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(Warning this is a long post)

In July, I had travelled to Wellington to attend POPCAANZ at Massey University. POPCAANZ stands for Popular Culture Association of Australian and New Zealand and it was their annual conference. POPCAANZ to me is like an SF con except it is academics giving papers on interesting topics, such as A Short Flight Safety Briefing: Mark Mullen, which talked about games, including when things go wrong with the production of them and the increasing tendency for big companies to use fans to test the games unpaid and then continually upgrade and rerelease them. Or Slashbaiting, an alternative to queerbaiting: Joseph Brennan. This talk featured quite a lot of commentary on the Merlin show, including compromising ‘manips’ of the bromance duo of Arthur and Merlin. Another one that would probably interest folks is The Queerness of Queen Cersie: Olivia Oliver-Hopkins, an excellent character analysis. Then there was a talk about slow films (who knew there was a genre of slow films), in particular this post-apocalyptic (German?) film Die Wand, Expanses of Time and Solitude behind Die Wand (The Wall) by Claire Henry, which I really must see. Apparently, it’s an excellent tale of a woman and her dog. I gave a paper related to my PhD study called Flirting with Feminism: Retro Mills and Boon and representations of feminism in text, and listened to an excellent talk by Jodi McAlister on historical Australian Gothic called Love and the Mother/Land: Romantic Love in Nineteenth- Century Australian Novels.

So I have established why I was there in Wellington at the appointed time. It was all so innocent and above board. Who knew what lay in store for me? I should have taken the hint the first afternoon when I went for a walk. I stayed in this lovely AirBnB, a little cottage in Newtown, which was meant to be in walking distance of Massey University, College of the Arts campus.

As I arrived around three in the afternoon, I had time to check out how far away it was. I plugged the ‘school of arts’ into my phone, I thought! And went out into the wilds of Wellington with threatening grey skies and a lovely rolling misty rain. I thought I’d be fine. I had a good coat on and who needs an umbrella? Right? Also, it was all new and interesting. Here is a photo of the sky as I headed out for my walk.

Wellington Sunday

But lo, I did get lost. I did walk almost to the waterfront, right past the Massey University School of Arts. I did walk past the War Memorial and everything. By the time I figured I could not find this elusive College of the Arts and turned back, the wind was up, the rain came down and I’d lost my university identification cards in the street. I only knew this because they’d been found and the person who found them located my author page on Facebook. Thank you Facebook. On my lonely, cold and wet walk back to my accommodation I met these lovely people and retrieved my lost cards.

Photo is a Wellington house with a big seagull on the chimney.

Seagull on chim

Piesign

A random NZ humour thing. Lamb pie. Baa…

lost on walk

I was pretty lost by this time. This is near the War Memorial in Wellington.

cool motto

I liked the message on this building from the Theosophical Society, Wellington.

Hanson street

A totally random Hanson Street, Wellington.

The wind, she blew, she blew right through me! The rain came down and came inside my coat, my tights, my boots, my hair. It came in everywhere. So in an act of utter desperation, I ducked into the supermarket and bought a Watties frozen roast chicken meal and staggered back to my accommodation where I did not move. I slowly thawed out in bed. Upon some quick research (looking at my map app) I realised I had keyed in the College of Performing Arts and that if I’d looked on Google Maps I would have found where the conference was being held. Now after a close acquaintance with the streets, I pretty much didn’t need a map to get there. I walked over 15,000 steps for absolutely nothing, except looking around a city like that is interesting. It just that it was winter and wet and I got the whole Wellington experience or so I thought.

View from Massey University. I think this is Mount Victoria where some scenes of The Lord of the Rings was filmed. I wanted to go up there but the weather was bad (this was after the fog burned off but I was still at the conference).

Mt victoria

Next morning, there was an earth tremor. A small quake. But still. It felt like the cat had jumped on my bed. But my cat wasn’t there. But I made it out the door into the safest building in Wellington. That that building tended to move of its own accord fed my constant expectation of a massive quake in which I would perish while in pursuit of academic mind fill.

While in Wellington, I also experienced fog. Yes, a lovely thick fog, but that’s okay because it did go away and it was a lovely day afterwards.

 

Photo of the fog and the Tower House.

towerhouse fog

However, on day two of the conference people started talking about a big storm coming. I wasn’t leaving that night because for some strange reason I had booked for three days instead of two. I found out that the conference had been three days but had been shortened to two. I was not crazy after all.

