homegrown canary / LA hybrid lilies
port otago / european wasp on banksia
dinghies / arctotis daisies
spider and streetlight down a macro lens / geum
pet shop goldfish / osteospermum
Despite all the good intentions bestowed on their creation, fire areas are rarely entirely successful and I'm glad I noticed that in advance. We're happy with ours after a couple of test drives but we already had a terraced hillside to work with. We can hear and see the ocean. We're not overlooked by a thousand unsavoury neighbours. The moon is usually visible. So we can't snatch all the credit for our atmospherics.
Here's a few things to consider. There's a mysterious seclusion-to-convenience ratio that will make or break your fire area. Don't put it a mile away from the toilet/fridge/woodpile, or you won't use it. Conversely, setting it too close to the house will kill its secret sexiness. Also, you need it to be somehow surrounded in order to define the space; not necessarily walled, but meaningful physical demarcation is important. A line of fancy pebbles will not achieve this. The seating has to be slightly tight so the privilege of a decent berth around the flames is appreciated. Nocturnal airflow at our place means the initial smoke is reliably ushered away downhill, but you need to think about that too- don't put yours in a dead air zone. And last but not least... if your fire pit still looks and feels fucked despite your best efforts, it's because you cheaped out on the brazier, to within a 99% probability. That central element is crucial. I'm a stingey bitch who abhors those stupid overbuilt pizza oven/crematorium/half a fucking house-type installations beloved by sad outdoorsy wankers, but nothing looks cheesier than a shitty, budget, flimsy-arse brazier in an otherwise nice setting. Stop looking for vintage bunting and artisanal tealight ephemeral bullshit. Spend that extra hundy on something proper steel and handmade.
And thusly our scant wisdom hath been imparteth.
Fir tried to lie right under the damn fire so we brought his bed out. A guy in Christchurch makes these awesome corten braziers- I forget his name but you can look him up on TradeMe.
I personally burn to crayfish red in about five minutes in this kind of UV, so Felix gets the best of it.
R's not really a beach guy. He won't take his shoes off, which I find both pitiable and disturbing.
Brilliant silver Mullet, like shards of lustre glass, surf the glossy little breakers about 5m from shore.
The dunes manage to both erode and stubbornly persist, but no one knows for how much longer, realistically.
They are clothed in spiky grass and feral flowers.
Millions of snails gave their lives for this pointless tableau. The fine sand buffs the pastel crust from their outer whorls, revealing their flayed, roseate nacre. I could shoot them all day.
This sort of stuff is xmas for us down here. Northern tourists seem to forget the season and slide back into summer sloth, which must be nice. Cooking a full roast on a day that might have fallen out of Satan's arsecrack, complete with fully-operational blowflies and beer bloat isn't my idea of festive. Lots of people just chuck formality and get pissed at the beach with some ham and salad.
Which is tragic, and also why we can never, ever consent to lose them.
First, we tooled around the glass house with its tropical collections. Sticky. Vivid. Enlivening.
This beautiful Red Tailed Black Cockatoo hen is always down for a grevillea flower destruction opportunity or a closer look at your jewellery.
The divine Himalayan Poppy, Laburnum and Allium flowers.
When you meet onions that are more worthy and far better looking than you, you've learnt your true place in the universe.
Another dig through this and last year's pics reveals a wee trove of half-forgotten images so here they are. Some of these are flowering for the first time in our garden: great success.
above: Aloe cameronii (although some peeps are calling this variant something else now, saying it was mis-ID'd in cultivation. This is the less waxy, greener form, anyway).
below: Aloe mawii in full swing. One of my faves- my plant is heading up like a freak and will soon have about 4 new points.
above: Aloe conifera
below: Aloe andongensis. A really superb non-drama species that deserves a lot more attention
above: Aloe dawei
below: Aloe speciosa detail
above: Aloe aristata (proper) just budding up. I have the straight species and not the one usually labelled as such in trade and I find it harder to grow than the latter more common plant. It loves to lose its roots for no apparent reason.
below: Aloe hemmingii. Spectacular little fellow.
above + below: Aloe Burhii, details from the amazing UFO-style flower truss that appeared last year. Another of my favourite species with its fat, spineless dinosaur leaves and delightful flowers. Undemanding and delicious.
