Easter in Raglan

It was a twice-in-a-century occurrence. This year Easter Monday came the day before Anzac day, meaning a hearty five days in a row off work. Planning ahead I took annual leave on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afterwards, giving me a total of ten days in which I was free to stuff around doing nothing.

There was only one place where stuffing around could be done. Yes, it was Raglan.

Raglan, or Raggiz, is a small town located on the edge of Raglan Harbour. It is world famous for its excellent surf beaches, and a visit to Raglan was made in the excellent 1966 classic surfing film, “The Endless Summer”.

So off to Raglan I went. I set myself up in my whanau’s newly-acquired beach house. The previous owner seemed to have some sort of suburban granny flat fetish, as that is what the decor reminded me of, but after removing the net curtains (“Oh my God! There’s beautiful native bush and spectacular views of Raglan Harbour out there!”), the place began to feel more like a place where sitting around doing nothing was the thing to do.

I didn’t have my car with me, so if I wanted any supplies I had to walk into the township. It took me about 20 minutes, and along the way I was able to take in some lovely scenery, and check out all the insane people who live there.

People who live in Raglan are usually either retired or unemployed (not much difference there). Raglan attracts unemployed people from Hamilton because housing is cheaper and if you’re unemployed because you can’t make a living as an artist, there are plenty of people in similar situations. I shan’t comment further on Raglan’s artistic community, other to say that one of the leading artists is a fellow who runs an online gallery, but who thinks that animated gifs are good.

Apparently Raglan is slowly being overrun by holiday makers. Latte drinking yuppies. Wankers in Alfa Romeos. But where do you suppose they get their lattes from? Why, the local cafes and restaurants of Raglan!

Vinnie’s World of Eats is the best eating place. There are the two cafes, Tongue and Groove and Molasses, the restaurant at the Raglan Hotel, the Marlin (which serves really nice food if you don’t mind waiting an incredibly long time for it), and the Raglan Centennial Milk Bar and Cabaret. The Centennial is a sort of bar and cool bands come to Raglan and play there.

The rest of the shops down Raglan’s main street are pretty skanky. Most serve a duel purpose. Chemist/Lotto Shop, Bookshop/Skanky Gift Shop, and not to mention $5 Max Mr Max which sells a little bit of everything. The best shop is the Raglan Surf shop which sells cool surfing stuff.

On the last day of my holiday I had my car back so I drove out to Manu Bay and sat and watched some surfers surfing. Looking out to the Tasman Sea, it made me realise that in a city like Auckland that has two harbours, it’s not actually possible to see the open sea from anywhere. There’s either islands or headland in the way. But at Raglan the seemingly endless open ocean can be seen. It rules.

Shortland Street

For the past seven years or so I have heard people talk a lot about Shortland Street. Apparently it’s quite popular, but no one will actually admit to liking it.

Well, I’m a big fan. I dig Shortland Street. A lot’s gone on over the years, and I’ve made a fan page to show my appreciation for “The Street”.

Your ship sails into the harbour and onto a bay where anchor is set. You get in a row boat and row to shore and alight onto the wet, sandy beach of what is known as Commercial Bay. A small township is in front of you, behind it the land rises up into hills.

Straight ahead of you a road meanders out before rising up into the hills. This road, named after the sovereign head of the country, follows the path of a creek of water. It’s wet, muddy, slushy and smelly, and not at all pleasant to walk down.

To your left a road rises up a fairly steep hill. It leads up to a large piece of headland where a military fort has been established. At the top of this road, another road, named after the spouse of the monarch, runs off to the right leading to military barracks.

You choose to walk up this road as, even though it is steeper than the other road, is much drier and more pleasant. As you walk up the road you notice the large number of grog shops. “Har har!” you think to yourself.

Well that, my friends, is what Auckland was like in the early-mid nineteenth century. Queen Street was the muddy road, Commercial Bay is now the land from Fort Street down to the waterfront. The headland, Point Britomart was chopped down to be used as landfill. The road going along to the barracks is Princes Street, and the road with all the grog shops going up the hill. Why yes, its the one and only Shortland Street.

At one time Shortland Street was Auckland busiest street. Shortland Crescent, as it was originally known, was the centre of Auckland’s business district. However a fire in 1858 destroyed much of the buildings in Shortland Street and businesses chose to relocate to Queen Street whose creek had since been piped underground.

The street itself was named by Mr Felton Mathew, the first surveyor general. He named it after Lieutenant Willoughby Shortland. Lieutenant Shortland came to New Zealand to be the police magistrate dude, but became Colonial Secretary when the New Zealand government was started in 1841. He was a wanker. No one liked him.

At one time the ocean-side of upper Shortland Crescent was more or less a cliff edge. There was concern that people (possibly patrons of one of the many grog shops) could fall off it. Today we don’t have that worry as there are a number of buildings, including the inspirational studios but more on them later.

