Thursday, September 6, 2012

Visually inspired

A few months ago, a picture store called Moana Road Art was having a closing down sale. As it was down the road from where I work, I walked past it every day and always admired these two photos on canvas, so when they went on sale for $29 each, I jumped at the chance and bought them, not caring that I didn't really have room to hang them (as I was living with the parents at the time) and that I would have to carry them in the wind for 20 minutes down to the train station, take up an extra seat on the train at rush hour, then carefully put them in the back on my car and drive them home. But I'm so glad I did!
They were taken sometime in the 1930s, and for those of you who don't know Wellington, the streets pictured are Cuba St (left) and Willis St, two of the city's most iconic streets. Today, buses repalce the trams, which I always thought was a shame, and after showing my aunty and uncle the pictures a few weeks ago, I think it's even more of a shame because of the dreamy looks and ear-to-ear smiles they had on their faces when they talked about how the trams sounded like they were in a canyon because of how narrow the streets were - the sound reverberrated off the buildings and you always knew if a tram was coming because of the roar - and then you would hear the chime of the bells. My dad and my aunty, his big sister, remember standing on James Smith's Corner waving little flags as they watched the Christmas parade go past, and would dash out onto the road to grab the lollies that were thrown to them. Whenever dad tells me that story it always makes me smile.
Today, Willis Street is lined with a mixture of banks, shops and cafes, and is constantly busy with commuters. Cuba Street is a bit of an "indie/hippie/bohemian" part of town - one of my favourite parts of town, with its vintage shops, record shops and cozy cute, often shabby-in-a-cool-kind-of-way cafes, and you're always guaranteed to walk past a busker, a homeless person, or someone with dreadlocks.
After hearing my aunty, uncle, and dad's stories, I lay on my bed and thought about how little Wellington has changed if you look closely. If you look up, most of the buildings that were there in the 30s are still there, only overshadowed by new buuildings. But what I've always loved about Wellington is the fact that we don't like to tear down a building to make way for a new one - we would rather preserve that building and work with it and around it. So although there are a lot of high-rises; a lot of glass and straight lines; if we take the time to look, the curves and the carvings and the masonry - the art, in fact, is still there, keeping secrets and telling stories.
As I looked up at my pictures, I could hear the roar of the trams and the chime of the bells clear as day and Arthur, Molly, Sophia, Duncan and Maria, characters in my novel-in-progress Missing Since Tuesday, became even more real to me as I pictured them on those streets running from trouble, falling in love, downing a pint in the pub before the six'o'clock swill...
Now those pictures have pride of place on the lounge wall in our new apartment - I see them every day, which keeps me inspired, giving me no excuse not to write.

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