Luckily I noticed this issue and put out a call of Facebook to SF fans that I know to say: ‘Hey! I have a day free in Wellington. Anyone want to catch up for lunch or do something?’ And I had a wonderful response. I had already arranged to spend a night with the lovely Lynelle Howell on my way back through Wellington so I was able to say yes to a day with Ross Temple and lunch with Simon Litten, June Young and Rachel Astruc. But the weather had struck by then and it was not a nice day for being out and about. A terrific wind was coming off the waterfront. Thoughtful Ross had a plan B. He picked me up from my accommodation and took me into town to go to the Te Papa Museum. I saw a bloody great squid or was that an octopus? Then we walked up town to meet the others for lunch. We had the wind behind us so that helped.

Some photos from Te Papa. Some crazy arse fish. I have one of Ross but I believe I said I wouldn’t post it. Sorry!

werid fish

It has been a long time since I experienced a New Zealand café. Ross and I had been talking healthy food so I was a good girl and have a yummy vegetable soup, but I had big eyes for the coffee and cake. Simon did not get the healthy food memo and I was envious of his three courses! The conversation had some funny moments. “You’ve had a baby haven’t you Rachel since the last time I saw you.” “I’ve had three.” Time bloody flies doesn’t it? Admittedly, Rachel had had twins!

After lunch we walked against the wind back to the car and then headed to the Weta Cave. The wind was chopping up the sea as we took the scenic coastal route. I was flying out that evening so Ross was going to drop me off at the airport. I’d received a message that my flight was delayed so I was prepared to have a bit of a wait when I got there. Unbeknownst to me but beknownst to Lynelle, she was monitoring the weather, the planes and my progress through my status updates.

Weta Cave!!!! This is the Lord of the Rings worship haven for fans and also for normal people, provided they spend money but not on the things that fans want. I didn’t see any normal people there. Cough!

Photos from Weta Cave. Troll!

trolls

Theodin’s armour

Theodin armour

Sting

sting

Gollum

gollum

So there’s the shop to explore and tours to book. We managed to get on the Weta Cave tour where you can get a behind the scenes look at how things are done. There was a Thunderbirds tour but we didn’t get on that one. I worshipfully gazed upon the merchandise, lamenting the weight and price of some items. I bought for my darling Dweeb two LOTR t-shirts. One featuring Smaug and another a drawing of the Bag End. The Dweeb (my partner Matthew) says I have excellent taste in Dweebie tshirts so I had to hope that my tshirt choosing mojo was still functioning normally (apparently it was). I gazed longingly at the armour on display and Sting and models of Dwarves until it was time for the tour.

By the time the tour started the weather was crazy arse blowing a damn gale. Just stepping from the Weta Cave shop to the door where the tour started was an adventure. Cold wind-blown needles of icy rain that found their way into the previously protected warm spots under my coat. I’m from Canberra and Canberra does cold really well, but this was something else. It was a polar blast that turned my teeth into icicles and my knees into undead, fresh from the morgue fridge, lumps of reluctant bones. Argh!

The Weta tour was great. I was inspired. If you see me sculpting dragons in the near future it will be because of the Weta tour. I got to hold a prop gun that was damn heavy (from District 9) and saw lots of other bits and interesting pieces. What a cool place! I wish I as that creative.

After another dash into the Weta Cave shop, Ross took me to the airport. I thanked him for the great day and got out of the car. The wind was impressive. I had my doubts about getting a flight out, given it was already delayed. I was heading to Auckland to visit family and a friend. I updated them on my late arrival—expected to be around midnight. I hadn’t been in the airport long when Air New Zealand announced it had cancelled all regional flights. Big planes were still flying apparently. The South Island of New Zealand had essentially shut down. Planes weren’t getting in but some were still flying. Then I got a text from Jetstar telling me my flight was cancelled.

I did get a photo of Smaug at Wellington Airport. He didn’t look too pleased.

smaug

I didn’t know what to do at that stage. I updated my Facebook status and then got a message from Lynelle. She offered to come get me and put my up on the couch for the night. Fantastic Fan Girl, Lynelle was my super hero. She came to get me in that awful weather and took me to her place. The wind was really up by then and Lynelle said it was expected to get worse. I had rebooked a flight for the next day and had my fingers crossed. Meanwhile Ross had been monitoring the flights and texted saying it looked like my flight had been cancelled. He’d offered me his couch. But I’d already been rescued by Fantastic Fan Girl Lynelle.

Fantastic Fan Girl Lynelle was giving a presentation at a local SF group, Phoenix Science Fiction Society Inc., so she was glad to have me along. As I’d stuffed my face at the airport, there was no dinner required for me. Lynelle gave a talk about her FFANZ trip to the Australian natcon, Continuum, in Melbourne, and then there were Tim Tams and tea! The group of fans were welcoming. They did share their Tim Tams with me after after all! And hearing Lynelle talk about her trip was interesting. She really did get to a lot more panels than I did and had some interesting bar experiences.

