Blackball is just another tiny town in the middle of the hills – but it has a curiosity, the Blackball Hotel. ‘Formerly the Blackball Hilton’, because for a while it was known as The Blackball Hilton. The name was an ironic pun – a local joke in a tiny town in the middle of absolutely nowhere. How did it come to the attention of the Hilton chain and provoke them to take legal action? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the town is the birthplace of the New Zealand Labour movement following a famous miners’ strike. The miners have long since gone, but the spirit lives on in the current owners.

Formerly the Blackball Hilton

That said, there’s ‘humorous punchy’ and there’s ‘just plain bolshie’. When I visited all I found was a dreary dirty pub festooned with old Labour and Communist party banners, with a miserable woman at the bar who brushed aside my cheeriness with ‘why on earth are you here?’ I tried explaining that I’d I read the story in the guidebook and thought ‘that sounds rather jolly – they’re obviously people who like a joke’, but she was having none of it. Clearly reading guide books and touring the country in Toyota Corollas was just more evidence of my capitalist wickedness. I drank a bad cup of coffee and got out as fast as I could.