We both wanted to see Larnach’s Castle – Pip, because she has never been there before, and me because I was last there in August 1964 during a family trip to the South Island. It is essentially a Victorian Folly, built by someone with too much money and delusions of grandeur to a standard of luxury probably unsurpassed in the Colony at the time. The current owners bought it in a state of disrepair in 1967 and have brought it back to its former glory – all credit to them.
We then travelled out to the end of the peninsula to the Royal Albatross Centre, where we learned a lot about these magnificent birds but sadly were not able to see any. We did see a somnambulant sea-lion, however, and the Taiaroa Head Lighthouse.
The day before, Sunday, we had driven through the Dunedin city centre and noticed a number of interesting-looking church buildings, more so than perhaps you would see in any other NZ city. So after lunch we parked up and went walking.
The first one we came across appeared to have its doors nailed shut. The second one turned out to have been converted (apt word) into apartments. The third one, First Presbyterian, was closed to the public for the week while new flooring was installed – “The Church’s one foundation is now particle board”, as the old hymn might have gone. But it was the fourth one that really got me annoyed: St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. The sign at the bottom said it was open until 2pm, so we climbed up, and up again. Not only is it built up the hill from the Octagon but they have then had the cheek to add about 50 steps on top of that to get you to the front door. Whereupon another sign appeared: Closed – Funeral in progress.
Continuing with our religious pilgrimage, I then went and had a haircut. (Be patient, this will all become clear in a minute.) Those of you familiar with the older style of barber and barbershop will know that such men (they are always men) are something akin to philosophers – knowledgeable about everything under the sun and prepared to discuss it as they wield sharp instruments around your ears, so you have no option but to keep fairly still and listen. But the barbershop that I found in Moray Place had the barber’s Degree Certificate from Otago University hanging on his wall – Bachelor of Theology. Which came first, I asked him, and was somewhat relieved to find that he was a real barber who had in later life developed a thirst for academic knowledge, and not a down on his luck cleric with a spare pair of scissors. We had a most interesting conversation, and it was probably the first time that I ever heard a barber talking about cognitive dissonance among fundamentalists. Actually, on reflection, not probably – definitely the first time. The time flew by and I was totally enthralled by his story. The closed churches didn’t seem so important any more. Oh, and it was an excellent haircut.