Nick Cave dolls

I was in Wellington, my first time back since I left in April, and I was furiously catching up on things. I got the bus out to the Hutt and visited the Dowse Art Museum.

It was choice, but as I left the gallery, I spied something much more intriguing across the square. Over at the Horticultural Hall, a banner advertised a show of the Wellington Porcelain Dollmakers Club. A doll show!

I’ve always wanted to go to a doll show, that secret world of ladies and fake babies, so I excitedly went inside. The lady at the door looked at me like she knew I was an outsider, a person without dolls. But my money was still good. She took my $5 and I entered the world of dolls.


I was expecting one specific thing – uncanny valley baby dolls. The show did not let me down. There’d been a competition so the best baby dolls of the region were on display. Some looked impressively real, though with an eerie stillness; others looked a bit odd. I mean, if an infant doll looks more like the Dowager Countess of Grantham, something hasn’t quite gone right.

There were also people selling old dolls, the sort of dreadlocked orphans that normally languish in the 50c bin of an op shop. But unlike the op shop dolls, these ones won’t end up part of an art student’s subversive recontexualising of women’s roles in society. The doll show is an irony-free zone. Dolls are just dolls and if one has chipped face paint, you skilfully repaint it. If the hair is matted, you replaced it with silken locks.

But there was a strangely gothic feeling to it all. I came to realise this when found an actual goth doll, “Rose Red: a gothic ballerina”. Somehow this dramatic pale-skinned, eyeliner-wearing young lady seemed more ordinary and lively than the corpse-like baby dolls.

This is a subculture that specialises in taking arms and legs and scalps and eyeballs and putting them all together to make a baby, a girl or a woman. It’s way more goth than anything a black-clad suburban teen could come up with for their art portfolio.


Back in the city, I stopped by Deluxe cafe. Deluxe is a cute little cafe that has been around since the late ’80s. It hasn’t changed much and is oddly starting to feel like a ’90s theme cafe.

As I sat with my lunch, I realised that a Nick Cave CD was playing (I googled it – it was the 1998 best-of.) And I sat there thinking that in the ’90s, this would have been a very cool experience. Sitting in a cafe, listening to Nick Cave, drinking spirulina smoothies or mochaccinos, feeling cool.

But things are different now. I’ve been to the doll show. I’ve seen the dark side. I’ve seen the scalps, the arms, the torsos. I have seen the baby with scraggly orange fluffy hair pulled into two pigtails, in an attempt to make the hair look cute and not like a Scotsman’s pubes.

Maybe the goth pop of Nick Cave has to exist to have something that’s obviously dark and alternative. Something that exists so that the ladies painting eyeballs in their spare rooms don’t feel like weirdos. Something that makes a lady in her 30s sitting in a coffee bar feel edgy and cool.


Home away from home

Homegrown is an annual New Zealand music festival that takes places on the Wellington waterfront. A couple of years ago, I’d walked past and seen pissed-as teens herded into fenced-off areas, and I decided it wasn’t particularly appealing.


But this year a friend had a spare ticket and I found myself on the other side of the temporary fencing.

Coco Solid

The first act I saw was Coco Solid, performing in the vaguely indie-themed Studio Live stage. A line of teen girls took their place along the front of the stage, but they didn’t quite seem to be massive Coco Solid fans. The penny dropped when I noticed one of them was wearing a handmade Kids of 88 T-shirt. They were preemptively positioning themselves to be up the front to swoon when it was time for the electro-popsters to play their electro-pop.

By the way, I have a theory that on one level, Kids of 88 exist to make Generation X-ers feel old and irrelevant. Yes, seniors – people who were born in 1988 are old enough to be in bands.

Ms Coco Solid, though, was ace. There was something a little weird with the vocal mic on that stage – it seemed a little quiet or distant for all acts – but her sassy hip hop came over just fine.

Nesians, are you with me

Eschewing the aforementioned Kids, we headed over to the Pop & RnB stage to catch Nesian Mystik. It appears that the lads are calling it a day soon, but the audience was full of love for them.

New Zealand never managed to have its own version of a ’00s boy band. There was the ill-fated En Masse, but no direct counterpart to Nsync or Blue. I’ve always thought New Zealand audiences are quite picky. We like people who can play musical instruments and who write their own songs, and who are top blokes.

