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.


Frock n roll

The Auckland Museum had an open day. It wasn’t very well run, and this was evident right from the beginning when a volunteer directed a man to the women’s toilets. Fortunately a member of the public told him where he should actually be heading, but that didn’t stop another slightly confused-looking man emerging from the ladies loos, probably wondering what sort of strange unisex toilets the museum had.

For $10, men and ladies could go on a behind-the-scenes tour. This seemed to involved following a yellow line on the ground. At first I thought the line was guiding visitors to the start of the tour, but then I realised that the line was the tour. Every now and then were printed sheets with various bits of information, but it was hard to tell if the places that the yellow line travelled through were noteworthy parts of the museum or just ways of getting from one noteworthy place to another.

Fortunately the yellow tape eventually lead to some interesting places. It lead me right into the middle of the courtyard (or what is left of it), and in the midst of the construction of the new bit, which so far is like a giant cone that’s been plonked down in the middle of the courtyard. There was lots of metal and concrete, which pleased me because those are my two favourite construction materials.

Eventually the yellow line lead me out the back door of the museum. Apparently they’ve put an underground car park out the back, which is a fairly impressive feat.

Out the back was a sausage sizzle that seemed to be surrounded by more volunteers than public. There was no indication if the sausages were for the public, and if so, what they cost, and the old lady I asked initially couldn’t understand what I was asking, and then finally took a long time to construct an answer to my yes or no question. I bet the Raglan museum’s fund-raising efforts aren’t this disorganised.

I finally escaped the yellow tape and went back into the museum and found the Zambesi exhibition. It was its last day, so I was glad to have seen it.

There was a collection of famous New Zealand ladies’ favourite Zambesi outfits and a little blurb about each one. Bic Runga wrote about how she likes to dress up when going into the recording studio, Fiona Pardington blahed on about Joy Division and a catsuit she wore on a date with her “lover”, but the best was Danielle Cormack’s mid-90s tale of being so empowered by her awesome Zambesi outfit that she went drunkenly skateboarding down Franklin Road, with skirt-shredding consequences.

The other part of the Zambesi exhibition was a collection of various garments from the last 20 years or so. They were displayed on armless, hairless, accessoryless mannequins. Strangely, the skinny-arse mannequins ended up making many of the clothes look too big (sometimes in shops they bulldog clip clothes tighter so they’ll fit the underweight mannequins). They might have been better off using coathangers.

The concrete was good, the frocks were good, but the yellow tape was frustrating.


To commemorate Anzac Day, I ate Anzac biscuits on Anzac Ave.

After that I wandered down the hill and up the other side to the museum. I think Anzac day is the only day the museum’s compulsory donation is waived, so, woohoo, I saved $5. I spent most of my time there looking around on the third floor.

The Colonial Auckland display has always been once of my favourites. When I was little I used to go into the haberdashery and pretend that I was a 1860s lady buying several yards of the purple fabric with flowers on it, then, OMG, suddenly I was transported forward in time to the 1980s and was very confused and lost. Like “Freaky Friday”, but nowhere near as cool.

I know a fellow who claims to have had a root in Colonial Auckland.

Then I wandered through the Scars On The Heart section. The bits that always get me are the holocaust gallery, the quote from the man who says that when he returned from the war no one ever asked him what it was like, and the walls of names. So many names.

There’s also the spectacular wall in the World War 2 section that has a giant swastika painted on it. It’s such a powerful image. It’s just so full of energy and strength. I felt oppressed standing next to it. The giant sun of the Japanese flag felt more embracing and warm.

I also like how the memorial alcove for the New Zealand Wars has had the metal letters that formerly said “MAORI WARS” changed to “NEW ZEALAND WARS”. It feels like a bit of denial of history. The new letters are a little wobbly, and the marks in the marble where the old letters were attached are still visible.

I had a look around the cenotaph in front of the museum. There was a selection of flowers and wreaths from various organisations and countries. St John’s Ambulance had a card with their flowers that just had their logo and slogan “The first to care”. It seemed quite inappropriate, almost offensive at that time. Surely the family and friends of the soldiers are the first to care – because they are always caring?

Later Dylzno rang me up. He was in town, bored, so I recommended that he see “The Good Girl”. A couple of hours later he rang back saying that I should have warned him about Tim Blake Nelson’s penis. Ah ha ha.