Seven Songs

Seven songs. Seven stories. Some truths. Some lies.

Life On Mars – David Bowie

In bed, we’re tangled. I’ve lost count of the hours, and I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve done our best to eat each other alive, but I know that I have heard this song twice tonight. The first time was a sub-par cover by a female artist I do not dislike, but this time, it is The Man Himself, singing it how it should be sung.

My eyes are closed, and I see a stage that isn’t there. Performers stand on invisible platforms floating through the air. A grand Grimaldi stands opposite a Pierrot, strangely confident in his stance. Lions and silks and bubbles, all swirling around me, and yet I am not there. It’s all around me, but it’s still distant. It’s like watching television, except that I am surrounded and separated by and from its wonder. I feel like I’m spinning and swirling, draped in loose fitting robes that dance as I soar upwards-

He changes the track and I’m flung out of the trance. I am bitter, but I keep it to myself. The real world doesn’t allow me to float on the wind, but there are worse ways to spend your time than this.

 

Baby I Am Nobody Now – Andy Bull

Up front. Packed in. Sold out. Who would have thought it? Everyone should have thought it – it’s a well deserved warm welcome, and the audience are rewarded with a swathe of sound that twirls softly around us like a silk scarf. I get that hit, reach the little nirvana where I’m not stuck in this clunky body, instead I’m writhing through the air like an ethereal serpent.

The melodramatic metaphors come easily as the backing vocals swoop in to fill out the chorus. The sound is massive, so dense that it feels like it could scoop up underneath us and lift us to the ceiling like a cushion filled with air.

They’re playing their way through a fucking superb album, one that’s lifted even higher by hearing it being played live. I think about hearing it and seeing it again, this time with an orchestra filling out the places where the synths have been, raising the crescendo even higher. I get chills at the thought, on top of those I’ve already got.

I open my eyes and remember it’s still happening. I drink it in, and dance.

 

Cold As Canada – Paul Kelly

In the song, she’s watching him sleep, but he left hours ago. I’m sitting on the side of the bed, and I feel the light creep in through the shutters and hit my back. I didn’t stray like the woman in the lyrics, but that’s only because I was never really here to begin with.

There is no sound, save for my deep breaths and the ensuing sighs that reveal just how deep a hole I’m in. My ears don’t need to hear it; it’s embedded itself in my heart and my head and I just want to collapse in on myself and be wiped from the memory of the world.

Maybe not from the world’s memory. Just his.

I don’t know who’s committed a greater betrayal: the woman who knows what on earth she’s done; or the woman who could do no wrong.

She needs to walk away. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know when, but it needs to be soon, before the guilt eats her away to nothing.

It doesn’t matter how it happens. There are no winners here.

There’s no good way to say goodbye.

 

He Called Me Baby – Patsy Cline

Three times.

She had always hated the idea of being called that word. She was not a child.

But he said it, and she enjoyed it.

Three times.

She heard someone say once, “You should only use the word ‘baby’ in a song if it’s actually about a newborn.” She was pretty sure it was a bastardised David Byrne quote, but it didn’t matter where it came from. It seemed like a good philosophy.

The first time. She figured it was the heat of the moment. She tried to ignore it. Instead, she loved it. But she winced a little. Something was wrong.

The second time. Now it sounded deliberate, like they were actually going places. She felt warm, glowing despite the cold air, but something was still niggling at the back of her mind.

The third time. The last time. It hit her like a concrete slab.

She wanted to tell him: “You’re not calling me that because you care. You’re saying it because you think it’s the right thing to say, and it would be.

“But you’re not saying it to me. The woman you’re saying it to isn’t here, is she?”

Instead, she just said, “Please, don’t call me that.”

And that was the last time it passed his lips.

 

Grandma’s Herbal Cure All – Moochers Inc

The fact that she would never see these people again intoxicated her to the point that she just let it happen. She danced in the street, tearing her shoes to pieces on the cobblestones, letting her hair fly in the wind.

 

Man Like That – Gin Wigmore

She often thought about the revenge fantasies she would play out on him.

But every time she thought of one, she would find herself taking him back.

It was a dreadful waste of plotting, in her opinion.

In the end, she just threw coffee on him. Easy and effective, cheap and classic. Him and her.

 

Good Intent – Kimbra

New shoes. Black. Small heel. Buckled, not laced.

Old shoes. Black-ish. Smaller heel, more worn on the left side; wobbles when walks. Buckles are buckled, coming undone.

These things that are comfortable never last.