Another couple of firsts this year: above Aloe succotrina and below Aloe pulcherrima,
an Ethiopian plant. Last image is Aloe rupicola, flowering for the second time.
I feel like I've taken most of these frames before.
But it's midwinter and not even the wind can be bothered.
There is a personal as well as meteorological lacuna involved. Novelty is unwelcome. Commentary suffers.
When you live near the ocean, you notice that the water is almost always hungry for the sky.
As though it is a younger sibling; vigilant and imitative.
Except when it is busy
rejoicing in its own turmoil.
I would usually crop people out of the shot and I've only just noticed that tendency.
We are such ugly animals, by and large. Grass is more beautiful than the average human unit.
Which is sad, really.
This lovely old boat and its shag-shedding burqa.
Looks so bridal. She is a
These geese survived the shabby, heartless cull that extirpated their more trusting compatriots.
We're far more in favour of a reduction of the demographic that demanded their deaths.
But no one listens to us.
So don't be put off getting things started if you don't have some sort of grand baronial vision.
Just let what's there remain and add some more stuff as you go. This is the best way to
maintain a love relationship with a large bit of ground and not come to resent the slavish
efforts that whack notions of perfection will require from you.
That's not to say that our garden is a disgusting place to be; on the contrary, it has the sort of faineant, deshabille charm that can only come from a genuine lack of consideration, experience and forethought. I am never as bonelessly relaxed in a neat, deliberate garden as I am in our own shambolic tract of half-arsed wilderness. Hopefully the other inhabitants are similarly contented.
The only horticultural talents I can claim are the ability to spot the half-priced gold buried
amongst the shrivelled dross at nursery sales (an acquired skill) and to instinctively know which shit's worth getting out of bed for as far as species and variety are concerned.
But we don't have a lot of undue concern for vistas or harmonies. My rose collection looks
like it was sharted out of a My Little Pony- if it's vulgar or stripy or pink and stinky you'll
probably find it clashing violently with a neighbour at our place. It's safe to say that
Winchester Cathedral, posing so demurely directly below, is not completely representative.
If you're starting your own garden with few to no clues under your belt, or if, like me, you have been blessed with vulgar sensibilities but would like to present a more cultivated face to the world, my first and most important advice would be to stick with the older plant varieties.
I wish someone had told me that twenty bloody years ago.
I was going to start a rose review series this summer but the weather was so foul we barely
had any bloody material. Hopefully I'll have time over winter to cook up some notes with
the few decent shots we did manage and kick that shit off, because I've personally had it up to
my tits with being duped by shady breeder and nursery descriptions.
Thanks again to the Lovely R for his lovely pics.
We took a drive with my mother to Middlemarch, an historic little map smudge squatting on the eastern flank of the central Otago region. It's just over an hour's drive from Dunedin, which is why we often end up circling the area despite its distinct lack of concentrated, explicit attractions. As a somewhat surreal voyage through a schist-heavy, bitten-down landscape,
the passage is of greater interest than the destination.
The ancient basement rocks poke out through the ragged, sack-coloured grazing like dinosaur armour, rising to whipped meringue configurations in one place but laid out in
weary couchant slabs in others- according to the angle of their strata, I suppose.
This looks like drought, but green of any description means there's been meaningful rain.
Don't let this image fool you; Middlemarch is shambolic dive, by and large. Forsaken by historic fortunes and probably a large proportion of its founding families, it lies about the road in a polyglottic sprawl that speaks of a long and general decline punctuated by
single syllables of contemporary uptick.
Metallic crap aficionados should really make the effort to extend sideways from Dunedin and visually fondle all this oxidised largesse. Everything ever constructed and transported at ruinous expense is rusting on its arse somewhere in Middlemarch. You'll love it.
Do high-functioning sheep dream of flat-affect shearers? Is that a sheep? Why the long faces? That leg needs attention. I smell burning hair.
We got lost looking for a river but came across something called Sutton.
