The fecundity of late spring has always brought a sense of joy to me. Anne drove me to the doctor’s place last week. The wildflowers that litter Wellington’s roadside banks and verges come into their own at this time. One forgets how green and colourful Wellington is. As a city it has lots of trees. They add to the character of the place.
But they are undisciplined in contrast with Christchurch. Poor Christchurch, another massive aftershock this morning. My memory is of willows strikingly weeping into the Avon River, a guarantee to its reputation as the Garden City. I loved my time at varsity there in the ‘50s. But its gardens are less English now than they were then.
For three years I lived in Rolleston House, (RH) the student hostel just across Worcester Street from the main university entrance now damaged in the quake. Across the road were the magnificent botanic gardens where I strolled, swotted and courted. The exotic splendours of the hothouse and the formality of the rose garden were overshadowed each spring when they look their best - as does the whole city - cherry blossom, daffodils along the river, and rhododendrons. Indeed, one spot near the azaleas brings back memories of my first real kiss.
Shortly after the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York I had time between meetings to walk through these gardens. There on that bench where that kiss took place a young mother sat breast-feeding her baby, her toddler at her feet throwing clumsy bread to a duck and her ducklings. The scene was idyllic. I suddenly realised she might think I was being voyeuristic but she looked up and smiled and I said something to the effect of what a beautiful scene. She asked her daughter to give the nice man some bread to feed the ducks. Tears sprung to my eyes, for my youth, for the dead in New York, for humanity. I felt a fool and grateful.
Tears are near now as I remember the city I loved living in shudders yet again. One feels so helpless. We are such foolish creatures.
The 2018 Book Council Lecture
2 days ago