Family Matters

Christmas 2007
Christmas 2007

I’ve just arrived back in Canberra after a ten day holiday with my family: mum, dad and younger sister. Half of that was spent in Dubbo in my parents’ house, the rest with extended family in Milton on the South Coast of New South Wales. To be honest, this has been one of the few times I’ve come back to Canberra wishing I was somewhere else. It’s only been three-and-a-bit hours since I saw them last, but I am already missing my family incredibly.

I’m constantly reminded just how wonderful it is and how lucky I am to have such a close and loving family. The way we all came together to mourn the passing of my grandfather back in April, the unbelievable support they’ve given me with present and future living arrangements, the career advice, the emotional support through humps in my personal life, and so much more: I’m so lucky to have them to call on when I need to.

After 27 years of marriage, my parents are still together, complete with the tendency to still be stupidly cute. They are a pillar of stability in a life that has been full of wobbles, and I’m so grateful that they’ve been there for me, time and time again.

My sister and I have a curious relationship that rocks back and forth like the world’s biggest see-saw. Sometimes she’s all cuddles and cuteness (I am always all about the cuddles); other times she wants to tear my face off (I don’t want to return the favour quite as often, but I have my moments). We live in a peculiar truce-like situation, ready to spark into a spat at a moment’s notice, but I would still do anything for a hug from her. (Except stop asking for them – she gives wonderful hugs, partly because I have to work so hard for them.)

My extended family are spread right along the Eastern states, with my mum’s family, to whom I am particularly close, all living within 8 hours drive. Most of them are in one of two towns in Western NSW. Knowing that an aunt or uncle or cousin could drop by is a nice feeling, and being so far from them most of the year sucks, especially when things are rough at either end. As my Grannie gets older, I realise that it’s also important that I get back to see her more regularly, but as I only get back to Dubbo once every four to six months or so, that’s really tricky. Seeing family is one of the reasons why I want to get my licence this year – it’s near impossible to hurry back on a 10 hour bus trip that only runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

One of the other things I’d like to do in the next year or so is live overseas. Friends of mine have gone to London, Thailand, New York and so many other wonderful places across the globe, and I want a piece of that.

But I keep coming back to one thing: how far away do I want to be from my family? Canberra is already a long way away – 5 hours by car, 5 hours and a couple of hundred dollars by plane and bus, and 10 hours by public transport. Do I really want to go any further afield? Can I even bear to be away that long, not knowing when I’ll get the chance to fly back and see them again?

Yes. I’m ready for the adventure of living in another country. But it’s all about baby steps: 7 hours of public transport to Sydney, then a 3 hour flight. I think I could do that. I’m ten hours commute away as it is, after all.

But the fact remains: it will be incredibly hard to be so far away from my family. That said, I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t go. They understand that.

And that’s another reason why I love them so bloody hard.

So every day, I count my blessings. This year, I resolve to call my family more often (I can already hear my mother whooping with joy), and write to them more, and do the best I can to spend more time in their company.

Because I have been blessed with falling into their mad lot, and you never know how long they’re going to be around for.

 

*****

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Inspired by a card from Ask Me A Question: 50 cards to start a conversation, from kikki.K.

Looking Back At 2014 – A Boring Stats Post

If there’s one thing I’m certain about in the world of blogging, it’s that nobody likes posts about statistics. It’s pretty much the only thing that people hate more than posts about how you can be a better blogger – they’re self-aggrandising and kind of patronising and really only interesting to the person posting it.

But I have to confess, I love reading the WordPress yearly summaries. This is (I think) the third year they’ve done one up for me (the previous reports were for Cheaper Than Rubies, which is now defunct), and I actually find them really interesting, and good for my confidence when it comes to the year ahead. Not to mention, it’s a great kick up the arse to get writing again, to try and beat my current records and improve the bits and pieces that I’m putting together.

And holy crap, were there some records broken in this last year. I’m still reeling from some of the numbers that flashed up on my screen in the last six months. (Thank you, New Zealand, you beautiful bunch of bastards. I will definitely be seeing you again soon.)

For me however, the biggest takeaway from this report is that there is a massive problem with spam bots on WordPress. Like, huge. And I’m yet to understand exactly how to combat it, as opposed to this blog’s old place of residence on Blogger, where it was actually pretty easy to remove those blips from my stats. But hey, nobody wants to hear shop talk.

Is this report going to guide what I’m going to write and do in 2015? Absolutely not. I’ve got my own plans that are bubbling and brewing (including finally finishing my Blog Carnival roster from back in August), but most of those will be kept under wraps for the time being. I might try and impose some unspoken rules, but I’ll leave it up to you to work out what those are.