There is nothing as distinct as any definite departure from Middlemarch; you are just sort of not there any more, on your way back toward the coast. The hills lose their most egregious deformities and settle back into felty regularity. Farms begin to look functional; some even have names. Another year will elapse before enough jaundiced detail is rubbed off the memory to facilitate a return.
It's deeply ironic that the only predators one really faces in this country wear trainers and clutch smartphones, but that's another story.
The drive winds for an unexpected distance through increasingly emphatic mixed podocarp coastal forest that seems to at once condense and amplify as you progress, both invoking and assiduously retaining the kind of downpours that are always imminent in this infamously pluvial district.
Arrival at the dedicated carpark with its strangely prosaic tourist shelter and prosy signage is a bit of a jolt. On exiting their vehicles, the extraneous arseholes of all nations blink at each other in the sunlight admitted by the arbitrary clearing, checking for reception, tightening their laces, picking at their peeling tans. Ambient humanity has soaked sideways even into this once obscure destination in a slightly greasy, sunscreen-scented tide.
I wish we'd started at 4.30am on foot, but I'm um... with a bunch of other people.
They do not pulse in any visual sense but it takes a few extended glances to establish this. These same patterns snake unseen through your own flesh, feeding your brain, irrigating your organs. Blood-warm sweat beads upon your neck and forehead; some of it is yours, some theirs.
Behold the Moria Arch, a cavern tongued out of the fundamental limestone by the deceptively quiescent Oparara river. The track ends in an abrupt descent into its darkness via a pretty undignified scramble over dodgy rocks aided only by a wall-hung chain, so brace yourself for a few short downward slides and a muddied arse if it's been raining (and it probably has).
The really claustrophobic amongst you might want to look away and think about something
else for a moment. The arch opens out to regard the river in two directions. I'm not sure if
these are totally legit stalactites and not just calcified root intrusions, but I was cool with
whatever was happening here.
A skirt of uprooted and forsaken trees downstream spoke for the water in a worse mood.
I'm not going to lie; all that stone overhead in a seriously geologically-active area was not my favourite thing in the whole world. I kept a discreet tally of the likely time it would take to bolt from wherever the hell I was standing toward open daylight at the first hint of P-wave.
All you phobics look away again.
This is how you exit- the same way you came in; slowly and cumbrously, no matter what. It's always easier going uphill than down, but my inner calamity-ruminator pictured getting stuck behind a logjam of sunburnt Germans while the place stoved in around me.
Looking up helps get you through the worst of it; one could always repurpose those moiling strangers and use their static mass to vault to freedom through this handy aperture.
* More NZ Photoessays * Our Photography * Flora *
The Tuis visit the Banksia but seem more enthusiastic about the Pohutukawas (Metrosideros) coming into flower in our upper garden, along with every bee and wing'd insect for a mile in all directions. On a warm, still day during its luminous scarlet declamation the whole tree hums and shivers with a host of nectar-seeking visitants. Pohutukawa honey is bloody delicious- pale, thickly gloopy and almost salty, loathsome in its deliciousness. Try it if you ever come across it.
* More Photoessays * Port Chalmers, New Zealand * R's Blog *
If you've never tasted the skin-licking liberty of small-hour rambling, do yourself the favour soon. All the people who annoy you are at home, drinking mediocre wine and watching the sort of shit that made give your television away in disgust a few years ago. Nothing's open, so you don't need money. You can can let your tiresome presentational standards lapse and go full shitbird because no one can really see you.
We have a enormous Art Deco police station in excellent order complete with cells. West Harbour is a strange place, crime-wise; there is your usual ambient casserole of petty theft, unreported contretemps, feud overflows, basic-bitch vandalism and occasional catastrophic violence. There is virtually no police presence. We have never felt safer. Make of that what you will.
In my capacity as a lifelong pedestrian I never really tire of watching the varying species of rage developing in drivers checked by train crossings. Sullen, fulminant, mute, expectorating; the number of people driven to psychological extremis by a 40 second delay behind the wheel is simultaneously fascinating and deeply repugnant.
At night the trains roll by with no one to pound the steering wheel or spray their windscreen with saliva. Their subterranean rumble passes through the tarmac to become a pleasant sensation in the bones of your feet.
