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.
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.