I had to go to Auckland for work, so I included an adjacent weekend in my plans to revisit old Aucklandtown.
I was going to go to bed but suddenly my roboawesome detectors sensed that out there Something Was Happening. Using the powers of Twitter, I realised that there was a senior citizen punk gig at the Bacco Room, so I threw on my punk trousers and went there.
The gig was called Auckland Tonight and was in honour of Stephen Marsden, the dearly departed singer of early ’80s punk/new wave band The Androidss, and indeed the author of their song “Auckland Tonight”, a song that could only have been written by a band from outside Auckland.
I arrived in time to see The Spelling Mistakes, and was delighted to witness them play “Feels So Good”. How delighted?
@robyngallagher In a hot, basement punk bar. Just saw the Spelling Mistakes play Feels So Good. #happy
The Androidss took to the stage and gleefully, lovingly worked their way through some punk classics. I was getting tired so I left and didn’t see them play “Auckland Tonight”, but that didn’t matter cos I was already in Auckland tonight.
On the way out, I was stopped by a young man from Manchester and his Kiwi cousin, who demanded to know my thoughts on whether having an ego was a bad thing or not. I could have lectured them on the evils of the ganja, but instead I answered their questions (though what I said I cannot recall), and amazed myself and the Manc by identifying his accent before I knew where he was from. I blame Robbie Williams.
I went to the Takapuna Market with Dylz, Mel and their two manchilds. The markets specialities are fresh food, cheap Chinese goods, and expired foods (hey, all that sugar in candy, it’s sort of preserving it so it won’t ever go off, right?).
We wandered about, learnt of a scuffle that had happened earlier in the day (lesson learned: you don’t say things about that guy’s wife, OK?), I had a coffee but had to queue behind a racist, anti-immigration lady, and generally enjoyed a lovely morning in Takapuna, which is not something that I had thought possible.
On the bus heading over the bridge, I looked at the city unfolding in front of the beautiful blue autumn sky. I couldn’t quite work it out, but despite seeming like it should have been a perfect, uplifting cityscape, it felt a bit drab, empty and devoid of people. Maybe I just needed to wait for a golden sunset.
I headed over to the museum. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything new on (I was in between major exhibitions), but I hadn’t seen Hillary’s axe before. But all that did was manage to trigger a burst of existential angst: Hillary was 34 when he climbed Everest. I am 34. What have I done with my life, etc.
I stopped by the burger joint that’s now filling the gap where Brazil used to live. It’s far too bright and cheerful now, with students lunching their instead of Brazil-era junkies thawing out in the morning sun.
Next I was alerted to awesomeness at Auckland Gallery from Miss City, the cupcake queen.
The gallery had an exhibition of the works of Yinka Shonibare, a British artist who does a lot of work involving bright fabric crossed with dandyism. Oh, I like!
As part of the exhibition, the Auckland Craft Bomb group were doing some embroidery and making fabric badges. So I picked out some orange and green floral corduroy and got right into it.
I stayed at the Quadrant hotel. The foyer smelt liked roses and had a long walkway running to the lifts, lit with purple light.
The room was less fancy, and indeed seemed to have been built with the idea of “If this hotel thing doesn’t work out, we can always be student accommodation”, but in its hotel form it was still good.
The room had a DVD player, and while I could have rented BMX Bandits from the hotel, instead I bought season two of the totally gay IT Crowd and Snuff Box. Seriously, snuggling up in bed to the whole series of Snuff Box is pleasure.
On Monday I had to move to another hotel near work. In theory it seemed fancy, but the room reminded me of my friend’s parents’ bedroom from the ’80s, the heater wouldn’t heat, the telly was staticy, it smelt like stale cigarette smoke oh, but at least it had a bath.
And that day marked one year since I moved to Wellington and yet there I was, stuck in dull hotel room, leaving me feeling all full of malaise. I didn’t want to be in Auckland any more. I wanted to be right back in Wellington, even if it was being disturbed by thunder, lightning and hail. (Not that I’ve ever been scared of a hearty thunder storm… yet).
I realised that the Auckland I left a year ago no longer exists. Occasionally I might feel like I miss Auckland, but it’s not so much a feeling for a place as a feeling for situations (that no longer exist) people (who have equally changed).
I still get an odd feeling of connection and excitement around Newton (or, at least, the parts that weren’t eaten by the motorway) but even that’s more about perception than reality.
Now I can only deal with Auckland as someone who used to live there and someone who now visits it, like visiting an old boyfriend and wondering, “Hey, I used to love you and now I don’t but I don’t ever remember falling out of love.” It just happened.