Monday, 9 October 2006

Expeditions and Exhibitions

A week ago at this time - as I start this, it's early evening - we'd arrived at my sister J's home in Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt and were about to enjoy the scrumptious meal she and her partner D had cooked for us. Roast mutton & roast vegetables - pumpkin, potatoes, kumara - and a cauliflower-onion-&-leek casserole with cheese sauce that J had more or less invented.

That morning, we'd had a pleasant, three-hour trip across Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry.

ABM and I sat outside where it is easier to ward off any feelings of sea-sickness. So there we were, 'Ma and Pa' (a name we often call ourselves) guarding our spot on the sun-deck; a thermos of coffee and some sandwiches to stave off any hunger pangs brought on by the fresh ocean-air, and also, to be quite honest, to save money by not buying from the cafe on-board. How Scots are we? Very. ABM's grandparents were both born in Scotland, and I have a fair amount of Scottish blood too. However, as we neared Wellington, it got colder and a little chilly outside for me, so I retired inside and into a corner with my book.

After disembarking, we drove straight to my big, little brother A's home for lunch. He had baked a dinkum-kiwi bacon-and-egg pie, making it the way our generation were all brought up to make them - with whole eggs and no peas.

That night we watched a movie (J & D asked if we wanted to play 'Trivial Pursuit' or watch a movie) but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the dvd or anything about it - an after-effect of soft, wine-clouded ambience? Good thing we didn't play T.P. THAT night or we woulda lost for sure. (Which leads me nicely to where I can slip in the fact that when we did play 'Trivial Pursuit' with J&D - ABM and I won.)

Rather than go through each day and what we did while in the city of Wellington, I am going to list the highlights (I got this trick off January - cheers my dear) and in no particular order. (Of course I'd hoped to have photos, but will have to insert them later once our printer is fixed ... )

* seeing the framed photos on the wall of J&D's guest bedroom. They had specially selected photos from their considerable gallery - ones that meant something to us e.g. Te Waewae Bay, Monkey Island, Milford Sound, the Clutha Dam flip-bucket that ABM had designed in his Civil Engineering days ... it was so sweet of them to do that. And the photos are damn good ones too.

* on a marvellous, sunny and breezy day, going to see the exhibition of the British painter John Constable (see an image of one of his paintings at the top of this post) held at Te Papa (National Museum.) Boy that man could paint clouds! Now whenever I look at a cloudy skyscape, I know I will think of him. There was not one clear blue sky among all his paintings. He definitely favoured dramatic skies. It was interesting too to see how rural the outskirts of London (e.g. Hampstead Heath) were in the 1830s.

* later that day, while ABM was away playing golf, wandering around the Queen's Wharf area in Wellington by myself, the harbour an attractive blue and the boardwalk full of colour and life with skateboarders, families, tourists and joggers out and about and people drinking coffee in the many cafes. Seeing where the various poets' and writer quotes have been fashioned into stone slabs. Then over the bridge to Civic Square and down into the city itself alive with bustle and scurry and people just doing 'Wellington things'; talking about deals and money and policies - yet despite that, a general air of optomism and energy. A little stress yes, but generally handling it. At least that's the impression I got - I might be totally wrong. (Put it this way, I didn't see anyone in a business suit throwing themselves into the harbour.)

* a picnic lunch at Eastbourne/Day's Bay where the harbour changed in the twinkling of an eye from smooth and blue, to choppy and grey. And the view of Wellington city across the harbour, lying like a large machine at rest.

* an afternoon in the Wairarapa (with dramatic, swirling mist at the summit of the Rimutaka Hills) and Greytown with its boutique-y shops with tastefully decorated and restored shop fronts.

'Greytown. There's More To It Than Just Driving Through' announced the signs at either end of town. ABM was a tad bored, but I loved the knick-knacks that abounded there.

One art-gallery owner reminded me of the school prefects that used to tell me off for arriving late to school. When we happened to mention what a wet day it was she said, a little defensively I thought, "The gardens actually need the rain." Yes, for a second I definitely felt like I was back in high school.

* going to see the movie 'Wah-Wah' (btw a great movie) in Upper Hutt at a boutique theatre called 'The Lighthouse' in a '60s house converted into a picture theatre, in the suburbs, and where a black-and-white dog politely and discreetly welcomed everyone, and after you'd had your coffee, the owners showed you into the cinema like they were showing you into their living room - which in a way it was.

* meeting up and having a meal with my high-school friend R and her husband J at a noisy Turkish-food restaurant that had wicked Turkish Delight and loud music that, despite being turned down upon request, would somehow mysteriously turn itself up again.

* a rainy Sunday afternoon, meeting my brother and his family at a cafe on Oriental Parade, where the waitresses all wore black camisoles - one with three large safety pins to pull hers in at the back and at the same time, managing to make a little 'punky-funky' fashion statement.

* making the two-hour trip up to Palmerston North to see my mother and having a hilarious time there with her and my sister, cleaning out her cupboards - grabbing stuff which she was just going to put into a garage sale, but which had nostalgic value for my sister and me. Including an old-fashioned mincer, which I will be able to use (when I remember to that is.) We had a bit of a hat parade too - J took photos - meanie!

* while at Palmy, wandering around the Esplanade there and looking at all the spring flowers - and oh-so-cute ducklings.

I just love these pansies - their faces look ever so slightly disgruntled.

And these native flowers, called kaka beak, are nothing less than quintessential NZ. (Designed to make Wandering Woman even more homesick! Sorry Di!)

