Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Julia Caesar

The Pop-up Globe is open for business in Auckland again this year, and we decided to visit and make a long weekend of it. We’d originally planned to see The Comedy Of Errors, but there were only three shows, all mid-week. We revised our plans in consultation with Nicola’s hectic chorus diary, and decided on Julius Caesar on a Saturday matinee showing.

We flew up on Friday and spent the day in Auckland, taking a walk around the preparations for the Volvo Round The World yacht race, which was due to have a stop in Auckland starting that weekend. However, due to no wind last week, they were stuck at sea, and, at time of writing, had still not arrived. They are now expected on Wednesday 28th.

In the evening we went out to a restaurant called One Tree Grill near Cornwall Park, which contains One Tree Hill. I see what you did there. They have a wine cellar with a glass ceiling, which forms the floor of the bar area of the restaurant, so you walk over it and look down as you enter the place. They did good modern food to the required standard, although I was a little confused at the end when they asked if we’d like to tip our waiter, as we seemed to have been served by the entire staff of the restaurant throughout the meal…so which was “our” waiter?

The following morning we breakfasted at Imperial Lane café, a bit of a favourite of ours when we visit Auckland. We had a bit of time before heading out to Ellerslie race course, so we took in the Maritime Museum for an hour or so. Luckily we’d left plenty of time to get to the globe, as there was a bus replacement service for the first two stops of our journey, which turned a 10 minute trip into a half hour. We arrived and got ourselves a cheese platter and some wine for lunch – once again sponsored by Marisco wines, so I had  King’s Bastard chardonnay.

Julius Caesar is one of the most performed Shakespeare plays. How to freshen it up? Why, role reversal, of course! All the males are played by women, and the two women’s roles (Porsche and Lamborghini…no, wait, Portia and Calpurnia) are played by men. They were rather overegging it by having them dressed in sackcloth and having their hands chained. The text needed to be changed quite a it too, to accommodate the reversal, although they kept “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”; nor did they feminise the names. Other than that, they stuck resolutely to the script, although some lines were missed. (notably “the ides of March have come”…why cut that?) We were seated in a royal box on the mid level, so were directly over the stage on the right. As usual, the arena was full of “groundlings”, who were, presumably, warned about the possibility of being splashed with blood, as the gore was distributed liberally during the various stabbings, spraying out into the audience.

We’d been in a bit of a quandary about our luggage, which we’d left at the apartments where we stayed on Friday night: the manager said he’d be closing the front desk at 5pm and we needed to be back before then to reclaim our bags. The play was scheduled to finish at 4:15 so we thought it might be a bit tight. We’d booked a taxi to pick us up fro the racecourse and whisk us back to the apartment. As it turned out, though, the play was all over by 3:45, and we found a taxi waiting, and got back in plenty of time. We then walked round to the ferry terminal and set out for Waiheke Island.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Comedy Of Errors

Wellington Summer Shakespeare has been running for many years now. We’ve been going to see their productions for the last three of those, including All’s Well That Ends Well last year, and Love’s Labour's Lost the year before. The venue has also been a bit of a moveable feast as well – this year they’ve moved from the Civic Square location of last year to the Reading Car Park. I guess it’s all a matter of logistics and money? The Reading car park, a former multi-storey affair that was pulled down after the Kaikoura earthquake damaged it irreparably, is an unlikely venue for Shakespeare…but what the hell. We went.

I’d booked us a matinee performance on Sunday, so we headed into town in time to find a parking space and walk around to the venue. Nicola had been busy officiating at the Round The Bays half-marathon earlier in the day, but we had plenty of time. The seating was arranged in the corner of the carpark – thankfully shaded, as the temperature is back to summer again. We took our seats in the fourth row, and waited for the comedy to begin.

The Comedy Of Errors centres around two twin brothers, not quite separated at birth but certainly at a very young age, and their manservants – also twins. To confuse matters further, both sets of twins share the same names, Antipholus (the protagonists) and Dromio (the servants). When Antipholus of Syracuse arrives at Ephesus, he has no knowledge that his brother has lived there for a number of years…with hilarious consequences.

The cast are a mixture of experienced and new actors, some of whom we’ve seen in various productions at Circa and BATS through the years. At various points they ad-libbed – when a motorcycle went past, or a helicopter landed at the nearby heliport on the dockside – which helped things along. It was a comedy; it contained errors; but, as is usual in Shakespeare comedies, it all ended well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Black Caps vs. England

On the final day of Andrew and Zoe’s visit, we went to see the Black Caps play England in the tri-nation T20 competition. Firstly we got them all packed up and ready to go, as we’d be dropping them at the youth hostel for their final night in Wellington, because they had an early start for their the following morning.

The match was played at Westpac Stadium, so we parked up near parliament and walked to the stadium, getting there with about 20 minutes to spare. Our seats were up in the nosebleed section, but we had a good view as we were almost square on to the pitch.

New Zealand lost the toss and were put in to bat by England. They duly started putting on the runs, with good innings by Guptill (65) and Williamson (72). De Grandhomme was promoted up the order to bat at 4, as he’s known to be able to put on a lot of runs in a short period. He came in when Guptill failed to reach the boundary with another attempted 6, and was promptly out first ball. Despite this, and with Williamson holding it together for the 4th wicket stand, they reached 196,  which looked like a defensible total. In T20 these days you need to be up around the 200 mark to feel safe!

