Traipsing across our wonderful little country the vagabond can come across all sorts of iconic regional symbols. Gore has its trout, Taihape its gumboot and Hokianga its sticky buds. But in order to trade his trout for gumboots the traveller must pass through Wellington and meet another icon, one who turns a lot of heads, but gains few friends. Yes, it’s the bloody wind. This week I sought out Wellington’s own wind whisperer to find out more about this iconic breeze.
Residing on the roof of the university library is a man with long grey hair that knows more about Wellington’s wind than any other. His name is Graham and he professes to be the only wind whisperer in the Southern Hemisphere, a fact I am willing to accept.
“Some people hate the wind, but I have grown to love her,” Graham confesses. And he sure has grown, measuring 2m 15cm, placing him comfortably in the ‘freak’ range and the ‘officially allowed to be stared at’ category.
“I became a fan of the wind the first time I set foot in Wellington, it was like I was being ravaged by an invisible woman, hands rustling through my hair, tearing at my clothes and singing in my ear,” he says while swaying and rubbing his body quite erotically and pointing in different directions. I stood back and watched him go with the flow, he was in the zone and he was really going off on one. On what I wasn’t too sure, but he established pretty quickly and vividly that he has a relationship with the wind like no other.
Once he had put his clothes back on and resumed his role as a normal freak, I looked up at him and asked him what the weather was like up there. He didn’t laugh but broke some ice and poured a couple of gins. I then asked him why it is so freaking windy in Wellington.
“It’s a mixture of mythology, geography, meteorology and philosophy I think,” he replied.
“The gap between the two main islands creates a type of wind funnel for which we have that cheeky Maui to blame, but it’s the shape of the mountains that causes the prevailing westerly winds to be channeled into the northerly that we receive most often. “In fact, Wellington is statistically one of the windiest cites in the world with the old girl blowing at more than 60km/h 173 days a year on average. That means that one morning out of two you can roll out of bed knowing you’re gonna get ravaged by her sometime during the day,” he adds while slowly licking his lips.
He labels himself a windspotter and proudly wears a ‘GET KNOTTED’ t-shirt and several badges with suitable windy quips. He remembers two dates in particular, the 6th of November 1959 and 4th July 1962 for it was on those two days that the wind reached a record 248km/h.
“It was wild. I like it rough but I remember a few people claimed to have been windraped on those two days which took the gloss off her record.”
I looked around and was really taken by the scene; the atmosphere on top of the library is both audibly and visually sweet, a complete contrast to the dingy popcorn smelling floor below. According to Graham, the buffeting breeze that we can hear is telling us something and he disappears inside and comes back out carrying two heavy back packs which we both put on, Each has a kind of oval kite attached whichI cast into the strong breeze with all the skill of a child. I put on my head phones as instructed and wait for more instructions. Using a magnetic integrator neuron translator Graham says he can harness the wind and its force and freely converse with her.
“She’s in a bit of a mood today,” Graham yells.
He straps both of our packs to the building just in case things get a bit hairy. Graham now has on his whispering face, he is serious and steely-eyed, making whooshing noises and nodding his head. It is obvious he is not just talking about the weather and to join in on the chat I whistle into my microphone.
“What did you say that for?” he scowls.
“What did I say?”
“You just told her you slept with her sister,” he replied. “Oh, and one more thing, never cross the kites, it would be bad.”
At that moment I felt a breezy slap in the face and my kite twirled around Graham’s. Being a little fuzzy on the whole good/ bad thing I asked Graham what he meant by bad.
“Just imagine all student loan interest as you know it increasing exponentially at the speed of light.”
“Total Labour policy reversal?!” I screamed, trying to throw myself off the building. Fortunately I found resistance in Graham’s ‘hairy moment’ straps and my life was saved. The kites had duly unraveled themselves and Graham continued his howling and whooshing while I gave up and soaked myself in gin. I quickly became slurry and emotional and told the wind that Puff was her daddy and she could blow me.
I felt a light rain on my face and laughed at the thought of me believing that Graham could speak to the wind. He really was pissing in the wind.