Well, Nesian Mystik fill that gap – six really nice guys who write their own songs, play guitar, and with plenty of rap among the melody. They are New Zealand’s stealth ’00s boy band.

They played their hits and the audience loved it, with an amazing moment in “Nesian Style” where the audience sang out the line “Polynesians all around”. I realised that 10 years ago, for a young Polynesian-New Zealand audience, Nesian Mystik would have been one of the few chances they’d have to hear Polynesian pop on the mainstream airwaves. (By the way, I still reckon “It’s On” is one of the best New Zealand pop songs ever written.)

Misty Phoenix

Next I caught the Phoenix Foundation, and I’m not quite sure how I felt about them. It just all seemed a bit low-key, but maybe that’s just their thing now.

But I had a bit of a moment during “Nest Egg”, their ode to broken dreams. I wrote this in my notebook: “Nest Egg’ is Gen-X raising its middle finger to the Baby Boomers. You told us we needed to strive for things, but the truth is, you only value the things you could easily achieve due to your golden demographic fluke. Our nest egg may be rotten, but we’re not going bankrupt chasing your old dreams. The rules have been rewritten.

I think I was channelling my 18-year-old self.

God save the Clean

Next on the indie stage was The Clean. Have I seen them perform live before? I’m not sure – possibly in the ’90s.

They weren’t what I expected. I was expecting the band to sound like they did on their old singles, but that didn’t happen. Instead the tight three did a lot of semi-structured jamming, and I swear their first song was about 15 minutes long. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

The audience was full of both old-timer fanboys and whippersnappers who were there because they’d heard the Clean were legends. Side of stage, the night’s previous bands stood watching in awe.

The Clean didn’t feel like some old band rehashing their greatest hits to shift some CDs (or worse – the track-by-track playing of a “classic” album). It felt like they were giving the audience a fresh, original performance that could never be duplicated.


Finally I headed over to the arena for the reformed Blindspott.

I’d seen New Zealand’s lords of nu metal perform once before – when I won tickets to X-Air in 2002. They were barely known back then, performing during the day to a crowd of teenage boys who were more interested in the extreme sports action happening all around the Claudelands Showgrounds.

This time, Blindspott were in full control. I wouldn’t consider myself a Blindspott fan, but I think they do what they do well. Damian Alexander is a confident frontman and knows how to perform to an arena crowd.

The band have always been ruthless self-promoters and pushed not only their new single, but cleverly had the crowd baying for blood around their current legal wrangle.

There’s one thing that was on everyone’s mind: Christchurch. With temporary fencing and portaloos around the Homegrown site, it was hard not to be reminded of those who are forced to live amongst such things every day.

Mr Alexander asked any Cantabrians in the audience to raise their hands (and there were quite a few). He then asked that other audience members give them a pat on the back, but it turned into a hand-shaking, fist-bumping, full-contact-hugging, love fest. Aw, guys.

This led into their lighters/cellphones-in-the-air song “Phlex”, the intro of which had been overlaid with the Prime Minister’s post-quake speech. The trouble is, while the speech John Key read was good, he’s not such a great public speaker and so it ended up sounding like a corporate team-building event. Hey guys – fantastic sales results for this quarter. Now the Blind Spots band are going to perform. Great stuff!

Blindspott finished with “Nil By Mouth”, which is a song that seems destined to be performed in an arena full of dudes yelling along “Stop and stare! What the fuck! You don’t know me!”, followed by the screamy bit that no one seems to actually know the words to.

And with that, I made my way out into the damp Wellington streets, surrounded by pissed-as bros who wanted the world to know what a great day they’d had.

Blessed sunny Days

There’s that slightly overused saying – you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, which is more or less true. When there’s little wind and the harbour is placid and the streets are bright, Wellington is the loveliest city in the world.

But the saying implies a flipside – the bad day upon which Wellington most definitely can be beaten. And due to the cosmic coin-toss that is the weather, it seems that Wellington has been having a few too many non-good days lately, especially on weekends. It can leave a person, not just a city, feeling a little beaten.

But recently there’s been a bit of nice weather, and on weekends too. One particularly fine weekend was so remarkable that it made the front page of the paper. And on that weekend, even though it was still a really cold winter’s day, because it was sunny and not cloudy or raining, people did what they do in Wellington on nice days – they headed to the beach for an ice cream.

