Why I'm staying home for the holidays

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 06:59 14/01/2013

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Dave Armstrong

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OPINION: It's a brave Wellingtonian who declares that they are staying home for the holidays. Last summer we didn't get over the MetService definition of a "hot day" once, though I think Boxing Day was close to a scorching 25 degrees Celsius.

This summer has been better, provided you ignore the two bouts of gale-force winds that buffeted us. Though Wellington's summer weather can be disappointing, I vastly prefer staying put.

Sitting in my Newtown garden among the basil plants is far more fun than packing the car with camping gear and a pup tent - known in our household as the "divorce tent" - and spending two hours at the Paremata roundabout with the rest of Wellington before reaching a desolate camping ground.

Years ago, when Wellington was full of civil servants and little else, it was a ghost town over summer. Now, thanks to Te Papa, cruise ships, the Sevens and a host of other events, the place buzzes.

A few days ago, I dropped into the tourist information office and it was packed with a variety of tourists. It's a pity that on the same day, half of Cuba Street's famous cafes were closed; the other half had queues running out the doors.

But the Wellingtonian who is brave enough to summer over here does need to do some special planning. Outdoor umbrellas, deckchairs and barbecues are great to have on our few really hot days but chaining them down first into sturdy concrete foundations is recommended before the 140kmh gales strike. If you do go away, make sure you tell your neighbours. Our neighbours followed this sensible advice, which meant that when their letterbox blew away in the storm we were able to send out a search party to the other end of the street and retrieve it.

Television viewing figures always drop during the summer and it is essential that Wellingtonians don't ever watch the weather report. Far better to pat yourself on the back after a "scorching" 20-degree day than have Jim Hickey tell you that Gisborne, Kaitaia and Alexandra all roasted in 32 degrees.

Even if I'm on holiday, I always have a full day's work planned for those Wellington summer days where the southerly blows up from Antarctica and a February fire gets lit. If you're self- employed, call your day "time in lieu" and take a weekday off on one of those brilliant sunny days we get in May. If you have friends staying from out of town, never, ever visit Te Papa, Parliament, or the movies on a fine day. There'll be plenty of time to go when the rain/southerly/northerly strikes.

When you finally do get a good day, there are magnificent walks, bike rides and beaches to discover.

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Last weekend I mountain-biked the Skyline Walkway. Though it took me longer to bike than it took for the young woman in front of me to walk it with her bichon frise, the trip was great fun, and the views from the summit of Mt Kaukau are stunning.

To get there I simply put my bike on the Johnsonville train.

It's a pity there's room for only three bikes per train. What does a family of four do? What a city - we have a mayor who bikes out to meet the American secretary of state, yet our streets have few cycle lanes and only three cyclists at a time can travel on the trains.

Although my four-hour cycle/ walk was highly enjoyable, I did get sunburnt, despite slapping on copious amounts of sunblock.

Perhaps, once our city tires of the "Middle of Middle Earth" branding, we could promote our clean, pollution-free city as the "Ozone hole of the world"?

So whether Wellingtonians stayed home or went away this summer, we can put the rainstorms, gales, twisters, 43-degree Aussie heat and bushfires behind us. We are ready to return to work to be told by our Government that there's no hurry with this emissions trading scheme business. Surely climate change is a minor problem that is being blown out of proportion by alarmist environmentalists?

- The Dominion Post

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