In 2014, I set out to “do things that scare me”. With my first solo international jaunt, many magnificent new friendships, 12 months of writing a regular music column, some terrifying (and awesome) performance-y things, and a number of significant personal confessions behind me, I think I can safely say that I achieved that goal. That is why it’s no longer a new year’s resolution; it’s more of a mantra I’m going to try and carry for the rest of my life. Hopefully, over the next year and beyond, you’ll see the fruits of that resolution on your screens, or maybe in your ears or your eyeballs.

Despite some setbacks, 2014 has been pretty damn brilliant. Now it’s time to make 2015 just as awesome. (Fuck it. Even more awesome than that.)

If you’re a bit of a stats nerd and you’ve been desperately wanting me to cut to the chase and show you the numbers, you can click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year, one and all. Let’s make this one an absolute killer.

Creative Bravery – Blog Carnival 2014

Click for source
“Creative Block” by Elize Vossgatter

Back in August, I was invited by the wonderful Alexandra Neill to take part in her Blog Carnival project, along with a bunch of other writers who are much cleverer and more consistent with the whole writing thing than I am. That project was meant to last the whole month, and reach across five topics. I fell off the wagon after one, and now we’re in the back half of October and I’m writing the second one. Good work, me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to write it. I think I took four goes at it, knowing exactly what I wanted to talk about, but with no idea how to go about it. The topic was “Something That Scares Me”, and this thing left me so scared (and more importantly, ashamed) that I couldn’t bring myself to confess it.

It was such a stupid thing that I feel like a moron not being able to share it. It’s something I really struggle with, and I’m trying really hard to get over it, but things keep getting in the way: working full time, stress, exhaustion, procrastination, laziness, a total failing in terms of willpower, fear of the fear itself…

I am afraid of doing things, making things, being creative, having adventures. It’s such a stupid thing to be afraid of, especially when I consider the joy that comes from actually doing it, but the elements of the fear seem endless, and the excuses come in equal number. Yet at the same time, I am terrified of being ordinary, being boring, sacrificing my life to a day job and not doing and making the things my heart wants to. It’s a particularly uncomfortable position to be in.

A little over a week ago, I turned 25. For a number of reasons, that milestone held a lot of dread for me, especially as it crept closer and I realised just how few of the things I’d wanted to achieve had actually come to fruition. As I write, I realise that I’m even afraid to confess that they are things I want to do, but here are some of them:

I’ve never been published by a publication that will pay me for my work. I’ve left four novels unfinished, and never finished editing the only one that I did finish. I’ve never played in a band. I’m yet to live overseas. I’ve never made a short film that was any more than a glorified slideshow. I’ve not made any wonderful pottery,made a sculpture or fixed something mechanical, or learned how to ride a bike, or how to drive a car. I never got to be a radio announcer or program producer. I can’t do a handstand or a cartwheel or rock climb. I’ve never tried stand-up comedy. I’ve never learned how to swing dance or any of the Latin ballroom styles. I never learned to juggle. I’ve never acted in a role beyond the chorus, and I haven’t even done that since I was in high school. I’ve never organised a successful public event or gig. I’m painfully aware of all the things I want to do I haven’t done yet, and I feel like I am running out of time to do them.

Writer's Block II
“Writer’s Block II” by Drew Coffman

That’s what scares me: all those things left undone. As I get older, I feel like my potential is ebbing away; any talent I may have is disintegrating like muscles atrophying, and every day that ticks by makes me more anxious about what I’m missing out on. I’m surrounded by wonderful, clever, driven, creative, fantastic, unbelievable people (some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends, some of whom have just been rad enough to let me hang in their presence) who inspire and intimidate me in equal measure. They are musicians, writers, filmmakers, event-organising magicians, public relations wizards, actors, models, photographers, poets, circus performers, artists and so much more. I could ask them for help, but I’m paralysed by the thought of revealing that I want to do what they can do because I know that I’m never going to be as good at it as they are. I feel that I’ve left it too late.

I’ve missed plenty of opportunities by not being brave enough to take them, and it’s only been in the last 12 months that I’ve actually started acting on some of them, like writing for BMA, getting stupidly obsessed about a movie and doing insane and wonderful things as a result, putting together a murder mystery party for my friends, sorting out my medication regime and preparing to get clearance to go and get my L’s. But there are so many more things that I’m shoving down and hiding, so many more things that I want to do. It’s not that I don’t have the time or the energy; it’s that I am just too lazy and too afraid of making the changes to my life that I need to in order to do them.