I joined the beach exodus and boarded an omnibus to Days Bay. It always feels like a place that used to be quite special in previous decades. Like the sort of place where people would have packed a picnic, jumped in their automobile and parked right on the beachfront, enjoying a lovely cold sunny day at the seaside.

A search on the National Library’s website indeed found evidence of Days Bay’s golden days in the 1930s, with this beach at the edge of the universe:

People on the beach at Days Bay, Lower Hutt, in 1930. Includes a man in a bathing costume, women with parasols and sun hats and a baby in a pram in the foreground. The ferry 'Muritai' is docked at the Days Bay Wharf in the background. Photographer: Sydney Charles Smith S C Smith Collection Reference number: 1/2-048206-G Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
People on the beach at Days Bay, Lower Hutt, in 1930. Includes a man in a bathing costume, women with parasols and sun hats and a baby in a pram in the foreground. The ferry 'Muritai' is docked at the Days Bay Wharf in the background. Photographer: Sydney Charles Smith S C Smith Collection Reference number: 1/2-048206-G Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

But it turns out that Days Bay was a happening place even earlier than that.

In 1890 a fellow by the name of John Williams bought Days Bay and turned it into a resort, complete with a hotel, pavilion, tennis courts, hockey fields and a great big crazy-arse water chute.

Looking down onto the Pavilion and water chute at Williams Park, Days Bay, Lower Hutt, Wellington, with the beachfront at the top right of the image. Photograph taken ca 1910s by Sydney Charles Smith.  S C Smith Collection Reference number: 1/1-022709-G Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Looking down onto the Pavilion and water chute at Williams Park, Days Bay, Lower Hutt, Wellington, with the beachfront at the top right of the image. Photograph taken ca 1910s by Sydney Charles Smith. S C Smith Collection Reference number: 1/1-022709-G Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

The hydroslide at the aquatic centre in Porirua has nothing on the old Days Bay water chute. The little boats seated eight people and went hurtling down the tracks at 50km/h before splashing down into the pond below.

All the National Library’s photos of the water chute show gentlemen and ladies in their Victorian casualwear both queuing to have a go on the chute, and also watching others having their turn. It looks choice fun and would have been absolutely thrilling, though probably not so much on a cold, windy day.

But eventually the chute was closed and the resort was sold off, and parts of it were turned into a park. Could it be that the climate of Days Bay isn’t actually nice enough to work as a resort location?

I’m not sure when the water chute went out of operation, but Robin Hyde’s novel The Godwits Fly, published in 1938, has this account of a visit to Days Bay:

Behind lies a small brown artificial lake, with swans sailing, their breasts only slightly soiled from the mud of their nests, their black bills snapping for bits of bread. Once there was a Day’s Bay Wonderland Exhibition, and the derelict water-chute still stands, from which flat-bottomed pontoons used to bounce out on the lake.

I wandered around Williams Park, searching for remnants of the old water chute. The hill where the chute ran is covered with thick foliage, but at the foot of the hill, just around the side of the pavilion, is a small brown artificial lake.

It’s now the home of ducks, with its unusual teardrop shape being the only clue that something different used to be here.

Compare and contrast these two photos taken from the end of the pond. The first taken in 1912, back when the chute was in full operation, with a nice long queue of people.

Water chute at Williams Park, Day's Bay, 1912. Photographer unidentified. Reference number: PAColl-7081-53 Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Water chute at Williams Park, Day's Bay, 1912. Photographer unidentified. Reference number: PAColl-7081-53 Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

And this is the pond today. There are no crowds, only ducks:

Big tree

In fact, most of Days Bay has that feeling, that things use to be different, grander. The pavilion building is now a cafe cleverly called Pavilion, with the building itself having been surrounded by a strange bus-shelter-like veranda.

The Pavilion

But maybe that’s how Days Bay works – it’s a memory of a warm summer’s day, with ice cream trickling down your hand as you try to win the tongue vs melt race.

And when it’s a rare sunny day in winter, we’ll still go to the beach in our merinos and polarfleeces and have an ice cream, even though it’s so cold and there’s no chance that the ice cream will melt onto the fingerless woollen gloves we have to wear while we’re holding the cone.