Like all sensitive students of urban architecture and Brad Pitt, we wanted our new formal entrance gallery to respond to our environment. This particular environment leaks like a senior sister wife when the central gutter fills with hail, so it was important that everything cool went on one side so we can get buckets under the splits in the ceiling panels whenever that drip drip drip dripdripdripdrip sploosh wakes us up at 3.45am 😐
Not bothering to do anything to things has a lot to be said for it. Have you ever given a single flying furry fuck about the floor at someone else's house? Neither have we, so we chucked some rugs down and called it a day.
There are a couple of 'good' pieces here, but most of the items in this tableau were obtained for very little money from auctions etc. and many have no particular cachet beyond our personal enjoyment of their rustic or exuberant exoticism- just in case this comes across as our being materialistic wankers.
Now OG Rangda can repel all the inauspicious spirits and the Iban baby carrier and Kohistani head dress have a place of their very own instead of squatting unsatisfactorily in the lounge. We love to sit in the adjoining bedroom and peep in on that which we have wrought when the evening sun glows through the fanlight. One day soon we will actually have time for that, perhaps when the decadal spring clean we're halfway through is finally finished. Normal blogal transmission will resume next week.
* Ethnographic * Photoessays * Read the Book * Selected Ravings *
From top left: scilla, magnolia yunanensis, unknown daffodil, wallflower, osteospermum daisy
Sophora (kowhai tree), kale flower, forget me not, sisyrinchium Devon Skies
Rhododendron, geum/avens, clematis Guernsey Cream
Oriental poppy Patty's Plum, wild cranesbill, viburnum plicatum, erodium trifolium
Arctotis daisy, aquilegia Nora Barlow
Geranium phaeum Samovar, armeria, pansy, astrantia major.
Technical notes: R used a Panasonic GH1 body with two old macro lenses, the Tokina 90mm AT-X and the Vivitar 55mm, plus a more modern Panasonic 45-150 with an Achromat close up lens attached. Most of these pics are pretty much straight from the camera.
R says: "I had to heavily-bracket the exposures to achieve decent capture and keep the highlights from blowing out, particularly with the manual focus lenses. Live-view cameras such as this micro four-thirds body make the difficult angles presented by garden subjects so much easier. This format is great for macro with its greater depth of field control and lots of cheap old classic lenses will adapt to these bodies.
I try to be really patient, wait for the wind to absolutely settle and keep one eye on the background elements, even when using a narrow focal plane. The wrong blobs in the wrong place can really sink an otherwise great pic. Watch out for human and pet hairs and stray spider web on your carefully-chosen subjects. They are everywhere.
I typically use settings between 5.6 and f8, which is pretty par for the course in macro (small scale) work. Both of these old manual lenses show nice out of focus (bokeh) characteristics. Some lenses really are better at these sort of liquid backgrounds than others and it's worth investing in them if you're interested in this look. The Tokina in particular is famous in this respect, to the extent that it's called 'the Bokina'. I don't advocate expensive gear and this lens is pretty pricey at $3-500 depending on the mount but you can still get lucky online and it's one of the few pieces worth forking out for. The Vivitar 55mm is easier to find and this combination goes for around $200 in NZ, depending on the mount. It was made circa 1978 by Tomioka, a renowned Japanese manufacturer. They were distributed under different branding; the Vivitar is a common version. "
The tag says do not climb. I have known people who would view that as a challenge to their sovereignty but I also know that many of these superannuated power poles remain upright precisely because no one has tried to climb them recently. Our infrastructure is gently descending the evolutionary scale; the roads are more patch than seal. Street lamps are dotted round in senseless supernumerary clusters and in between lie long stretches of backwater moonlight or infinite darkness, depending on the season, especially where there are footpaths.
Sometimes the Aurora Borealis stains the winter sky a chartreuse green, but we have never seen it. This is light spill from the Port's nocturnal proceedings as they grind on over the longitudinal hill. It looks sinister, because it is.
We love night photography, so this series will continue some time in the near future.
Spring and summer are tastes; honey and the brittle/squishy umami of moth and cicada protein.
