Two days into my visit to Wellington, and two days of contrasting weather. Yesterday it rained. When we left the house it was quite light rain, but by the time the train drew into the city station it was gathering force.
Fortunately our main goal was the museum, not a stroll along the harbour. Nadia introduced me to some new spots, and then we had an early and d kicious lunch. At Te Papa museum Nadia parked herself in the café and got on with some writing. I joined the queue to see the exhibition about Gallipoli. I’m not sure how long I spent in the exhibition, but it was nearer two hours than one. It is very well done, using the stories of individuals to give a picture of the whole. By the time I reached the end I was a paid up admirer of William Malone, and my heart ached for Charlotte, the nurse who followed her brother to Gallipoli, only learning of his death four months after it happened.
Normally two hours is about the limit of my concentration in a museum or gallery, but there was a small exhibition commemorating the 125 years since No women got the vote, and another small one on immigration. I spent quite a while in the exhibition on refugees who have been made welcome in NZ. In these times where refugees are frequently repulsed and demonised by the very societies which have helped to cause the chaos and fear they are fleeing, it is heartening to read of those who have managed to make new lives in a welcoming country.
The rain had continued to fall while we were in Te Papa, and it was hoods up, heads down all the way to the station. We made it home via the supermarket and changed out of clothes that were by now very wet.
Today’s weather couldn’t have been a greater contrast. Blue skies, warm sunshine. Having left the washing pegged on the line, we went into Wellington again, wandered by the law courts and the law school, up by the parliament buildings.
Then onto our first proper visit, Katherine Mansfield’s house.
Both of us enjoyed the visit enormously. It exceeded our expectations, and there was a documentary we could watch about her. The documentary was made in 1986, and good though it was, we both agreed it was about time for a new one to be made. There were wonderful cushions with portraits of Mansfield and her trademark fringe. We resisted them.
We had lunch in a great little café and then walked to the Botanic gardens. Twenty five blissful hectares, though the signage could do with improvement. I met a lovely standard poodle called Gypsy and enjoyed a fuss. When we crossed paths with her later, she greeted me like an old friend. The duck pond was perfect. There were paths promising bush walks, but we must have gone wrong as we quickly emerged onto a very unbush walk; in the herb garden I rubbed my fingers against the thyme and remembered doing in the same in Provence when I lived there. The gardens even have a Henry Moore sculpture.
The rose gardens were just coming into bloom. It seemed we weren’t the only ones to want to see them. Someone was even having a birthday picnic there.
In the begonia house there were plants other than begonias. I don’t know what this one is called, it its colours are extraordinarily vivid. By a fountain sat three stone frogs.
It was after five when we left the gardens and walked through the cemetery, passed the little chapel and the house for the sexton. Then Nadia took me to see a wonderful sculpture of Mansfield entitled Woman of Words. The detail should explain why.
It was a wonderful day.