England came out swinging, and despite the early loss of Roy at 14/1, they kept up with the run rate for most of the match. Unfortunately they leaked wickets - although not as much as we'd have liked, with two dropped catches - and when down into the lower order batsmen, the total started looking less achievable; in particular when Trent Boult came in for his second spell and started cleaning out the tail-enders. They needed 25 from the final two overs, which is not impossible in T20. But it proved too much for the remaining batsmen, and they eventually fell short by 12 runs, handing victory to the Black Caps.

We drove back to the youth hostel and dropped off Andrew and Zoe, first making sure that they had beds for the night! That ended their adventure with us in Wellington, and they caught the ferry the next day to continue in Abel Tasman, West Coast, Kaikoura and Queenstown.

The Visitors

Nicola’s nephew, Andrew, is doing a post-university bout of travelling the world with his girlfriend, Zoe. Having taken in South East Asia and Australia, he’s headed over to New Zealand for a few weeks to do the whole North to South experience. And what is that experience without a few days in Wellington?

They’re travelling around New Zealand with Kiwi Bus, who offer a hop-on hop-off service allowing you to spend as long or as short as you like in any location.  They arrived early evening from an adventure camp in the middle of nowhere, so figured that they’d probably want to stretch their legs a bit and take a wander after several hours on the bus. It was a lovely sunny evening in the middle of the heatwave that New Zealand is experiencing this summer, so we headed up to Cuba Street to visit Grill Meats Beer, a restaurant that does exactly what it says on the tin. After dinner we took them home and sorted out our plans for the coming days.

First order of business was to get down to Scorching Bay for a morning swim and breakfast at Scorch-o-rama. That achieved, we took them on the obligatory Wellington day out, starting at Mount Victoria Lookout, followed by a trip on the cable car and bus up to Zealandia. I drove them to the Cable Car stop on Lambton Quay, then drove up to Zealandia to meet them, arriving by bus from the top of the cable car.

After a tour of Zealandia, spotting the obligatory kaka, saddlebacks, hihi and bellbirds, we returned for some lunch at the café and then home. Despite all this activity we still hadn’t worn them out, and they headed over the hill to the beach at Scorching Bay for another swim.

The following morning we did the next step on the Wellington experience – the Weta Workshop tour. Weta Workshop is literally at the bottom of the hill where we live, so everyone who visits us gets to go on it. For those who don’t know, they are the company that produces all the props for films such as LOTR, The Hobbit, and many others – not just Peter Jackson films, but all manner of other films as well. They also made the models for The Scale Of Our War at Te Papa, and do other work. During the tour no photography is allowed as all the props on show are still the property of the various film companies that commissioned them. You are, however, allowed to handle some of them (they have a touchy-feely area for just that) as well as talk to the guide and anyone who’s working there at the time; all the guides are also model makers, artists, or otherwise have real jobs at Weta, not just tour guiding.

On Sunday, Nicola had a chorus engagement that she couldn’t miss, so we took ourselves over the Rimutakas to Martinborough, to indulge in a bit of wine tasting. We visited some vineyards that I’d not been to in a while, including Haythornthwaite and Margrain – both still in the original family’s hands – and then went to Palliser Estate for a final taste and some lunch. The weather wasn’t quite as favourable as we’d hoped, so we didn’t stop at the lookout on either journey, as the view would have been of clouds and not much else. Still, we had a good time, and hopefully they learned a little about wines.

On Monday, Nicola was again at work so we went for a drive and a walk around the South Coast of Miramar peninsula, from Seatoun around Point Dorset to Breaker Bay; then on to Island Bay, where unfortunately the Beach House & Kiosk was closed. After a quick swim there were headed back and awaited Nicola’s return.

Monday, February 5, 2018


We’ve lived in Wellington now for going on 8 years, so you’d think we’d have pretty much explored all of it by now, wouldn’t you? We’ve even spent time in Upper Hutt! But so far, Wainuiomata has remained a mystery to us.

Wainuiomata is technically part of Lower Hutt, but it’s in that hinterland inland from Petone and Eastbourne. “What goes on there?”, we wondered. There is a Scenic Reserve, recreation area, and also the Rimutaka Forest Park. We headed to the scenic reserve first, as it sounds scenic.

“How do we get in? There’s no paths marked.” Indeed there weren’t. We found a sign, at the end of the oddly-named Hair St, and what looked like a pathway in, but it petered out in a matter of yards after crossing a rivulet. We turned around and went back to the car. “OK, let’s try the recreation area instead”. We’d spotted a sign to this on the way, so went back and found, eventually, a car park and an information booth. This looks a bit more like it!

We thought we’d take the Gum Tree loop walk, which we were informed was a one hour round trip. But even stopping to admire scenery and trees, and take pictures, we were at the point where it rejoins the main road within 25 minutes, so decided that the suggested times on the map were for folk far less crepit than we. We decided to crack on up to the lower dam.

The lower dam area is a wetland with some rather unprepossessing ducks and a lone cormorant on it. The signs around us informed us all about the wildlife (other than ducks) which also lived in the area, but it must have been hiding. After learning the history of the place, and its current regeneration, we set off back down the road, where we heard and saw tui, kereru and waxeyes, one of which was wrestling with an insect almost as big as itself.

The park is actively pest-controlled, and parts of it are also off-bounds to dogs. This is to encourage the local kiwi population to recover, which, by degrees, it is doing.

Adventure complete, we resolved to return to tackle the Rimutaka Forest Park on another occasion. We drove back to Wellington, and rewarded ourselves for our exertions with lunch at Hataitai’s premier eatery, Bambuchi, which gets another thumbs up from me.