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A young Alex Casey visits Matiu Island, Wellington
A young Alex Casey visits Matiu Island, Wellington

PartnersJune 18, 2017

The Spinoff invades Wellington!

A young Alex Casey visits Matiu Island, Wellington
A young Alex Casey visits Matiu Island, Wellington

Before launching into a week-long series exploring all that Wellington has to offer her, Alex Casey reflects on a childhood spent travelling ‘over the hill’.

I have a confession: Wellington used to make me sick. Like, literally. Growing up over the ranges in the sleepy, sometimes scary, sometimes fancy cheese shop town of Featherston in the South Wairarapa, my journey over the hill to Wellington was often riddled with vomit stops thanks to the notoriously nauseating Rimutaka Hill Road.

As a primary school kid, I once chundered a packet of two minute noodles and a cup of frozen peas (my specialty at the time) onto the motorway near Petone. After a particularly gluttonous birthday party at Valentine’s, a carload of us were like Linda Blair in The Exorcist by the time we even reached the summit. Older still, I threw up Red Bull and vodka into the Lower Hutt roundabout after a particularly rough night at The Establishment, known better to locals as The Meat Market.

Basically, I can measure out my Wellington life in extremely embarrassing projectile vomits.

At the Rimutaka summit, possibly post vomit-stop

Spews aside, my memories of Wellington form a very weird patchwork. When I was about eight, my mum was working long hours in the Beehive. During school holidays, she would let me loose. I got told off for sitting on Grant Gillon’s fluffy sheepskin seat inside the debating chamber. I first watched the Blair Witch Project on VHS in Jim Anderton’s oak-rimmed television in his (then) Deputy Prime Minister’s office. Jim Bolger once shot finger guns at me across the hallway, which I’m pretty sure means I’m an MP for life.

Getting political in Parliament

As I got a little bit older and started wearing a bit more lip gloss, “over the hill” became a sparkling land of shopping opportunities that I had only seen in Creme magazines. Wellington had a Supré! A Body Shop! A Subway! That was pretty much the holy trinity for every early 2000s teen, especially those growing up in hometowns that mostly dealt in chicken feed, antique lamps, or an unholy combination of the two. Huge gaggles of us girls would pile onto the Saturday morning train, wallets stuffed all the way to the velcro with tens of dollars of pocket money.

But now I’m older and I spend all my time in bloody old Auckland. It’s got heaps of Supré stores. It’s got heaps of Body Shops. I never need to look at another Subway. My interactions with Wellington are pretty limited, either zimming through on the Airport Flyer after a weekend visit to the Wairarapa, or in a flurry of weird work stuff including dancing next* to Scarlett Johansson in a drunken haze after the Canon Media Awards.

Returning as a horrible 18 year old and being generally horrible on Cuba St.

So I’m going back – this time for a whole week – to try and get to the absolute guts of Wellington. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it secret? Is it safe?

Starting tomorrow, each day at 10am there’ll be a new interview with a different Wellingtonians about what they do in the windy city, and why they choose do it there. I’ll be talking to the likes of Park Road Post’s GM Cameron Harland, fashion entrepreneur Pinaman Owusu-Banahene and theatre geniuses Jo Randerson and Thomas LaHood – as well as many more legends. I’ll also be crowdsourcing crucial local intel throughout, using Twitter and suggestions from my interview subjects themselves to get the most out of the windy city experience.

The blurry MP of Wellington visits Matiu

I want to drink weird-flavoured beers, I want to sneak into Parliament again, and maybe I’ll even find that big scary baby at Te Papa that occasionally haunts my cheese dreams. Perhaps I’ll do another all-nighter and throw up in the Upper Hutt roundabout this time. The possibilities are truly endless, and you can read all about it in my Wellington journal at the end of the week.

This will be by no means a definitive guide, but I’m hoping I can capture at least a little corner of Wellington and some of the cool people knocking about in it. I’m hoping it will be interesting. I’m hoping it be funny. But mostly, I’m just hoping I’m grown up enough to hold down my lunch when I eventually leave, back over that goddamn hill.

*I was three metres away and surrounded by her body guards but, nobody told you that

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