Auckland tonight

I had to go to Auckland for work, so I included an adjacent weekend in my plans to revisit old Aucklandtown.

Saturday night

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.

Sunday morning

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.

Key ring

Sunday afternoon

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.

Sunday evening

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.

Room with one of those looking landscape things

And then

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.

Your mum's bedroom

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.



I went to the Auckland Art Gallery yesterday because it was a Sunday and I wasn’t working. (Oh, I’ve been working lately, baby. I’m been working.)

The main art gallery building was restricted to a few ground-floor galleries because the rest is shut off in preparation for the coming expansion – they’re going to pull down the cool 1970s part and replace it with a giagantor extension. Yeah, architecture from the ’70s isn’t quite heritagey enough to be kept.

Unloved, unwanted

The art on display there was mainly a sort of greatest hits selection, including plenty of Goldies and Lindauers for the tourists. It was all a bit boring, but the Love Chief exhibition (brilliant name) tickled me greatly, which I think was its intention.

Over the road at the New Gallery, there was Likeness & Character, a selection of portraits, including Tony Fomison’s The Ponsonby Madonna, right there, in my face. Lovely.

It all got me thinking about the art of self-portraiture. There’s a lot of it going on these days what the craft of the digital camera self-portrait – hold the camera at arm’s length, look seductively down the lens, and snap. But I’ve seen self-portraits done this way that are more than just a quickie taken for a Facebook profile. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops. (A Flickr search sez: “We found 6,091 groups about self and portrait.”

Upstairs at the New Gallery was Making Worlds, which seemed to be primarily geared towards a “Hey kidz! Art is kewl!!!” audience, but managed to be rather interesting for senior citizens such as myself.

There was a collection of Eugene Carchesio’s decorated matchboxes, with an activity table where visitors could decorate their own one. A gallery attendant told me that they had to keep putting aside matchboxes that were too rude for the family-friendly theme. Cocks in the boxes were a particular problem. Well, there’s a whole exhibition theme right there. I made a family-friendly cockless box.

Red Hot 2

My favourites from Making Worlds were Callum Morten’s International Style 1999 – a miniature replica of Mies van der Rohes’ Farnsworth House – showing the spooky side of Modernism, and curtains.

And I also liked Chiho Aoshima‘s City Glow animation. A five-screen-wide journey through a lush city where snake-like buildings squirm amongst the flowers. And it had an awesome gothic graveyard scene.

I walk past the Art Gallery all the time, but I hardly ever go in. I shall have to do this more often, because there is so much good stuff there.

Also, oh, it’s New Year’s Eve. How’d that get here so fast?

Du jour

When I was in London I was walking down Fleet Street on a Sunday afternoon and I was amazed at how quiet it was. There was hardly anyone around. It was liked Hamilton on a Sunday, back in the ’80s before Sunday trading started. I remember thinking that New Zealand was so much cooler because all the shops were open on Sundays.

Then today I was in and around Queen Street and remembered that, actually, it’s only really places like malls that are open on Sundays (and public holidays like today) and that Queen Street gets just as quiet and empty as Fleet Street.

I went to the Auckland Art Gallery and the New Gallery, both of which had free admission. I mostly looked at “Flaunt,” an exhibition about clothes and stuff. It was ok, but, um, kinda boring.

The New Gallery pissed me off so much. The very first thing was this trolley with a TV screen showing some stupid image and a speaker making a really loud noise. It was so annoying and it made me really angry. The annoying noise echoed around the ground floor, ruining the rest of the art. Upstairs the annoying noise could still be heard, but it was partly obscured by a player piano that was playing various tunes. I managed to relax and take in more of the art upstairs than I had downstairs.

But when I left I realised that even though the horrible loud thing had all but ruined the New Gallery experience for me, I had experienced more of a reaction than I had at the quieter, nicer exhibit in the Art Gallery. And I like that.

On the way along Queen Street to the bus stop I picked up the best of Blur videos on DVD for very cheap. It serves two purposes. 1) A collection of Blue videos, most of which are really good. I especially like the one for “There’s no other way,” which magnificently visually represents the nothingness of the lyrics with a suburban family dinner. 2) Alex James porn. The floppy fringe, the cheekbones, the chain-smoking in the “Beetlebum” video. So cool, so hot.

I’ve also realised that if I were to see the Strokes when they perform at Big Day Out next year I might actually scream like a 14 year old. But that would be fun.