Tui are large, slightly ungainly birds- endlessly motile, gratuitously vocal honey-eaters and insectivores belonging to an ancient Gondwana order that has radiated scions all over the planet, producing everything from Wrens to Ravens. They retain all the slightly oafish simian characteristics conferred by an environment devoid of mammalian predators until recently- oversized grappling feet and legs, almost boorish curiosity, arboreal agility and prominent sense of entitlement.
Halfway through winter they come surging en mass out of the nearby bush into our seaside gardens in their search for the nectar and hatching insects that will fuel their first broods for the year. On a still day at the end of the season you will realise you are hearing the whipcrack pops, curlicue squawking, liquid fluting, swallowed wails and general broken-synthesiser stylings of their bizarre songs and even recognise the vocal idiosyncrasies of individual birds. They can mimic human speech with incredible accuracy. Follow the link by all means for video documentation but prepare yourself for what is possibly the creepiest thing you will hear all year.
His dance and song are apparently intoxicating to lady Tuis (above left), who like what they see when he's at full fluff and volume. Mr Yelpy has mad flow.
Anyone who's ever tried to photograph a Tui knows how rare it is to see them static and unobscured; here he is on top of the aviary underneath the blossom tree with a golden dusting of pollen on his cere.
Black when silhouetted, Tuis are revealed in all their satin-lacquered glory by direct sunlight, wearing pheasant greens and petrol blues and brief flushes of gilded rose and olive alongside their wiry silver capes and bone-white throat tufts. I have never seen those crazy bouffant throat feathers looking anything less than pristine, despite their messy habits. Tuis regularly visit the craggy old elders in our upper garden to wipe the stickiness from their faces on the lichen encrusting their branches.
Revegetation has probably helped tempt them back after the slash and burn and horrendous predation of colonial times. Both Tui and Bellbirds seem to be returning to their ancestral haunts, possibly due to pest control in some regions; behavioural adaptations possibly play a role in their regeneration, with aggressive birds breeding successfully where their more retiring cousins failed.
The sound of their swooping acrobatic passes over obstacles and through seemingly impenetrable vegetation is a violent combination of intense taffeta skirt rustle and a crossbow bolt slicing air beside your ear, thanks to the arrangement of their wing feathers. Nothing can distract them from their aerial pursuits once they are involved and we are treated to regular near-misses as we top the garden steps and venture across established flyways.
The Lovely R did really well this year to get this suite of images. We have a window of about two weeks while our Bird Plum blossoms on bare branches; after this, the leaves obscure its occupants and the equinoctial winds arrive to blast away the last of the bloom (they're blowing as I write this). He used a Tamron 70-300 VC telephoto zoom, wide open at 300 in nearly every shot, if that means anything to you. (I have to stop him discarding anything that is even slightly out of focus; as a non-photographer who takes photos I deplore the exclusive obsession with focal plane at the expense of every other valuable visual element.)
Tuis are the embodiment of everything that is lost when our species goes rogue. It is horribly ironic that in the midst of our gloating exploitation we are cheating ourselves of life's most important metric- the presence of our greater family. We are so grateful for their forgiveness.
* More Photoessays * Our Photography * Port Chalmers * Flora *
We took a trip out to the mouth of Otago Harbour during autumn. ^ This is the view of Port Chalmers, in the midst of said harbour, looking back down the windy ribbony road to Aramoana, path to the sea in Maori.
Aramoana and its beaches occupy the western side of the heads and are a fairly decent, non-life threatening surf break, nice walking and the chance to see the local avian and marine wildlife.
Below; still on the way out there. Some of the small bays along the road are good for cockles (Littleneck Clams) and the occasional scallop. There's fuck-all dairying around here and very few sewage outfalls so the water is cleaner than you might think.
Above: Looking across the from the mole at Aramoana toward Karitane and the Silver peaks of the Otago coast. Delightful progressive types tried their hardest to obliterate this landscape with an enormous aluminium smelter in the early 70's, to the horror of everyone with a viable IQ.
Thankfully logistics and local opposition prevailed and all that remains of that shitty prospect is this gimpy old mole, which extends for over a kilometre into the Pacific ocean.
