beer cans and sexy Taranaki residents.
  • A man wearing only shoes, socks and an Afro wig, who’d just jumped into the harbour. Something about the water being quite cold.

As I looked around all the costume-wearing Sevens fans, I started to realise something. While people were wearing fancy dress costumes, they weren’t wearing costumes as individuals; they were wearing costumes as part of a group.

It seems that there’s some sort of unwritten rule of Sevens that you have to wear exactly the same costume as your whole group of friends. So it’s not just one woman dressed as a sexy pirate, but a dozen sexy pirates, all wearing the exactly the same tartan skirt, the same billowy shirt and the same sexy pirate cutlass.

So there are all these groups of people where everyone is wearing exactly the same thing. Just like school, just like the armed forces.

I tried to figure out why this is, and I came up with a theory. New Zealanders have a slight aversion to standing out. So the group costume lets you dress up but not stand out. A bloke can dress as a fairy princess, but because all his mates are also wearing exactly the same fluffy pink tutus, no one will pay any attention to how he is dressed as an individual. It’s like, I am Spartacus, and so are my nine other mates who ordered these hilarious Roman slave costumes off the internet.

By Saturday, the clones were starting to freak me out a little. I walked around a corner and found myself in the middle of a group of blonde beauty queens, yet their blondeness and sameness reminded me more of “Village of the Damned”. Oh, I had to get away from it all!

I headed to the train station, fighting my way through Tangy Fruits, SWAT team cops and sexy nurses, and took the train to Porirua. Sweet Porirua. I visited Pataka – the local art museum – and went for a walk along the harbour. It was nice to be out of the city.

Back in Wellington in the early evening, I realised the neighbourhood was soon going to be swamped with boozed-up munters. So I hunkered down in my bedroom, while the sounds of drunken people (“Nrrrrrgh! Fuuuuck! Maaaaaaangh! Fuuuuck!”) and a Led Zeppelin covers band echoed throughout the city.

This morning I found broken glass everywhere, a street sign bent at a 45 degree angle and a hearty puddle of spew – and that was just down my street.

Next year, I swear, I’m going to leave town during Sevens weekend.

9 thoughts on “A weekend in the muntryside”

  1. I think you got it dead right: “New Zealanders have a slight aversion to standing out. So the group costume lets you dress up but not stand out. A bloke can dress as a fairy princess, but because all his mates are also wearing exactly the same fluffy pink tutus, no one will pay any attention to how he is dressed as an individual.”

    The exception seems to be the guys who dress in spiderman outfits. They never seem to come in sets.

    I started out enjoying seeing people about in (groups of) curious costumes. By Saturday I was a bit sick of the puking and the yelling and wished it was all over.

    On Sunday morning I crich-crunched my way down the carpet of broken glass along Cuba mall at 7:45 and wondered at the still drunk people staggering home with bare feet. That’s an aspect of Munterdom that’s never made sense to me, they like breaking bottles but don’t like wearing shoes. Surely their feet should bleed?

  2. I also wondered why there were clusters of costumes. I always thought part of wearing a costume was coming up with an awesomely cool one-of-a-kind idea. I don’t get it.

  3. frontlawn: The answer to the Spiderman puzzle is also nicely covered by Robyn’s theory. Spiderman costumes come with a mask. You can’t stand out if nobody knows who you are. 🙂

    I’d forgotten how much I enjoy your writing, Robyn. I do miss Herman though.

  4. Beautiful stuff Robyn. A real JG Ballard feeling to your experience. You could almost sense that it wouldn’t take much for the whole lot to go up in flames, an orgiastic riot burning down Courtenay Place while crazed Smurfs, Spartacii and sexy pirates fought, had sex and fell over.

  5. I left Wellington for the long weekend. Pretty much the best idea of my life. On my travels I checked out Waitangi on Waitangi Day… totally mind-blowing… and not in a “giant penis waddling down Manners Mall” kind of way…

  6. What you describe is virtually identical to the Waitangi Day Pub Crawl held annually in London, roughly following the Circle line – although Boris wisely closed that one down this year.

  7. Rugby culture = pack behaviour. That’s one of the main reasons that I left NZ in the first place. They used to piss me off in ’81, with the pro-tour rugby boof-head Waikato farmer idiot tradition (sorry Robyn, for any unintended Waikato slur on you), but now i just ignore them.

    Rugby culture is a whole lot nicer now that more women are involved – at least to look at as an outsider. A lot less public urinating. I have no idea what the women see in it however.

    A side story: an old man I know in Napier, couldn’t quite understand why I, living in Wellington, wasn’t dressing up for the Sevens. I explained that it was only the audience of the stadium that that actually dressed up up, not the whole town. Apparently, in Napier, Art Deco cult has now taken root to the extent that the whole town garbs up in Deco garb.

  8. I appreciate it’s a bit of an assault on the senses, but the reason for the mob approach is quite simple. A single person in costume is lost in the vast crowd and not covered by the media, so a large group all decked out is immediately hit on by the media especially the TV. So this approach assures you your 20 seconds of TV Fame. Take the Flash guys. If one had a costume no one would have seen him. Having 30 of them gave them a headline and heaps of exposure.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/differentperspective/3278771720/in/photostream/

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