Well, that was nice

July 18, 2013

Wellington could be covered by a giant’s pocket handkerchief. Such a lovely place, even when there are four consecutive days with gusts of rain that are correctly described, in meteorological terms, as gusty.

I enjoyed my short stay there, working on lists of poems with Tim Jones, who is a very patient and funny person. Tim lives in the right place, as he very easily overheats. ‘I’ll just take my coat off,’ he says, quite frequently. Also ‘Is that heater too high?’. To which the correct answer is ‘NO!’ I don’t think he would like Darwin…or tropical Canberra.

I met many Tuesday poets in Wellington, including Mary McCallum, Keith Westwater, Helen Rickerby (publisher of Maria McMillan’s wonderful collection The Rope Walk, which is such an attractive book, and the launch for which I was lucky enough to attend) Harvey Malloy, and Janis Freegard. So nice to meet people only known electronically!

Tim, Harvey, Janis and I gave a reading at Au Contraire. I think that the full range of speculative poetry was represented, including Janis’s surrealist works and Harvey’s delicate ghost poems. Some of Tim’s were science fiction, and some of mine were horror. Here are photos of the other three poets:
Janis at reading
Tim with stuff

So busily engaged in going through massive numbers of poems with Tim meant that I was unable to engage with the Convention very much, but I also enjoyed the poetry workshop I went to, run by Harvey and Tim. I may post the poem I wrote in ten minutes for my Tuesday Poem next week. I also attended the Julius Vogel Awards, where Simon Petrie, who I had talked at at the airport in Sydney for hours, picked up a gong. Simon also has a story in the new collection Regeneration, as does Tim. I must admit I have read a couple of stories, thus compromising my vow to read no prose for a year, but after working through literally thousands of poems, I excused myself. Sometimes, when tired, prose is easier to read than poetry, being inferior and all. (The stories, however, are of a particularly high standard.)

I meant to take a group photo of Tuesday Poets drinking, but I forgot. Here is a nice photo of Mary, though.

I realised after uploading this just now that she is wearing a top that I had been eyeing off on Cuba Street for a few days and bought on my last day after another few hours tireless (I typed ‘fireless’ at first, which would certainly have pleased Tim) anthologising. It was so dark in the Library Bar where me met that I didn’t consciously note it was the garment I had been admiring. Mary is a trendsetter, so much so that it works at a subconscious level! I wish I could have talked to her more, and all the other poets.

I have no profound thoughts to offer about New Zealand or Wellington after my few days there (I am always suspicious of instant summaries of other countries by blow-ins) but it is a place in which I felt very comfortable. I think it is legitimate to make comparisons with Canberra, too, given that both Wellington and Canberra are smaller capital cities with larger cities within the same country.

The public service seems to dominate Wellington far less than it does Canberra. You just don’t see so many people wandering around with their security tags on lanyards around their necks, like besuited dogs from a Russian novel. Perhaps security is slacker? (Or stricter, given this open display of ID has always seemed a strange practice.) Perhaps I was in an area of Wellington entirely inhabited by web designers, small press publishers and the owners of interesting boutiques? But I also noticed that conversations that I overheard were not so much about the minutiae of policy or whinges about conditions in the public service. Or upcoming elections as they are in Canberra at the moment!

This may seem a slightly bizarre comment, but there are far fewer blonde or redheaded people in Wellington than in Canberra. (I am talking about people of European origin here, obviously.) I have no idea why this is the case, but it struck me that only one person in a cafe was a redhead. Perhaps it is illegal for redheads to frequent Cuba Street?

It would be so good to live somewhere where walking was the major means of getting around. On the other hand, Canberra is much better for bicycles, at least in the inner city.

I ate and drank far far too much during my stay, burning off the equivalent of about one glass of wine during a leisurely stroll around part of the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary. The takahe, a fat, flightless bird, spend their lives munching grass. The story of their rediscovery is quite moving. Such placid, helpless creatures.

Less reassuring were the warning signs about what to do in case of an earthquake; with profound ignorance I hadn’t realised that Wellington was particularly prone to earthquakes. Certainly that is not talked about in the guides to cool Wellington on the net!

I do hope to have a longer stay in New Zealand next time. Here I am looking a tad rugged up at the wildlife park.
roughing it

Thank you to everyone for being so welcoming, and especially to Tim. I met so many people that it’s quite likely I forgot to include a name or two, so this may need a few edits…

VITAL UPDATE: According to the site Answers, 4% of Australians have red hair and about 2.5% of New Zealanders.

12 Responses to “Well, that was nice”

  1. Helen R said

    It was lovely to meet you Penelope, and I’m sorry you came in the midst of a storm. Normally, of course, our weather is tropical!

  2. pscottier said

    Yes, well they are predicting snow for Canberra again this weekend. It didn’t happen last time, but it may well this time.

    Nice to meet you too Helen.

  3. You were indeed at the arty end of town, Penelope. The bureaucrats tend to hang out on the Terrace, close to the Beehive (parliament). Security cards on lanyards are more likely to be spotted around there.

    Lovely to meet you & read with you. Good luck with the editing!

    • pscottier said

      Well, I’m glad I wasn’t based near The Terrace, Janis! In Canberra, though, public servants are everywhere.

      I enjoyed the reading too, and our socialising.

  4. I loved reading this post (just as I loved the opportunity to select poems, visit cafes, search for working wi-fi connections, and spot interesting birdlife with you) and I think you have captured Wellington rather well – Janis has already pointed out that the civil servants were penned into the “Lambton Quarter” while you were here, only allowed to leave after they had disguised themselves as civilians.

    Ever since you left, during the day at least, photons have poured from the sky in an unbroken stream, unimpeded by clumped masses of water vapour. A yellow disc, too bright to look at, appears to be behind the whole thing. Questions are being asked in the House.

  5. latikavasil said

    It was great to meet up with you Penelope. The good news is you missed the quakes!

  6. Harvey said

    Good to meet you in Wellington, Penelope. I’m glad that you got over to Zealandia to see the takahe. Hopefully next time you come we’ll have better weather.

    • pscottier said

      It was quite funny, Harvey. People kept assuring me that ‘the weather was so much better just last week’. It reminded me of how surfers always say ‘you should have been here yesterday, it was going off’.

      I enjoyed the poetry seminar and the reading. And meeting you, of course.

  7. marydanae said

    So great to meet you Penelope – I was disappointed I couldn’t stay longer – a last minute change of plan over my lift home and some mistiming. However we DID meet and I loved your chicken bag and you liked my green spotty dress (I love it too) – a student of mine said I looked like Gollum while he was being filmed against the blue screen http://www.serkis.com/performance-capture-gollum.htm
    See you in Wgtn again soon.

    • pscottier said

      Ah yours is a dress…God I’m unobservant!

      Shame that you got that lift home…I would have liked a longer chat too. Next time, Mary!

      That chicken bag is definitely my Precious.

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