Here is Lynette giving her talk. In none of my photos did she have her eyes open.

Lynelle

I was pretty chilled by the time we got back to Lynelle’s place and I didn’t take my coat or boots off. I just couldn’t. The house was being buffeted by wind and I was semi traumatised. I don’t think I’d been in a weather event before. Fantastic Fan Girl lit the fire and I was introduced to her super hero children, Dynamic Dylan and Smasher (Ash) and later to Jousting John, the superhero husband. They took my presence in their stride and I was adopted by the two house cats. I can’t remember their names so I’ll have to give them superhero ones. Slinky Sly and Blighty Bird Killer. I had the privilege of sleeping with Slinky Sly, who pretends to be shy but is actually a love slut!

I slept on the couch with the warm flicker of flame to comfort me while the wind rattled the windows and whooshed at the trees. It was weird sleeping to that sound. Fantastic Fan Girl provided toast and tea. And more tea, once she realised it was my life’s blood and couldn’t function without brown liquid to bathe my brains. Then after hanging about we tried the airport again. This time Lynelle was going to shop close by in case there were problems. On the way to the airport the sea was crashing over the railtracks that ran next to the road. The wind was really bearing down on everything. When I got out of the car my beanie blew off my head and I had to chase it down (unfortunately I lost that hat somehow later on) and when I went back to my bags I was fair blown back. I had serious doubts anything could take off in that. I nearly took off and I wasn’t even wearing a cape.

A photo photo of the weather on the drive to the airport day two. They had to stop the trains because of the waves.

to the airport

I walked into the terminal and I received a text saying my flight had been cancelled again. What? Like just now as I walked in? Talk about timing. I had a few ideas about how I was going to cope with that. On the night before I got an email saying Jetstar would cover the cost of my hotel and dinner. I got that after I’d been rescued so I thought maybe it was worth lining up and seeing what they could do this time. First I checked the information desk. Maybe I could drive up to Auckland? Surely the weather would settle by the time I got out of Wellington. The friendly help desk guy gave me directions to the car rental places. He said I’d have no trouble getting a car. He then added, I just wouldn’t be driving anywhere. When I said I was heading to Auckland, he said the roads were out, the storm was due in New Plymouth and I had buckley’s. I texted my mate Russell, Insane Map Boy, back in Canberra and asked his opinion. By the time his answer came back I’d already decided driving was not an option. Russell said bad weather and unknown roads would mostly likely end in an accident.

Then I joined by queue to the Jetstar service desk. The queue was long and full of people like me.

Photo of queue second day of flight cancellations.

queue

After two cancelled flights getting another flight out the next day was going to be difficult. In the queue I learned that because the flight was cancelled due to weather Jetstar would not put me up. People were hanging around because while they found a hotel they couldn’t check in until 2 pm and they weren’t going out in that weather for nothing. Meanwhile Fantastic fan, the mighty rescuer was sending messages and requesting updates. Ross also was sending messages and I asked to bunk on his couch that night. I have to share this fan girl around as I was already booked to hang with Fantastic Fan Girl on the return journey.

Fantastic Fan Girl rescued me once again and took on the super human task of organising everything from how to get me to Ross’s place to what we were going to have for dinner. And we got to hang out some more, with the fire…and on the net as you do. Meanwhile the storm is blowing still and in the news there were flying trampolines that had taken out power lines and damaged cars and the South Island was really getting a battering. Jousting John was heading near Ross’s for his sword practice so he undertook to deliver me, after we ate fish and chips. I can’t do fish so the place where Fantastic Fan Girl, in her flashy super cape, ordered also offered stuffed mushrooms and potato scallops ( they call them potato fritters—scandalous) and I was happy. Also yummy chips and no allergic reactions. Things were looking up.

Smasher was having a sleep over, so it was a good thing that Ross had come to the rescue. Not that there was a problem with that, Fantastic Fan Girl said. I’m trying to think up a super hero name for Ross…let me see…he’s dignified and gallant so I think the Elegant Crusader works for me (Lynelle suggests Normandale Knight for Ross). Ross will probably punch me on the nose! Anyway, Ross welcomed me to his place. Lynelle had warned him that I drink tea, lots of tea, and he brought out the big guns. Tea bags. Lots of tea bags. Meanwhile the wind was raging and the rain was raining. Ross’s power had been out earlier in the day but had come back on in time to warm the house. We talked family history (Ross has some amazing artefacts from his rellies) and science fiction shows and movies and books, as you do, until after midnight.