So I find excuses: I don’t have the equipment, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the brains or the creativity, I don’t have the energy. Excuses are easy, but they don’t bring me the rewards and peace I’m looking for.

Often I find the core reason for my apprehension is incredibly simple. I don’t know where to start. It’s hard to get the ball rolling at the best of times, and it’s even harder to ask people how to start. It feels like there’s this implication that starting is easy. You just do the thing! Simple! Make like Nike and just do it!

But it’s terrifying to start. I’m not brave. A friend of mine has a tendency to call people cowards in a comedic fashion during his shows, but every time I hear him say it, it hurts because in my case I know it to be absolutely true. And once you start, where do you go then? When you have no known end to the process, how do you go about stepping through it? I try to think about it and my brain struggles to comprehend it. Where is the reward when there is no set end?

Maybe I’m not cut out to be a creative after all. Perhaps I peaked at sixteen, when I finally finished that shitty novel that now sits on my external hard drive, taunting me with its blatantly uninformed, teenaged angst-filled nonsense. Perhaps there was a catalyst that beat all the boldness out of me and made me so scared of what people think of me. Maybe I just got older and my brain stopped being malleable and free and I forgot how to just go with the flow. Maybe my brain never had the ability to process it in the first place.

Whatever it is, I need to shake it off. It’s not useful in any way. It’s just making me feel bad, and in the last few years I’ve come to be fed up with feeling bad. I want to feel good.

And that means that somehow I have to work out how to start. It means I need to figure out how to keep going.

I need to get to work.

Click for source

Postscript: after I wrote this, I realised that my tagline for this blog is, “Let’s do the things that scare us.” I’m not sure if this is irony, or just completely appropriate. Either way, it’s worth noting, don’t you think?

*****

The theme of “Something That Scares Me” was also covered by the following Blog Carnival writers:

If you want a refresher on how Blog Carnival works, or want to join in: this is where you need to click your mouse.

Noni Did NZ: Putting It Down On Paper

IMG_0567 There’s been a common theme running through the last bunch of posts: my trip to Wellington back in June. This is the final entry in that series. You can find the rest here. Be prepared for a whole bunch of madness and joy, because even though it was just a week, it was everything a girl could wish for in a holiday.

*****

It’s become customary these days to document holidays in an entirely electronic fashion. Photos on Facebook and Instagram, running commentary on Twitter, post-adventure blogging… Apart from the occasional physical souvenir, usually in the form of something bought from a dodgy street stall or a purchase from an incredibly kitschy tourist shop, most of our memories are stored solely in the cloud and in our heads.

I’m usually even worse than this. I rarely take photos at the best of times. The vast majority of photos of me from the last five or so years are highly posed, highly self-censored selfies taken on my Macbook in moments of boredom, vanity or intoxication.

This is in part due to a longing to just experience life rather than constantly stopping to remind myself to document it; I prefer to do things without the filter of a lens. I very rarely ask for photos to be taken of me, so I often don’t have images to remind me of the people I’ve met or proof of the places I’ve been. Many times I have become great friends with a person over a number of years and marvellous times, only to never have a photo with them to remind us of just how brilliant we were. This makes me quite sad; I’d love to have something a little more concrete than just memories to look back on.

Other times, my reluctance or inability to remember to take a few shots comes from the fact that I have an uncanny ability to be absolutely terrible at taking photos that aren’t underwhelming, grainy, poorly framed piles of crap. A lack of practice means it’s simply not top of mind, and when it is, I’m so underwhelmed that I tend to not bother the next time.

When I was preparing for my trip to Wellington, I knew it would be the week of a lifetime. I didn’t want to leave anything unremembered. I’ve already had a taste of how fragile memories can be: a major seizure in 2012 left me with significant short and long term memory issues for the better part of a year; I forgot what had happened at the previous Christmas, and still struggle to recall a lot of things that should be treasured personal memories from that time.

The logical progression from that was to simply post everything online as I went, but I didn’t really feel the need to fill people’s Facebook feeds with a progression of photographic updates, and reading back through old tweets is constantly being made more difficult by Twitter’s scrolling function and new profiles. On top of that, I wanted somewhere to put all the little things I inevitably pick up: bus tickets, interesting labels, flyers and the like.

So while I was waiting for a train in Sydney before heading off on my trip, I picked up an A5 size notebook and began to plan how I would document my trip. There was probably about 300 or so pages in it, but due to my tendency to forget to write in diaries, I figured I would be lucky to fill a third of that.

