Is This the Coolest Information Centre Ever?

Matamata Hobbiton Information Centre

This is the tourist information centre in Matamata, a town in the Waikato Region of New Zealand. Why does it look so awesome, you ask? Well, this is the town’s other, unofficial name…

welcome to hobbiton, matamata

Matamata was rebranded as Hobbiton following the filming of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. The home of the hobbits was built on a farm just outside the town. Of course, you can visit the set and it’s completely wonderful – read my account of it here!

Matamata Information Centre

The information centre is the most interesting thing in the Matamata CBD, to be honest. Unless you count a shoe shop called Strider and this pub…

gollum, matamata

Not that there’s nothing else to do around Matamata. The Firth Tower Museum looks like it’s worth a visit, as do the Daltons Plantation Gardens. Also, the Kamai Cheese Factory isn’t far away.

Matamata Information Centre

The attention to detail around the outside of the information centre is impressive. I wish, somewhere in New Zealand, there was a pub like it. The inside, though, is just a regular information centre, albeit with more than the usual focus on Lord of the Rings-based merchandise. And this statue, which is pretty cool…

gollum statue

Down the road from the information centre, there’s a café called Dew Drop Inn that’s perfect for Lord of the Rings fans. The inside is decorated like Bag End…

Bag End, Dew Drop Inn, Matamata

And this is the outside…

Dew Drop Inn, Matamata

They even have a costume rack, so you can dress up as a hobbit as you sip your tea from one of their darling, little cups.


So, that’s Matamata: a small town made magical by association with Lord of the Rings. Do you think it’s got the coolest information centre ever, or do you know of somewhere that’s got an even cooler one?


P.S. I’ve just had a short story published in Breach, a magazine devoted to sci-fi, dark fantasy and horror. My story is called The Girl, the Cat and the Goblins, and you can read it for just $1.99 here.

The Glass Ballerina

My skin crawled with sweat as I wrestled the tinsel around the tree. I was only wearing a slip, but summer had come hard. I sighed and dug through the bag of decorations: relics of my childhood in England. Every year, Grandpa would take my sister and I to a special shop heaving with the spirit of Christmas; every year, we were allowed to choose two new tree ornaments each. The result was a wonderful, eclectic mess.

To my child’s mind, the shop had been truly magical. It was so filled with shiny things that time and space had seemed distorted within it. Choosing just two decorations was always a trial, but I’ll never forget the year I found the glass ballerina.

Back then, I dreamed of being a ballerina. (I wasn’t yet lonely enough to dream of being a writer.)

The glass ballerina had me immediately enchanted. She was beautiful. I made a stage for her on the palm of my hand as she hung from her display. She was delicate and clear, like an ice sculpture, balancing on the point of one slipper.

She wasn’t actually glass; she was plastic, but I didn’t realise that at the time, and she was forever glass to me.

Every year from then, when we were decorating the tree, my glass ballerina was the first ornament I looked for. It was the first ornament I looked for now, sweating under the New Zealand sun. I found her and fished her out, only to see that the foot she balanced on had broken off.

I searched for it to no avail. Indeed, I found that many of the decorations we’d bought back in England were broken.

I wasn’t surprised. Plastic degrades, and they were all two decades old, give or take a few years. It was just more evidence of my life in England crumbling under the relentless onslaught of time.

I put them on the tree anyway. You couldn’t tell they were broken from a distance.

Why Do Kiwis Suck at Asking People Out?

For years, I thought that awkward tiptoeing around was how everybody did it. Everyone was dithering and clueless when it came to asking people out.

American sitcoms made it look easy, but they represented a fantasy. No one was actually like that.

Then I went back to England for the first time in years. I was shocked – genuinely taken aback – by how forward the guys were. They simply asked.

Now, if you’re an American, (or indeed any other nationality,) you probably find the idea of British blokes being forward laughable. Brits, surely, are the quintessential examples of awkwardness?

Well, compared to New Zealanders, they’re smooth-talking Casanovas.

Italian Renaissance Garden Hamilton

I thought maybe I was mistaken. Maybe it was just the guys I fancied.

But no.

Lots of people I’ve talked to think the same.

I was talking to an American guy at uni. He was confused that a certain Kiwi girl thought he liked her, even though he hadn’t made any moves in her direction.

“If I wanted to go on a date with her, I’d ask,” he said.

I did my best to explain that she probably wasn’t used to guys just asking, and not because she was undesirable.

Out of all the boyfriends I’ve had growing up in New Zealand, for example, only two came straight out and asked me. (The rest were a result of me asking them out, or of the awkward tiptoeing around I mentioned before.) In fact, the only guys who have overtly and confidently flirted with me have been either British, Indian or American.

Oh, wait, there was that one guy – a complete stranger – who stood at the end of my driveway and – without preamble – asked for my number when I walked past him. I was confused as to why a complete stranger would want my number, and when I refused to give it to him, he called me a bitch. He was Kiwi.

Now I’m not of the old-fashioned mindset that it should be up to the guy to ask the girl out. Kiwi girls are almost as bad at asking, despite them supposedly being the most promiscuous females on the planet. According to one rather unscientific survey done by Durex a few years ago, Kiwi women rack up considerably more bedpost notches on average than Kiwi men. Then, more recently, there was that pathetic MRA-produced article about how Kiwi women are ‘the worst’.

In general, Kiwis suck at asking people out, but why is that?

Is it because they’re too shy? Because they fear the embarrassment of rejection? Because they think they’re not good enough?

I think it’s an extension of the good old Tall Poppy Syndrome that Kiwis are famous for. As a result, Kiwis are so afraid of appearing arrogant that they can’t allow themselves to assume that anyone fancies them.

Don’t get me wrong: being humble is a positive thing. It’s definitely more attractive than the opposite. But do you really have to dither quite so much?