City Lights

Saddlebacks: back in the saddle

Saddlebacks: back in the saddle

You could say it’s just a tree stump; or you could say that it’s a hal­lowed place, a spot where some­thing truly spe­cial occurred. For in this stump, on a bank in the Pol­hill Reserve on the slopes between Aro Valley’s Hol­lo­way Road and Zeal­and­ia, two saddle­back chicks hatched late last year — the first […]

Fanfare for the Commons man

Fanfare for the Commons man

Jeremy Com­mons used to put on draw­ing-room oper­as. He doesn’t now, but for 14 years he ensured that these intim­ate dra­mas were reg­u­larly re-enacted, for a small audi­ence of the dis­cern­ing, at the James Cook Hotel and the Welles­ley Club. Rehears­als took place in his house on Hawker Street, in the shad­ow of St Gerard’s monastery. […]

The cat guardian

The cat guardian

One day last year, when I was pok­ing around the grounds of the big semi-derel­ict house on the corner of Abel Smith and Wil­lis Street, I noticed a sign that pro­claimed its writer to be, under the Anim­al Wel­fare Act, the guard­i­an of the small colony of stray cats liv­ing under that house. That writer turned […]

Every machine is different

Every machine is different

Simon Hax­ton was once an oper­at­or. If you played a pin­ball machine in Wel­ling­ton any time up until about 2008, there’s a good chance it was one of his. You prob­ably didn’t, though: pin­ball, post its 1970s hey­day, was until recently in eclipse. Now it’s hav­ing a renais­sance, and Hax­ton — for whom pin­ball is […]

Here for an iconoclastic time, not a long time

Here for an iconoclastic time, not a long time

Most of my friends”, says Nic­ola Young, “are scream­ing lefties.” This is apro­pos of the view in some parts that the city’s new­est coun­cil­lor — one who hap­pens to have her eye on the may­or­al chains — is rather right wing. “That’s not the case,” she says, lightly but firmly. “I think I’m a centrist.” […]

Secrets and ties

Secrets and ties

On the wall behind me, a long-hid­den secret is being brought into the light. The secret is a tiled mur­al of Māui fish­ing up the North Island, and it was made in 1962 by a New Zea­l­and artist, E. Mervyn Taylor, for the open­ing of a cable sta­tion on Auckland’s North Shore. That sta­tion housed the […]

Of pagan gods, backyard cricket and invented traditions

Of pagan gods, backyard cricket and invented traditions

It is,” says Kelvin Aris, “a ser­i­ous busi­ness, being funny.” Which is to say, the more ser­i­ously you frame some­thing, the more oppor­tun­it­ies there are to be silly. Kelvin and co-con­­spir­at­or Steph­en Tem­pler are on a mis­sion to make Wel­ling­ton more play­ful. Just one of their many pro­jects is a pro­posed back­yard crick­et tour­na­ment, designed to […]

On the trail of the short-jawed kōkopu

On the trail of the short-jawed kōkopu

Under our feet, the fish are swim­ming. Under the Basin Reserve, under Kent and Cam­bridge ter­races, under Vivi­an and Aro streets, they make their way from the har­bour, up storm­wa­ter drains, rising beneath the city, kilo­metres and kilo­metres in the dark, until they find them­selves in streams and creeks: the Waimapihi at the end of […]

Life in counterpoint

Life in counterpoint

I like art,” Robert Leonard says, “that plays coun­ter­point with me.” Partly this is the love of con­trasts, of hav­ing two melod­ic lines that play at once, but fit togeth­er: “I want to put things into dia­logue. I like it when works argue with one anoth­er or jostle for pos­i­tion.” Partly it’s an open­ness to […]

Getting over the whoopsie

Getting over the whoopsie

At age 60, when most people are con­tem­plat­ing retire­ment, Mark Peck flung him­self back into the arena of con­flict that we call polit­ics. The decision to run for Wel­ling­ton City Coun­cil last year was a strange one, giv­en that he’d served at a far high­er level as an MP, and was run­ning a suc­cess­ful business. […]