Quite nice

Last year, after I announced that I was moving to Wellington, a lady at work asked if I’d decided where I was going to live, suggesting that I should live in Eastbourne. “It’s meant to be quite nice,” she added.

And so that was always what I thought of when I thought of Eastbourne, like an unofficial town motto: “Eastbourne: It’s meant to be quite nice”. (Well, that’s better than “Hamilton: Where it’s happening” or “Foxton: New Zealand’s fox town”)

As it happened, I settled in sunny Te Aro (motto: “Sunny”) and hadn’t made it out to that curious little bit of Hutt City that curves around the coast. Whether or not it was quite nice, it just seemed a bit out of the way.

But the forces of nature presented me with a Saturday that wasn’t totally horrible and raining, and a morning where I felt like getting out of bed before noon. And I was getting worried that I was becoming dependant on the opiate-fuelled Coff-b-gone, so a day at the seaside seemed good. And so I caught the #81 bus from sunny Te Aro to quite nice Eastbourne.

To get to Eastbourne requires barrelling through Seaview, the industrial part of Petone. I like to think it was named Seaview to guide people into what they should be looking at. “Ignore the giant fuel tanks! Ignore the blank-walled warehouses! Look at the sea! Isn’t it pretty?!”

But once past Seaview, then the cute little bays start. Undulating along the coast, the li’l settlements seem to fill up as much of the flat-ish land between the coast and the steep hills as possible. And even then, the hills can be built upon Wellington-style.

I just rode the bus along the coast until the surrounds looked interesting enough to get off, and as it happened, interesting enough was the main Eastbourne settlement and shops.

The national anthem of Eastbourne is polar fleece. The national bird is a mosaic letterbox number, created at an evening craft course. Eastbourne is where you grew up, where you visited your grandparents, where your boyfriend lived, where you’re bringing up your family, and where your parents have retired, all rolled into one.

The local shops were a mix of cafes, and shops selling paintings of nikau palms and vases that looked like ceramic sex toys. You want corn fritters? They’re off the menu, but we’ll do you a eggs benedict and a flat white. We’ll also throw in a plaque with a motivational phrase printed on it. Dance like no one’s watching! But what’s the fun in that?

Eastbourne felt a bit empty. In fact, I almost saw more cats wandering around than people. I suppose generally people need more than cafes and gift shops and panoramic harbour views, so they jump in their cars (or catch the #83 bus) and head to Queensgate or the Hutt Briscoes, leaving the cats to look after things.

I get the feeling that Eastbourne is more quite nice in the middle of summer than on a cold July day. The hills probably feel less leering and the beach probably feels more like a pleasurable seaside than a gravel pit between the harbour and the land.

Or was it just coming off the Coff-b-gone? Without the warm, comfortable fuzz of the prescription-only cough medicine, the world felt a bit cold and sharp. Was this a bitter comedown or what life is normally like?

Eventually the #83 came and took me back to sweet Te Aro, via Queensgate mall. Outside the mall, a crazy lady was frantically sucking out mouthfuls of smoke from her cigarette and chewing off bits of a fried chicken drumstick before the bus left. And then I realised: compared to the cool inner city flavour of Te Aro, Eastbourne is quite nice and compared to the dullness of Queensgate, Eastbourne is also quite nice.

Vanishing point

Wot I did on the weekend

On Saturday, Craft 2.0 was on at TheNewDowse gallery (Motto: “OurSpaceBarBroke”) so I met up with Stephen and experienced the novelty of getting a bus to Lower Hutt.

Put your woollies on

Lower Hutt is strange in that it has this normal main street with normal shops on it, and then you turn a corner and there’s a great whacking mall taking up a giant block. And it’s one of those bad malls that doesn’t want to exist on the outside – just a giant white monolith. They call it Queensgate, and it was in there that we had lunch.

Publicly I’m going to pretend I was disgusted with this shrine of consumerism, but secretly I’m going to revel in the shiny and vow to go back. I mean, it’s the only proper mall the Wellington region has – perhaps it’s best that way.

Then on to Craft 2.0. It’s an indie craft fair, with a distinct lack of tea cosies and doilies. And as the name might suggest, there’s an internet, web 2.0, vibe to it – using technology and online communities to add to the craft experience. These modern crafters sell their goods online on places like Felt and Etsy

I bought a cool pendant of a bird (possibly a robin!) and a brooch from Sue of Supervery, a cool knotted brooch by Caroline McQuarrie, and one of Amy Galvin’s lovely little Russian doll brooches. (In case you were wondering, brooches are so hot right now). Mr Stephen bought a skull, with which he is going to subvert the corporate world.

