Invercargill is one of the southernmost cities in the world according to its Wikipedia page. It’s got more of a ‘big town’ feel, down at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island. Around 50,000 people live there and I used to be one of them. It has been the butt of many jokes over the years, most of which are probably made by current inhabitants. Growing up there you’re always acutely aware that the rest of the world is out there and probably doing something more interesting than standing in a gusty street by an empty shop. Coz that’s what you’d probably be doing.
It’s the second windiest city in New Zealand (the first being Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island) and the wind loves to fuck up your hair. I had forgotten that. I hadn’t been back in seven years and this visit gave me that freaky feeling. The one where nothing has changed but absolutely nothing is the same.
Net curtains for example. Everyone seemed to be still using net curtains. Now, I know I’ve previously written on this blog that net curtains are due for a come back and I don’t wish to look like a hypocrite. However, in order for net curtains to make a come back, they must first go away. Net curtains have never left Invercargill, and I feel that the original specimens from the first net curtain craze are still proudly hanging in a somewhat tatty state in many houses about the city. Hell, if you told me that net curtains were first invented in Southland and the original specimens remain proudly on display as a protected historical artifact I would believe it. Wouldn’t even bother to fact check. That’s the state of the net curtains in Invercargill.
It was weird walking the streets again. Big, wide open spaces with few cars and even fewer people. It was like strolling through the apocalypse. I went with my mother on a tour. She took me into every shop worth seeing. We visited the museum, the parks, we drove the streets looking for action.
I dropped by an exhibition in the gallery about historical Southland weddings. I visited so many animals. Pigs, llamas, an ostrich and ducks. Bunnies and cats. Hell, I found squirrels in Queen’s Park. Squirrel sculptures, sure, but all squirrels are good squirrels. The best, though, were the tuataras.
A tuatara is kind of small lizard-type creature that has lived on earth since the time of the dinosaurs but now lives mainly in Invercargill. One, named Henry, is around 120 years old and is a bit of a local celebrity. He went through some Madonna-style re-invention shit at age 111 and became a father for the first time. It was big news back then and they’re still going on about it at the enclosure. From that moment Henry’s sex life has been a bit of a headline grabber.
Tuataras are for the most part freaky little bastards. They do not move. They may just be a conspiracy theory in Plasticine. That is until one day you do catch one scurrying into a hole at the speed of really, really speedy things and no one else sees it and they won’t believe you that there was one there in the first place. Or, you see one sitting there perfectly still but blending into a nearby log and no one will believe you that there is one there either. As in, the person who drove you to the damn museum won’t believe you. Always great to know the person in charge of the motor vehicle and the safety of those in it is experiencing a few issues with vision.
Apparently though, if you were let loose in a tuatara enclosure and attempted to hunt one down by grabbing its tail so you could hold it up in front of your family screaming SEE IT WAS BLOODY SITTING THERE ON THE ROCK ALL ALONG they could let go of that unnecessary appendage and grow one back when you weren’t looking. They’ve got game, tuataras.
If you do get the chance to visit Invercargill, please stop by the tuataras and spot as many as you can. Just for the sake of my own sanity. They are there and sometimes they move. I promise you. You might just have to wait a little while. They’ve got the time – they’ll probably outlive you.