Whanganui you are not forgotten

By Terry Sarten


Dear Whanganui,

I am sorry that this Valentine's Day card will arrive late. It was written on Thursday evening but it always takes a few days to get from here to there. My heart and thoughts are with you on Valentine's Day. I miss many things about you. There is the fun of the Music Club nights and the parade of local talent that passes across the Savage Club Hall stage. The hum of creative energy is evident in the glass art, the theatres, the marae, the UCOL, community arts projects and public sculpture. There are the wonderful buildings - the Art Gallery and the Opera House, the brass and timber sheen of the Riverboat and the tram.

Then there are the glories of the local caf scene - the welcome and the wonderful coffee. (It's only when you order a coffee in another country that you realise that Whanganui coffee drinkers are completely spoilt). Whanganui has great eateries equal to those in bigger centres. The Saturday market offers the potential to stroll and meet everyone you know, plus their uncle, mothers, cousins and assorted grandchildren. Above all else, there is the river and the people who live, work and relax in sight of its timeless flow to meet the tide. There are people there that I have loved for a long time and always will - friends who will remain so forever.

So, you may rightly ask me, why did you leave? Why go away from a place that holds so much ? The answer is not simple. It's not like I have suddenly fallen for another brighter, younger more glamorous paramour. I have not left Whanganui for the affections of another. There is no tale of jilted love for another city or misplaced romantic notions for metropolitan life. There is no secret unrequited passion for the charms of a big city but there is no doubt that another place has my attention right now. I have moved away because opportunities that are not available in Whanganui presented themselves and it was the time to take them.

The other place in my life right now is Sydney. She is big hearted, warm (sometime too hot for comfort) and full of potential. She wears her confidence on her sleeve and touts her wares with a startling directness. It's not a city that does humble very well. Occasionally, Sydney tries but you can tell its heart is not really in it when, after a few days of being modest, the headlines are once again full of celebrities spouting empty platitudes. She is certainly attractive. The harbour bridge, the sails of the Opera House, the water and the sky in a shade of blue that does not appear on those paint shop colour charts, with national parks that come right to the edge of the city and public transport that actually works.

Then there are the people. There are lots of them - 4.4 million - how they got them to stand still and count them beats me as they always seem to be rushing from place to place. There are the original Australians, the Aboriginal people, struggling to find recognition in their own land. There are the descendants of colonial era convicts and those who came to Australia a few generations ago to build new lives far from the stifling strictures of the English class system. There are the families of Mediterranean origin, whose children's children are very Australian and new immigrants from all over the world who colour the cultural landscape with diversity. Sydney has wooed me and has my attention at the moment but Whanganui, you are not forgotten.

Terry Sarten writes from across the Tasman as a musician, social worker and staunch Whanganuite. Email feedback:tgs@inspire.net.nz

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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