Sunday, July 31, 2016


We were up at sparrow fart on Sunday morning to catch the 6:45 plane to Auckland, in time for a 9:30 connection to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. We didn’t have an awful lot of time to spare as we trundled between the domestic and international terminal at Auckland, especially as when I tried to check in, my Air New Zealand app had changed from offering me a QR code to requiring a printed boarding pass. They’d been having a bit of technical difficulty, apparently. We grabbed a quick breakfast at Shaky Isles, then headed to the gate…

…where they told us the flight was delayed as the incoming flight had been late. We eventually got away about two hours after the scheduled departure. On the plus side, they decided that all the premium content on the in-flight entertainment would be provided for no charge, so I settled in to watch Deadpool. On the downside, it was getting on towards evening by the time we arrived and, so my best-laid plan, which had involved getting to the supermarket in the afternoon, went horribly aglay. After checking out our accommodations, we decided to go out for a bite to eat.
In case I’ve not pointed it out to you yet, we landed on Saturday. Yes, this is the island of the day before. We get two Saturdays this week!

Raro is a small volcanic island, and has a fairly basic public transportation system. There are two buses, clockwise and anti-clockwise. They take about 50 minutes to circumnavigate the island, and set off once an hour from the main town of Avarua, which (along with the airport) is at around 12 o’clock on the island. We are staying at 2 o’clock, and the next village round is Muri at 4 o’clock, where we wanted to eat our dinner. We went to Rickshaw’s Thai restaurant, which was pretty good with substantial portions. We’d not eaten since breakfast, so fell upon it like a wolf on the fold. Washed down with the local beer, Matutu Kiva pale ale, it was delicious.

The only wrinkle in the bus transportation system is that after 4:30pm, the anti-clockwise bus stops running. The night service, until 11:00pm, only goes clockwise. We therefore waited, and boarded the bus, and had to go all the way around the island, stopping at various resorts, until we got back to our bach. Then we crashed out.

The next day dawned at dawn. We’re facing straight out to sea, so there’s nothing stopping the sunlight streaming into the bedroom. Note to self: must get up and photograph the dawn tomorrow. As it was Sunday, not much was open. They take their religious observance seriously in the islands. We walked down the road more in hope than expectation to the café for some breakfast, and it was indeed shut. No matter, we walked on a bit further to Super Brown’s, which claims to be open 24 hours, and bought eggs, butter, and bread, to make our own scrambled eggs on toast back at the bach. After that, we decided to take the bus into town to see what was there. We were able to see most of the scenery that we’d missed on the bus the previous evening. A lot of the good folk were on their way to church, dressed in Sunday best dresses, with hats. On scooters. Scooters are one of the main forms of transport on the island, and if that’s how you travel, that’s how you get to church. Some of the ladies were perforce steering one-handed whilst the other hand ensured that their hats didn’t fly off.

Our modest beachside shack
We arrived in town to find almost everything shut. We found a souvenir shop open and bought some postcards, then went along to Coelho’s café for lunch. We walked up the road a bit, through what could be termed the Government Quarter, but there’s not much to see when it’s all closed. We headed back to centre ville to catch the bus back home.

As I said, our bach is facing the ocean. It’s got a small lawn, then a short path through the rocky coral to a bit of sandy beach, then the lagoon. In the distance, waves crash over the reef, leaving a shallow, calm area for swimming which goes all around the island. Our bit of beach is actually a bit rocky, but there are better beaches around the island, so we’ll try to sample those at a later date. In the meantime, we’re getting busy booking those excursions to explore the island and surrounding sea!

On our lawn we spotted movement. “That shell’s moving” said Nicola. Sure enough, the shell was inhabited by a very nervous hermit crab that I christened “Hermy”, who had crawled all the way up from the lagoon. He disappeared inside his shell as soon as he felt vibrations from our footsteps, but after a short while emerged again to do whatever it is that hermit crabs do when they’re on the lawn. Casting around further, we spotted two smaller crabs also perambulating the grass, as if they owned the place. 

We’ve also spotted several lizards, some of the gecko variety, which is good as they eat the mosquitoes. So far, the bird life consists of the ubiquitous hippity-hoppity birds (mynahs) that are endemic to Northland in New Zealand; and chickens…there are chickens everywhere. I’m hoping to see something a little more exotic when we take out tour into the interior.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Stage Kiss

Why is Thursday night theatre night? Well, on Mondays, Nicola goes singing. On Tuesdays we dance. On Wednesdays we do pub quiz. Wellington City Council, in its infinite wisdom, has extending its paid parking hours to 8pm on a Friday night, which makes it impossible to do dinner and a show without running the risk of a ticket, so we rarely go out on Fridays. Thursdays it is.

