Wednesday, September 23, 2009

After you've admired the tulips

The tulips at Wellington's Botanic Gardens are perfect cups of buttery yellow and blood red and streaked lipstick pink right now. I couldn't miss them when I drove past today. I recommend a visit this Sunday, and when you're sated with all that colour, pop down Glenmore Street to the elegant white nineteenth century cottage on St. Mary's Street for a quieter aesthetic experience [take a left before you hit the Bowen St. intersection and head up at a 60 degree angle.]

Here's Kirsty Gunn on the cottage in the latest issue of Booknotes:

I felt like I was coming home. Everything about the place was familiar - from the New Zealand timber floorboards to the very positioning of the sash windows that looked out to a garden of native trees and hydrangeas.
The link to the rest of that piece is up on the Randell Cottage website.

Randell Cottage is one of the city's oldest cottages built by William and Sarah Randell in 1867 and home to them and their ten children.  Now it houses a French writer over summer and a NZ writer over winter. Kirsty Gunn has just left and French-speaking Iranian exile Fariba Hachtroudi is about to arrive. A team of Randell Cottage Friends and Trustees, of which I am one, will be on hand to show you around.

And back to those tulips. Looking at this photograph [thanks to] reminds me of my first days in New Zealand at the age of four. We'd arrived from Bermuda by ship and were staying at the Sharella hotel - pictured behind the flowers - until we found a house to rent. I seem to remember tulips then, or perhaps they came later. It was cold and windy, for sure, but then after the hot, still, crayon-coloured world of Bermuda, that was no a surprise. I do remember the sensations on moving here of a world leached of colour, and buffetted. My memories switch suddenly from colour to black and white for a while. The edges of things were less clear.

Once we settled in, we walked alot in the Botanic Gardens on regular Sunday outings. There were bagpipers [I wanted to be one], dancers in clogs [that too], ducks, flowers, the longest slide in the world, a cable car. It was a Wonderland. Later, my friend Deborah and I would walk through the Gardens to Wellington Girls College - in bare feet when it was hot [Deb was a bit of a hippy.] Then there were late night visits with boyfriends to see the glow-worms, and one boyfriend who took me there so he could take romantic photographs beside the magnolias. Or I thought that was the plan. I was surprised to find, when they'd been developed, that he'd taken almost a whole film of the trees, including close-ups of their perfect creamy blooms, and only one with me in it.

Dear reader, I married him.

See you at Randell Cottage on Sunday.


Rachael King said...

What's the heating situation at the cottage Mary, given that the residency is over the winter months?

Mary McCallum said...

There are dimplex oil heaters for every room plus extra bar heaters and that seems to keep it cosy. It's a small place so doesn't take long to heat - and the Trust pays the heating bill with a contribution expected if it goes too high. We could do more with insulation etc and are looking into that. Kirsty Gunn said she was warm,and often had the windows open in a mad northern hemisphere way. said...

Oh whoops, not the Sheraton Mary - the Sharella, like a novella... lovely description of the tulips.

Mary McCallum said...

Oh yes! Where the Sheraton is more of a novel of a hotel. Thanks Maggie.

Sharella, Sharella, how could I forget...

Rachel Fenton said...

Haha - "mad northern hemisphere way" - I'm the only one who turns up at school with no coat when everyone declares it's freezing!

I like the sound of this cottage, and the picture of Kirsty standing in the doorway of it a while ago was so evocative.

Anonymous said...

What delightful closing lines about the magnolia photos and marrying the man who took them.