Pukeahu Anthology

Alice in the Eighties: The Wellington Years

Janis Freegard is a Wellington poet and fiction writer. Her character, Alice Spider, first appeared in AUP New Poets 3 (2008). This poem vividly describes eighties underground culture in and around Mount Cook.

Alice in the Eighties: The Wellington Years

Alice moves into a flat by the Basin Reserve. There are lesbians
living next door and a three-legged cat who visits. One week,
Alice and her flatmates decide to spend the kitty money on
alcohol instead of food, a different beverage for each night of
the week. On one of these evenings, Alice swallows several live
goldfish.* They look remarkably like tinned mandarin segments.
In syrup.

Alice and her flatmates have a party. One of the flatmates acquires
some long tubes of plastic — elongated rubbish bag cylinders
before they have been segmented into actual rubbish bag-sized
sections. They attach one to the vacuum cleaner at the top of the
stairs so that there is a permanently inflated tube of air snaking
down the stairs and into the lounge. There are other sheets of
plastic draped across doorways and over walls.

The party is gate-crashed by a group of punks. Alice watches a
punk woman trying to persuade one of the guys she came with to
tell her which of them fucked her the night before when she was
too far out of it to know what she was doing. She is saying, I just
want to know which ones it was. He doesn’t tell her.

Alice goes to see some bands off Cuba Street. It’s a good night,
good dancing. Alice dances in front of the stage, on her own.
She doesn’t mind being the first one up to dance. She wanders
outside to find a toilet. While she is queuing, she watches a
woman wrapping a leather belt around her friend’s arm, tapping
for a vein.

For a while, everyone lives in warehouses, spacious open-plan
living where you can also be an artist/bone-carver/musician
which is what everyone fancies themselves as, including the ones
with jobs in law firms. It is the height of cool. Alice does not live
in a warehouse. She likes having a door she can close behind her.

*No animals were harmed in the making of this poem.

Tonks Avenue, Wellington. Looks towards Arthur Street, 2000.
Tonks Avenue, Wellington. Looks towards Arthur Street, 2000.
Photographer: Phillip Barton. PA12-1824-02. Alexander Turnbull Library.