Bear a thought, fellow Kiwis, for our friends in Wellington, for they are in the midst of a most strange kind of invasion.
How odd it must be to find your home town overrun with completely fictitious creatures, and I'm not talking about the politicians, many of whom only wish were creatures of our own dark imaginings. Rather I mean all the peoples of Middle Earth.
When I arrived in Wellington last week, I was informed by the rustic type emblazoned on the terminal that this was "the middle of Middle earth", which is marginally better than "the middle of nowhere" or "Mediocrity central"... I suppose.
Wellington Airport, for any of you who have not had reason to pass through it recently, is not so much "embracing the theme" when it comes to The Hobbit as it is "squeezing it into submission with all the enthusiasm and lack of restraint shown by a toddler hugging an inattentive cat". Your luggage is delivered via Bag End (geddit?), the shops are festooned with promotional poster and there's a colossal bug-eyed Gollum looming over the foodcourt.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if students who've finished their exams were soon to be employed to physically hit tourists over the head with softcover copies of The Hobbit as they clear customs.
After five days in Wellington I was already a bit sick of it so I can't imagine what it's like to actually live there.
And before anyone thinks that I'm just being a cultural snob, I should point out the following facts:
1) I attended midnight opening night screenings for all three Lord of the Rings films
2) For the opening night of The Fellowship of the Ring I wore rubber elf ears (which I still own) and violet contact lenses.
3) For the premiere of Return of the King I sat for hours on Courtenay Place waiting for the red carpet parade, and screamed myself hoarse at Viggo Mortensen.
So it's not like I think I'm too good for fantasy films, or even Middle Earth, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of the novelty value of being a resident of the ersatz 21st century version has well and truly worn off. And when it comes to The Middle of Middle Earth, well, I did feel while eating my lunch on the waterfront that if I were to stay still for too long that I stood a good chance of someone slapping a Hobbit poster on me. Maybe this is why Wellingtonians are always walking somewhere and play fast and loose with crossing signals - they're just trying to stay on the move to avoid being branded.
Still, I imagine I will go and see The Hobbit movies if only because of the chaste crush I have on Martin Freeman, the combined effect of his "Tim from The Office" and "Sherlock's able offsider" roles.
And I cannot resist taking photos of, and posing awkwardly with, enormous polystyrene characters from the film. Apparently.
But to be honest, I'm a little bit not interested in this whole Hobbit hoopla. I know it's good for the country and the tourism industry, but I always feel a little uncomfortable when we talk about ourselves as Middle Earth, like just being New Zealand isn't enough. But I suppose it's great that everyone with hairy feet and toes gets to feel so accepted.
Do you have "Hobbit fever" or are you just a wee bit over the whole thing?