Dunedin, New Zealand
My last long intercity journey; nearly five hours back to Dunedin. A distinct feeling of déjà vu, but a stronger one that the season was corresponding exactly with the dates that mark it – today was supposed to be the last day of summer (which fact had entirely passed me by until I read it in the paper, not being used to the idea that December, January, February are summer months) and the weather turned and bit. It was cool and drizzly in Queenstown, no red dawn here, and the rain picked up along the way. We just had one stop, in Lawrence, which is tiny, has free local wifi and several closed shops. That is made extra mournful by the plaques giving the shops’ history; after reading how each building had changed usage I was left with nothing so much as the feeling that ‘this place used to support 10 shops, now it has 5’. I watched Red Dog, an Australian classic. Brilliant film, about the life of a dog in a frontier town.
It was cold enough that everyone was back on the bus and raring to go before time, despite a lovely coffee shop with homemade cakes. Pulling into Dunedin it was just spitting, and just as well for us all to get to our destinations. After a short walk to the hostel, cursing only mildly that I hadn’t had the inside knowledge that stopping at the hospital is more central than the bus depot, I was checked in and considering my next move when I heard a racket outside. Not students this week, but rain – bucketing rain.
With an icy southerly – that means it has come from the Antarctic – it was cold, too, though the sun broke through occasionally. The next day’s paper had an article on Otago’s rotten summer (“fact or fiction?”, but it seemed to err on the side of fact) which bemoaned the lack of sun, so my short excursion south wasn’t badly timed in that sense. And places had their heating on, mercifully without me overhearing any “gosh, heating! In summer!” conversations.
I made it to the NZ sporting heroes gallery, situated in the huge old railway station. It’s a great museum, not huge but with plenty to read, and lots of memorabilia for the heroes in there. It isn’t particularly rugby focused, either, though that sport is first as you might expect, and I enjoyed the athletics section particularly – Snell, Lydiard, Hallberg, Walker, Audain, Lovelock, Williams, a name roll to rival most. The captions stood out for me by being extremely well written, though I did spot one towards the end that had a missing word, spoiling the ‘perfect’ rating I was going to give it. But still, informative, pithy and devoid of hyperbole, it’s an object lesson in how to write about achievements. They may be awesome, but describing them rather than adding adjectives should be enough to convey that sense.
In the evening I went to the Fortune Theatre, to see Roger Hall’s new play, Bookends. It’s a small theatre, but a professional one – I could have seen Journey’s End, which is on my ‘must see’ list, but didn’t chance the amateur production, despite it being half the price. Bookends showcases 4 weekly meetings of a group of writers, one meeting per year for 2010-2013, with the title ambiguous. Partly it is talking about the changes in technology which may spell the end of books as we know them, but equally the men themselves are bookends. Essentially character comedy, it was well enough done, just a few slips between script and mouth, and a few odd intonations of lines, but a few genuinely funny lines, and the script uses the fact that you get to know the characters better nicely in the final act, as the comedy flows more easily. “The thing about Peter Jackson is, he always leaves you wanting less.” There were some NZ-specific lines that I missed, but I enjoyed it. Despite the characters’ general impecuniosity and the sense of an end of an era, it even ends with a message that is partly hope and partly homage.
The rain poured late at night, but I was warm and comfortable in the hostel, feeling first like a late nighter for being up past 10, though that impression was spoiled by the young crowd making a commotion outside. Even they stopped at 11, though. So civilised for someone who is, as the two girls from my room put it when talking about an acquaintance the next day, is “quite old – 40 or so,” (laughing) “oh, not *so* old”.