Allow me to introduce, not myself exactly, but the little series of posts that the Wellingtonista people have kindly allowed me to publish here. “Notional Significance” will be somewhere between travel writing, history, psychogeography and personal reflection, based upon walking the length of Wellington’s stretch of State Highway 1.
The concept may sound familiar. I was primarily influenced by Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, where he walked around the M25 exploring the hidden histories, lost landscapes and revealing minutiae of the spaces adjoining that infrastructural tourniquet around the capital. Wellington has no orbital motorway, so instead I settled upon the so-called “Roads of National Significance” programme, and decided to try divining the deeper significances of the highway that runs through the heart of our region.
Iain Sinclair is not the only touch point. W.G. Sebald’s quasi-fictional walks through Suffolk (direct walks, indirect narrative, local details with international meanings) were another influence, and it’s hard to ignore the original psychogeographer, Guy Debord. Georges Perec’s concept of the infraordinaire is intriguing, but don’t worry: I’m not going to get all Francophile philosophical. Not too much, anyway. And there are local inspirations such as Wellingtonista Robyn Gallagher, whose ongoing recontextualisation of Maurice Shadbolt’s 1968 travel guide teases out the deep, the ordinary and the deeply ordinary aspects of provincial and suburban New Zealand.
But I hope that this won’t just be Sinclair without the deadpan mock-occultism, or Sebald with less Holocaust. To state the bleeding obvious, Wellington is not London. Walking along Wellington’s road of national significance will, I hope, bring out our region’s own significant insights and passing notions. I’ll generally try to walk as close as possible to either the existing SH1 or the proposed new routes, with occasional detours in search of stories (or lunch), writing about the history and poetry, quirks and violence, secrets and surprises that I find along the way.
The journey begins with a bus ride.