Saturday, 28 April 2012

Look Around You. Just, Look Around You

I HAVE recently had the honour of reading the unpublished manuscript of a forthcoming travel book, which shall remain unnamed but will probably be guessable if you read this blog closely enough. I shan’t spoil any of the details, other than to say that it’s great. A significant portion of the book is set in New Zealand, which I visited back in 2007 (that it was 5 years ago is beyond ridiculous). I enjoy reading all travel writing but there is always more enjoyment to be had from reading other’s recollections of places you have visited yourself, so I took a keen interest in the overlap between this journey and mine — jealous of stories from places I never reached, and intrigued by alternative views of the places I did. Of particular note was Wellington.

I spent three days in Wellington in the middle of a frantic tour of the country, courtesy of a well known student operator. Beginning two weeks previously in Christchurch, I had already circled the South Island, reaching as far south as Queenstown, before island hopping on the ferry from Picton to Wellington, our base before the final push north through Taupo, Rotorua and Auckland.

The capital of New Zealand and the second largest in the country, Wellington is a city that New Zealand is very proud of. Voted the “coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet in 2011, it is a city rich in entertainment and art, gourmet food and cafe culture. According to Lonely Planet itself, there are more bars, restaurants and cafes per resident than New York. It has its own film culture, is home to Peter Jackson's movie empire, has a vibrant music scene and is a cool and happening place. On the islands of the harbour, I now know of pioneering conservation projects and regions devoted to some of the most unique creatures on Earth.

I saw none of this in those three days.

Friday, 6 April 2012


This video was made last year by the youth of my church. To me, this is pretty powerful viewing. Such a story has greater power when you imagine the characters involved are actually the friends you spend your free time with, and with whom you would share everything. I know the individuals in this video, and whilst I don't know them personally that well, re-evaluating the events depicted considering if they had been in my community, with these community members, strikes a very intimate chord.

This is the story of Easter. No chocolate eggs, no rabbits or fluffy chicks, but a harrowing tale from 2,000 miles away and 2,000 years ago.

And yes, those really are wrestling pandas.