Wellington is known as the windy city, for a very good reason. There is a lot of wind, a lot of the time. Friday 11 January 2013 was windy, but thankfully not as bad as it had been in the days before, when some houses in the city had lost their roofs. My family and I were camping, and the threat of having a flattened tent seem very real, but was a needless worry, as we were very well protected at the campsite by the fence we had pitched hard up against.
We met for a parley at Michael McBryde’s home in Ngaio, from which we enjoyed wonderful views down across the city, as we chatted and caught up on our news, and met up with new members and members we hadn’t met before. Michael had baked a wonderful cake, polished off in no time and washed down with lots of ginger beer. Later on that evening we met up again at the Regal Chinese restaurant in Courtney Place (the very middle of middle earth) for a sumptuous Missee Lee banquet. There really was heaps of food, and we all felt slightly guilty at leaving a huge pile of chicken (being in the middle of the Lazy Susan it was just too far to reach) but we really were stuffed. A lovely evening was slightly dashed for me when I got back to the rattletrap to find a $50 parking ticket, the first (and not the last time) I fell afoul of Wellington’s nefarious parking system over the weekend. If you can imagine the GA, that’s pretty much how I was behaving by the time we left.
On Saturday 12 January we all made our way to the home of Susan Price, TARS member and curator of the Susan Price Collection, a heritage collection of over 20,000 children’s books donated by Susan to the National Library of New Zealand in 1991, but which remain in the home she shares with her mother, Beverley Randall. A collection that is still growing, as Susan adds many books each year, features titles from the 1930’s to the present day. Their home is a book lover’s paradise, with every nook and cranny filled with book, including, we were told, the attic and the basement.
Time stood still for many hours as we perused the books, remembering titles from our childhood and finding hidden treasures. We were treated to the most sumptuous morning tea – Beverley had scoured the Ransome books to find every reference possible to food, and presented us with a table groaning with bunloaf and marmalade, corned beef (pemmican) sandwiches, potted meat, chocolate, pork pie and boiled egg, each plate labelled with an appropriate quotation. We were only allowed to eat after singing a rousing version of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” including a verse about the captain’s daughter that none of us had been taught at school!
In the afternoon, Jan, Fran, Michael and I headed out to the coast to Owhiro Bay to walk to the Red Rocks Seal Colony. At this time of year there aren’t many seals, but we did spot one (George.)
The Red Rocks are actually 200 million year old lava formed by undersea volcanic eruptions, getting their colour from iron oxide. The walk was spoiled by the number of 4x4s tearing along the path. Dubbed hullabaloos, in dodging one of them and in fighting the unbelievably strong head wind, Michael cut his leg. We all endured a full-on exfoliating sea scrub as the wind whipped up the sand on the way home, why women pay good money for this kind of skin treatment is beyond me when, with the right weather conditions you can get it for free!
We headed out from the Red Rocks to the Carter Observatory, situated in the Wellington Botanic Garden. We enjoyed the planetarium, although it was a struggle not to doze off in the warm room with comfortable chairs. The talk, strangely not entitled “Signalling to Mars,” was very interesting though. We really felt we had had a “Dick and Dot” day with books, geology and stars, and were ready for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday 13 January turned out to be a rotten day weather wise. For various reasons, only Jan, Fran and I headed out on the ferry to explore Somes Island that has, variously over time, been a human and animal quarantine station, an internment camp and a military defence position, and had been inhabited by Maori for generations. It even has a dubious reputation as a leper colony. Now a Department of Conservation scientific and historic reserve, this tiny island is packed full of history and wildlife (which was hiding, due to the weather, though we did see karariki (red-crowned parakeet) and giant weta. Despite the wind and rain, we ate our packed lunches and headed back to the mainland… after which the sun came out, the wind dropped and it was a beautiful evening!
Returning to my rattletrap, I found a second parking fine, and then, in going to pick up the birthday cake for our birthday tea, the sales assistant put the cake into a banana box with no bottom. Two steps later, a wet “whump” indicated that the cake, pre-ordered and beautifully decorated with “Happy Birthday Arthur” was splattered all over the shop floor. Great Aunt Maria had nothing on me by that point, I can tell you, and the poor girl ended up giving me another cake for free.
We had our “fiendishly hard quiz” and birthday tea in the cafeteria of Airways New Zealand, situated on the 26th floor of the highest building in Wellington, promptly rechristened High Topps. TARS member Alasdair works there, and after the quiz (winner receiving a jar of Missee Lee’s Oxford Marmalade) he showed us the modern-day navigation techniques used by aircraft crossing the Pacific. A far cry from John’s compass, but fascinating none the less.
The weather forecast for the Monday being atrocious, we decided not to battle the elements again and said “adieu and farewell” until next year, when the birthday weekend will be Great Northern? In Auckland, the city of sails!