Instead, I got to the point where I had to pull out pages in order to avoid splitting the binding. With all my photos printed and pasted in, this is how fat my journal got:

Photo on 2014-08-10 at 11.07

Almost every night of my trip, I took at least an hour to write down all the wonderful things that had happened, planning where I would paste photos, bus tickets, email screenshots and newspaper clippings. I scribbled terrible stick-figure drawings and scrawled memories across unlined pages. It was a remarkably therapeutic process, allowing me the chance to run over just how much fun I was having, and to plan what I might do the next day.

IMG_0532I documented everything I could, and tried to make everything as colourful and fun as my experiences. I bought new pens and stickers and collected all the What We Do In The Shadows related bits and pieces I could find to make sure I could do it all justice.

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IMG_0537I even grabbed a Te Papa flyer that was written in Italian just so I could stick in something with pictures of the general exhibits – all the ones in English were only for the special short-term exhibitions.

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One of the things that I really enjoyed about the free-form manner of my scrapbook was when I got to draw stupid little bits and pieces to fill in spaces that I might have put photos that I had forgotten to take, or just for the hell of it.

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Initially, I tried to keep all my bits and pieces in chronological order, but I quickly realised that there were photos and stories that I hadn’t accounted for while allocating space in the narrative. This is why there are two parts to my scrapbook: the initial narrative that I filled in while I was away, and a very sizeable appendix, which I have been working on ever since.

The appendix is a strange mish mash of written souvenirs and bits and pieces that didn’t necessarily fit into the story of my trip, but were memorable all the same. From the itinerary I wrote myself before leaving Canberra (which I left at home) to the map of Wellington my mum gave me before I left (which I kept in my suitcase the entire trip), there are a lot of quirky bits and pieces that I still needed to preserve, even if they didn’t make it into the first half.

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There were a lot of bus tickets.

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And some things that simply defied explanation.

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When I got back, working on finalising my scrapbook really helped ease the post-trip blues.It gave me an excuse to relive my trip regularly, bringing a little light to each day, and keeping the fire in my belly for a return visit. I still flick through it every couple of days now it’s almost done, just as a kind of emotional safety blanket, and it definitely in my top three things I will take with me if there is ever a fire in my house.

As of yesterday, my scrapbook is officially finished. All of the spaces I had saved in the main story section have been filled, and there’s only a handful of photos left to put into the appendix (non-essential, but they’re going in because I just happen to have some printed copies). In a book I was sure I would get nowhere near filling, there are only eight pages left blank. Maybe one day I’ll ask Taika and Jemaine to pop their signatures on the last page. Either way, this little chapter has finally closed. I’m back in the real world again.

But with my little green book, I know I can go back to that wonderful, ridiculous week whenever I like. What a wonderful comfort that is.

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Noni Did NZ: Grog and Grub

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You may have noticed that I went to Wellington a while ago, probably long enough ago that I should have stopped banging on about it by now. I’m almost done, I promise. But if you want to read about some of the magnificent things I did and have already written about, you can find them here.

This is the penultimate post in this series. I promise that it will be over soon and we can all go back to (ir)regular programming.

*****

This post was initially meant to be a part of my post about my favourite Wellington places, but when I was editing what was already a 2000-plus word post, I figured I should probably cut some of the things on my list. Unfortunately, there was nothing at all I wanted to cut.

After a while, I noticed that there were a number of places on my list that had something in common: they were places where one would eat or drink. Thus, this highly uneducated guide to Wellington’s feeding stations and watering holes was born.

I have to say, I really was impressed by the various eateries that the Kiwi Capital had to offer. I don’t think I had a single dud meal in the whole week I was there. Not only was the food absolutely delicious, the cafés themselves were something to behold as venues.

Here’s a little something about each of my favourites:

Mucho Mucho Cafe

On my first proper day in the city, I wandered and wandered looking for somewhere to have breakfast. Due to a highly questionable encounter with an “Eggs Benedic” in Newtown a few days before, I was keen to make sure that I was going to get the best possible start to my day and my trip.

I can’t really remember what made me turn into this cafe instead of any other, but I was immediately impressed. The room was vibrant, the music wasn’t too loud, and there were already a handful of locals in there breaking their fast. And by gosh, it was tiny, but that just added to its charm. Seriously, it was freakin’ adorable.

An interesting thing I noticed: table service isn’t that common in Wellington. Most of the places I ate, you had to order at the counter. It caught me off guard a couple of times, especially in this case, but it was no biggie.

