Another Wellington Weekend

By Friday afternoon I was pretty well done with a rather exhausted week, so it was as much as I could do to meet Alice for post-work hot chocolates at the library. After one of those supremely satisfying conversations that go like this:

Chiara: And THEN what happened?

Alice: Well. You know.

Chiara: So does that mean…

Alice: Afraid so.

Chiara: And henceforth…

Alice: [shrug]

Chiara: Hmph.

Alice: I know.

Chiara: I mean really.

Alice: I know.

Chiara: GIRL.

Alice: I know.

Chiara: Well, at least things are clearer now.

we decided that ridiculous DVDs and broccoli pasta were the order of the evening, so off we went to New World and to the bus stop. It turns out that I don’t know how to work our DVD player at all so we had to snorf down our pasta in front of my new pretend boyfriend Gok (who, coincidentally, has a crush on another one of my pretend boyfriends Tamati and which I feel is indicative of his good taste in general).

Saturday morning I had to do some dreaded (dreaded) work-clothes shopping, which didn’t go very well in that I didn’t get a) shoes b) pants or c) a skirt, which were my needed items, but did go pretty well in that I did get a) two shirts that I only sort of really needed and b) I was not reduced to tears in any dressing room at any point during the proceedings. I got home in time for multiple cups of tea (with ginger nuts, of course) and for fussing around with my outfit choice for going to see my beloved Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra that evening.

They were playing at the Michael Fowler Centre in town which is where, like, the symphony usually plays, so it was a kind of different feel to when I’ve seen them play at street fairs or at the Botanical Gardens or whatnot. Alice and Zoe and I met at Matterhorn for some chai tea and the perusal of this year’s International Film Festival programme and then Helen joined us and we got our seats, which were pretty far in the back but still let us see all the members of the Orchestra in all their silly, gorgeous glory.

The set had all these lamps suspended from the ceiling and they were all wearing fancy outfits (the double bass player wore a fez, pronounced “fizz” in Nu Zilnd) and one of my other pretend boyfriends Age Pryor was looking and sounding fantastic as always. They always look so excited and thrilled to be singing and playing their ukuleles—they just strum and strum their hearts our, completely winning mine in the process. At one point there was this beautiful song that just broke my heart a little, in such a good and weirdly healing way, like: here we all are, all together watching people sing and play and laugh and dance and singing and laughing and dancing ourselves, feeling in love with the city and the world and everyone in it. You know how music can do sometimes.

Anyway, the audience sang along and gave impromptu standing ovations and did the wave and danced in the aisles and yelled “I like that!” (at Age’s suggestion) whenever they, you know, liked something. There were lots of guest singers and players (including a guest whistler who is also on the has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed Shortland Street and whose name I am very sorry I have forgotten because she was really a very good whistler) but the really exciting part was when they played “Africa” by Toto (you know: “I miss the raaaaaaaaainnns down in Aaaaaaafriccaaaaa” which everyone always totally sings along to) and there was this big gong and then this guy in a gorilla suit jumped up and started banging the gong at appropriate places and then at the end of the song he took off the suit and it was long-lost Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra member Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords woo! Which I TOTALLY CALLED. I mean, to be fair I had prior information that he’d played at the six o’clock show, but STILL.

So that was all very thrilling, especially when we learned that for the first time ever the whole orchestra was all together on the one stage. Apparently they’d been afraid that the world would explode or something if that ever happened–if only from the sheer awesomeness, I’m assuming. And more and more people just kept on getting up to dance, and then we all did too for the grand finale of “Hey Ya” which is a very good song when played by a twelve-person ukulele orchestra, and then it was time to leave and to run into all sorts of people who were leaving too and to talk about how fun the show had been. We thought about going to Mighty Mighty but it seemed like it was going to be a band night and not a DJ night and we were still all just filled with the love for the WIUO so Helen graciously offered to give me a ride home so I wouldn’t have to take the bus and there it was, my excellent Saturday night.

This morning I woke up sort of early and took the bus into town and got a huge bag of vegetables (including a quarter of a pumpkin) at the farmers’ market and some new vacuum cleaner bags at the store. I was done earlier than I thought and so was in plenty of time for lunch at Giulia’s which featured some yummy and very weather-appropriate minestrone and some nice new Italian buddies. I don’t speak Italian very often so can I tell you how it is absolutely one of the joys of my life that whenever I do speak it everyone is so nice to me about it? I can’t express myself very well—I mean you don’t really get the whole Chiara experience, so to speak, when I’m not speaking my mother tongue—but I always have fun with my attempts, and I also secretly enjoy the unfettered shock on Italian faces when they hear an American trying to speak their language.

My new soon-to-be-flatmate (we are down a Rachel, sadly, although it’s happy for her and I already like the new flattie very much—she happened to be at the Ukulele show last night, for example, plus she speaks French and bakes organic bread for fun, so I think we’re going to get along fine) came by to measure the room and I chopped up the pumpkin and roasted it for my favorite winter salad which I will be eating shortly in front of the fire: spinach, the aforementioned roasted pumpkin, blue cheese, and a little balsamic. I’m planning to read my Lynda Barry book and maybe knit a little before filling up my hot water bottles and getting into bed early; satisfied, grateful, and happy to be who I am doing what I do where I do it.


  1. My Mum has a good pumpkin salad recipe – they put it into a magazine –

    I bought her a dozen copies so she could send it to her friends in Australia and around the world. I think she used butternut pumpkin.

    When my CSA kicks in with the gourds, I’m definitely going to try your recipe, sounds delicious! Which kind of pumpkin did you try? Do they have Queensland Blue in Nu Zilnd?

  2. No exaggeration, my heart stopped for a few seconds when I read who jumped out of the gorilla suit. It seems my love for those boys is never going to die, yet I doubt very seriously Columbia, South Carolina will ever be a tour date for them.
    And I think I’ve mentioned before, but I love reading about cozy winter weekends when I’m stuck in the middle of a crappy sweltering summer that looks like it’s going to be long and stupid. It gives me hope that nice weather will eventually arrive again, should I live that long.
    I LOVE Lynda Barry!!!

  3. Pumpkin salad and Lynda Barry? Be still my heart! Also, Italians being nice to me about my speaking Italian (instead of getting that look on their faces that makes me realize I’m hurting them inside [Paolo, I’m looking at you]) makes my whole day, too.

  4. Between this post and the ongoing coup nastiness I’m almost ready to abandon my tropical orchard and come home to Wellington…