Until last week, I’d only experienced the best of Wellington’s weather.
Arriving from Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin, – wherever I was living at the time – our capital always seemed bathed in sunshine.
And so it was when I arrived a fortnight ago, just in time to check the pulse of an allegedly dying city. Just in time to catch the last of the good weather before the storm set in.
Ah, but the next morning was frost-free, so I wore sandals to work.
(Indeed if Wellington was dead, I’d get to work five minutes earlier without the Willis Street peak-hour foot-traffic).
Activities, sites, people and places quickly filled my schedule. Wellington is a dessert I can never quite finish. As a “ghost-town” student, I found the central city overwhelmingly busy. When I wasn’t in the newsroom, I walked, everywhere, as much as possible.
Checking the pulse, you see.
On sunny afternoons I rested near the water, writing and completing assignments with ease thanks to the CBD wireless. The frenetic pace of the city centre was lulled by the presence of its harbour. The expanse of water provided breathing space and beautiful views. No doubt it’s linked to the sense of hope that pervades the city.
When it got colder, I retreated to the public library or – if there was any money in my wallet – to a nearby café.
Cafés are a delicious insight into any city’s artsy scene, don’t you think?
Wellington has more cafés per capita than any other city in New Zealand (and apparently even more than New York) – which to me was a sign of excellent health. Anyone who believes Wellington is dead can’t have been to Cuba Street on a Sunday; they’d be eating their words for brunch as they waited for a table at Floriditas.
Te Papa’s Warhol exhibition revealed that not only is Wellington alive, but she’s procreating. Audacious wee tykes dashed around the installations; their parents carefree as they admired the amphetamine-inspired exhibits. Regardless, Wellington’s capacity for culture and generally cool stuff is uplifting. Public sculptures adorn footpaths, the gardens are extensive, and even walkways (think City to Sea) are designed with creativity.
Wellingtonians themselves are living (living!) works of art in their bold attire. Designer, disco, dancer, grunge. Vintage hats, new hair. Business suits, preppy loafers, large glasses, colourful socks. Wellington’s got it all, and more.
But the streets quietened as clouds gathered and grew. The temperature dropped and wind boxed my ears as the storm began.
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best,” said Wellington.
Roads turned into puddles, thud, thud, thud became splash, slip, thud, but still I could feel the pulse of a living and kicking city beneath my cold, wet feet.
Oh, the irony – I forgot my wellies.