I ordered French Toast with banana, bacon and maple syrup. I think it may have had a fancier name on the menu, but I’ve forgotten what it was. All you need to know is that it was DELICIOUS.

If you’re in Wellington’s CBD, turn down Taranaki Street and grab a bite here. Not only will you get a fantastic feed, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the strange fascination that the city seems to have with Cuba… but more on that later.

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The General Practitioner

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When you first see The General Practitioner on the corner of  Willis and Boulcott Streets, it immediately commands your attention. Like so many parts of Wellington, it looks like it belongs in a fairy tale or a Disney movie. Straight away, I pulled out my iPod and took a photo, which led to the story on the left. The memory of that conversation still makes me chuckle.

The chairs out the front were how I worked out that it was some kind of eatery, but I think I would have walked in anyway, just out of curiosity. It was just so intriguing!

I ordered a fancy sounding fish and chips and a Tui, because their billboards are so incredibly wonderful/offensive/I saw them on the internet a bunch of times, that I simply had to try one to see whether the beer was worth all that advertising.

From the first bite, the meal was absolutely amazing: crisp, not too much salt, and the sauces alongside were brilliant as well. The fancy dish it was served in was a bit of a pain to negotiate, but everything else was so wonderful that it was easy to forgive. Thanks to some impeccable timing (I arrived just before the lunchtime rush), I even managed to get a seat near the window. Some would say that a view that consists mostly of an intersection is less than desirable, but I found it fascinating, with plenty of other interesting buildings to catch my eye, and lots of Wellingtonians buzzing around on the street below.

IMG_0356As for the Tui? Well, it was okay. Actually, it was entirely underwhelming. I finished it, but I can see why they advertise it so heavily – it’s not good enough that I would buy it off merit alone, especially since my trip led me to a much nicer example of what Kiwis can brew.

Either way, if you’re in Wellington, visiting The General Practitioner is definitely something I would prescribe. (Oh dear. That line was terrible. Sorry.)

Enigma Cafe

I ducked into Enigma Cafe on Courtenay Place at about 2pm on Thursday for a late lunch. I wasn’t expecting much, but when I walked in I found a brilliant space with dark walls and a feeling that this is where all the cool kids probably hang out. Thankfully, there was a good mixture of different kinds of folks, so I didn’t end up feeling too out of place.

I took a while to choose what I was going to order, but I finally decided on the gnocchi with mushroom and bacon.

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AND OH MY GOD. IT WAS AMAZING.

Right across the week I spent there, Wellington constantly treated my taste buds with beautiful flavours and delightful places in which to consume and savour them. Everything was wonderful and delicious and just magnificent. So basically, if you’re in Wellington, don’t skimp on meals – you’ll have no idea what kind of joys you’re missing.

Now we move on from beautiful food to brilliant bars… And trust me, Wellington has plenty, but I’ve managed to whittle it down to the three (well, four) most notable.

Boogie Wonderland/Alice

Source: Jinx In The Sky
Source: Jinx In The Sky

I touched briefly on the wonder that is Boogie Wonderland in my What We Did At The Premiere post, but I need to mention it again because it really is a place that should not exist, but I’m very, very glad that it does. Mirror balls galore, a flashing dance floor, and excuse me while I put my radio voice on: all the best hits of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and Noughties!

Oh my. So much kitsch in one room. It made me very confused and very, very happy. Be sure to jump into this nonsensical retro indulgence if you’re ever in Wellington. It needs to be experienced to be believed, trust me.

But if you head out to the toilets, you will find another door to another bar. This is Alice, where the walls and shelves are adorned all kinds of bits and pieces from Lewis Carroll’s classic books, the music is eclectic (I honestly heard “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords come over the speakers and I couldn’t hold in my giggles), and the cocktails are delicious and sometimes served in teapots.

Jane and I settled in for some “White Rabbits”. They were freaking delicious.

Photo by @powderkeig
Photo by powderkeig

One Wonderland in Wellington would have been enough, but two right next door to each other? Well, that’s just spoiling me!

Havana

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On the Friday night, I was on the hunt for some live music. At the exhibition launch where I started my evening, I met Vanessa (well, for the second time – we’d also met after the premiere), who told me that she was actually playing a set at a bar called Havana, just off Cuba Street. (Hmm, funny that.) I told her I was planning on doing some general wandering, but I’d see if I could make it.

