See the rain come down when the sun is shining

It always seems like one of those places that man was not meant to spend much time, let alone live. And, yes, it serves its pur­pose: it’s a place to put the politi­cians when they’re not open­ing things, and, more impor­tant­ly, it’s a per­fect place for a fer­ry ter­mi­nal to the very love­ly South Island.

But, yes, like most New Zealan­ders, I have mixed feel­ings about Welling­ton. For those of you not in New Zealand, it’s our cap­i­tal, a city of some 400,000 (although the core is about a third of that) perched rather hope­ful­ly on the low­er tip of the North Island, look­ing rather war­i­ly at the rather rough (and some­times dead­ly) straight of water between it and the South Island. More to the point, too, at the often blus­tery weath­er that blows off that body of water.

My good friend Dami­an Christie too seems to have mixed feel­ings, so much so that he put fin­ger to key­board and wrote a rather good, and very fun­ny piece about the city from a vis­it­ing resident’s POV.

I sus­pect, with good rea­son hav­ing been on the end of count­less anti-Auck­land barbs over the years from res­i­dents of the south­ern town, who seem odd­ly obsessed with Auck­land, and even more odd­ly frus­trat­ed by the fact that no-one in Auck­land actu­al­ly cares about their obses­sion, that Dami­an will suf­fer end­less­ly in com­ing weeks, per­haps years, as these things tend to fes­ter some­what in the cap­i­tal, for this.

Indeed Wellington’s entrenched Napoleon Syn­drome far exceeds the odd Syd­ney / Mel­bourne snipe, or Lon­don / Man­ches­ter back and forth Its quite odd, often nasty, and prob­a­bly says far more about Wellie than any­thing else.

How­ev­er, this post was not about Wellington’s com­plex­es, it was intend­ed to plug Damian’s rather great opin­ion piece in the (July?) Metro. I have to be hon­est, I didn’t buy it, but that’s large­ly because Metro is, well tricky to come by here in South East Asia. You can, of course, get parts of it online, but for some very odd rea­son, most of the edi­to­r­i­al is not online, at least until some­time after pub­li­ca­tion. By their very nature, in 2007 city mag­a­zines should be online, and, hon­est­ly, I can’t think of one from any oth­er city any­where that’s not. No, I was lucky enough to be sent it, via email, from a friend who thought I might enjoy it.

I’ve spent many, many hours with Dami­an over the years and he’s a man who speaks his mind, albeit with an inevitable sly grin.

Thus, D takes firm aim and resound­ing­ly takes no pris­on­ers, feel­ing as he does, that it’s:

Like a boo­by trap in an Indi­ana Jones flick, every new per­son you meet rep­re­sents those spike-encrust­ed walls inch­ing clos­er. This is life in Welling­ton.

As said, you can almost feel the heat ris­ing from the Lamp­ton / Court­ney / Cuba nexus, and the protests of ‘we have art and cul­ture’, which Simon Wil­son attempts to toss at the North­ern City in an ear­li­er Metro piece. And Simon, nobody in Auck­land actu­al­ly gets their style from Wendyl Nis­san, its just non-Auck­lan­ders that think we do.

The inevitable claims as to Auckland’s pedes­tri­an unfriend­li­ness always bemuse me though. Akaroa is pedes­tri­an friend­ly. Big­ger cities almost nev­er are by their very nature. I like Akaroa too..

Dami­an cov­ers this well too:

The vil­lage men­tal­i­ty is a dou­ble-edged sword for those who attempt to be sin­gle in Welling­ton. It’s easy to meet peo­ple; impos­si­ble to avoid them lat­er.

And:

Unless that is, there’s a souther­ly blow­ing. A friend down for the week­end remarked on how much we all dis­cuss the wind direc­tion. She couldn’t under­stand why, until it turned souther­ly. When it’s souther­ly you hold tight­ly to the car door as you open it lest you take out a pass­ing cyclist. When it’s souther­ly you don’t take an umbrel­la, no mat­ter how hard it’s rain­ing.

Whether Metro is any good or not now, I don’t know. The first War­wick Roger edi­to­r­i­al tenure was good, but for much of the rest of its his­to­ry, it’s been both some­what facile and shal­low, and per­haps a con­tribut­ing rea­son for the Welling­ton­ian miss-view of New Zealand’s only real city. It cer­tain­ly has had lit­tle to do with what actu­al­ly goes on in the city I’ve lived in much of my life, and Auck­lan­ders, with their wal­lets, indi­cat­ed years ago how irrel­e­vant it was. Peo­ple with­in the city (but not those with­out) stopped pay­ing atten­tion a long time ago.

But Damian’s thoughts are both good, and very fun­ny, and worth your time and mon­ey. My friend Har­ry in NYC, who’s seen the sto­ry too, said it was very John Coop­er-Clarke, and so it is, espe­cial­ly this killer:

Wind and weath­er is to Welling­ton con­ver­sa­tion what the prop­er­ty lad­der is to Auck­land. Welling­ton weath­er is, in fact, inde­fen­si­ble. “You can’t beat Welling­ton on a good day” say the absolute­ly pos­i­tive crowd, but of course you can. You could be some­where good on a good day.

Go Dami­an….

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