Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Zealand trip diary - day 8

Even after several trips to this side of the world, the time change still stretches your perceptions a bit. Today on Tuesday morning I’m able to watch Ozu on the webcam, as he (apparently) waits for his lunch on Monday afternoon (hope it’s for his lunch, rather than that he’s waiting to be picked up to go home, which is still a way off). Last night in Pog Mahone’s, a US sports channel ESPN was covering the latest British soccer, and we gave up trying to figure out whether that would possibly be live or else what kind of delay it would be on. In general, ESPN aside, being in there last night felt almost exactly like being in a British pub, much more so than being in a Canadian one; given the immense separation of time and land and water, it’s a bit hard to decide whether this is a wonderful tribute to something elementally binding, or a failure of imagination. I suppose it’s a bit of both.

Actually I find it hard to distinguish here between New Zealand accents and British ones – either the former sounds very much like the latter, or else the place is awash in imports from the old country. Anyway, we again had breakfast in the hotel, which consumed the usual vast expanse of time, and then went back to our plan of visiting Arrowtown, except today we did it by bus, leaving at 10.35, arriving around twenty minutes later (which makes our failed hours of walking yesterday seem especially pathetic, or maybe especially heroic). Much as advertised, it really is a quaint little relic from a previous age, consisting mostly of tiny, freshly-painted stores, many of them with names like “Gold Nugget”; if you took the cars away, it wouldn’t take much work to transform it into a period piece movie set. But if you’re not inclined to examine every single item in every single gift shop, it doesn’t actually provide that much to do.

No problem for us, as we took a two and a half hour walk above the town, along the Sawpit Gully trail; a little steep in parts but certainly easier than our Queenstown walks, and through slightly different terrain, providing a colour scheme of yellows and light greens rather than the dark greens and blues of previous days, at times criss-crossing a little stream or walking above a river. We came down near the site of a settlement occupied by Chinese miners up to the 1920s, apparently a hot spot for the Asian tour groups, and an enterprising small business near there was offering dumplings for lunch, so we had some of those.

Arrowtown, rather remarkably, has its own art cinema, Dorothy Browns, showing maybe eight or ten different movies a day on its two screens (Queenstown has a movie theatre, but it’s currently devoted to The Hunger Games, which I assume is fairly typical of the programming). In a way, going to a movie isn’t a good use of vacation time perhaps, but we thought this would be a memorable experience in itself. The timing dictated that the movie we saw was Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady, with Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott-Thomas (who, in a further bit of vacation resonance, we saw on stage in London a few years ago). It’s hardly a major film, but we’ll always remember it long after better films viewed in Toronto have been forgotten, as part of the list which includes Two Days in Paris in Hong Kong, Brothers Bloom in Jerusalem, and most recently Weekend in Copenhagen (we never went on our last trip, in Singapore, because all we could find there was multiplex crap). Dorothy Browns itself is a very appealing spot, with large comfortable seats and lots of spaces between rows; many of the patrons (nearly all of them closer to Maggie Smith’s age than to ours) had beers or wine, and I guess in New Zealand they still follow the (to us) long-expired old custom of arbitrarily stopping the movie halfway through so they can sell even more beer and wine.
We just missed the 4.50 bus back so rather than wait an hour for the next one we called for a cab; by then it was raining, and lots of people looked like they would happily have stolen our ride if they had the chance. We came back to town and spent our customary time in the hotel. The room has an ipod docking point with speakers on all four walls, so as I’m writing this I’m listening to my hero Dave Frishberg, including his anecdote about how around 1970 he met with a producer who was planning a variety show for Bill Cosby and told Frishberg to write something for “Coz” to perform; he had the song on the guy’s desk the next day, and (as of the date of the recording) has been waiting 36 years to hear back. The song (“Gotta Get Me Some ZZZ”) might now be regarded as having a rather macabre undertone, given the Coz stories currently circling. I don’t suppose Dave Frishberg has much profile in New Zealand otherwise. In other music news, we’ve heard Paul Simon in at least three different restaurants, and at one point today the café near the Chinese settlement was playing Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, of all things. Most often, the soundtrack in pubs or restaurants seems to be trying to evoke a 70s edition of the British Top of the Pops.
We had trouble deciding on a restaurant, and ended up at Speight’s alehouse, just because they had a couple of non-meat dishes that weren’t salads (before that we must have looked at fifty menus, concluding that 90% of the content never changed from one to the next). The waitress was from Yorkshire, and confirmed that most of her colleagues were also British, excepting "a couple of kiwis in the kitchen." We stopped for a drink on the way back, overlooking the water. Although you can only judge by what you see and hear, Queenstown really seemed dead tonight, although it’s hard to imagine a bit of rain could stop such a party. Anyway, it seems to be time to move on.

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