* playing trivial Pursuit with J & D and winning! (Or have I already mentioned that?) And generally hanging out with them in the evenings after they got back from work - watching their wide-screen tv and drinking ... coffee.

* going to see the writer Katherine Mansfield's house in Thorndon, with its authentic wallpaper, furniture and fireplaces dating back to the time Katherine and her family lived there in the early 1900s. Oh, and the beautifully made doll's house - modelled on descriptions of it in her story called 'The Doll's House'. The house reminded me very strongly of houses from my childhood - which was long after KM's time, I hasten to add. (Maybe back then they didn't redecorate as rapidly as we do these days, and some houses did retain their original 1920's wallpaper and dark varnish on into the '60s.) The garden was also authentic to the turn of the century. Marigolds and hollyhocks and lilac bushes etc.


The weather while we were in Wellington was sunny for a couple of days, and we took full advantage when it was. But a lot of the time it was grey and drizzly and misty. Luckily we weren't there for the weather. As we had been there only last year and did a lot of the tourist-y things then, this time we were more relaxed about just letting the days unfold. Despite Wellington being NZ's capital city, we weren't inclined to visit Parliament Buildings (called 'The Beehive' because it looks ... just like a Beehive.) Anyway, I get enough childish behaviour in the early childhood centre where I work.

Sadly J became ill with a throat lurgy the day before we were to leave. She was like a little fizzy drink without any fizz left. Like a flat champers. She doesn't like being sick, and it showed! But despite not being able to have that last game of Trivial Pursuit, and beat them again, we'd had a wonderful time and a lot of it was due to her and D's enjoyable company and feeling relaxed and so at home in their place. (So thanks guys! We'll miss you.)

The trip home back over on the ferry and down the South Island, was without incident. Even though we were prepared to stay overnight somewhere on our way down, we did manage to drive all the way home - leaving Picton at 12.30 mid-day and arriving in Dunedin at 10.30 p.m.

Walking in the door to M&K's welcome of a warm fire and home-baking (K had baked a chocolate cake, Belguim biscuits and ginger crunch) was wonderful. "Ah! Home!" I said, and sank thankfully into its funny, familiar atmosphere.


Belle said...

Hi Chiefbiscuit,

That was a wonderful read. Just such a nice normal vacation with family. So much to be thankful for.

And a safe return too!

Deb R said...

It's fun reading about your trip. So much good stuff!!

wendy said...

Blogger ate my previuos offering! Nasty BLOGGER! No Manners at all.

I laughed at the thrifty Scot bit. My mother in law is 100% Scottish.. and Always reminds to bring me to bring condiments with me when I I can make my own sandwiches.

You seem to have such a warm family!

Anonymous said...

Great review CB. It's the details I love the most -like the waitress with the safety pins. Shall come along again when the photos are up - although I can picture it much now, the businessmen in Wellington...and the skateboarders. I wonder if I have it right.

Kay Cooke said...

belle - Yep the safe return is always a good feeling.

deb r - Thanks - glad you enjoyed it. You'll have to come see for yourself one day - I know you want to!

wendy - You're going to have to sort out that nasty Blogger!

Yes, we Scots are a canny lot!

clare - Thankyou Clare - I always enjoy your reports too! They were certainly an inspiration for me.

I'm sure you've pictured it right - the mixture and the laid-back atmosphere despite it being a busy city. British friends of ours couldn't get over the relaxed attitude when they were over last summer. Our national motto used to be: "She'll be right." (Same as the Aussies.) Not always good and I don't think we are quite THAT carefree (or careless) these days.

Catherine said...

Oh, you make me all nostalgic for Wellington! Our first house had really old 1920s wallpaper and dark wood panelling. and that was late 1970s. And our current house has 1970s wallpaper I think - we just keep buying more books, computers and other techy toys instead of redecorating :) (though we did manage to get the outside painted)

McDinzie said...

You can come visit anytime. Great time had by all I think :)

Kay Cooke said...

catherine - Yeah we're a bit the same on the redecorating thing. And Wellington's definitely my fav city apart from Dunedin.

mcdinzie - Will take you up on that! Also ditto of course!

Rurality said...

I've been meaning to thank you for the most excellent postcards! I want to show all I got on my blog but I can't get the scanner working. May just have to take a pic of them all. Anyway thanks again!!!

Kay Cooke said...

rurality - Glad you got them! :)

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

A nice post, chief! Fun to read. (A DINKUM KIWI THINGY WITHOUT PEAS? What is this world coming to?

apprentice said...

Sounds a great trip, and nice to catch up with family and friends.
Tight Scots, never, we're just careful that's all.

It sounds a lovely country, I've friends in Auckland, but we've yet to make it over. One day......

Kay Cooke said...

pepek - Ha ha! Now you have to add 'dinkum' along with 'fortnight' to your lexicon!

apprentice - What say we swap for a while? I'd love to visit Scotland again too. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip...can't wait for the pictures! Glad you got home safe to write about it all.

Kay Cooke said...

jules - Thanks - I will be posting pics real soon - our printer's been fixed!

Patry Francis said...

This was delightful. The only trouble is I've got a mysterious craving for kiwi, bacon and egg pie!

Kay Cooke said...

patry - Ha ha! Yeah - I wondered if anyone would pick up on that - trust a wordsmith such as yourself!! ;)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading about your trip. I could easily imagine being there! :)

Kay Cooke said...

Thanks 64 B! :)

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