Opinion: Baldwin Street is steeper because we’re on the bottom of the globe and it’s harder not to fall off

By Sam Neill

By Sam Neill

I was recently speaking with my pet pig, Angelica, about the wonders of science, and all the marvellous things it allows us to do with its zip-zappys and wing-wangeries.

“Angelica, dear,” I said in my rich pleather tones, honed from many years toiling in the theatre of the movies. “Angelica, did you know that we live on the very bottom of the globe?”

“Oink,” responded Angelica in her mellifluous grunt, honed from many years fossicking in the mud.

“Yes, Angelica,” I replied. “It is true.”

“And as such, we have to work extra hard just to stay on our feet. Why, there is very little to simply stop us from whizzing into the sky, which is actually downwards in Central Otago.”

Angelica worked a stray kernel of corn along her enchanting maw, considering this point.

“For you see, Angelica, here on this lonely isle between the great aisles of Tasman and El Pacifico, we are not just hamstrung by the tyranny of distance…”

I trailed off, peering at Angelica from the corner of my eye, watching for an amused look at my utterance of ‘hamstrung’. Angelica continued to inspect the mud betwixt her front trotters, but I could sense her appreciation.

“No, we also have the added burden of fighting the terrible lure of gravity itself. This is why it is often said we New Zealanders ‘punch above our weight,’ for if we were to punch below our weight, we would simply propel ourselves into the cosmos.”

Every molecule of Angelica’s very being was moved by my explanation, but particularly at this point her bowels.

Now, dear listener, let me explain to you the relevance of this story.

Today I was listening to the RNZ Programme as I sat astride my tractor, making BRRM BRRM noises, as I am wont to do on a typical Tuesday. And I heard tell of something terrible.

Baldwin Street, the Dunedin promenade renowned for its aggressive acclivity, was no longer the world’s steepest street. No, the title had supposedly been spirited away by Wales, home of dragons, reckless overuse of “w”s in words that should have no “w”s, and… Hopkins.

But, dear Taika, this is not a fair comparison.

Wales is on top of the world. It is far, far easier to get things done there, whether it be climbing a hill, or winning the role of Hannibal Lecter which really ought to have gone to a more dashing, talented and altogether impressive individual who had to work much harder just to stay connected to the very earth beneath his feet.

Ascending Baldwin Street, you do not just battle the gradient. No, you battle gravity in a way that a Welshman simply could not fathom, even though his vocation demands him to at least TRY and reckon with the complexities of the world, to adopt even a SEMBLANCE of professionalism.

So to say that a street in Wales is steeper than a street in New Zealand is to simply dodge adopting a level playing field, as it were.

Baldwin Street will always be steeper than a street in Wales because you have to work much harder climbing it, lest you fall into space.

And a New Zealand actor will always be better than a Welsh actor, because he was a goddamn triumph in Bicentennial Man.

Isn’t that right, Angelica?

“Oink,” she says. Oink indeed.