This week’s Wellingtonian had articles about two of the city’s institutions which I used to enjoy greatly.
One was Quilter’s second-hand bookshop. I’ve always loved bookshops and browsing in a second-hand one was fun. All sorts of surprises and forgotten treasures. When I was building up a collection of old New Zealand poetry the search gave a focus to visits to other cities. And I recollect with delight two or three small shops in the Shambles in York, England – precarious piles of books with proprietors who knew the location of the title I named.
Quilter’s is one of the best. Ordered, quiet, the great centre table with new acquisitions, the rest alphabetically arranged it was a pleasant place to loiter in. Books that have given others pleasure, words, symbols and images to please or provoke the mind. Immortal stories and passing thoughts. Insight and information. Fascinating out-of-date history and faded art books, once greatly loved. Foolhardiness excluded from autobiographies and misdiagnosed in biographies. Memories and data. Fantasy and certitude. Agitation and conviction. It’s there in bookshops sure but there’s a different atmosphere here, miles from the tabloid world, it’s a serene place to linger and lounge. A space, rather timeless, to revel in being human.
The other place is Wellington zoo. The kiosk/café is closing. It is right beside the meerkat enclosure. (My spell-check doesn’t acknowledge this word, instead suggests ‘market’, ‘merchant’ or ‘merest’). It was enjoyable to lick an ice-cream while watching the antics of these little mammals.
From the moment you walk past the beautiful, delicate, golden tamarins to enter the grounds you are removed from the hectic urban scene. Agile, ever-active otters gliding smoothly underwater. Long-limbed monkeys stranded on an island, a pelican standing guard. A one-legged kiwi. Haughty giraffes. Ostrich, such thighs. A muscular tiger, dappled half-god of the undergrowth. A lonely camel. Naughty baboons. Noisy gibbons. Cheetahs lurking in long grass. Cuddly red pandas. Chimps with a view over the city to the harbour – what thoughts flash through their primate brains. Lordly, yawning lions. Conservation programmes galore. I always came away invigorated. The amazing, great variety of the animal kingdom, of which I’m a mere, bit part.
I regret I can no longer visit these two places.