She hadn’t done anything to deserve it. If she was guilty of any crime, it was simply being here in the Capital (anywhere in the Capital) early on Monday morning. That morning we had gale-force northerly winds, mist, rain and cold. As commuters battled along the footpath, the General Election at the end of the week would have been gnawing some of their brains, and no doubt others thought how appropriate the title of the winning signage entry.
And, as often happens on days that are very important in human life, there was a single, unforgettable image that played out before my eyes. While stopped at the lights at the bottom of Bowen Street, I noticed a woman standing on the corner near the Supreme Court. She wore what I’d call a fine Humphrey Bogart-style white raincoat, which under normal circumstances would have puffed outwards but in Monday’s wind was just about ironed flat against the contours of her body, buttons pulled to almost breaking point, as if an extension of her long pale legs. But behind her, the coat flagged out doing a sort of wild, shivering vibrato. Her long blonde hair was at full stretch as if some jealous and invisible rival was pulling it in anger. As we drove past her, I looked right at her, expecting to find the usual beaten, confounded scowl so many people adopt in these wind-lashed circumstances. What surprised me was the benign, almost Buddhist, calm that imbued every detail of her young face. A mermaid-like figurehead on the prow of a great sailing ship. An entrancing embodiment of a state of mind that will survive all storms.
And I think we ourselves will survive the new signage on the hill. Pilots who don’t know where they are will at least be able to read “WELLINGT..O..N” [on a good day]. The only problem is that only the last couple of letters are shown blowing off. This implies to incoming planes that a strong northerly is hitting the sign. What happens when the wind is actually a strong southerly, and pilots are relying on visual indicators? It’ll be war in the monkey cage.
The other thing is that a full-force gale in Wellington won’t just knock a couple of letters off-centre. It’ll fling ALL the letters like bits of scrabble all over Kilbirnie [creating all sorts of unintended anagrams]. But I digress. The vast majority of Wellingtonians didn’t want “Wellywood”. They won. Another clear majority wanted “no sign at all’. They got nowhere at all. But at least we have a winner. So, chin up, let’s all be like that brave young woman: lashed! [but composed].
And, if ever in doubt, be secure in the knowledge that as many as one person in every 30 wants “Wellington – Blown Away”.