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Mutton Dressed As Ram

December 14th, 2011 by admin

The mid-range pub where Wazzer wrangles the day staff is having a boom this recession Christmastide. Every office team is deciding to go for the $10 pub lunches to celebrate the season, and then, as the owner Nigel had dearly hoped, splashing out on drinks galore. Activist waitron Chelsea is visibly exhausted as she shunts trays of fish and chips around; she is tired after a shrill weekend at Occupy Wellington. Catching sight of herself in a mirror, Wazzer clocks her own weariness after moving flats over Sunday.

The new flat is good. But now that she can bring home anybody she wants, without raising any eyebrows…it’s not as much fun, anymore. The one-bedroom place seemed large and hollow when her latest pick-up went back to his backpackers’. Like it was used to having a couple there, after Will and Win had lived there. But do you ever find a boyfriend when you’re looking, Wazzer thinks.

“Hey, I’d like to set up a lunch? Over the weekend? Do you do the $10 specials then?”

Jolted, Wazzer eyes him. Bald head, manicured stubble, expensive glasses, a stretcher in one ear, a striped and printed T-shirt, and resting a ridiculously long skateboard on the bar. The glasses don’t hide the wrinkles and pudge: he’s not a day under forty-five. Exactly the kind of Wellington hipster the mid-range pub makes its profit from on the weekends. Wondering if this guy knows he’s mutton dressed as ram, she snaps,  “That’s weekdays only, mate.”

“Oh. Okay, thanks. I was gonna do a birthday lunch for my son with his friends. No biggie.”

Wazzer softens. “That his board?”

“Absolutely. Thirteen, you know? Thinks he’s going to live forever.”

She glances around, then leans in and says, “We’ve got some seats Monday, it’s school holidays. Why not bring ’em then? And there’s a place down the street doing two for one burgers on Tuesday.”

He hauls out his mobile. “Can you book us as a maybe for Monday? I’ve got to call the Commander in Chief – I mean, my ex-wife – about this. I know, how about you give me your card?” She hands it over without a second thought.

And is very surprised when he texts her that night and offers her a drink to say thank you.

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Moving, Wellington Style

December 12th, 2011 by admin

It’s an awkward, sweaty moment. Willow is standing on one leg on the sidewalk. Inside her car, her spoiled cat Cilla is bewailing being confined in a cat carrier and whisked away. Her as-of-this-moment-former-flatmate Wazzer is receiving the house keys from her and getting final house handover instructions. Willow would like to say a sentimental goodbye, but she feels restrained by the curious eyes of Willow’s hired movers, strapping posessions down in their truck.

“Will and Winona and their movers should have been here by now…”

“Yeah, my mates with the van are late, too.” Wazzer shrugs.

The only thing worse than many Wellington abodes is the prospect of moving house within Wellington. Despite the friends’ grousing, this is not the fault of the moving companies, but of the phenomenon known as “Wellington access.” With Wellington access and iffy weather added to furniture wrangling, moving blows out time estimates, costs the earth, and breaks strong men. Moving companies start up and go out of business on a regular basis, as their staff blow out their ACL ligaments and knees on Wellington’s inclines. Willow had to email her moving company digital photos to assure them that her access was fine, truly it was. They are mildly shocked to be on time and are ready to convoy off to the ferry that will take Willow and her belongings to Oamaru.

“I…” Willow begins. She looks around at the pearly sky, at the loose roses roiling profusely over the neighbor’s fence. “It’s a hard day to leave Wellington.”

“Yes. Yes,” Wazzer agrees. “But it’s one of the Good Days, y’know. You’re gonna have a gorgeous summer down there. And Will and Win and I all have crash space for you if you come up to visit.”

“Absolutely I’ll come up to visit! And…you’ve been great, and…I hope you…um…you know.” She breaks out of her reserve to wrap Wazzer in a huge hug.

Inside the car, Cilla’s feline wails become more audible. It’s time to go. Wazzer waves her off, then stands on the early summer sidewalk, wondering. What was it that Willow had hoped for, for her? What does she hope for, for herself?

She tosses the keys up and catches them. Whatever it is, doing it in her own place is going to be pretty sweet.





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As Hutt As It Gets

November 25th, 2011 by admin

Helena Hutt’s family grumped their way through dinner. Helena has joined the home-grown artisanal wagon, and her two sons balked at silverbeet yet again. Matters were not helped by her husband Henry saying, “If you don’t eat your dinner, we’ll sell you to Aunt Karin as indentured laborers.” Everybody went to bed in a huff.

