The Woman in the Red Beret
Around the corner from the Newtown New World is Newtown Avenue- a side street with a semi industrial feel and a lot going on. On one corner, sit the taxi drivers, usually occupying the park bench there, or leaning on taxis in tidy uniforms and smokes, keeping a watchful eye over the goings-on of their corner.
On the other side resides the long-standing Eastern food distributors with it’s baked taro in the window and ripe bananas staked out the front in big crates.
Looking further down the street, you can see a large mural like a rainbow paddle-pop painted on the side of a big line of two story pure grey concrete- garages with roller doors at road level, and flats on top.
It was here, in the only garage that was open, that I found the woman in the red beret.
Back in 1989, the woman in the red beret, aka Caron, was driving around New Zealand with her 12-year-old son Tim.
They were in a Hillman Superminx that Caron had bought for five hundred dollars.
They were looking for a place to live.
“The plan was that we were going to live where ever the car broke down”,
Caron told me
“…But the bloody thing never broke down!”
Driving down the gorge into Wellington city, a stone flicked up and cracked the windscreen.
“That’s Broken!” cried out Tim, and they have both been Wellingtonians ever since.
These days, Caron lives around the back and up above a tire workshop, in small apartment with one internal window looking down on the changing of tires.
Caron has done her time with convention when she’s had to though. When she first got to Wellington, the only jobs in the paper were for secretaries, so she enrolled at the Polytech and studied how to become one.
“I did stuff like that when I had to…I had to because I had a Son. And now…I don’t have to…I don’t need a fridge that tells me when the door is open…”
The book folding began on trains in England. Caron would fold old books into patterns and leave them on the train for whoever happened to pick them up.
“My whole philosophy behind doing them is that it’s way of honouring and treasuring the book…”
“…I was given a Kindle for my birthday…and I’m a book lover from way back- the smell and the touch… I was actually quite scathing towards things like Kindles. But now…I absolutely love it”…
She now gets that tactility from her folding.
Getting her hands on old books isn’t a problem. People are getting rid of them by the box-load…
“Old Readers Digests are good. Not the best in terms of literature, but they’ve got a good hard back so they stand up.”
Caron tells me that she’s lived a ‘fragmented’ life, and that the fragments seem to occur on the decade, or there-abouts. She had Tim when she was twenty, went to the UK when she was thirty, became a student at University for the second time when she was forty, and went overseas again when she turned fifty.
This year on the first of November, Caron turns sixty, and will be launching her website so that she can sell her work online.
One day, Caron will get bored with book folding, she tells me, and will move on to something else.
When I asked her what that something else might be and she shrugged her shoulders.
I left the garage- the only one open in a long line of garages- and left Caron to her book folding.
Back down on the corner the taxi drivers were taking the piss out of each other for falling asleep in their cars, and an old man with a big grey beard, worn-out suit jacket and woollen hat decorated with the Tino rangatiratanga flag, had taken up residence on that park bench.