Roddy’s Road Trip Part II

We got on the ferry from Picton, up through the Marlborough Sounds to Wellington. The cruise is just a commute really, the only way to traverse the Cook Straight apart from flying, but being New Zealand, it’s more beautiful than any boat ride you’ve ever been on. Well, nearly.

My old mate Rosie has a café in Wellington – Rinski’s. She’s selling it now if anyone’s interested?! So seeing her and her café were the priorities of the Wellington visit. However, we managed to squeeze in a lot more.

At the National Gallery was an exhibition called Demented Architecture, which was basically a huge table with thousands of white Lego bricks on it. Visitors were encouraged to play with the Lego and add to the already impressive collection of skyscrapers stretching towards the ceiling. Catriona built a perfectly symmetrical structure, with arches and a combed roof that would have made the Mayans proud. I went for a spiral staircase that soon became a fire escape for one of the tallest buildings – about 6 feet high – alas, I lack an engineering background or even a modicum of common sense. As a child I used to get Andrew Spinks to come round and build my Lego for me as I couldn’t understand the instructions. Therefore my stairway to heaven toppled back to earth, crashing amongst the sturdier fortifications, raining white 2-by-4s on my fellow builders below. I remained standing, holding the one white brick that was to form the top step, the angel on the Christmas tree. Some eight year-olds rolled their eyes disdainfully and returned to their own projects. I briefly considered doing a Godzilla and going into a full metropolis-destroying rage, but realised security would have me encircled like King Kong on the Empire State Building. “Drop the Lego ya egg!”

I soon cheered up as we got a tour of the Weta special effects studio, Weta being the people responsible for all the orcs, armour and make-believe in Lord of the Rings. Basically, I had the best kids day out imaginable. I held a gun from District 9 and later we watched a man trying to take his massive dog home after a long walk. The dog was having none of it. The poor man kept coaxing it up his drive only to be dragged back down again. Myself and the rest of the café across the road from him had a great laugh. There’s lots to do in Wellington.

Rosie looked after us magnificently, considering she was running a café that doesn’t appear to close. During one fleeting window of opportunity she did take us to a series of gigs that were taking place in someone’s house. The entire house was given up to this impromptu festival, the living room cleared of furniture and bedecked with disco lights while sound technicians fought for space with punters who were even clinging to the roof. Rosie’s boyfriend’s in a band called Glass Vaults (listen to this) and a member of said band by the name of Benny stole the show. He was somewhere between Prince and Mika (Mince? Paprika?) and couldn’t have been more charismatic if he was made of feather boas. I was beginning to feel quite trendy until I needed the toilet. Being a house, there was only one toilet and being a gig, there were a lot of people needing it. I found myself asking teenagers if they knew of any alternative facilities and being dismissed like a lost pensioner. I ended up peeing into an Avis forecourt.

Elsewhere in Wellington they had the Scale of our War Exhibition at the national museum. Weta had installed a series of giant models of soldiers that were so gobsmackingly lifelike you’d find yourself staring at them for ages, waiting for one of them to flinch. On a different note I also spotted Jermaine from Flight of the Concords, eating a burger! His clear advancement of years since appearing in that show made me feel consequentially, pretty old.

Overall, Wellington is somewhere between Melbourne and 1987. It’s all the better for it.   Sad as it was to leave, we had a merry jaunt back to Lyttelton (and a plane to Melbourne to catch!) to get on with, via a stop over in a hostel in Picton that was called the Tombstone Backpackers. It was next to a graveyard and the door was shaped like a coffin. On the window it said, ‘Rest in Peace.’ It’s hard to argue with a place that really embraces a theme, regardless of bad taste.

So, Roddy made it home, without a scratch. In fact the only things damaged were our bank accounts, but I don’t think either of us regret a single penny. New Zealand is magic.

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Upside Down River

There’s two boats I’m a tour guide on, a big one and a small one.

A wooden section of the small boat blew off in the wind the other day. Not an important part, just a two foot square piece that fits into the roof over the captain’s head, only ever required if it’s really sunny (for shade) or rainy (for dryness). Mid-way down the Yarra a freak gust dislodged the wooden square and it hurtled into the brown river behind us. My job was now to retrieve it.

Two German tourists had to hold my feet while I dangled over the side, their respective partners whooping with delight. My fingers could just about touch the water so to fetch the wood from the ferment required precision steering from the captain. On the first pass it bobbed just out of reach, the passengers sighing with frustration like they’d just seen a double fault at Wimbledon. On the second go, I was aligned perfectly and retrieved the square to great jubilation. I was hauled back on to deck, my face purple from being inverted by Germans for so long and held the wood above the baying crowd, a soggy trophy snatched from the void, their applause bathing me just like the Yarra almost did. The Germans shook hands and slapped each others backs, while some Malaysian tourists took some celebratory photos. Remembering my duties, I placed the wood down and picked up my fact sheet – “Did you know the Westgate Bridge was meant to be built in four years but actually took eleven…” It was back to business. Silence descended on the boat once more.