Susan Ryder spent last weekend in Wellington – and it was so good she’s only now put finger to keyboard to tell you about it.
There are few places more glorious on a good day than Wellington. And there are few places more atrocious on a bad day.
Luckily, I struck the former last Saturday night when I was persuaded to take my two nephews and their best mate to the test at the Cake Tin with their other aunt, who flew in from Sydney for the occasion. It was her bright idea to shout them for this year’s birthday presents, with a night at a four-star hotel thrown in for good measure. Even though they’re well-behaved, she didn’t want to be solely responsible for three pre-teens in a big crowd which is how I came to be there, too.
And sometimes, the planets just all seem to line up beautifully.
We arrived early in the afternoon to watch our elder nephew’s Kapiti team, of which he was captain, beat Hutt (2-0) for the Wellington primary boys’ hockey title at the National Hockey Stadium in Newtown, before bursting with pride at his terrific acceptance speech at the trophy presentation – and grinning to ourselves that few in the NRL could have matched it, let alone done better. That’s the groovy thing about being an aunty or uncle: you can go on about your niece and nephew’s successes in a manner that parents never can.
I’d never been to the Wellington Stadium before, so I was excited to be finally doing so. Everything was terrific: its location, the organisation, the staff and the facilities. Even the weather was perfect with not a breath of wind.
It’s an easy 20 minute walk from downtown through the train station where all staff we encountered were polite, friendly and helpful. They were particularly good with the kids, who were all proudly decked out in their supporters’ gear.
My little nephew’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he spotted Luke McAlister wandering along Lambton Quay, much to the disgust of the two older 12 year olds who, in walking ahead of us for reasons of essential coolness, were too busy being cool and missed him … and then double-bogeyed in missing Andrew Mulligan from Prime TV’s The Crowd Goes Wild after the game, whom they also like. Sometimes you really can be too cool for the room …
We were surrounded by great people all out for a great time and the atmosphere was fantastic. My sister immediately started chatting with two old chaps from Napier who were already on a high from watching Hawkes Bay thrash Otago that afternoon. The three of them discovered a shared dislike for a number of individuals including referee Wayne Barnes and Chris Rattue who writes for the New Zealand Herald, so got along famously in their mutual non-admiration society – so much so that when Cory Jane crossed the line she was startled to be offered a swig from their hip flask. “Go on, dear! You picked it; you deserve it!” to which she thought “Oh, what the hell!” and took a slug. So much for the bag search for illicit alcohol that takes place on the way in, age and experience being way too smart!
The kids took it upon themselves to lead the chanting in our section; their efforts praised and applauded generously by the good-natured folk around us. They were beside themselves when they spotted a brave lone Aussie decked out in green and gold sitting near them and gloried in persecuting him ruthlessly. How the poor bugger got out with his sanity, let alone both eyes intact in his proximity to their exuberant flag-waving remains a mystery, but he was a good sport throughout. I suspect that his being very drunk was a great comfort in that respect and Lord knows there was little his team was doing with which to be thrilled.
I can’t comment on the food selection as we’d been warned of its general expense, so fed the kids earlier at the nearest fast food outlet which, unsurprisingly, was Macs that turned out to be feeding half the test crowd as well. We’re not cheap; far from it; but boys invariably have stomachs without a memory and besides, they were easily bought off with promises of room service later that evening, the prospect of which generated much excitement and discussion as to menu choices. When the hotly-anticipated moment arrived though, there was some expressed disappointment that the lady didn’t announce “room service” and wheel it in like they do on films …
The house-bar and pay-TV channels were firmly off-limits, but the obsession with food continued with breakfast the next morning and the varied selection thereof. “Hey! There are six different cereals!” and “I’m having bacon AND sausages!” It’s great to see things through kids’ eyes again and rediscover – and enjoy - the little things in life … such as a good pork sausage!
Even the man at the train station in helping me with information for the stunningly scenic coastal trip up to Paraparaumu couldn’t have been more courteous and helpful.
It’s a shame the capital is home to so many bureaucrats. Because there really are few places more glorious on a good day than Wellington.
* * Susan’s column appear here at NOT PC every Tuesday – except
when she’s getting over a great weekend. :-) * *