Orcas, dolphins, Right and Humpback whales migrate right past here on their way to and from Antartica. The larger species occasionally enter the harbour but their memories are long (their putative lifespans exceed 200 years) and people are only just beginning to regain their trust.
I hope we deserve it. I fear that we don't.
Terns, gulls and shags appreciate the mole's amenities and their olfactory signature can be pretty intense on a hot day. White Fronted Terns Sterna striata breed in and around the harbour though their populations are apparently declining. They are still a pretty visible presence locally, their slim, swept wings rendering them incredibly agile in the air. Watching them plummet like shards of white glass into the black water after fish makes you wonder how their hollow honeycomb bones can sustain the assault, but they emerge, unfazed, their sabre beaks full of silver.
Black Fronted and Caspian Terns also frequent the area.
Advice for photographers visiting Dunedin: Aramoana is a primo, subject-rich site. Access is free and relatively easy for peeps without mobility issues, but there is no public transport to or from. Early morning offers the best light and an often human-free window and penguins, seals, dolphins, birds and whales are frequent visitors. Locals can sometimes get pissy with strangers poking about their private properties in the small adjacent township; there was a gun massacre here in the early nineties which many people are not keen to discuss with nosey tourists. Much of the area is a wetland sanctuary so it's best not to drive all over it or let your dogs and kids harass protected species. The fishing and diving from the beach and mole can be pretty good; there are local catch limits that you can view here.
* Photoessays * Lipstick Review * Kitchen Bitch * Ethnographica *
In this case, both kentes were stinky landfill anyway so we literally had nothing to lose and I thought we might as well squeeze some learnings out of this misfortune.
Older kentes are generally medium-weight silk with some cotton. In my experience, ethnographic textiles from the 20thC often feature both stable and unstable dyes, and so it was with this piece.
Never, ever actively scrub an older textile, no matter how much you'd like to. A stain is always better than a bald patch or a hole. Below: the loose dye and general dirt that came free.
You want to flush the soap and keep that rogue dye headed for the drain. If you have a nice smooth concrete driveway with a slope, take it out there, lie it flat and hit it with the garden hose (not too hard). Blast all that loose dye and dirt away before it can be reabsorbed by the wet fibres. Try to refrain from concentrating too hard on any one area or you could end up with patchy colour.
When the rinse water was looking cleaner, I let the fabric drain briefly in the bath. There is still a slight danger of dye bleed so keep an eye on it and don't be tempted to squeeze or bunch the fabric.
Ideally, silk should be laid out flat somewhere shady to dry because wet suspension can stretch the fibres and cause permanent deformation. But it's the middle of winter and and I don't have clean dry grass or a concrete pad handy, so this guy goes on the washing line. Never peg silk or vintage cloth and if your dyes remain stubbornly unstable, try to ensure the doubled-over areas don't come into contact with each other while still wet. Laid flat and straight on an old towel or sheet is best if you can possibly manage it. I should have laid a towel over this wire line but I didn't think of it.
So from a purely chromatic point of view, the result was perfectly acceptable. Much of the speckly mould staining departed and what remained was substantially diminished, along with that surface dirt dinginess. Not a hint of nasty mould stink remained, even to my very particular nose. Silk is always texturally affected by washing no matter what you do, but in this case the change to its handle was limited to a maybe 5-10% loss of that absolute virgin pliability via a slight contraction of the weave, which did not amount to noticeable shrinkage. I forgot to take pics before I gave the kente back but any differences were too subtle for the camera to convey anyway. There is no hint of vinegar scent after a few hours in fresh air, if you were worried about that. I haven't washed the yellow kente yet and I will update this item when I do.
Verdict? Both thumbs up to this treatment in the case of (non-significant) textiles that are otherwise too stinky or too dirty to tolerate. I was surprised at the decent colour retention and pretty sure I could have gone a wee bit harder with the soap concentration without detriment to the fabric. Your results may vary depending on your dyes and construction, but if your item is otherwise destined for the discard pile, you might as well roll the dice and give this process a try. Substantial portions of these kentes can now be salvaged for further use, and that is gratifying.
