We haven’t been for a walk to the deep, dark forest for quite a long time.  Eleanor and I used to do it all the time.  We used to look for bears.

We take a route up into the town belt behind Newtown Park.  Partly it is the Southern Walkway, and partly just tracks along the perimeter fence of the Zoo, and across Mt Albert Park.  Mount Victoria and Mount Albert are quite aptly named in Wellington: one is large, prominent and well-known, the other smaller, a little obscure, but quite rewarding.

There are a lot of pine trees in our deep dark forest, and below the pine trees the ground is rough; a thick mat of brown needles, and a twisting lattice of roots.  Rosamund decided to wear her ankle high gold boots for the expedition which may not have been the most practical choice but added a dash of glamour.

As we came down off the hill and back towards Newtown Park there was a makeshift skate park on an abandoned outdoor basketball court and one man, maybe twenty or so years old, was rolling around on his skateboard performing sudden leaps against the low boxes scattered about.  He was not wearing his T-shirt.  Men with no tops fascinate Eleanor.  They fascinate her because in her head being topless is rude regardless of the gender.  She once saw two topless construction workers and leaned across to me,

“Daddy, daddy?”


“I can see those men’s  boobies.”

And she could: it was indisputable.  As we went across the skate park today we prudishly averted our eyes from the male boobies on display.

Afterwards we came to the final piece of land before suburban streets: a long triangle of grass running down a hill with pine trees dotted across it.  We used to live quite close to this place, and I sometimes came here with Eleanor and Rosamund and some big bin bags and we cleaned out all the bottles, and cans that were always left behind here.  By who?  I imagine young people.  18 and older, out under the creaking limbs of the pine trees, the moon slipping higher, probably a  fumbled kiss.  Once, on a cleaning mission by myself,  I found a letter that had been torn up into small pieces.  It was a letter that had been written in felt pens, and the multi-coloured bits  and pieces of words suggested unrequited love, and a litany of past, desperate incidents.  In the rough grass at the foot of the nearby trees were wine bottles and screwed up cigarette packets.

That was years ago now: before Rosamund was born perhaps.  I wonder what happened to that young girl or boy who wrote and then tore up that letter.  Maybe they are far away, maybe I stood next to them on the bus last week.  The deep, dark forest might know.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō