This is a post in which I will say only good things about Invercargill.
This is because I am a trainee journalist and trainee journalists must exercise fairness and balance.
(Real journalists, of course, can get away with writing shit like this).
On Saturday I leapt out of bed at midday with a fiery determination not to be such a dreary old mope.
“To the museum-stroke-art gallery!” I cried.
Invercargill’s cultural attraction is tucked away at the south end of Queen’s Park. It is housed in a building the shape of a pyramid. From a distance, with myopia and no knowledge of Paris, it is almost as if you are outside The Louvre.
Inside, I made my way straight to the tuatara house. Local celebrity Henry, his girlfriends, some mates and his eleven offspring live there. I was delighted to make their acquaintance. It seems it takes as little as staring at motionless prehistoric reptiles on a rainy Saturday to cheer a Weasel up.
(I told you I was low maintenance).
Making my way upstairs in buoyant mood I passed a splendid display of Victoriana, and entered a baffling ‘Space In Southland’ exhibit, which was enlivened by a fish tank containing a freshwater crayfish with furry claws.
Next door in the Burt Munro section I marvelled at photographs of the salty old larrikin and watched Offerings to the Gods of Speed, the documentary that spawned the film The World’s Fastest Indian, a Welsh anti-establishment polemic*.
Then I wandered through a display on the Subantarctic Islands where I was suitably impressed by several stuffed albatross (albatrosses? albatrii?), and then the museum-stroke-art gallery was done and I was perilously close to winding up my ‘Things To Do In Invercargill Before I Leave’ list.
One item remained, but it would mean getting wet.
Rain or no rain, I was exploring Queen’s Park.
A ‘garden of national importance’ because it is big and has lots of plants in it, it was described by one starry-eyed visitor as “reminiscent of New York's Central Park”.
I have been to Central Park and I can report that your chances of getting mown down by a lycra-clad man on rollerblades are significantly less here. But nevertheless Queen’s Park is lovely.
I strolled happily for hours, such was its loveliness.
There were rose gardens and Japanese gardens and amazing trees and a duck pond. There were secret nooks and dells. There was a children’s play area, blessedly free of children on this wet weekend so I could have a go on everything. There were statues. There was a bandstand. There was a fairytale castle hidden among the trees. There was an aviary I didn’t have time to visit because I spent so long in the animal enclosure. There was an animal enclosure housing pigs and wallabies and rabbits - and the finest chickens I have ever seen.
Remember that name. They are the Angelina Jolies of the chicken world. Sleek, good-looking, and self-assured, I was enchanted by their comely markings and the audacious gleam in their eye.
I stared at the chickens. The chickens stared at me. A connection was made. Me and the chickens, we got something going.
Time became meaningless. I sat on the concrete to better admire my new friends. I got my camera out and ran the batteries down trying to get a good shot of my favourite, the one giving me cheeky looks from behind the wire.
I have never wanted to pick up a chicken and take it home more (and believe me, I want to pick up and take home chickens a lot). I vowed that, when I am in a position to have chickens, these are the chickens I shall have.
In the end I was in the animal enclosure so long I was locked in and the keeper, who was waiting to go home for the day, had to let me out.
He didn’t mind, though, and showed me some terrapins on the way.
The terrapins were fine, but no match for the chickens.
I walked around the rest of the park until my waterproof shoes were sodden, and then I went home, high on life and and all its chickeny splendour.
Invercargill? It's all right.
* I have that on good authority, but because I am a trainee journalist I cannot reveal my sources.
** I would like to stress I am not a chicken pervert. Honest.