History in New Zealand tends to be much shorter than it is elsewhere.
As a town, Wellington didn’t exist prior to 1865. In its early days, prior to reclamation in the central city and the expansion to Northern Suburbs, dwellings were erected first in the places that were easiest to get to, nearest to the city centre. Anyone who wants to get a sense of old Wellington should read the various works of Pat Lawlor (1893 – 1979) who really brings the colonial town to life. He is to the literature of early Wellington as E.M. Blaicklock was to Auckland’s Western suburbs. Wonderful writers both. But I digress. I went for a wander in the back streets of the Aro Valley yesterday, enjoying warm sunshine and relative stillness.
Houses spread from the relative flatness of each valley floor up the steep sides. Houses of the working classes were built cheek by jowl, on increasingly difficult sections. In the first half of the twentieth century there was a tendency to larger sections and almost every new house had a quarter acre section in which families could raise children or vegetables as they chose. In its founding days, Wellington did not have the luxury of accessible flat land and houses were crammed close together.
It seems a miracle that some of these houses have survived Wellington’s frequent storms and its susceptibility to significant earth tremors. There is visible evidence that things have moved or are moving.
Not all is decay, though, and there are some rather beautiful restorations to be seen. My main regret in these cases is that the electricity and telephone wires were not put underground. Perhaps precisely because of our seismicity, they clutter the landscape with unsightly webs of wire. And then of course there are the satellite dishes, one for each subscriber.
My eldest son used to live in a student flat (US = apartment) in this area, and I did some nostalgic wandering, recalling being conscripted to help with relocations, and shuddering at the memory of lugging household appliances up or down the steep and ramshackle steps that characterize the area.
Good night all.