Category Archives: Climbing

So Mote It Be

Among the many artefacts left behind at the closure of this masonic centre, one of the more interesting was a typed script for a masonic ceremony. Attempting to decode the script with its mysterious redactions and abbreviations was a fun challenge. It appears that a candidate for a degree of freemasonry is given the role of Third Sojourner in a play acted out over the chessboard-tiled floor. Three sojourners have recently come out of captivity in Babylon, and offer their masonry skills acquired during forced labour to the Sanhedrin – an assembly of Jewish rabbis – to assist with building the second temple of Solomon. After convincing the Sanhedrin of their genuine intentions, they are employed and dispatched to the site of the build. They are given rudimentary tools – a pickaxe, shovel and crowbar, safety ropes and explicit instructions to keep secret any artefacts they uncover from Solomon’s first temple, which according to Jewish tradition was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BCE. Unsurprisingly, they do make a string of discoveries in a plot as preordained as an episode of CSI: a pickaxe loosens up the earth and reveals a hollow sound beneath; a shovel clears away the earth to uncover the crown of a stone arch; its central keystone has a ring attached; a crowbar happens to perfectly fit that ring and allows the keystone to be lifted to reveal an engraving on it signposting a path to hidden treasure; lots are drawn to determine which sojourner descends into the dark cavity with the rope “cable tow” around his waist in case he meets danger and needs to be hauled up by his companions; the air he finds below is indeed poisonous and the dark is pervasive, so they wait for the illumination of the rising sun and the dissipation of the foul air; the second sojourner descends and retrieves a scroll (which according to another online source is the last remaining copy of a book of holy law hidden during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem); the three sojourners bind themselves to secrecy, and led by the third sojourner they make one final descent as the sun reaches its high meridian; they find a beautiful subterranean chamber and another arch made of marble, banners bearing names, and other peculiar “signs”.

As the three sojourners close up the vault, obscure its point of entry, and resolve to return the scroll, a hand drawing of the underground chamber and word of their other discoveries to the Sanhedrin, they demonstrate values and practices considered worthy of a freemason. In many respects these values and practices are not dissimilar to the ways of urban explorers. We understand the thrill of discoveries made while fossicking through the forgotten, dark cavities of the modern city. We too make sure the whole crew gets out safe. Like freemasons we swear each other to secrecy, albeit somewhat less formally. And we can also exhibit a similar tribalism founded on knowledge mindfully shared and withheld.

 

Advertisements

Dreamspun Sherpa

It was a Monday night: the 18th of March, 1946. Forgoing the novelty of home television, including Caspar The Friendly Ghost, the audience travelled in to the heart of the town, found their seats, and fell into a rapt hush as the house lights came down. Joe Houlihan led with a roll on the timpani, Vince Burke chimed in on the newly-tuned grand piano, and Frank Parsons and Kelly Kydd entered into a sensual dance between the violin and the trumpet, respectively.

It was “The Amazing . . . “ according to graffiti pencilled onto the bricks that form a passageway leading from constriction to unknown vastness above. The remainder of the show’s title, of that night, and of the following 73 years, has surrendered itself to time.

In 2019, forgoing modern cinematic entertainment rumbling through the walls, three individuals began in the rabbit warren of basement rooms where presumably the stars of yesteryear prepared themselves. Slowly and quietly they explore their way up to the stage, where a painted hypermodern cityscape complete with nuclear reactor looms large on the back wall. Projection detritus litters the stage floor. An arch – both humble and imposing – through which the audience once entered pays tribute to the Italian Renaissance and serves as a reminder that all the world’s a stage. A wooden ladder of unknown provenance looks just sturdy enough, propped up against a side wall. The rest is history.

Above The Glass

A couple of old chimneys tower over an abandoned glass factory near the village of Krushevo, in the municipality of Sevlievo, in Gabrovo Province, northern central Bulgaria. Gunner thanks his generous and kind hosts, Nicola Miller and Jonathan Taylor.

Bye Bye Tip Top

A longstanding employee of Tip Top’s bakery in Wellington succinctly documents personal and professional concerns in the year of its closure. A bakery had existed on the site since the early 1900s: originally Denhard Bakeries before the property and business were sold to George Weston Foods (NZ) in the 1950s. Tip Top’s shuttering of the plant appears to have been actioned swiftly. On Tuesday 30th September, 2008, staff were gathered and informed of the imminent closure, with the final bake coming less than three weeks later on Sunday 19th October.

 

The Mansion

Built out of New Zealand native kauri wood in 1899 and the largest structure in New Zealand around in its time, this grand mansion is slated for demolition following extensive earthquake damage.

The mansion was built lavishly both inside and out for a Scottish immigrant Allan McLean, and its beauty is resounding even in its currently dilapidated state. McLean donated his mansion to women’s education upon his death, a worthy cause – we hope McLean’s can eventually be restored and not demolished.

Exploring one of Christchurch’s last grand mansions still standing brought emotions of amazement and sadness as we looked around its unique beauty and its so-far-decided future, demolition.

 

 

 

Undercity – House beneath the hotel

Until finding this place, I had no idea there was any kind of undercity in Wellington (drains notwithstanding).
It seems this hulking highrise luxury hotel has been built directly on top of an old house which is accessible from a dank ledge perched beneath the overhead colossus. Supporting columns sprout from the floors and pigeons seem to have taken up residence in this old home. Given Wellington’s tectonic nature, this was somewhat of an uneasy location to explore – but a very cool one nonetheless.

I’m not sure what the motivation was here in not demolishing the house, perhaps it was impossible to do so given some heritage protection – so the developers may have just worked “around” the problem…

Some old hotel paperwork hint at the house being previously accessible from the hotel above – but now any such route has been sealed over and the only access is via a a climb through a trash, rat and sewage filled dead space between buildings.