The old brown museum, she ain’t what she used to be

At one end of Tory Street is Te Papa, at the other end is the old museum building. Actually, let’s be more formal – it’s the old National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. Yeah, that’s more like it.

The museum building opened in 1936, but lasted only 60 years, moving into the Te Papa behemoth down the hill. The museum building is now occupied by Massey University’s College of Creative Arts. They put all the pretty subjects into the pretty building.

I have a vague memory of having visited the old museum, but it was in the early ’80s and my memory is fuzzy. I remember that the building was brown, and that’s about it.

I consulted The Shell Guide to New Zealand for Maurice Shadbolt’s take on the museum, circa 1969:

[The museum] has much for visitors. [The] Art Gallery, though its New Zealand collection is patchy and unrepresentative, also has much of interest.

I decided to explore the building and see what ghosts were still lurking.

From Buckle Street, it’s a bit like sneaking up to a haunted house. The old overgrown pohutukawa trees either side of the War Memorial seem spooky and a little menacing. But combine that with the very serious solemnity of the adjacent National War Memorial, and all that’s missing is an engraved warning of certain doom for trespassers.

The old museum

Approaching the building, it seems so full of hope and grandeur. It’s a building that says, “Hey, look at us! We’re a dominion now, and we have a museum and an art gallery! Just like a proper grown-up country.”

But with all the plaques naming great men and events, there is also the knowledge that the building wasn’t enough. It might have looked impressive from the outside, but it soon proved to be too small on the inside.

Inside, the main foyer seems oppressively small. I can’t help comparing it to the Auckland Museum with its grand entrance hall. It’s big and has always managed to keep up with increasing visitor numbers over the decades. But the old Dominion Museum’s entrance hall is so small, it feels like maybe I’ve accidentally walked in the back entrance. But I haven’t.

It was a Saturday so the university was all but empty. The stone surfaces echoed every noise, making me self-conscious of every step. I also had a vague paranoia that maybe I’m not supposed to be there. That a stern person would jump out from behind a pillar and say, “You’re not a student and/or a lecturer! Get out! Get out now!”


I came to the Grand Hall. In the past this housed whare and waka and other everyday objects of traditional Maori life. Now the hall was used to house an exhibition of work by industrial design students.

Massey’s website says the exhibition provides “a quirky interpretation of everyday objects.” See what’s happened? Nothing’s happened. Everyday objects are taken out of their ordinary context and put on display in the Grand Hall.


I noticed the handrails on all the big staircases in the museum building had metal kiwis supporting the rail. It looked a bit kitschy, or possibly quaint. But then I realised that Te Papa is full of such kitschy, deliberate symbolism. It’s done a lot more subtly at Te Papa, but it’s there – “grid-like spaces reflect the patterns of European settlement.”

Outside, I went for a walk around the museum building. Again I was struck by how small it was. How did this make do as the National Museum and Art Gallery? And maybe that’s why Te Papa sometimes feels empty – too much explanatory text and not enough objects. Maybe they just didn’t amass a big collection because they had no room to keep it.

Though, in The Shell Guide to New Zealand, Maurice comments that the “museum’s displays … are well arranged.” I imagine an impeccably organised Manhattan studio apartment writ large. And if you open the giant moa sculpture, there you’ll find an ancient Greek pottery… filled with freshly brewed tea. And that’s half a sixpence for a cuppa.

As I approached the back of the building, I heard some gangsta rap playing. “Oh no,” I thought. I am intruding upon the turf of the notorious Mt Cook G’s. They will surely step me up rool hard.” But when I turned the corner, there were no notorious G’s. A lone speaker was piping out the gangsta rap to no one.

Perhaps this is like the opposite of places that play classical music to keep away loitering teens. Perhaps Massey Uni wants to scare off codgers. “Yeah, piss off back to the War Memorial, gramps. This space is for the youth gone wild!”

Back around the front of the museum building, I took one more look at its audacious facade before I headed off down the hill. The old museum building feels like your aunt whose husband ran off with a younger, sexier (albeit crazy) woman. Eventually your aunt remarries a nice man who treats her really well, but he’s not your uncle and it just doesn’t feel the same like it did in the happier days.


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.

Black, gold

I have a new cellphone. It is one of those newfangled cellphones that has an extra piece of string or a special carrier pigeon that connects it to the interwebs (I do not understand modern technology). Vodafone now has some decent pricing plans for cellphone interwebs, so I have no excuse not to use it. But this has been both a bonus and a burden.