This Thursday we were back at Circa Theatre, to see Stage Kiss. But first, dinner. Once upon a time, there was a restaurant called Duke Carvell’s Swan Lane Emporium. This was part of the Bresolin Brothers’ empire. They sold it off last year, and under the new ownership it seems to have gone downhill. It closed a couple of months ago, and has recently re-opened as Noble Rot. Following the closure of Wine Loft, Vivo Enotica Cucina and Arbitrageur, this is now Wellington’s only dedicated wine bar and eatery. It got a great review in last week’s Dom Post, so we decided to give it a try. We shared a charcuterie platter to begin with – you can select your own from 5 different types – and then followed with a cheese soufflé and slow-roasted ox cheek. I went for the dessert option of Fix and Fogg parfait, whilst Nicola looked on. We were able to talk to the sommelier at each stage for wine recommendations, and ended up with a Gisborne Viognier and a Soave (Nicola), and a Beaujolais and South African Cabernet Sauvignon (me). We were a bit hurried by the end as they were somewhat leisurely in bringing the dessert, so we had to settle up and walk at a fairly brisk pace to make it to Circa on time…

…there to meet with Macbeth. No, wait, that’s not right. We went to see Stage Kiss, a comedy with serious overtones, about an actress. She’s playing a part in a revival of a 1930’s play, “The Last Kiss”, in which her dying wish is to be reconciled with her first love from 15 years ago – now a sculptor living in Sweden. Her husband agrees to this as she’s dying. The Last Kiss was a flop on its original release and it’s easy to see why. It is, frankly, appalling, but contains much of comedy value to the current production – all the supporting female characters being called Millicent, for example.

The bad news comes when she finds out who her co-star will be: it’s her first love, from whom she split 15 years ago. Spooky, huh?

The play (The Last Kiss) naturally involves some stage kissing, and it is about this that the play revolves. As the actors kiss on stage, their previous romance is rekindled. In the second act, this is then transferred to real life, and the consequences of their actions on their other relationships are picked apart. They are then offered parts in a play in which they play a couple again, in a fictionalised version of their lives, written by the director of The Last Kiss. It all wraps up in the end, quite neatly, but not without some pithy statements from the protagonists. Whilst ultimately it's a comedy, it has its deeper moments as well, with good support from the actor's girlfriend and actress' daughter. There were a couple of faces that we recognised from other productions that we'd seen over the last few years, naturally - you can't move in Wellington theatre without tripping over the same people from time to time. 

All in all, an enjoyable night out. We'll definitely be going back to Noble Rot, and looking forward to our next theatrical outing, which probably won't be for a few weeks now as we have other things on our plate coming up. Watch this space!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Politician's Wife

It’s Thursday, so it must be theatre tonight. We’re away from our usual haunt and back at BATS for tonight’s performance of The Politician’s Wife. The play is being staged in The Dome on the top floor, which is an open venue with limited room for stage dressing and props; and seats along two sides of the stage, facing each other.

First up, we went for dinner at Hummingbird on Courtenay Place. This is a venue that we appear to frequent once a year, to take advantage of the Entertainment offer. They serve reasonable food but nothing out of the ordinary…we had fish crudo and lamb kofta to start, followed by eye fillet with oxtail pie, and gnocchi with burnt butter. All cooked very well, and served competently. God, we’re so demanding these days! The fish crudo would be better in the summer, I feel, but otherwise all was good and tasty. The meat dish was fairly substantial, so I didn’t really feel like a pudding, but we manged to force down a house-made salty caramel chocolate with our coffee and tea.

We ambled round the corner to BATS and took our seats. The theatre has recently been strengthened and refurbished, so at least the seats are comfortable!

The Politician’s Wife follows the adventures of Kim, the privileged wife of a politician who is standing for re-election in an unspecified election in an unspecified country in an unspecified year (but really, it’s Australia). Kim worked as a nurse in the distant past, but now gives speeches for charities. The play follows her encounter with a former medical colleague, and her trip to the refugee centre where he works. As the play unfolds, the four actors assume a number of characters, from the politican and his adviser, to the documentary film-maker trying to get access to the centre, and the refugees themselves.

The first half of the play unfolds with predictable, er, predictability. It’s in the second half that things take a different turn, and the whole ends rather more messily than the nice, neat tie-up you might expect. In this, the author is showing more a real-life outcome, rather than the artificial constraints of drama. Everyone is compromised to a certain extent – the wife, the politicians, the medical staff, even the refugees themselves.

Having only four actors probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the costume changes unfortunately break up some of the transitions, so at times it felt a bit clumsy. The scene changes were also voiced with a cod-Eastern European accent, which seemed unnecessary.

What started as looking like a fairly straightforward piece of agitprop did eventually turn into something more nuanced than it first appeared. It had its flaws, but overall it made you think a bit more deeply about the compromises we all make and what our price would be. The purpose of good art is to make you think, so it worked. It wasn’t perfect, but then, what is?

I’ll try and book something a bit cheerier next time, though.