* Ethnographica * Photoessays * Jewellery * Lipstick Review *
The past retains its unfiltered texture, odour and mouthfeel, a precious insight in this era of slick, self-conscious edits and boring over-curation.
The site in all its former climate-fucking glory. Not all structures survive, but efforts to
recognise and preserve what remained came, just in the nick of time, from local enthusiasts.
Victorian engineering is a peculiarly concise representation of their society as a whole- feverishly inventive, horrifically blinkered, psychotically exploitative, endlessly aspirational.
But I sort of felt sorry for them. These old relict engines are like living hearts shorn of their vessels, earnestly pumping and shunting away to no real end. There is a weird pathos to their amputated inutility. That being said, anyone desiring to know something more about mechanisation in general should come and just stare at the things while they operate, because the observer can certainly absorb ambient understanding. The movements are the sort of orchestrated code your synapses can relate to.
SEAL GLAND LUBRICATION grease at nipples provided once in each 24 hours of running time
Lol, you can pull your fingers out of your ears now. I'll stop.
These shots were taken with the old pocket Canon and represent only the crappiest little
fraction of the photographic possibilities onsite; bring your camera and a couple of spare hours.
Both R and I thought the Gasworks Museum was value for money ($5 admission per adult, currently open Sundays). That's high praise coming from a pair of impecunious luddites.
So it was with some trepidation that we finally took the plunge and went to see the damn thing.
The edifice itself is pretty much a pebbledash gingerbread bouncy castle whistled ode to middlebrow bad taste, neatly cataloguing most if not all of the flourishes insisted upon by wealthy attention-seekers of the era. It is silly, utterly unsuited to our climate and stuck sort of arse-about-face on inadequate grounds. That's not to say it's without charm, though, unlike so many similarly vainglorious follies.
The period glasshouse was nice and effort had been made to keep the collection contemporaneous.
Access to Olveston's hallowed interior is a guided tour-only business; unless you either consult the website or book a private tour, depending on the time of day you can wait two+ hours for the next one. There's really nowhere to do that onsite, nor is there any cafe etc within easy walking distance, which was an annoying quirk, particularly since we had some elderly visitors with us. Luckily the weather permitted sloping round the grounds. Round and round and round.
Olveston was gifted to the city in the late sixties by the sole remaining scion of the Theomin family and it's run today by a foundation. Booking at the attached gift shop was a little bit protracted and there was confusion as to the exact charges applicable; I discovered later whilst consulting the website that we were overcharged. Residents are entitled to some sort of guide pass that allows free subsequent entry or something like that... the conditions weren't very well delineated. As it was a busy day, an extra tour was being organised; we still had to wait over half an hour.
The gift shop itself is a tacky nightmare heaving with random imported tat. That always sets an ominous tone as far as I'm concerned.
We were looking forward to taking some nice pictures of the interior. Until we discovered such activities were not permitted, which was... annoying. And a bit unwarranted, given that the rumoured top-flight status of the collection turned out to be somewhat exaggerated. More on that in a wee bit.
All bitching aside, such an holistic glob of anachronistic context is a sight worth seeing and Olveston really does present a cohesive glimpse into cultural aspirations at the start of the 20th C.
Our recommendations: keep this one up your sleeve for a rainy day. Tours involve about 45 minutes of standing around and a few flights of stairs, so if you're not 100% mobile I'd think twice. A more than passing interest in design, antiquities and olde-worlde business are probably prerequisites. Look up the tour times because there's fuck-all to do if you're heinously early. If you can swing it, opt for the more exclusive two-person tour because a large party (there were about 20 people on ours) makes for a suboptimal experience. The guides aren't miked (which is understandable given that tours sometimes happen simultaneously) and the interior rooms are both busily furnished and heavily roped off, resulting in crowded sightlines and sometimes unintelligible commentary.
The cover charge of $19.50 NZ per head for visitors and $15.50 for Dunedin residents (except us- as I said, we were stiffed) is too much to pay for amateur hosting and puts the experience beyond the reach of many locals, which bothers us. Olveston is interesting, well-presented and overpriced.