For example, if I’m walking down Courtenay Place and I think, “Wot was that line from Clue that Mrs White says about the flames?”, I can just whip out my phone and google it and quickly find the answer.

However, it also means that having the net at my fingertips sucks me out of the now and focuses my attention on the little black rectangle in my hand. It’s like the monolith from “2001”, but instead of evolving me to a new plane of enlightenment, it tells me trivia facts about Romania (Romania’s parliament building is the largest building in Europe!)

I was thinking about how cellphones are used these days. I rarely use mine for voice calls any more. In fact, my cellphone rang for a first time a few days ago and I didn’t know which button to press to answer it so I missed the call. Oh, such a modern dilemma!

But I would like to note that when my cellphone rings,it rings.


I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Isn’t it awesome that the Wellington Lions won the Ranfurly Shield after a 26-year dry spell, mate!” Well, um, prior to a couple of days ago, I didn’t even know that there was a sports team called the Wellington Lions.

So with this in mind, I have wisely left the commentary on this topic to my mum, who filed this report from Wellington airport, the day after the win:

We got to the airport quite early and had just settled down to wait for the plane when there was an announcement, “I am proud to announce that the Air New Zealand flight from Auckland will be arriving shortly.” (Proud, I thought, that’s a bit odd)

Then there was a lot of yahoo-ing and yelling from a group of middle-aged Koru Club ladies up the other end of the room who were watching the plane come in. Of course the plane had the victorious Lions on board.

On the tarmac there were two fire trucks in position and when the plane taxied to the terminal it was generously sprayed with water, most of which was blown the other way anyway. Also there were a lot of workers in yellow vests on the tarmac waving flags and yellow and black scarves. Oh, how I wished I’d kept my old school scarf!

We didn’t go down to join in the rabble. We heard some kids doing a haka and there was a lot of cheering and clapping. The Koro Club ladies (and their cellphone cameras) had disappeared to join in the fun. It was all on the TV news last night, anyway.

When it stops raining, we leave the house


I went to two art exhibitions – the giant Affordable Art Show at the TSB Arena and the much smaller Drawing Parallels exhibition at ROAR! gallery.

The Affordable Art Show was full of the kind of art that people buy to decorate their homes. Before I went there, I’d been out looking for a new duvet cover, and with duvet designs in mind, I was disturbed to see the same sort of designs showing up on lots of the paintings. But it’s the kind of art that people buy exactly because it matches their duvet.

A very common design would be a crimson-based piece with lots of different elements painted on it in a scrapbook fashion – maybe some pebbles, the ubiquitous Samoan bird motif, an old newspaper clipping (made older looking by a yellow varnish), a black and white photo, and some other coastal-inspired designs, something lacy, and plenty of gold paint. Like this:


Why is this so common? Is there some sort of programme on The Living Channel on how to make this?

My favourite piece in the show was a by-the-numbers portrait of Ozzy Osborne called “Prince of Darkness” (not Prince of Entertainment?), on sale for a mere $1000. Oh, the dark blue would go so well with the curtains in the guest bedroom.

Over at ROAR!, there was art of a different kind. ROAR! specialises in outsider art, but the Drawing Parallels was a group show open to anyone, really, with an emphasis on drawing.

The walls were covered with pieces from different artists using all sorts of different techniques and media (including my new favourite – felt-tip pens).

When you see a piece where the artist has sketched all the different meals she’s had every day in hospital, you know there’s not a duvet in the world that would match that.


I got the train to Porirua. This is the furthest north I’ve been since I moved to Wellington. One day I’ll make it to Levin. One day.

City of Progress

Porirua’s town centre reminds me a bit of Manukau. It’s very automobile-focused, but is trying hard to be pedestrian friendly. But it’s really hard, as a pedestrian, to deal with a town centre that has a great whacking mall in the middle of it. There are just so many dead edges around it – totally designed on a scale that can only be enjoyed in a car.

I passed by the historic McDonald’s – the very first one in New Zealand. I didn’t realise it at the time. If I’d known, I would have gone in and had a cheeseburger and then rolled out my vinyl offcut, played Mirda Rock on my ghettoblaster and done some breakdancing.

