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May 17, 2010 | by  | in Features |
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Small town boy

Blenheim, with its population of somewhere near 30,000, mild tectonic activity, and high sunshine hours, never really lived up to any of the hype that my parents promised me when we moved there—on my 7th birthday. I was promised bountiful countryside, a great school, and a place I’d want to come back to over and over again. What I got was New Zealand’s biggest retirement home. Yeesh. 16.7 per cent of Blenheim’s population is over 65. That’s well above the national average. Obviously, this can only mean one thing: people go to Blenheim to die. I guess I’m being a bit OTT though—let me go through my experience in the small town of Blenheim and detail exactly why I’m never settling down there.

Primary school was fine, mostly because I was too young and naive to get the politics surrounding it. Upon returning there over the years (I’m the eldest of 5 to attend the quaint, yet terrifying Fairhall School), it has slowly revealed itself to be a poor, small-town imitation of a private preparatory school. You have the self-absorbed mothers, hell-bent on making sure their son/daughter is in the right volleyball team, or harassing the principal because their child didn’t win the prestigious Villa Maria scholarship. I’m not kidding. You could throw down a medal for ‘Most Promising Five-Year-Old’ and incite a fucking riot between permed 30-somethings attempting to live vicariously through their children—when they’re not buying Oprah’s favourite things.

That was only my school. For the ‘edgy’ 11 and 12 year olds, Bohally was your institution of choice. Situated right beside Marlborough Girls College, this place was notorious for pre-teen weed smoking and the start of the road to DUIs and teen pregnancy. I know at least two who started in my primary school class who have gone down this exact road. Not that it was all bad—it has churned out many a golden child who has gone on to complete high school. With Merit!

Entry to high school was an important time for those in form two with any hope of a hasty escape from the clutches of Blenheim. Many of my friends managed to scramble away to schools in Nelson or Christchurch, myself included, leaving once-beloved childhood friends for the firing line of fourth form resentment. You know the type—the ones who, after enduring a year of torture at the hands of sadistic fourth formers, deem the only reasonable option to be to pass on the legacy of pain. There were stories of daily firing squads, the hurling of apples at any third former who dared eat their lunch in public. I was fortunate enough to miss this sadism, as I was holed up in Christchurch, but regularly returned to Blenheim during holidays to view the town through my somewhat opened eyes.

Essentially, what makes Blenheim so soul destroying is its near-complete lack of anything to do. The council set up a skate park, but that was soon taken over by hoodlums and boyracers. It was situated right next to the train station, which was the unofficial home base of the boyracer tribes. Their favourite pastime? Parking up next to their friends in the carpark, and sitting there, getting high, talking about their cars and other times they were high, for hours on end. Two Cars, One Night, minus the innocence, thrown into Groundhog Day. There was the sporting option too, but even that only managed to fill a Saturday afternoon.

The easiest way to keep yourself occupied in Blehneim, short of going to Top Town Cinema 3 constantly, was to get into drama. At least, that’s how I saw it. For one thing, productions in Blenheim were the unofficial breeding grounds for awkward boys and girls. I saw many a love blossom from the middling-to-terrible choruses of ‘Man of Steel’ or ‘Fame’. But the best part of small-town theatre was, of course, the drinking. If you’re from Blenheim, there’s a 50 per cent chance your parents either work in the wine industry, or are close friends with someone who does. There’s your ticket. Stealing bottles from the pantry, going to stay at someone else’s house after the ‘Production After Party’, and unleashing 15 years of pent-up boredom in a series of ridiculous teenage singalong drinking orgies. Unfortunately, even this gets tired quickly. People never give up their houses for drinking, and there are only so many drama friends to ‘pash’ before everything turns into monotony. Especially when said thespians are addicted to a steady diet of Pink Floyd, Zach Wylde and musicals. Even the most positive outlook is shaken when you show up to a Blenheim ‘party’, only to find your friends sitting in a dim room listening to a friend covering ‘Comfortably Numb’.

When this becomes the highest point of your week, you realise the sad truth for those stuck in Blenheim for their formative years: there really is nothing you can do to escape the soul-sucking boredom of a town whose idea of ‘creating activities’ is to build a tacky amphitheatre that has been almost completely unused in the five years since its creation. All you can do is find a niche, crawl into it, drink wine and read books until your day to escape comes. Leave as soon as you realise you can. DON’T STOP BELIEVING.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Dan says:

    Harsh Beavis. Blenheim is small enough for me to remember you singing along to “Comfortably Numb” with the rest of us drama kids. I agree its a giant retirement home and I am glad to be in Welly, but I don’t regret growing up there.

    Things do change. Your part of the older crew and I remember the blind hate at all other types of music, but the younger kids have opened up and listen to all sorts now. People have an open door policy because we have been kicked out of most the club rooms. The boy racers are now girl racers and they are few and far between because of petrol prices. When would you have ever been to the skate park anyway!? The “turds” are pretty safe at M.B.C now and have been since I was one. Chch to ESCAPE the sadism? If you get involved there is enough to do. You just have to find it. Beavis please don’t tell Blenheim to lock themselves away. Get out and get involved! Arts council, choir, rugby, rowing, hunting and fishing, theatre, and if you can’t think of anything take it to the Youth Council who will hear you out and try to make the changes you wish to make. The reason you had trouble finding things to do is because you didn’t look hard enough. Much love. See you at home.

  2. matthew says:

    beavs is gonna get fucked up lol

  3. k dawg says:

    lololol damn man lucky your bday party was pre-hateful article…btw couldnt help but feel yo pain

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