Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe
marypcb

Dunedin done: opus sighted

Dunedin felt like a big city and I feel like smaller places so I booked a ride to Oamaru. I'd planned to do the Speights brewery tour and the double decker city tour, but the brewery tour was full (bunch of alkies these tourists!) so I went to the art gallery instead and then had lunch with Grace who I met at breakfast over cat gossip. I did fill my bottle from the tap at the brewery, fed by a local spring: very soft and sweet.

The gallery is a lovely space, airy and open with a sculpture called cones suspended in the atrium. There's a small selectio of the collection on view including a copy of The Wrestlers by Praxiteles: perfect marble men entwined so closely you have to look to see whose leg is whose, locked in combat though it's obvious the one underneath is pinned, but for me so frozen that it's bloodless, with no hint of sweat or struggle or defeat or victory - so small a slice of their time that they aren't even alive in it.

I wandered the main streets last night and this morning. There are quirky murals and impressive stone buildings, the pointedly sharp spire of First Church towers above a rose window with the repeating patterns of a patchwork quilt, the steep streets run up from the harbour to gardens: the students must be the fittest in the world even if they don't have to climb endless steps between streets now they've scooped sections out of some hiils. The Octagon has trees and cafes and a statue of Robbie Burns that has a local student paper slipped between the fingers like a giant spliff. But it didn't engage me much and the beach was way out of town.

Grace was a professional singer and she's just written a book about healing and the aliens amongst us and we had a thali for lunch. I introduced her to mango lassi and we talked about cats and grief and whether artistic people look different and she dropped me off at the station.

Yet again, I got on a coach and the sun came out! It stayed fine and warm all afternoon. Oamaru has a long main street with the coach stop at one end and the interesting stuff - and my b&b - at the other. I wandered around town, looking at the stately victorian buildings they're slowly renovating and browsed at Slightly Foxed, a nice bookshop where they tie purchases up in brown paper and string the old-fashioned way. I walked down to the harbour but the beach is closed as a penguin reserve: over to the formal town gardens and back: down into the nice garden by the creek and the railway station: past the statue of the Phoenix crouched on a globe ready to fly off: and into the pub.

Gary recommended the Criterion for a pint of Emerson's, which is a nice bitter and it goes well with a bacon butty. Had a nice natter with the regulars and got a private tour of the rooms, which are done out in full Victorian style - as was the barmaid.

I hopped on the penguin bus rather than walking to the reserve to get the guided tour. There were 26 hotels in Oamaru: it had the widest bridge in the southern hemisphere until the 1930s: there were umpteen granaries and seven flour mills, all in limestone buildings that looked like banks. The banks looked like palaces, as did the post office: Oamaru used to be a thriving metropolis, with money from the goldrush flooding in alongside the trade. This is where they first shipped frozen lamb to England: now the stately banks and the opera house overshadow the quiet seaside town and lend it an air of faded gentility... The restorations are elegant and tasteful but it's an odd dislocation.

Blue penguins must be stubborn beasties: they stick to their nesting ground despite the crowd of gawkers in the grandstand seats. They wait till dusk and gang up for security then wcoot ashore and tiptoe up the beach. The checks have to come out and meet them to mob them for food and the tentative progression on both sides looks like a complex ritual version of grandmother's footsteps or what's the time mr wolf? They bob forward anxiously, turn around and wander back, wavering and havering like a gaggle of tourists crossing the road. They're charming and comical and they smell strongly of aged fish and they run surprisingly fast when they lesn forward. As well as nesting up on the reserve some of them climb the cliff and nest there: others nest under the victorian buildings and even under cars! 44 of them came ashore while we were watching: you can get a closer look with the nestcam on the reserve's web site (which I'll look up when my eyes aren't so determined to close for !
the night).

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors
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