On an 11:30 lav run, Henry hears whispering from the boys’ room. Inspiration strikes. When he puts his head through the boys’ door, they fall silent, their eyes shining in the near-dark.  “I need you to be very quiet.” Both boys nod. “We’re going to Mickey D’s. Don’t wake Mum.” It’s a warm night. He doesn’t even grab coats. In their pajamas, the three of them pad out of the house, grinning.

The fluorescent-flooded counter has a substantial line at midnight, and the boys’ nostrils dilate as they smell hot chips. “Can we eat it here?” they plead. It’s a good idea: if the wrappers don’t wind up in the kitchen bin, they’ll surely get away with it. Inside the wonder of the midnight McDonalds, they gape happily at teenagers and rough blokes. Two of the teenagers turn out to be cousins the boys admire hugely, setting the crown on the evening for them.

Henry shouts them all milkshakes. Just as he’s getting the tray, his phone beeps. Crap, a message from Helena. They’ve been rumbled.



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Failure to Launch

November 23rd, 2011 by admin

Willow is dashing to catch her bus. Last-day-of-work drinks took forever. In her mind, she is ticking over the list of things to do before she moves out of Wellington next weekend. She needs to wheedle boxes out of the liquor store, confirm her ferry ticket, acquire an even more luxurious carry case for her cat Cilla. Just as she hits the bus stop, she draws up short. “Daria?”

A woman looks up at her and flutters long lashes through quirky spectacles. “Willow? Helll-oooo! How are you! It’s been ages!”

Willow stammers, “I’m great – a boyfriend – it’s serious – I’ m moving to the South Island.” She is just about blushing down to her toes, confronted here with a friendship that has failed to launch.

Daria is one of those Wellington women who is as utterly lovely as she is utterly busy. They met in passing about a year ago at a local science conference. The week after, paths crossed again at a friend’s drinks party. They chatted for hours. It was almost like a new romance, feeling the charisma of a fresh friendship. And then…

Daria went away for the holidays with her stepkids. Willow had some drama, and then her all-consuming new relationship. They ran into each other two or three times, the nascent friendship resparking each time. Surely, there would be time to really be friends later on. After the school holidays, the film festival, the trip away for the other friend’s wedding.

Except there isn’t. Daria’s pretty face saddens as this hits home, and Willow feels even worse for falling through on her side.

“You should come visit! I’ll be living in a farmhouse. Come down for the Steampunk weekend, it’s right nearby –oh, this is my bus.”

Daria smiles and waves as Willow, inevitably, goes.  “I’ll find you on Facebook this time!”

It’s better than nothing.

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Spring Forwards

November 21st, 2011 by admin

Wellington’s spring is having one of its inevitable wintry regressions. Winona, hustling to get ready for work on Monday morning, is diving into half-packed boxes and bags. Of course she needs to exhume a winter garment a week before she and Will move to Hataitai. Finally, she pulls it out, her beloved red trench coat. Nothing else can redeem a cold windy morning that should be bright and sunny.

Feeling that she is winning at the game of Wellington, she slips the coat onto her shoulders, goes to button the waist, and –

– it won’t close.

Winona thunks down onto the edge of the bed. Tears, unbidden, prick her eyes.

So far, being pregnant has been like…well, like what she had dreamed that pregnancy would be like. Flattering peony-red cheeks, nobody letting her carry anything, all her adrenals eager with anticipation, a better bustline. People have been indignant at her continued litheness, her lack of morning sickness, and the work schedule she and Will have. Between the two of them splitting working at home, there won’t be huge disruptions. They think. Or, she thought.

Eyes hot and dim, she peels the coat off her shoulders. How fortunate that she can blame the tears on hormones. It wasn’t just a coat: it was ambition and reclaiming and acknowledging that she was in NZ now, if she wanted a good coat it might take up her whole winter clothing budget, and perhaps that was worth it.  She knows what happens when you put a garment aside “for a while” – something about it dies.  She folds it up anyway, tenderly, as if this will protect its charms while it sleeps, and lays it in the box again. Will she care half as much about clothes after the baby?

It’s still cold out. She adjusts her neckline, dashes on a slash of red lipstick, and looks around for the finishing touch. After an inspired moment, she shouts, “Will! I’m stealing your jacket!”

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Gentrification Roulette

November 20th, 2011 by admin

Karin Kapiti sits in one of the wee towns along State Highway 1. Everything in this hamlet, Paekakariki, is exquisite. Two gourmet cafes sit across from an upscale pub. A few art galleries and a “really very good” hair salon complete the street. And have you heard of the fantastic place by the beach that sells gourmet ice cream and retro design items? Right near that lady who’s having an underground “supperclub” in her home, with the best Mexican food ever?