There are a couple of streets near the mall that have been turned into a pedestrian mall and covered with canopies, in a sort of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em move”. The pedestrian mall was practically devoid of pedestrians. Instead it was full of very young teenagers kicking around broken umbrellas.

The train conductor didn’t clip my ticket on the way home, so a return trip might be in order.


A few days ago I bought some crazy-cheap flights to New Caledonia in September (or, as they say in New Caledonia, Septembre. It’s just as well they were cheap because New Caledonia isn’t. I’m currently utilising the mighty power of the interwebs to find a hotel in Noumea that a) I can afford, and b) isn’t a complete shithole.

Hotel review websites have been useful, especially reading the reviews from my fellow countrymen and Australian neighbours as they come to grips with la vie francais “We could not get a good flat white coffee anywhere,” moans one tourist. Oh, funny that a French territory would not serve Australasian-style coffee.

And should I feel comforted that “My partner and I (and his stepchildren)” from Hamilton liked a certain hotel? Or should I take that as a sign to stay away? I’m spurred on by the visitor who reckons, “Noumea was a bit feral.” I already knew that, which is one of the reasons I’m going back.

Bonus Poetry

Over at the Wellingtonista, I was inspired to write a sonnet about a recent brawl in Manners Mall.

Hanging with the goths in Manners Mall –
a scuffle in the Loaded clothing shop.
A shoplifter, so 111 was called
but even still the ruckus didn’t stop.
Nunchakus were brandish’d, ninja style.
The shop staff locked themselves out in the back
I hadn’t had some biff now for a while,
so I turned ’round and gave some guy a whack.
A Strathmore chick did kick me in the nuts.
I fell down hard and I began to wail.
My hardcore gangsta plan ran out of luck,
as the po’liceman, he took me off to jail.
I’ve vowed to never go out after dark.
It’s so much safer here in Churton Park.

A difference between Auckland and Wellington

A difference between Auckland and WellingtonI recently signed up for my Wellington library card and couldn’t help compare it with my Auckland library one.

Auckland’s got a scenic photo of the city at night, with the sort of orange sky you’d normally only get if there’d been a volcanic eruption in the Philippines or something. The Sky Tower looks so bright and white, it’s as if they took a 1995 photo of the city and photoshopped a contemporary, daytime image of the Sky Tower into it. It’s all “Look at me! I am slick and urban! I am a world-class city – just like Sydney and Melbourne!!!!”

Whereas the Wellington card has a detail from some Para Matchett’s sculptures on the City To Sea bridge. He’s one of my favourite New Zealand sculptors (did you guess that aready from my Flickr icon?) so I’m happy to have that in my wallet.

How’d my dance card get so full?

Oh, hi. I’m living in Wellington now. I’m rather enjoying it.

I was planning on writing something earlier, but I got all sensitive artist about where I was going to write. I realised Virginia Woolf was right about needing a room of one’s own to write. And it took a while to get the interwebs connected.

I flew down on a rainy Auckland afternoon. Now the awful rainy weather has been seared in my memory as “Auckland”, alternating with a blissful, tropical summary image that somehow has palm trees and white sand around Queen Street.

For the first three weeks I stayed with Jo and Stephen, who were kind and lovely and let me use their spare room, which is really all one needs. I shall give a naive 1990s R&B/pop-album-note-style shout to them: “Yo, peace! Thanks for the spare room. Say no 2 drugz!”

Then I found a flat, centrally located, and have managed to figure out where the nearest awesome coffee place is (Schoc, 11 Tory Street).

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting the move and settling in to be like, but it’s turned out to be surprisingly easier than it seems it should. It hasn’t been without a few hassles or emo interludes, but it’s gone rather well for the whole ‘moving to another city and starting a new job’ thing.

Oh, but I know what you’re thinking. “Robyn, tell us, wot r some of the differences between Auckland and Wellington that you have noticed so far plz?”

All right, here you go:

I never had to pay attention to the weather in Auckland. It was usually grey and overcast, sometime a bit more sunny, other times a bit more rainy. But in Wellington, I’ve started reading the weather report. I know now what a southerly feels like. I’ve also had the unusual experience of coming indoors after some extremely windy weather and discovering that the wind appeared to have opened a wormhole to 1987 and brought back my hairstyle from when I was 12 years old.

