Monday, February 27, 2012

Welcome to WellyLove

She arrives at the station in Waterloo, ready for a brand new day, book in hand, and a smile on her face amongst a crowd of sour ones dreading the daily commute. She used to be one of them too. She hated squeezing onto the crowded train, sitting next to a stranger or, on a busy day, standing in the aisle trying to keep her balance. But now she looks on the bright side – commuting to work on the train means more reading time. That pile of books that grows with every birthday, Christmas and impulse spending actually gets read.

She alights from the train, her feet already slightly sore from her brand new heels she bought for her brand new job, but smiling at the clicking noise they make on the concrete.

Through the subway she goes with the slow-moving crowd and as she emerges onto the street, and the cool autumn air hits her square in the face in that unique way Wellington has of saying hello. But she loves autumn, it’s her favourite season, so she doesn’t mind. After a year of breathing clean country air, the fresh sea air with hints of fumes and cigarettes is, strangely enough, a breath of fresh air because you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

The trip uptown past the beehive and onto Lambton Quay is one filled with temptation - although most shops are yet to open for the day, she stores window displays in her memory making a mental note to have a look at that dress or that hat after work.

The journey past the Old Bank Arcade is her favourite part, and she slows down to admire the big cream coloured building that just sits on the corner there, not really on a street, really sitting on about three streets and still looking much as it did 50 years ago. It seems to say “I’m not going anywhere, you streets can work around me thank you”.

Funnily enough, the Old Bank Arcade got it’s name because it used to be a bank. If you look closely, you will notice the little windows the bank tellers would serve you at are still there. Even the massive safe is still there. And the words “Bank of New Zealand”adorn the outside of the building.

Willis Street is the next leg of the journey, and part of her can hear the steady rumble and jingling bells of the trams that used to travel up and down this road now plagued with never ending road works and impatient buses.

Work is on Boulcott Street in a modern building that faces the hills. An old three storey house perched high on the hill with red-trimmed window frames and bay windows peeks out from between apartment buildings and office buildings, just glass an concrete.

Lunch breaks take her down Manners Street where still more trams would run once upon a time, to the eclectic centre of town, Cuba Street, where buskers and fortune tellers and magicians and unicyle riders make people smile and laugh for a few coins dropped onto a blanket or into a guitar case. It is easy to walk up Cuba Street and simply see shop after shop and the further up you walk, the more eclectic it gets with vintage threads, vinyl records. But if you want to see what Cuba Street once looked like, all you have to do is look up. Some may look derelict and some may be closed down and bordered up due to earthquake risk, but if you look past those minor details and look at the dates enscribed on the front of each building, it’s history at your fingertips.

Weekends occassionally take her out to the glistening harbour, and although it can be a trial on a windy day with a southerly blowing in to swiftly burn your face with ice, you can’t beat it on a good day. On a good day, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, she walks the length of the wharf breathing in he salt air watching people on bikes and scooters and roller blades and anything else with wheels zoom past her while kayaks and yachts drift lazily in the rarely calm water.

The girl in this story is me. This is the beginning of an infinite project called WellyLove.

As I am writing a novel based in Wellington over the years from 1915 to 2012, and, as I will not be travelling far in the next year due to the need to save my ass off, most of my time will be spent in this great city where I will be researching it’s colourful history in order to shape New Zealand’s next bestselling novel (I'm modest, I know). Not only will I be researching, but I will also be embracing my city like I did the Wairarapa because there is so much to love, to experience, to learn, and just because we’re Wellingtonians does not mean we can’t be tourists in our own city. So I’m going to share what I learn and experience with you, dear readers. It could be anything from the history of a building or a fascinating gravestone; a famous person long dead; a review of a restaurant or cafe; an event; a tour; an interesting quote or photograph; or simply musings on what it is like to live in the Coolest Little Capital in the world.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, Sarah... I miss Wellington! And the girl in the story could so totally be me, too, because - as you probably remember - I used to walk that very same route to Cuba St campus every day (and Old Bank Arcade was my favourite part, too!).
    Love your new WellyLove feature!