Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Dunedin Horror

I am filling myself with vitamins, Lemsip and lozenges, battling a nose that runs when it's not blocked up. Naturally it had to rain today, but let me get things in order.

The railway station here is famed for its ornate exterior and Royal Doulton porcelain interior, so I thought I'd take a quick peek; it's only a few minutes away. Yes, it's pretty, but not too much to get excited about, looking more like an expensive country town station (which is, after all, what it is) than the glorious city hub I was expecting. I picked up some medication and headed back for lunch, that is chicken soup.

Of course, I couldn't resist that bookshop I passed when I set out again, so I purchased a nice anthology of Cthulu Mythos stories (including some by Lovecraft himself) for a couple of dollars. Well, hell, I've been reading Salinger long enough!

In the afternoon I had high hopes: the Otago Museum; the Botanic Gardens; the World's Steepest Street, Baldwin Street. The museum, however, which is better than one has a right to expect, took up my standard three hours. In an effort to celebrate their achievements, they even have a section concentrating on the local university, one of the first in New Zealand. One interesting piece told of the mixed flat student scandal of the '60s. Apparently in 1966, the University Council passed a decree that no student might live in an accommodation of which the University disapproved, unless it was their parents' home. As a result a male student, who had been living with three women, was expelled. Ah, what glorious days when students had fight in their souls! 1,800 students rose up and staged a live-in in the Registry, a third of them sleeping over. Although the University didn't repeal the rule, they gave in on most of the student demands.

On the top floor, the original natural history display is preserved (just like the animals) and it's very peaceful wandering around the glass cases filled with skulls, pinned insects and stuffed creatures.

I escaped at 5, hardly the right time to visit the Botanic Gardens, particularly as it was lashing rain. Rain is the bane of Dunedin life apparently, the monster under the well-made bed, and it made things miserable. One should weigh that against the price of housing though, a four bedroom villa costing $250,000.

Regardless of the intemperate climate, I determined to visit and scale the height of Baldwin Street. There are many steep streets in Dunedin, but this particular one was three kilometers out. Wearing a hoodie, I got halfway there before resorting to my emergency poncho, but the rain was too persistent. The poncho was, of course, a waste of space. Besides looking like I was wearing a plastic bag (which I was), the hood kept ballooning back until I put up my hoodie hood again allowing the plastic to stick to the wet cloth. The plastic too makes for a very uncomfortable walk, especially when you are walking a monster of a road, as Balwin Street turned out to be. I saw steps on one side, but felt that was a cheat, so I deliberately started to walk the path on the other side of the street. Near the top, the path gave out. The road was wet, the angle was steep (well, that was why I was there) and my rubber soled shoes slip. What could I do though? Braving the drain water rapids, I inched across the slippery road to the other side's safe last few feet. It was an easy toddle from there, though I was perspiring nastily when I finally stood in the rain at the top. One almost wishes they cut down the many trees on the street as there is very little view when you get to the top, very little to see except that steep road going down.

I knew there was some spaghetti waiting for me in the hostel, but I could not resist some fish and chips in a takeaway. How can they charge $2.40? That's probably 1.50 euro, yet that is how much I was charged for a pretty satisfactory takeaway (all that was missing was vinegar). And then the rest of the menu? Chowmein for $7! And it wasn't just that takeaway, others along the road were cheaper. I stopped again for a mocha and a quick read (I couldn't resist a little of 'The Call of Cthulu'; hee, hee, hee). All in all, I could easily stay a few days and sample Dunedin's cheap meals and cafe delights, but tomorrow I leave.

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