Welcome to RedbankJames WineBlog – Rosemary McLeod

Another thing I rarely do is go to art gallery openings. I used to love Peter McLeavey’s openings (so to speak) in Wellington’s Cuba Street because Peter himself is such a delightful eccentric. I always remember Chris Hampson (Hamster) took Simon Carr along to one in the early eighties, before Simon became the ACT Party darling, and Simon said to Chris, “This is all very impressive, dear chap, but tell me, who’s the man wearing the carpet?” It was Peter. Another lovely Simon/Chris moment was when Chris introduced Simon to an advertising guy called Pat Cox. “Oh dear chap, is that his name,” said Simon, “I thought it was what he does.” True stories, but I digress.

Yesterday was truly dire, weather wise, out here in the vineyard, necessitating a great pause in the midst of pruning the Pinot Noir. Into a howling southerly I went up the hills to find Smitty, whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of days, to check his cover hadn’t slipped around his neck (when he stands in a corner thinking, duh, what do I do now?) and to feed him. Talk about sideways rain – I had to crouch down and cling to the grass to save being blown off the hill. Real Cap’n Oates stuff. But that’s what I love about living in the country – even when the weather’s truly ghastly it’s no privation to rug up warm and get out into it. Makes you feel so, I don’t know, noble.

So after cleaning up I checked the Rimutaka Hill road was open and headed in to Wellington to break the habit of half a lifetime and attend an art exhibition opening. But this wasn’t just any exhibition – it’s Rosemary McLeod’s art at Bowen Galleries. The title of the exhibition is “We Can Be Heroes” and it runs until 26 July. I didn’t know what to expect, but ever since I was an 18-year-old journalism student on work experience at Auckland’s “Eve” magazine I have liked, admired, and yes, occasionally vehemently disagreed, with Rosemary. Essentially, though, I will always be grateful to this woman who, even back then in 1970 was a leading New Zealand journalist and writer, but nevertheless was kind and helpful to this gauche, self-conscious, eager and clumsy wannabe. I’ll never be an artist, but I’ve put out a few books and know the terror of an approaching launch, so I thought I’d turn up to support Rosemary.

Well, the exhibition is a triumph. Rosemary, a textile nutcase, is so blimmin’ clever – she’s witty, funny, has oodles of style, literate and, unlike most journalists, has a good sense of New Zealand history. All this is shown in her art. Do go, and be impulsive like me and buy.

I can’t wait for the exhibition to end so I can bring home my purchase – called the Baxter Apron (a hessian, I think, apron with a James K Baxter quote embroidered on it) – I shall proudly hang it on the wall of my new house. It sort of symbolises the completed circle of my life in a way – from crazy mixed-up hippie to contented happy housewife. Congratulations, Rosemary McLeod, not the least for proving journalists don’t always have to be one dimensional.

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