The street was originally a crescent and indeed it was crescent-shaped as it extended down the piece of road that is now the western half of the Emily Place fork.

Incidentally, the little triangley-shaped park called Emily Reserve was once the site of St Paul’s church. At the time it was built it was about half a kilometre away from the sea. Then Point Britomart was chopped down and suddenly the church was on the edge of a cliff. Uh-oh. So it was eventually pulled down and a new church built on Symonds Street. The space left was turned into Emily Reserve and more cliff was chopped away to form a road that ran down to Customs Street. Anyway, I’m guessing that when this happened Shortland Crescent became Street.

One good thing about Shortland Street is it has a lot of cool old buildings. There’s the dark brown brick studio building. Formerly radio, then TV, now it’s owned by Auckland University and is going to be turned into a performing arts school type place (“You got big dreams? Well Shortland Street costs, and right here is where you start paying – with sweat.). There’s that choice big building on the corner of High Street and the foxy Jean Batten State Building on across the street. On the other High Street corner is De Brett’s hotel.

In around 1960 De Brett’s was refurbished by Dominion Breweries. To celebrate this a booklet titled “The Saga of Shortland Street” was published. It is an interesting read, especially when the author keeps whinging about how steep Shortland Street is:

“I put off visiting the site of the old St Paul’s for several days before finally I squared my shoulders, popped an anginine tablet into my mouth and set out from the Hotel De Brett to make the climb to the top of the hill. With frequent stops to regain my breath, I reached the tiny park in Emily Place in about 12 minutes, grateful that over the years the hill has been graded to more reasonable proportions[.]”

To which the comment “you bloody whinging slack-arse” must surely be appropriate. I’ve walked up Shortland Street before and I didn’t require any anginine tablets (whatever they are) and I didn’t bloody well need to make any stops along the way. I timed myself walking up the street and from Queen Street to the memorial at Emily Reserve took me just over four and a half minutes. That author also asserts that Shortland Street is nicknamed “Coronary Hill”. Lies! Dammned lies, I say!

As well as cool old buildings there are also cool new buildings, the best being the newish Royal Sun Alliance building. It’s big and the top of the building has this big blue ring of light. It looks choice.

And the beloved grog shops. In 1842 a fellow by the name of Robert Graham wrote of Shortland Street:

“[T]he first shop is a grog shop; the next is Mr. McLennen’s; the third is a shoemaker; the forth is a baker; then a grog shop; next a pork stand; and then another grog shop. There seems to be a grog shop for every three of all other trades put together.”

Today other trades outnumber grog shops, but there are still a few bars along the street.

Shortland Street is a very pleasing road. I heartily encourage everyone to take a walk up or down it. And it’s not steep. It’s sloping. City Road is steep. Kitchener Street is steep, so stop complaining.

Now for a quote from one of my favourite bands, Mobile Stud Unit:

“All my friends live on Shortland Street.
Shortland Street! Shortland Street!”

Great North Road vs New North Road

There can be only one winner

There are a lot of cool roads in Auckland. Two of them are Great North Road and New North Road. I was thinking, if I had to chose between both of them, which one would I chose. Like if a gun was pointed at my head and I had to make a decision, which would it be? Great or New?

Great North Road

Let’s start by looking at Great North Road. It starts at the intersection where Karangahape Road intersects with Newton and Ponsonby Roads. It goes through a commercial area, which looks really good at night. Then it’s a strange area wedged between MOTAT and the zoo and the North Western motorway. Next it crosses under the motorway, and enters the suburb my AA Street Directory lists as “Waterview”. Next it works through Avondale. The next suburb is New Lynn where it passes Lynn Mall City. For all your bogan supplies. It goes on to the horrible suburb of Kelston, then onto Henderson where it stops in the heart of westie land. And so ends the Great North Road journey.

New North Road

Now onto New North Road. New North Road starts at the intersection of Symonds Street and Mt Eden Road. It goes down, then through a sort of concrete, uh, thing, then emerges in a light industrial area. Next it goes through really cool old buildings of Kingsland/Morningside. Then, keeping parallel with the railway line, it goes through Mt Albert. It finally ends when it intersects with Blockhouse Bay Road. However it should be noted that very close, connected only by St Judes Road, is Great North Road.

So which is the best?

Well, I think the answer is obvious. New North Road. Not only does New North Road have much cooler houses on it, but, unlike Great North Road, it doesn’t go to Henderson. Therefore, it is the best.

But, I hear you say, what about Great South Road? Whilst Great South Road is really long and straight and more South and the two Norths are North, it should be noted that it goes through some really horrible suburbs and ends up being a great big rural road. And the think that is what the Southern Motorway is for. Also, there’s no New South Road, so there’s another reason to not like it. And also, driving down Great South Road takes you that much closer to Hamilton, which is something to be avoided.

So if, in the near future, you find yourself wanting to go somewhere from the city to a sort of north-westerly direction, take New North Road. It rules.