WELLINGTON MARKETS ITSELF as the coolest little capital in the world and it does not disappoint.
I wrote earlier this month about the carnival theme thrust upon the World Cup festivities in this town. But this was no mere lip service to flamboyant colours and bongo drums. This town went full on into Mardi Gras mode despite the glum expressions hiding underneath green facepaint.
It was incredible. Imagine a junior disco in Ireland. Now imagine it without the tipsy teens staggering from one song to another before a big fight breaks out and the guilty party’s girlfriend turns into a mush of tears and mascara.
Throw in a smattering of every other age group, unable to resist joining in with the rhythm, and you have a scene of pure happiness. I don’t think the video here will do justice to it but be assured the sight of people dancing on the street would warm the cockles of your heart.
I am normally quite a cynical and grumpy old soul. Since I was about 19, I’ve been tut-tutting and frowning on the behaviour of young wans and saying it wasn’t like that in my day. But the Wellington kids can be held up as an exemplary model of good natured exuberance which their country can be proud of.
I’m not sure if the outdoor nightclub happened by accident or design, but it made for a terrific atmosphere of goodwill.
The only problem is, having lost, the Irish are back to being a rugby nation to be patted on the head: “Aw, hard luck bro. I was rooting for Ireland, eh.”
We had a good few weeks of being respected and even considered as potential opponents in the final, but now we’re back in the role of loveable losers. Tonight, we see their real competitors up close: South Africa and Australia.
Same old story
It was a perfect sunny day in Wellington but the depression made it difficult to do much outside of the campervan. We are parked right in the heart of the city, so could still see the fans and the team buses making their way around town and out to the stadium.
It was a match that South Africa should have won. The first half was almost a rerun of our game — the side in green was dominant in territory but just had no cutting edge.
At 8-6, I thought only one winner could emerge and duly climbed aboard the Bokke bandwagon. Indeed, habit brought me shouting down an Aussie chant and Tosh noted: “You’re not only on the bandwagon, you’re driving it too.”
The older bodies peaked around the three-quarter mark. Australia could not escape their half but once, and that was the one that counted, green loses again.
From a raucous din of Waltzing Matilda, we arrived in the fanzone to a deathly silence. The All Blacks were behind.
Fingernails got chewed and cheeks puffed but the Wellington wonders of Aaron Cruden and Piri Weepu steered the ship home.
The mood among the locals is acceptance, but they also feel that a tough tight game decided by a goalkicker was just what they needed.
Tonight, they will dance in the streets once again, but there remains that nagging feeling of doubt — Australia are here, loud brash and waiting.