Karin sips her cappuccino and purses her lips with irritation. Not at the cappuccino- that’s perfect – but at the fact that this isn’t her hamlet where she lives.

Ah well, it could be worse. She’s coming back from visiting an artist friend in Stokes Valley. “They replaced the gas station with a showpiece – perfect if you’ve got an SUV or a Holden – and opened up a Mr. Pies and Fries, instead of a half-decent cafe. We haven’t gentrified, we’ve boganified.”

The visit and the cup of coffee are a respite from the latest drama. The last thing she’d expected at her father’s dull retirement dinner had been her daughter resurfacing. She’d given an infant up – it wasn’t like she was going to marry a hardcore grunge albino in 1984 Wellington – and spent the next sixteen years squatting, getting arrested, and launching an art career. When the girl had gotten in touch at eighteen, Kev had just extracted himself from that. Karin, having learned from her misadventures, didn’t want to rock the boat.  Besides, the round-handed letter on pink paper from the girl didn’t seem like it came from any relative of hers.

But this time, her sister’s friend Wazzer had relayed a message, sending the daughter’s apologies for coming up to her at the dinner, and asking again if they could meet, just once.  The clincher had been Wazzer adding, “She says she’s down at Occupy Wellington most weekends.”

Karin is wistful about that. That would’ve been her, twenty-some years ago. What happened to her that she’s pouting over cappuccino and gallery wall colours instead of trying to change things?  What’s life been like for this girl, that she’s waiting tables and wanting to see these changes? Time for her to go Occupy, herself. She can show her daughter a thing or two.

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Last Woman Standing

October 14th, 2011 by admin

Finding out that Ulrika is no longer single makes Wazzer pause as she inspects glasses hot from the work dishwasher. Spring, love seems to be in the Wellington air, and … is she the only single woman left?  And is she “single” if Otto is sending her porn Tumblr links while Piet has invited her to visit Cape Town?

Perhaps this coupled-up thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Wazzer has noticed an uptick in friends wanting to hear about her adventures.  Winona came by for lunch that day (“being pregnant, I can eat chips, it’s marvellous!”), showed off her edgy engagement ring from Will (“it’s a conflict-free Australian diamond in a rose cut”) and grilled her about Piet.

Idly stroking her ring, Winona looks mistily into the distance. “I sort of envy you! All the adventures you’re having! So I guess you’ll be wanting to rent our flat, then? It can be your swinging bachelorette pad. “

Wazzer focuses like a laser. “Yeah, mate. Yes, I do.  What’s the plan?”

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Don’t Call Them Boy Toys

October 13th, 2011 by admin

Ulrika has a new boyfriend, and the word on the street is that this one is a keeper. Max is tall, lean-jawed, has a tendency to wear snappy hats, and works as a sound editor in Miramar. A quiet Kiwi bloke, he’s happy to let Ulrika chatter. You can see the future Bohemian Couple starting to gel.

Do not be disturbed by the incidental fact that Max is ten years younger than Ulrika.

“We don’t feel the age difference!” Ulrika chirps. And when people see them together, they don’t see it, either. How much can you say about something that just works? Get used to it – it’s the new paradigm for Wellington couples who haven’t mated in university.

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The Thirties House

October 12th, 2011 by admin

Winona, at her sister Helena’s house to survey baby hand-me downs, looks around and sighs. She remembers when this house on a Hutt Valley hill was the archetypical Wellingtonians-in-their-thirties house.

In these newly acquired abodes, the purchasers spent all the money on the mortgage, or the baby, or the mortgage and the baby. The house interior came last. They’d scraped up one or two good pieces of furniture, but the walls were bare. Shoes were lined up neatly on the spare room floor to compensate for the lack of both furniture and closet space. Horrid paint and grey or beige carpet endured throughout. Either the kitchen or the bathroom urgently needed renovating.  Tools had been strewn everywhere. Visitors were treated to a nigh-virtual tour – “and when we renovate, we’re going to take this wall out” – that blurred the plain house with the house the owners saw in their imagination. You didn’t have to take your shoes off – what was the point? Besides, the floor wasn’t insulated yet.

But today Winona left her shoes at the door. Because Helena now has the 40s house. At 39, Helena took a deep breath and announced it was time to live like grown-ups. The mortgage got extended. The furniture’s not patchy any more, the new carpet underfoot is a beigey-grey, and the renovated bathroom gleams. Winona is pleased to admire a non-imaginary bathroom, but she does feel a little twinge. Her living situation, even with the upcoming move, will be the 30s house for a while longer.

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