The wandering was pretty uneventful, save for meeting this guy. I strolled up and down Cuba Street, stopping into a few little bars that seemed like my kind of place, but they were all pretty full, and not particularly appealing to the solo traveller. (My criteria were that there had to be somewhere I could sit without awkwardly jumping in on another group; decent music, live or otherwise; a reasonable drinks menu and preferably a friendly enough crowd to find folks who would adopt me into their fold.) There were plenty I would like to visit again (namely Laundry and The Rogue and Vagabond – I intend to spend more time in both on my next visit), but none of them seemed right for me at that moment.

This little shrine was set up in the hallway that led into the main bar.
This little shrine was set up in the hallway that led into the main bar.

So I kept walking up to the far end of the street, trying to remember Vanessa’s directions to Havana. I wandered down one dodgy-looking side street, then another, until I finally stumbled across this little house nestled in among some more modern, less friendly looking buildings. I walked up the passage to the front door and was let in my a lovely gentleman and was met by one of the most beautiful bars I have ever seen, and my gosh, it was busy.

It was at this point that I really began to come to realise just how much of an influence Cuban culture seems to have had on Wellington venues, most notably along… ahem, Cuba Street. From cafes like the aforementioned Mucho Mucho Cafe, right through to Laundry and (obviously) Havana Bar, there is a lot of iconography that harks back to that island in the Caribbean. It really is a little bit odd when you think about it, and incredibly kitschy, but it is also kind of nice and brings a lot of colour to those bars and cafes that choose to buy into it.

When I arrived, Vanessa was up in a corner, serenading the crowd. (Holy dooley, the lady’s got pipes!) I waved, then grabbed a cocktail from the bar. It was delicious. Knowing there was nobody there for me to talk to, I squeezed through the crowd into the garden area out the back, found myself a seat and got to work on my scrapbook as I sipped my drink. A few people came over and chatted with me as I cut and pasted and scribbled, and it was just really nice. I’d love to head there with friends next time I’m in town; the vibe was lovely, with beautiful decor throughout. Havana Bar is definitely worth the detour.

Concrete

Jane and I hung out at Concrete on the Saturday night, and to be honest, it was quite underwhelming. But you know what? I simply have to share this with you.

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This is their bathroom. Notice anything missing? Like, I don’t know… Taps?

It took me far too long to work out what how to get it to work. Initially, I thought it might be the silver things, so I tried pushing on them. Nope. Maybe it was a sensor under the top shelf? No, still too logical.

Let’s take a look at it from another angle, a little bit closer.

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Nope. I’ve still got nothing.

Seriously, all I wanted to do was wash my hands. How on earth was I to go about it with no taps? Did I have to utter some kind of Lord of the Rings incantation? Sacrifice my first born? Telepathically compel the water to begin flowing? I was completely stumped.

Until I noticed the little round notches in the bench top. Here’s the same photo, except the “taps” are now circled in red.

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Seriously…

Apparently, this incredibly stupid piece of “design” managed to win a ton of architectural awards, which is proof that architects are either completely insane, or have a terrible sense of humour.

*****

Ridiculous bathrooms aside, Wellington is full of interesting, unique, intriguing and delicious places to eat and drink. It’s definitely worth the time, money and effort involved in getting out there and sampling as many of them as you can. Ranging from the sublime to the silly, there’s certainly something for every taste.

(Oh god. That was terrible. Sorry. Again.)

Next time: Putting It Down on Paper – why the scrapbook beats social media.

Noni Did NZ: When in Wellington, Take the Bus.

Me at the "Vellington" sign.

This time last week, I was marvelling at the fact that I had just come off the most incredible week of my life. Tonight, I’m struck by the bizarre thought that all that magnificent stuff happened a little under a fortnight ago. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to take another week for it to sink in that it’s all flitted off into the past, so I’m dedicating the next few posts to the week I spent in Wellington earlier in the month.

Each post will look at a different aspect of my trip: the people, the places, the premiere and the picture that made it all happen. And you know, some other shit too. And it will probably be out of order. Sorry about that.

If you’re looking for the full list of entries on this topic, you can find them here.

The first entry is about something that is incredibly important to me: public transport.

Shut up. This is serious stuff. Pay attention.

*****

Not being able to drive can be an absolute pain in the arse. It can leave you in quite a spot of bother, especially if you’re in a place you don’t know and travelling alone. Unless you want to be shelling out regularly for cabs, you have to work out the buses and trains and timetables pretty quickly, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be living in or visiting a place with any to begin with.

Luckily for me, Wellington’s all over it: their public transport system freakin’ rocks.

