confusingly, summer and Christmas are approaching together down here. (At least,
Christmas is definitely coming, and we trust that summer is too.) The TV is now full of Christmas ads showing Santa
in shorts and families cavorting on the beach: hopeful, but weird.
Saturday we went to the local church summer fair, at which we bought mince pies.
That was also the day when the biggest (and only) department store in Wellington
– Kirkcaldy and Stains – unveiled its Christmas windows to an astonished populace.
This is a big event, and was attended by crowds, mainly families with young children,
in shorts and t-shirts (it wasn’t that warm, but these are Kiwis). There was a big
marquee in the road, with a singing girl band and magic acts, and sausages cooked
in the street, and a brass band playing Christmas carols. Then we were ceremoniously
ushered in front of the five curtain-draped windows. Girls dressed as various forms
of wildlife appeared and each window was unveiled to a countdown and drum-roll –
the excitement was quite infectious. Oxford Street could have learned a thing or
two about whipping up mass hysteria. Later Santa turned up on a fire engine, as
Sunday we did a bit of a tourist thing, and went on the free guided tour of the
parliament buildings. These are quite interesting, although most of the processes
and structures are based on Westminster. One difference is that the Kiwis abolished
their equivalent of the House of Lords in the 1950s, because none of the beggars
showed up for the sessions. After that we visited two St Paul’s cathedrals (this
weekend’s BOGOF offer) – the old one, built of wood in the 19th century,
and the flash new one made of concrete in the 20th. Both have nice stained
glass, but are quite different in atmosphere.