It was a blustery today to say the least.
One of the things that Day 119’s Men Behaving Badly told me about was Wellington’s wind… in that it’s possible to see flags blowing in opposite directions.
Gary backed this up with photos. Sure enough, he had captured shots of three flags blown at totally different angles. It’s like Wellington’s wind is actually a series of mini tornadoes,spiralling around the streets.
I was hoping I would see that today. I was practically staking out flagpoles. No luck.
This was after I had moved from my house sitting digs to a hostel across town.
Thanks to a mutual friend I had five days of house sitting between Berhampore and Newtown, suburbs around two miles out of the city centre.
There are pros and cons to housesitting:
- Not having to pay for accommodation though it’s fair to contribute to utility costs, in my view.
- Seeing a different part of town by being firmly settled in a residential area – it gave me the opportunity to explore somewhere different.
- While I’ve stayed in hostels in residential areas (e.g. Beijing) actually living in someone’s house gives a different perspective to the place you’re visiting.
- Privacy and space.
- Occasionally I have missed home comforts – endless hostel living can make me miss my home and the lady I was house-sitting for had similar tastes to me – it was like being at home.
- With the exception of catching up with a friend, I saw nobody for a conversation during this time. It was quite lonely. (Obviously the phone works and social media is great… but regular face-to-face contact was missing).
So, I was quite pleased to move to a hostel again.
The walk also gave me the opportunity to visit the War Memorial.
There are a couple of statues here that I found particularly poignant.
The first was ‘Whakaruruhau‘ which means ‘Shelter’. The sculpture is formed of an oak tree intertwined with a pohutukawa, symbolising the solidarity between the UK and New Zealand.
In the branches is the outline of a soldier sheltering from battle.
This Australian Memorial, in front of the main monument, commemorates relationship between Australia and New Zealand.
When I saw it, I thought of the Po Nagar Towers that I saw in Nha Trang (Vietnam).
The rugged red sandstone columns actually represent the heart of Australia: the ‘red centre’. Each column stands on a band of the same red stone and between them, bands of grey stone symbolise the New Zealand landscape.
There were few people visiting the monuments and indeed, the rest of Wellington remained quiet too.
In search of a coffee I ignored ‘QBA Cafe’ on Cuba Street because: one, I was there a couple of days ago (repetition) and two, it was crowded. I should have taken that as a clue.
I eventually found a cappuccino in the Press Hall.
This was formerly the home of ‘The Evening Post’ and last year it reopened as a Food Hall featuring twelve eateries. I would tell you about them, but they were all closed.
A less determined person would give up but, even on a windy day threatening rain, there is a lot to see in Wellington.
I found more street art that I’d managed to miss…
…and I spotted this:
This giant mural was commissioned to celebrate the life of New Zealand artist Rita Angus who lived in Wellington from 1955 until she died in 1970.
What tickled me was the fact that this is places opposite the location of her favourite coffee shop… which was demolished in 1986. Is that not a little insulting to her memory?
“You know your favourite coffeeshop? We’re putting this memorial of you next to it.”
“But it’s not there anymore. You demolished it.”
“Yeah, but we’ll include that in the memorial plaque.”
She and I were not having any luck with cafes. It was all a bit ‘Bullseye’*… here’s what you could have seen.
Fortunately, though not open for indoor visitors, the Parluamentary Buildings were open.
First stop, the Government Building – so cunningly constructed of wood to look like stone that I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Wellington knocking on walls to check what they were made of.
I wandered over to the Beehive, keeping an eye on the flags for a multi directional shot opportunity.
Once in the grounds I spotted this:
As if I wasn’t already struck by the fact that the grounds and gardens are open to the public for people to enjoy… democracy for the people… there’s a Playpark with a rather nice looking slide.
It was opened on the 20th November 2019 by Jacinda Arden as a place to encourage children to engage with nature and Parliament.
Is there any other Parliament in the world with a playpark? This actually isn’t a paragraph building into a sarcastic comment about politicians.
I’m struck by the fact that this is a demonstration of an inclusive approach to politics and democracy. Government couldn’t be much more visible or present if your children grow up playing in the grounds of Parliament.
For me, it’s another example of the approach that New Zealand is taking with community inclusion and participation.
*1980s Northern England game show where the host taunted contestants with sight of the prizes that they hadn’t won. It was harsh.