Taking in the full TheNewDowse experience (motto: “ToiletsToTheLeftOfTheCafe”), we then had a look around at the rest of the gallery. I was particularly taken with My House Surrounded By A Thousand Suns, an exhibition of outsider art – particularly by mentally disabled adults who have been attending art workshops.

There’s some really good stuff in there. Some artists are wild and vibrant, others have a wicked sense of humour, others spend hours painstakingly filling in squares, and others show a brilliant sense of space and balance. It inspired me.

Over-the-counter cold/flu remedies eventually demanded that the outing would draw to an end, but it was, nonetheless, a splendid day out.

On Sunday I decided to go to Johnsonville. One of my plans is to explore more of the greater Wellington region because at the moment my experience of Wellington is limited to central Wellington, Newtown and, uh, Lower Hutt.

Take the lol train to Johnsonville

Johnsonville was at the top of my list because the Johnsonville train is celebrating 70 of eletrification (hooray!), and I heard there was a mall-type-place there.

So I got the train. It uses older carriages than the rest of the Wellington trains because the newfangled ones don’t fit through the Johnsonville tunnels. The train I was on rattled and clattered and at one stop the doors kept opening and closing, causing the conductor to investigate.

It was also interesting seeing a few of the train platforms along the way had the same seating design as the one I get off at for work. Only these ones weren’t covered in tags, nor did the brick edging have “Question Authority” and “Fuck the System” scribbled on it. The good people of Khandallah are perfectly happy fucking the system on their own, thank you. They do not need a written reminder.

Johnsonville is for lovers

Finally Johnsonville loomed into site. I got off the train and was faced with the Johnsonville mall. I was disappointed. It wasn’t even a good bad mall. It was just a few aisles of mundane shops and a disappointing foodcourt. Across the road was a Warehouse and a supermarket. And there was a McDonalds and another supermarket. I was so disappointed, I think there was even more disappointment than the time Phil from C4 caught me smoking. And that’s serious disappointment.

So I headed back for the train, only I missed it, so I mucked around until the next one came, but I missed that too. (What is up with all these trains leaving on time? Why can’t they be like the Hutt Valley line and leave a couple of minutes late?) Finally the last train from Johnsonville met me at the station and I got out of there.

I think I’ll go to Porirua next. I won’t possibly be disappointed there.

Straight outta Lambton

One is in Wellington now!

I drove here via the Manawatu Gorge (which is windy, twisty, perilous, but thankfully brief), and remembered to turn off at the right place in Woodville.

I stopped off at Masterton and visited the museum/art gallery, which was celebrating the Wairarapa Embroiderer’s Guild’s diamond jubilee. A large hall was filled with all manner of embroidered crap crafts, including the “bag challenge”, in which the guild members were challenged to make a bag with embroidery. My favourite piece was an embroidered scene showing a bride looking in the mirror and seeing herself as a little girl reflected back. I would have taken a photo, but I suspect the guild ladies knew I was up to no good.

I passed through Carterton and Eketahuna. My great-great grandfather (or something like that) came from Carterton. As for Eketahuna, well, it had a really, really big sign with the town name, which appears to be its quirky town feature. (Stratford = Shakespeare; Dannevirke = Vikings!; Eketahuna = has a name).

Then I stopped off at Greytown, which is apparently where Wellingtonians go for weekend getaways. I visited the Shoc chocolaterie, which I highly recommend. Located in a small historic building, the smell of warm chocolate gently greeted me. I bought enough choccie delights to last me a while.

Next I had to contend with the Rimutaka Ranges. It was raining and the road was twisting. Two Mercedes overtook me at points along the way. I listened to the only audible radio station’s broadcast of the Maori Queen’s funeral.

Finally I reached the Hutt Valley and I detoured to Upper Hutt because, um, well, I wanted to see what it looked like. Having seen it, I was trying to get back on SH2, when I found myself going down a road by a school. It was home time and the street was chocker with parents’ cars. Then it started to hail. This will be my lasting memory of Upper Hutt.

Lower Hutt was slightly nicer. My main purpose there was to check out the civic buildings, which are build in a fine post-war modern style. They looked good, even in the rain.

So finally I made it to Wellington. It turns out the best time to come here is the weekend, because hotels have lots of cheap rates. Well, I know that now.