Wellington has turned into an orange city. Nothing to do with fake tan, rather a plethora of hi-vis and road cones, the occasional yellow thrown in for variety. There are street works, sewage works (ongoing in Wellington due to the crumbling infrastructure), and building works, generally the construction of an apartment block. There’s one next door to ours, near completion so the orange men are all inside; one along the street that is rising slowly from the base isolators that will make it the most earthquake-proof in the city (with eye-wateringly high price tags attached); and a couple of pieces of naked earth which I assume are waiting for orange to be freed up from other projects.
I like orange. In the eighties I had an orange jumper, a thing I loved, not at that time of my life caring, or even aware, that orange does me no favours, reducing my pale skin to a garish whiteness. I now stick with the odd bit of it in my wardrobe, a pair of suede shoes, a splash of it amongst other colours on a scarf. At the moment in Wellington, a city of corporate types in dark suits, orange definitely is the new black.
The appearance of orange means something worth watching. Last week the pavement outside our apartment was dug up and carried away, the trench left behind fenced off with day-glo cones. A couple of days later a concrete truck crawled along the side of the trench, a group of orange beavering around it. As grey sludge slid from the trough at its backside one man guided it into a box-like contraption two other men were working on. One levelled the sludge as the other one carefully and slowly dragged the box along the trench, leaving behind a perfect kerb, shiny and wet. Yet another oversaw the whole process, guiding the direction and speed of the truck. It was mesmerising and the small child watching with his mother was no more enthralled than I was.
One site for new housing used to be a car showroom; we bought our last two cars there. Last time I took the car for a service they gave me a different address – despite that the front of the building was still full of shiny new models, the back end, where the service department had been, was fast disappearing. The showroom stayed in situ as big yellow machines with small men inside tore down the walls behind it. It was around the time I accepted that my beloved Clarissa, the Ford Focus we bought there a decade earlier, was in need of a new home. We don’t need two cars, haven’t for years, and she’d been sitting in the garage in Ohakune since we went overseas last year, driven occasionally to keep her wheels turning. I took her for her WOF (Warrant of Fitness, like the MOT in England) and ended up selling her to the mechanic’s grandson, a lovely young man. He was so nervous when he came to test drive her, his accompanying father forcing him to do all the negotiating (as I left Neil to do our side), that I felt she was heading to a good and responsible new home.
I walk past the ex-showroom often, slowing my steps to watch proceedings, pausing while something interesting happens (using the excuse that I’m giving my arms a rest from carrying heavy bags of shopping). The last cars left the dealership a few weeks ago, a corner of the building ripped off as an omen. The site rapidly became a pile of crushed concrete, a large crane towering over it lifting girders into place on the building already rising behind. Orange clad men, and a couple of women, swarmed around like slaves attending masters, some manning the controls of machines that could crush mere flesh and bone into nothing under their grinding metal tracks. A truck grumbled past me, nosing through the opening in the fence, and manoeuvred alongside a rumbling beast, shaking as huge scoops of debris were dropped into its trailer. Across the road, orange figures on smoko draped themselves along the pavement, sipping takeaway coffees and taking bites from pies. One waved as I took their picture. I waved back and reluctantly picked up my bags, turning my back on the entertainment.