One of the best things about being a Support Worker is that I get to play tourist at places that we probably wouldn't have gotten around to. I took (a more adequate verb might be 'dragged') the guys along to the Colonial Cottage Museum. It is apparently Wellington's oldest standing cottage, built by William Wallis in 1858. It still has the original furniture, including an 1875 three-wheeled pram, designed to avoid the road tax that all 4 wheeled vehicles had to pay. Walking through the front door really felt like stepping back in time. We also visited Wellington Zoo; cute, hilly, green and not far from the town centre. The highlight was undoubtedly a baby chimpanzee doing roly-polies round the enclosure. We managed two visits to Carter Observatory, a dinky observatory with fascinating planetarium shows. One of my clients became very heated about alien existence and tried to persuade the observatory attendant that they should go to parliament to tell John Key what they had found. Liam and I revisited the Museum of City and Sea to check out a temporary knitting exhibition and I contributed to what Liam described as 'the longest and crappiest scarf in the world'. We attended the Academy of Fine Arts 'World Press Exhibition', an amazing round up of the years best press photography, which is something each year that I mean to catch and never seem to get round to. 'Athfield Architects' at the City Gallery featured the designs and models of Ian Athfield, a celebrated Wellingtonian architect with a very distinctive style featuring lots of levels, curves and pipes, so we can now happily spot his designs all across the city, albeit many of them not exactly being our style!
August is festival time in Wellington, and we had a fab time throughout the Wellington on a Plate festival, and volunteering at Beervana, you can read Liam's related blog post about these here. As part of the New Zealand International Film Festival we went to see 'Our Newspaper', a documentary about a small Russian village who got so sick of the state run daily newspaper that they started to publish their own. Beautiful shots of remote snowy Ulyanovsk, and it's at times hilariously frank elderly residents, meant that we were yearning once more to head back to Russia!
Music-wise, we checked out The Troubles as recommended by a friend from work, who turned out to be very entertaining, and musically very accomplished, playing all kinds of jazzy and Eastern European influenced styles. On the evening of our wedding anniversary we went to watch Wellington Sea Shanty Society, a comedy duo doing both familiar and unfamiliar sea shanties. We enjoyed drinking beer and rum and harmonising to 'What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor'. Of course the musical highlight of the month was Wellington Community Choir's (possible biased statement - I am in said choir) concert at the Wellington Opera House! We had a couple of very enjoyable informal concerts and it was lovely to be accompanied by a professional pianist, double bass and mandolin as well as our usual ukulele group. I dragged Liam and a couple of friends along, who all thoroughly enjoyed it, or at least, they claimed they did ;-)
My friend Helen from book club hosted a cheese and wine night. Inspired by a cheese and beer tasting at Beervana we took along a Tuatara Hefe wheat beer paired with a lovely goat chevre. I had popped by Regional (our local offie, or bottle shop/liquor store as they might say here) to pick up some beers that afternoon and they were hosting an Emerson's tasting of their new I.P.A, Bird Dog. The brewer assured me that the right cheese for Bird Dog was a vintage Cheddar, which was the 2nd beer and cheese match we took to the party. Hopefully we did our bit for the cheese and beer enlightenment movement (way more versatile and varied than wine!) We had an awesome night meeting new people and playing Cranium, before bidding an early goodbye as I had work at 7:45 then next morning and the clocks were going forward that night. Way to go daylight savings!
A now regular monthly Saturday afternoon treat for me is attending play readings at Circa Theatre. For $5 there is a performed play reading for which the actors have only had the script for a couple of days. I'm not entirely sure of the purpose of the readings; whether they are the initially rehearsals for plays that are definitely going to be shown or whether they are simply 'testing the waters' as to whether they would work at Circa. Whichever way, they are an absolute bargain and a great way of seeing a bit of new theatre. It seemed bizarre to me that I must have brought the average audience age down at both readings by around 20 years, where are all the theatrical young people of Wellington?! I saw 'Rogues and Vagabonds' by Elspeth Sandys and 'Jerusalem' by Jez Butterworth Apparently Circa couldn't possibly produce 'Jerusalem, as it's scale would make it economically impossible, so this was simply a teaser of what Wellingtonians are missing out on compared to the West End or Broadway. We also enjoyed going to see two 'proper' performances as it were, 'The Year of Magical Thinking' by Joan Didion, and 'Clybourne Park' by Bruce Norris. 'The Year of Magical Thinking' was an adaptation of Joan's memoir discussing the year she lost her husband and only child within a couple of months of each other. It was quite a powerful one woman show. However, the narrator actually managed to gain little sympathy for herself, and we felt she wasn't particularly likeable. Given the subject matter, quite a feat! 'Clybourne Park', on the other hand, was a commentary on history repeating itself, with Act One being set in 1959 and Act Two in present day, both set in the same house in a US African-American neighbourhood. Hilariously funny and despairingly depressing at the same time, a very apt play for so many issues at the moment. We also finally got round to seeing 'Moonrise Kingdom' at the cinema, a Wes Anderson movie, a cute film about a young boy and girl on an island just off New England in to 1960's, who fall in love and run away together. Not schmaltzy, not too cutesy, just a brave and uplifting film about the difficulties of adolescence and dysfunctional families.
Yet again I must assure you that we didn't spend all our time indoors! After enjoying our day trip to Zealandia so much (discussed in the last post), we took a night tour of the sanctuary. It took around 2.5 hours and we were lucky enough to visit on a dry, clear night. We were issued with red torches that wouldn't put off the wildlife and headed for a tour around the sanctuary. The highlights were a path strewn either side with millions of glow worms, walking through the forest at sunset and listening to the evening bird calls, and getting to see... a Kiwi! Our guide had told us they were creatures of habit and that at 21:20 the previous night one had been spotted in a particular location. So at 21:15 we headed for that particular spot and 5 minutes later, lo and behold, a bumbling ball of fur comes hopping along the path! It was a seriously cute bird and we were able to watch it searching for grubs for around 10 minutes. Apparently most New Zealanders have never seen a Kiwi in the wild so we felt very honoured.
We took advantage of some sunny days to do more exploration of the Town Belt, the wooded hill right behind our house that stretches from one coast to the other. We found a cool rope swing and enjoyed some magnificent views of the city. We also took the ferry over to Matiu/Somes Island, slap-bang in the middle of the harbour. Matiu/Somes is a scientific and historic reserve, a mammalian-predator free island, with very few visitors on the day we visited. At various times over the last century it has been used as an animal and human quarantine station, a prison for enemy nationals in the second world war, and has impressive anti aircraft gun emplacement - which have never actually been used. We enjoyed hiking around, spotting various birds, insects and skinks, and picnicked overlooking Wellington. The quarantine station is open to the public to wander around, it feels very creepy and retro and could do well as the set for an 70s zombie movie. We then hopped back on the ferry to Days Bay for a well earned coffee and a wander along the coastline.
In other news, we attended a Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson) inspired Sour Beer Tasting Session at Regional, which Liam will (might) write more about in a dedicated beer blog. I have been going to Bikram Yoga which, after initially feeling like I was going to faint / throw up (not helped by the stench of sweaty feet emitting from the studio carpet), I am now really enjoying!
That's all from me for now folks! Happy spring!