Friday, October 24, 2008

The Temperance in Wellington, New Zealand, Is Such Sweet Revenge

There is a delectable irony about Wellington’s newest bar complex, The Temperance.

It’s in a 100 year-old heritage building that was originally the headquarters of the New Zealand Temperance Union - a bunch of wowsers who fought to bring prohibition to this country.

Fortunately they were thwarted – the votes of tens of thousands of New Zealand soldiers overseas in the First World War scuppered that mad notion.

Today the building has had a $4 million refit to create four floors of pub and club entertainment.

Isn’t that sweet retribution? So go to hell, you killjoys. You who would presume to know better how the rest of us should find our pleasures.

Mark you, the busybodies are still at it today. They’ll tell you what sort of shower you’ll take, what light bulb you’ll read by, what foods are good for you. But that’s not important right now . . . though it might be on Election Day.

On the ground floor of the building is The Atrium . . . a fairly standard up-market Wellington watering hole.

But on the first floor is Madame Jo Jo’s. When I saw the name on the directory in the foyer I sez to meself, I sez “Ullo. ‘ullo. Wot’s this then? Madame Jo Jo’s? Sounds like . . . you know . . . nudge, nudge, wink, wink . . . know wot I mean, know wot I mean?"

So I pushed button one and was swiftly transported to a world of soft lights and dark shadows and the silhouettes of three young women artistically displayed – not real women, dopey – just cut-outs on the wall. But it did give one cause to pause and wonder what earthly delights, what heavenly transportations lay beyond the curtains.

Whereupon, the mental picture of my darling wife and children, weeping as they watched the impending moral despoliation of their beloved husband and father, flashed upon the inner eye.

So I pushed button four and went up to The Millard.

Now anyone who knows anything about rugby in this country immediately knows what that means. The Millard Stand was the main grandstand at Athletic Park, home of Wellington rugby for many, many decades until they shifted to the very flash, very poshe new Caketin, or whatever expensively sponsored naming they have given it.

There’s an irony in a minor key here. If for nothing else, the Millard Stand was notorious for its precipitous, nay dizzying, steepness. From the heights of the higher rows one looked way, way down onto the verdant sward below which, from that altitude, seemed more like a postage stamp issued in memory of the Green Party.

From those heights, nose bleeds were a hazard. Oxygen may have been called for, even by front row props or hookers (are we back at Madame Jo Jo’s?). Strong young lads may have contemplated whether one could paraglide away from it all . . . or even bungy straight down into the middle of the affray below.

But, I digress.

This Millard, appropriately on the top floor of the Temperance, is the official bar of the Wellington Rugby Union and is equally appropriately decorated with all sorts of rugby memorabilia. A theme bar, no less.

But what of the desirable, the alluring, the temptational Madame Jo Jo’s? Well, no, it’s not a place in which young (and not so young) men may find solace in the arms(?) of gorgeous young temptresses. It’s an up-market night club. Mind you, said young temptresses may still be found there . . . and be on for no more than the cost of a night’s cocktails.

Thinking about that, though, the professional option may be cheaper.

So back to The Atrium bar on the ground floor in search of food and drink. How mundane after the momentary promises of sporting delights, of the field rugby and sofa rugby variety.

Pleasant enough bar, as bars go. Huge screens carrying a couple of sports channels, though given that it was the Time Of The Chattering Heads – Deaker on Sport et al – there wasn’t a lot of point since the sound was off.

If one is hungry do try the leek and pork sausages – a Welsh version, perhaps, of the much-loved bangers and mash. Three substantial sossies, served on a bed of mashed taties. Not bad value at $17 given the congenial surrounds.

So here’s a toast to The Temperance, and Madame Jo Jo whoever she may be, and may the ghosts of the Temperance Union ladies fly screaming into the dark night of their own open-all-hours licensed hell.

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