I stopped at the Tug Boat today for coffee, after venturing back to the gym for the first time in weeks. It was a typical Wellington day. The sun was shining, clouds racing across the sky, and there was a brisk northerly, chopping up the harbour, bright white tips to the waves. The Tug Boat was set up about 15 years ago (maybe more) at a permanent mooring as a restaurant. It has had numerous incarnations over that time, but now – thanks to the demolition of the building over the road, the popular cafe and Wellington institution The Parade Cafe has moved into the tug boat. They’ve brought all their successful notes – outside seating, protected from the southerly, that now looks over a small beach and playground where this morning a little girl in pink fluffy coat and hat played, high tables and stools downstairs looking out to the view, good coffee, great salads, excellent service, and lots of other yummy things I try to ignore. They’ve installed booth seating in the centre of the cafe, and two fireplaces that bring a really cosy atmosphere in a wild winter storm.
I like the booth seating, but today they were dominated by lots of mothers and little children, and I wanted some peace and quiet, so I headed into the nose of the cafe, with a 180% degree view of the harbour, hills and Oriental Parade. I pulled out my e-reader, but took time to look around. To the north, a huge container ship, shaped like a brick, was being pushed into a wharf, ready to load up with – most likely – pine logs. Several other freighters were anchored in the harbour, and the navy frigate HMNZS Canterbury was moored at Queen’s wharf. I turned south, and admired the boat-sheds lining the beginning of the Parade; bright and blue in the sun, the masts from the yachts in the marina waving in front of them produced interesting geometric patterns.
Suddenly I felt a jolt, then a gentle swaying. It wasn’t an earthquake, and it made me smile. The wind and waves created a very gentle rocking, reminding me I was on a boat, and producing in me a happy and relaxed feeling. That was odd – I’m not usually a lover of the sea, but perhaps memories of the big ship in the Mediterranean rushed back and filled me with pleasure.
I turned to look back at the city, and suddenly realised that all this time I had been looking past the Overseas Terminal – the long pier where my brother-in-law and his new (first) American wife held a reception on their return to New Zealand back in the 1980s, where we enjoyed a casual Italian pizza restaurant for a short time in the 90s, and where most recently – operating as a conference centre – where I taught a course to a small company on developing and maintaining their client relationships. I suddenly noticed that the building had disappeared. It was now filled with construction workers, and soon will become an apartment building. The views will be wonderful – but I wonder if I could live there given the fear of a tsunami. (Mind you, is it any worse than the fear of an earthquake living in a house on stilts on the side of a hill?)
Suddenly a piercing, high-pitched, mega-decibel sound broke my reverie and hurt my ears. “Fire?” I wondered, thinking it must have been an alarm. No, it was one of the children in the booth area. I sighed, wondering if it would be rude to shut the door to my section of the cafe. When a second scream was emitted, longer and louder, I stood. As pleasant as the view, as mellow as the coffee, it was time to go.