Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dr Fell and New Edinburgh.....

Investing people and places with symbols is an ancient thing. Some of us may be able to divorce our experiences from our surroundings, but I think more of us tie them together than do not.

I have been writing of my travels, relating both good and bad experiences. Recently my musings have been negative but they are just a reflection of my state of mind. It is no insult to the place.

I wrote earlier of the Southern city of Christchurch. I liked it, despite it being a very English town (or perhaps because of - who can say?) Despite all what I heard about it being a crime capital with traces of English snobbery, puritanism etc and all the things I moan about back home I still received good vibes from it. But what the hell do I know just being a visitor?

I later wrote of Dunedin and I felt obliged to say good things about the place so as not to look like a complete idiot. Sure, I could see there was a lot of art there, and it had a lot of culture for a town which is small by British standards.

But if I'm going to be totally honest - it was a case of 'Dr Fell' as far as me and that town went. I got bad vibes, I didn't like the place and was unable to articulate what it was. Perhaps something to do with me being Catholic and it being a noticably Scottish protestant settlement? It being a university town off season and quiet due to the students being away? But no. Neither of those things defined my feelings and my wishes to leave the place asap. And I don't know if it was actually anything to do with the place or if it had anything to do with my circumstances (which looked brighter then than they do now, although there probably had been a storm brewing in the background without my knowledge).

The 'deep South' (for want of a better term) is said to be a bit of a mad place. Dunedin once had an alternative rock scene (something I would have liked) but that died with the collapse of the 'Flying Nun' record label. The boys in the region have been known to do mad things like throw surfboards out of windows and self harm. Janet Frame, one of New Zealand's best known authors, was born and grew up there. Her work is very intense because she suffered mental health problems.

Was it the madness in the region that I was picking up on? God knows. Seeing the touches of madness in myself it may be something I am sensitive to. But so as not to look a total idiot I shall just put it down to old Dr Fell.

3 comments:

Political Umpire said...

Yes they're a funny lot in Dunedin. Only been there once, so I can't really comment in depth, but it is true that the further south you go from Christchurch - and not counting tourist traps like Queenstown and Wanaka - the people get less and less like, well, the rest of us. Some places are maddeningly inward looking. And the West Coast lot are just mad, period.

Still enjoying the travel notes, as you'll have gathered!

Best,

P-Ump

james higham said...

Yes it's so that you can pick up vibes from a city. I had the strongest of these in Vienna, rather than Venice. There was definitely an atmosphere of stately, understated prejudice and at the same time, an East meets West flavour. The strongest feeling was of restraint, of concealment.

Very interesting about Christchurch and Dunedin. I had considered moving there.

Liz said...

I'm glad it's not just me, then, PU. I've heard the West Coast lot are a bit isolated so that probably has a lot to do with it.

Interesting what you say James. Was it Xchurch or Dunedin you were thinking of moving to?