Day 125: Weird and wonderful in Wellington

Today was spent working up an appetite so I could do justice for the afternoon tea at 2.30pm.

Did you think I had forgotten about afternoon tea? Of course not- though it had been two months since my last one.

However… cake in the afternoon, exploring in the morning.

First stop: Parliament to book a free tour – next slot available was 11.15 for the 30 minutes highlight tour.

This is a comprehensive trip around the key rooms of the buildings, following the viewing of a DVD to explain how democracy works in New Zealand.

The biggest surprise was the number of MPs (only 120 but the country does have a small population) and the size of the debating chamber.

You’ll have to take my word for it, unless you look at photos online, as cameras and phones weren’t allowed.

The other surprise… the woman who led the campaign for women to be given the vote in 1893 (a world first, pub quiz fans), Kate Sheppherd was from Liverpool, UK.

Meanwhile, the longest serving prime minister, Richard Seddon (13 years and six weeks) was born in Eccleston, just outside of St Helen’s, UK.

Folks from the Northwest of England get everywhere.

It was an interesting tour though I was disappointed not to be able to get a place on the any of the one hour guided visits. Top tip: Book by email or phone call.

Before the tour, I called in briefly at the Wellington Museum for which the word ‘quirky’ was invented.

The waterfront museum presents a hotch-potch of Wellington history through the presentation of an eclectic ans entertaining mix of objects and stories from people’s recollections as well as displays of what the Bond House, which it originally was, would have looked like.

I was less impressed with the stuffed rat on wheels that skittered past on rails.

It’s a brilliant Museum that is focused on the social history of Wellington.

The Attic was my favourite part – an utterly random display of memorabilia, rather like uncovering the forgotten treasures that might be hiding in a museum’s attic: stuffed lions, deep sea diver equipment, tower clocks, streetlamps, and the odd time machine.

And then I spotted this…

Was it a prototype TARDIS?


It was a display of New Zealand’s obsession with UFOs.

For people less impressed by the display of costumes from the film ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ the museum also covers Maori and maritime history and presents a fascinating series of of stories from the city’s history over the last 150 years.

I think it may have become my favourite museum.

It’s a small but perfectly formed museum, open daily 10am-5pm and admission is free.

Along the waterfront is the Portrait Gallery – another compact and free venue to visit. Wellington is great for open access to its cultural, social and educational facilities – even for overseas visitors.

The main exhibit was on the history of Chinese people in New Zealand which was rather wonderful.

What I’ve noticed in the museums here is the presentation and questioning of actions and stories that don’t show New Zealand in a positive light. There’s a real willingness to hold the mirror up to itself and ask difficult questions – on the approach to land management, on the environment, on the treatment of Maori, Pacific Islanders and New Zealand’s role in international conflicts.

Discussion and reflection is invited.

But concluding with more weird and wonderful

I stopped off at the City Art Gallery, also open 10-5pm and free. When I spotted its rooftop…

I had to go in. Obviously. And my favourite exhibit was this:

It’s called Encounter and the member of staff sitting in the room told me that it’s the first of a series of unlikely encounters. He said it’s creating a lot of discussion with people imagining what is going on.

Ideas include it being an update on ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, an examination of colonialism, an encounter with alien body snatchers who got the scale wrong…but I think it’s Dad telling the errant (giant, admittedly) child: “And where do you thi k you’ve been?”

Those are the folded arms of a cross parent.

He’s not bothered that the child has been out exploring. He just wants to know what the bloody hell time they call this?

I may be projecting.

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