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This article is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Wellington in the 1950s: a literary recollection Peter Bland

When I first emigrated to New Zealand in 1954 at the age of nineteen, I left England as an 'assisted immigrant' or 'ten pound pom', agreeing to work for the NZ government for two years in whatever job they decided was suitable. The scheme still had its origins in the earlier Victorian concept of the bonded labourer and smacked of servitude. Certainly, we immigrants quickly bonded together, conscious of being surplus to postwar British requirements and downgraded, for breeding purposes, as exports to the colonies. We were heavily indoctrinated during the voyage with NZ government information films and supervised by a bevy of Master-at-Arms as to our relationships with the opposite sex. On arrival, we were given our working orders and escorted to the nearest immigrant barracks. I mention these experiences more as facts than grievances. A sense of adventure, of freedom from old social restraints, and the excitement of those daily discoveries inherent in being in 'a new land', offset much of the bleakness that seemed to haunt that tiny highly conformist Welfare State, awkwardly isolated between Antarctica and the South Pacific.

All new countries are experienced as being somewhat surreal by settlers from an older land. The sudden change of lifestyle and location brings with it a dislocation that both excites and disturbs. The ordinary seems extraordinary. Normality is on edge…

Those whales at the end of the street
eels in the drains, the lemon tree's
buttery flames - these

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