First and most importantly, like most major cities, they have their transport timetables integrated into Google Maps. It seems like a stupid thing to get excited about, but when you’re as navigationally challenged as I am, not to mention terrible at remembering what time things come and go, this is an absolute lifesaver. It means that even if you’re at a bus stop with no timetable, or are struggling to find a bus stop at all, you’re not stuck. Sure, you get the same thing in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, but it’s the little things that can make all the difference. Without this little bit of beautiful technology, my trip would have been a lot more difficult.

Look! Getting places is EASY. (Of course, I used it on my mobile, not the icky new desktop version. Yuck.)
Look! Getting places is EASY.
(Of course, I used it on my mobile, not the icky new desktop version. Yuck.)

The other thing that impressed me was how punctual all the buses were. Now, I’m not one to complain about services running late, as long as they don’t run early. After all, you can always catch a bus if it turns up after you do, but you’re buggered if it’s already left. I don’t think I encountered a single bus that arrived before its scheduled time or any that ran later than about 5 minutes behind schedule. As much as I love Canberra’s ACTION buses, they could learn a bit from the Go Wellington bus system.

At a number of the major stops, there were even automatically updating signs that told you how far away the next bus was, probably powered by some kind of black magic, or GPS or something, kind of like the ones at the Civic Bus Interchange except there were a lot more of them and they were all over the place.

And there were the trolley buses. I found them incredibly bewildering (“Wait, that bus has a power connector… thing?”), then comically endearing (“HA. THAT BUS THINKS IT’S A TRAM!”). Apparently they’re on the way out, so I feel incredibly privileged to have been blessed by their presence, even if I didn’t take the chance to ride one.

Seriously, Trolley Bus. Pick a side already.
Seriously, Trolley Bus. Pick a side already.

I only had a short trip around the bays to get from where I was staying to the city, but it can be pretty easy to mess up these things when you’re a tourist. Thankfully, all of the drivers were remarkably polite and incredibly helpful with directions and tips. I didn’t miss my stop once, and I didn’t have a single unpleasant trip. I was beginning to think that someone had sent out a memo saying, “There is a plump Australian woman coming from Canberra who is a bit of a bus aficionado; be sure to give her the best public transport experience she has ever had,” because it really was pretty damn good.

That said, like all public transport systems, there were areas that were less than brilliant. There were no services to the city from where I was staying on the weekend, but there was a stop about 30 minutes’ walk down the road (but holy crap, what a beautiful seaside walk it was)… The signage to find stops often wasn’t that great, and there were some really weird streets that were just for buses that were also deceptively dangerous for pedestrians. That said, it’s still a pretty damn good service, as long as you remember to look both ways, you bloody idiot.

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Me: “Seriously? That’s the only photo I got? Why am I even allowed to have a camera?”

But it’s not all about buses. The Wellington Cable Car initially seems to be just a gimmicky novelty for the tourists, kind of like Sydney’s Monorail (RIP), but it turns out that it’s also another cog in the public transport machine, if you’ll forgive the heavy-handed metaphor. Sure, there were a couple of families on board who were obviously out for the day to see the sights, but there were also a significant number of travellers who looked kind of jaded and were busy reading newspapers, most of whom got off at the stop for Victoria University. Whoever they are, I thank them, because they’re probably the reason why my little tourist jaunt to the top of the mountain only cost me $4! Nice.

So that’s the practical aspect of all the public transport options I sampled.

Then you get into the more ridiculous stuff that only weirdos like me care about.

https://twitter.com/NoniDoll/statuses/478653018011729920

Seriously, look! Look at the seats! They’re really pretty! Ferns! Fresh! Green! Lovely.

(Especially when you compare them with the seats of Canberra’s ACTION buses, which look like somebody murdered a Ken Done painting.)

ARGH. MY EYES. (Thanks to Ali for the photos.)
ARGH. MY EYES.
(Thanks to Ali for the photos.)

Basically, getting around Wellington was really bloody rad, from the buses to the cable car to the fact that there were effectively taxi spruikers when I got in at Wellington Airport. (Seriously, that was kind of weird.) Everyone was friendly and didn’t want to charge me through the nose and got me to where I was going with a minimum of fuss.

As a non-driver, Wellington is easily one of the most non-driver friendly places I’ve visited, at least in terms of the routes that I took. Sure, next time I head over, I’ll have to do a little more exploring outside the inner city area, but for now I just want to say well done, Wellington.

Image: Ed Jones via Getty. Click for source.
Well done.