Friday, 29 February 2008

It's A South Dunedin Thing

To get to my new place of work, I go through South Dunedin, an interesting, downbeat suburb in Dunedin with a working class background and history. It may not have much in the way of charm, but at least it has plenty of character, unlike some of the more prosperous, tightly-buttoned suburbs.





It is the most densely populated suburb in New Zealand, built on reclaimed, boggy land as flat as a pancake, and with a water table (
which rises and falls with the tide) no deeper than two spade lengths down below ground-level.




It is made up of a hotch-potch of low-cost, wooden bungalows and villas,
closely-packed together; chin-to-chin, shoulder-to-shoulder. Part of the population are long-term residents who go back generations. I often think of a little girl we knew from a South Dunedin family without much in the way of material benefits, who lived a joyless, hand-to-mouth existence. She lived only four or five blocks away from the beach, but at four years of age had never been taken to see the ocean. We took her to see it one day. I'll never forget her wide-eyed expression. When she saw White Island, a rocky outcrop about 4 kilometres out from the beach, she said, "What's that bit of dirt doing there?"



Lots of writers have written about South Dunedin, including arguably NZ's most famous writer, Janet Frame.
When a friend and I (who worked together in South Dunedin for a time) are hard-placed to describe someone's puzzling behaviour, we'll say, 'It's a South Dunedin thing,' and both instantly know just what we mean by that. The South Dunedin-thing may be hard to define, but it might be fun trying. One day.

9 comments:

puresunshine said...

this makes a nice read. and lovely pictures. i have a friend who would stay in auckland n palmerston there. what i lvoe about NZ is the adventure sports. hope to go there sometime

fearfullymade said...

Nothing like a shared understanding of place, and people of course, which goes beyond the words we could find to describe it.

January said...

As we in on the east coast of North America face yet another snowstorm, it's nice to see such sunny locales in other parts of the world.

Thanks, I needed a little blue sky today.

Katherine said...

I'll never forget living in South Dunedin, even if was only for a month. The house was damp and cold and had a washing machine from the 1940s. My flatmate was a 'boner' at a meatworks. He had a job-related wrist injury, yet he couldn't take time off to let it heal. He had a gambling addiction and was pining for his mean ex-wife and kids. Possibly one of the saddest existences ever, yet he was also a very nice guy.

Tammy said...

Hi CB! I'm coming out of my "flu fog" and think the wedding spot is super! All your pictures take me away. ;) XXOO

mapiprincesa! said...

I, too, am ready for a little of that Southern-hemispherian warmth sent this way. I fear March will be coming in like a very, very cold lion this year...and hopefully to leave like a needing-to-be-sheared lamb!

The pictures are beautiful. I love learning about your country from your poetry and photo-journaling. Thank you so much.

Be well, Chief! Smiles back atcha!

watermaid said...

I've never been to New Zealand but it looks to be a country of great contrasts. Friends who have been - I have a friend who spent a long time in NZ with her ses captain husband - tell me it'd beautiful. South Dunedin, unlike the spot for your son's wedding is interesting (reminds me a little of when i travelled south in Kenya)rather than beautiful. You write so well about place.

Becky Motew said...

I'm curious how to pronounce Dunedin...does the first part rhyme with "fun" or "dune"?

Anyway, the pictures are great and as always, you make the place real. As someone else said, so nice to see the sun.

b

chiefbiscuit said...

puresunshine - Hope you get to visit too.

fearfullymade - That shared sense of pla ce is a bonding thing I'm sure.

January- Hopefully there will be an increae in blue skies your way soon.

katherine - That is so evocative!

tammy - I'm glad you're feeling better.

mapi - My pleasure.

watermaid - Thanks - I'm glad I could convey a liitle about the contrasts in NZ.

becky - 'Fun'. So it is pronounced Dun-e-din. (not Dunnydin ... but 'Dun-eden' (Does that help?)

Harbour

Harbour
'how this all harbours light'