I slept well, even though the wind was still loud and the house rocked a bit. The next day Ross offered to take me out. I could check out the local mall etc. We looked out the window at the blustery weather and I said, “No thank you. I’m quite happy just here.” So I took out my laptop and worked on my proofing corrections and Ross tinkered on the internet. We chatted occasionally and I introduced him to the Katering Show and he introduced me to other You Tube goodness. After supplying me with yummy warm soup, we continued to relax until it was time to get the plane. I wasn’t able to get an early flight so I was on the 5.30 pm. However, that was delayed again, but as the weather had improved somewhat and planes were landing we were pretty confident that my third time would be lucky. If not, I had decided I had to give up on trying to get to Auckland because I’d have to come straight back again.

The Elegant Crusader dropped me to the airport and I had time to kill. Previously I had tried the pork ribs and they were might fine so I tried the Alabama Butter Milk Fried Chicken and well that wasn’t too exciting. I thought I should buy chocolate but when I looked around the kiosk had shut and a lot of the shops were shutting. I had heaps of time to kill and despaired. No retail therapy? I snuck downstairs and the kiosk was still open so I bought some Whittaker’s chocolate supplies and ate some! I did a fair bit of pacing around Wellington Airport. It’s actually quite small. I looked up and saw Eagles. Big Eagles from the Lord of the Rings’ movies with Gandalf on one. I took photos and geeked out, as you do, then gave up on pacing and went through to the boarding lounge.

Photos from Wellington Airport. Eagles and Gandalf. The weird thing was I only noticed them the third time I was at the airport.

eagles close up

 

gandalf

eaglesThe boarding time kept getting put back five minutes at a time. The plane we were flying out on had not arrived. Still I was hopeful that I’d get to Auckland that night. If I didn’t there wasn’t much point in going as I was due back on the Monday and it was now Friday. But we did fly out but really late. I got to my family’s place around midnight. But you know what? It was quiet. There was no wind. During the night I woke up and I’d been dreaming about the wind. I think I was a tad traumatised.

One sun filled day in Auckland. View from Browns Bay toward Rangitoto Island

sunny auckland

After some sun filled days (two actually) where I caught up with my family and my friend who split me evenly down the middle, I was flying back to Wellington to be collected once again by the amazing and wonderful, Fantastic Fan Girl! For this was the planned part of the trip and not the rescuing the Aussie Fan Girl Choose Your Adventure series moments. I’d been invited to an SF thing, Biblio, I think but by then I was tired and over being sociable, except with Fantastic Fan Girl, who understands that a fan girl just wants to play with her phone and stare into space some of the time. So I didn’t go to that. Instead we did the planned shopping for chocolate adventure. NZ has the best chocolate and so many flavours and there were orders Insane Map Boy and Kaaron Warren and my son Taamati, who would collect them for his birthday on his way back to Shanghai, via Canberra. Fantastic Fan Girl took me to ‘Pack n Save’ and introduced me to the wall—the giant wall of chocolate. I have little restraint and I amazed even myself. I had chocolate and chocolate and more chocolate. We even ate a block of the Jelly Tip Whitaker’s chocolate by the fire.

This is five kilos of chocolate.

chocolate

Fantastic Fan Girl had prepared homemade hamburgers for dinner and we watched an episode of Game of Thrones! As you do! With chocolate.

Also, Lynelle had amazing ducks on her glass.

Lynelles ducks

My fannish adventures were drawing to a close. The weather was back to normal. My flight home was going to plan. I have to thank my fannish super heroes for looking after me. I was looked after, cared for and never lonely. I contemplated the alternatives. Forced to book into hotels, hanging about until I can check in, then taking a taxi back to the airport and then being sent away to find another hotel and repeating this over. I did not have travel insurance. I don’t know why I didn’t.

This is a view of the top of the South Island as I was flying out. You an see there’d been snow.

snow mountains plane

A fan girl need superheroes. For me this was like a pre-GUFF (Get Up and Over Fan Fund-I’m the 2017 delegate) trip adventure that demonstrated the wonderful community of fandom. Fantastic Fan Girl has never been to my house. We’ve met in person twice before, once eight years ago at a NZ con, where we hung out. Ross put me up but he’s only ever met me a cons. And Simon and June and Rachel have only met me at cons and on social media. This was a wonderful display of super human kindness and it made me glad that I was a fan who went to Wellington and reached out to the SF community.

Pass the hobbit why don’t you?

 

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