Friday, March 17, 2006

How I dearly wish I was not here 

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis week I have been in Timaru.

Timaru, for overseas readers who are not aware of its existence (oh what blissful state) is a town of about 27,000 people on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, approximately halfway between the cities of Christchurch and Dunedin.

What on earth 27,000 people find to do in Timaru is quite another matter.

In the words of that hoary old bard SP Morrissey, this is the coastal town they forgot to close down. This is the seaside town they forgot to bomb (Armageddon, come Armageddon come etc).

Each time I've passed through Timaru en route to somewhere better, it has been silent and grey, the townsfolk looking reproachfully at every vehicle that merely speeds through and banishes Timaru to a distant nightmare. I've always wondered why people would choose to live in such a miserable setting, and over the past few days I've had the chance to ask them.

Why here, I demand to know. What is it about this place that drew you here, that keeps you here. A few old codgers tell me about the superb salmon and trout fishing, but generally the answer is, without fail, Caroline Bay, an unprepossessing stretch of dreary coastline fronted by shabby houses, 1970s-style motels and - appropriately - a closed fun fair. This is, I'm told, Timaru's 'jewel in the crown'.

But hey, different strokes for different folks. I grew up in Nelson, home to some of the planet's most beautiful beaches, and live at Piha, another of the wonders of the world. Perhaps I've been spoiled.

What does set Timaru apart from being just another dull provincial Kiwi town is the sense of utter wretchedness and despair that sets in as soon as you set foot within the city limits.

Within minutes, my colleagues and I are frowning and sighing, everything seems an insurmountable burden and we lie awake at night in our 1970s-style Caroline Bay motel racked with such maudlin thoughts that surely we must slash our wrists with the bone-handled butter knife or furnish a noose in the wardrobe from the hairdryer flex. And we such happy-go-lucky people!

Over breakfast, I theorise out loud as to the cause of Timaru's evil vibes. Evidently, I surmise, the place has been built on the site of an ancient burial ground - and suddenly it's clear.

The furtive, cowering shopkeepers with their 'we don't take kindly to strangers here' attitudes, the zombie-trudge of the townsfolk, the sullen, sinister skies swirling continually overhead... We have walked into the set of a real-life Stephen King novel. How shall we ever escape?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

New car, need flat 

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDriving back out to Piha today (oh yeah, I bought a new car with the insurance payout - isn't she beautiful? <--) , I was struck with the same feeling I had when I first stepped out on my balcony and saw that famous view.

The gorgeous weather cast its glow over the whole city today, in fact - I almost ran off the road while roaring over the harbour bridge as the gloriousness of the gulf overwhelmed my senses. But as I've run off the road before and it wasn't much fun, I quickly grabbed hold of myself.

I tend to underestimate the beauty of this place I somewhat reluctantly live in - a month of working like a dog and living like a hobo on central-city-based friends' sofas has served to remove the blinkers from my eyes and remind me of the sheer beauty of this far-flung corner of the world.

Strange then, when my NZ surrounds has never seemed so awe-inspiring, that my yearning for London has returned with a vengeance. Mind you, work has kept me so busy of late I haven't had a moment to think about anything but the Great Product Launch - perhaps it's just finally having a moment to myself that has sent me ricocheting back to homesickland.

But enough already. Speaking of homes, I need a new one. The summer's almost gone and so I must retreat to the city. Ideally the perfect place will emerge in the Mt Eden area for myself and lovely flatmate-in-waiting Flicker, but if you have a desirable residence with a room with enough space for all my records, you know what to do...

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Back Downtown, Certain General (off the v. excellent New York Noise Vol 2)

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