Public Transport
I used buses quite a bit in Auckland, and I noticed that most of my fellow bus-goers were students or people in lower socio-economic groups. In other words, they were taking the bus because it was cheap. Whereas in Wellington, I see business people taking buses and trains to work. They look like they could easily afford to drive to work but choose not to.

I’m living in Wellington but working in the Hutt Valley. The quickest way to work is the train. Trains are still a novelty for me – it’s all a bit Thomas the Tank Engine, wahey, toot-toot, etc. I’m lucky that I’m travelling against the rush hour so I can enjoy the luxury of near empty carriages. When the full trains pull into the station in the morning, I don’t envy the sardine-like commuters.

It boils down to this: more Malaysian satay, fewer Chinese and Middle Eastern. More Japanese restaurants, but hardly any takeaway sushi places. And cafes are more likely to have affogato on their espresso menu, which is just fine with me. Also, I highly recommend the Kiallas Greek cafe in Newtown – especially their pancakes.

48Hours Film Competition
I sadly couldn’t take part this year with Fractured Radius, my old team in Auckland (not that they needed me: they just went ahead and make a totally brilliant serious film – serious! – that’s scored them a place in the Auckland finals!), so I volunteered to help out with Wellington. This involved handing out ping-pong balls on kick-off night, marking off completed films on the Sunday night, and helping with the judging process. As always, hard work but tons of fun.

The main difference between Auckland and Wellington 48Hours films is that the landscape seems to play a greater part in Wellington films. It’s harder to pretend that Lambton Quay is downtown Chicago, or that Lower Hutt is Central Park. Auckland is dirty streets, Wellington is hills and flats and harbour and sharp shadows.

By the way, the Wellington final is on Wednesday at the Embassy theatre. You should come. It’s going to be good.

Closeness – Things
Everything is close in Wellington. I like that I can walk places and go to things without having to work out some sort of elaborate transport plan. If it’s not a little walk away, it’s a pleasant stroll away.

Closeness – People
I’ve lost count, but it seems that about half my workmates know someone who I also know. I’ve already had the experience of walking down the street and running into people I know. This might seem ordinary, but it barely happened to me in Auckland, and only seemed to happened frequently to hugely social people.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to figure out how to unpack three rooms worth of stuff into one room without it looking like the abode of a crazy Trade Me lady.


I got a new job. It’s still in the fast-paced world of television, but whereas my old job was the feel-good public service side of telly, the new job is more commercial – a different kind of feel-good. And while it’s about the telly, I’m going back to my roots, as the job is all about the interwebs.

So that’s all new and exciting, but what’s even more new and exciting is that the new job is located deep in the Hutt Valley, meaning I’m going to have to move to Wellington in a few weeks.

Fortunately I like Wellington and its fine citizens, so I’m excited about the move. But my knowledge of the city is nowhere near as great as my knowledge of Auckland (or Hamilton!). I don’t know what kind of reputation different suburbs have, what sorts of areas I should live in.

But that’s a way off. At the moment I’m in the process of packing. I’ve been living at my current flat for over six years now (six years!), the longest I’ve lived in a flat, so it’s been a bit of an archaeological expedition as I’ve gone through all the stuff in my spare room.

At first glance, it looked a bit like the work of some crazy lady who buys things off TradeMe but just biffs the unopened boxes in the room. But even though there was a chaotic mess, I knew where everything was cos, like, it was all organically arranged, man.

But still, I managed to find a few things that I didn’t realise I had:

  • A sticker reading “UTBNB: Up The Bum No Babies”. (I assume you can stick it anywhere you like.)
  • A teach-yourself book on Irish Gaelic.
  • A vast collection of postcards. I knew I had quite a few, but I didn’t realise how many until I gathered them all together.
  • A badge from the ’80s saying “Telecom – I ♥ my customers”. Yeah, they had to get badges made as a reminder.
  • Too many bags. I would not consider myself a bag-loving’ gal, but yet there they were – too many bags. How did this happen?

I suspect I’ve been throwing out more than I’ve been packing. It’s easy to pack obvious things like books, CDs, DVDs, but then I’ll find and old notebook or a folder full of interesting bits of paper and I’ll want to keep it, but wonder, as it’s been in a drawer, untouched for the last six years, do I really need to keep it?

This is why nuns are content and crazy TradeMe ladies aren’t.