Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fierce Invalids Home from Lukewarm Climates

We were driving through Te Horo a handful of years ago, me and a couple of hitch-hikers I had picked up around Porirua, heading north to Auckland. Both were European backpackers, and as we cruised up State Highway One, the bloke would ask what the history of the place was. "Nothing of consequence," said I.

Strictly speaking, this was true. This wasn't Poland, doormat to a dozen conquering dynasties. But by the dozenth time this guy asking "What happened here?" as we zoomed through Te Horo, I plain admitted I had not a clue.

I had a flashback of 2001 in Oz (the We Went on Holiday by Mistake Tour as I now call it), when I was quizzed on the picaresque qualities of the Bay of Islands/ West Coast/ Ninety Mile Beach and illuminated my ignorance by saying I had never been to these places.

The hitch-hikers had gone their own way by that evening, but their curiosity gnawed at me for years. So I read. I read Edward Jerningham Wakefield and his Adventure in New Zealand. Rauparaha, a vague mash of childhood tales, came alive. I read on pre-colonial Maori. I read The Coming of the Maori by Te Rangi Hiroa. I read Michael King. And then I read some more.

The next foreign hitch-hiker who asks gets the full lecture. More importantly, the tardy education gave me a greater appreciation of the western coastline north of Wellington. Mana and Kapiti Islands now have deeper meaning. And it is into this land of Rauparaha that I now reside.

Auckland and I do not get on. This is the fourth attempt at living in Auckland that has failed miserably. Here's a sprinkling of lessons learned this time around:
  • There are too many Glens and too much godiness in Auckland. Glenfield, Glen Innes, Glen Eden, Glen, Glen bloody Glen! Is Glen Scottish for mall? The quantity of big box churches is a bit of worry, the fundamentalist vandals more so.
  • The Heineken Mastercard Rugby World Cup had better pour a truckload of business into Auckland, because Wednesday night down at the Viaduct right now looks grim.
  • West Auckland politics seems even more incestuous and crony broken than the rest of the city. The rich and wealthy thumb their noses at the laws, making fithy lucre at public expense. The liquor licensing boards pick winners and protect losers. The middle classes get hassled by the Council for minor pruning or attempting to plant a veggie garden. Want to do up the family home? Prepare your wallet for a conga line of Council inspections: "Da-da-da-da-da, PAY! Da-da-da-da-da, PAY!" The masses get to fight over the scraps left over.
  • Outrageous Fortune was a documentary. I scoffed at the last season. Judd and Pascalle getting together? That was a step over the line of suspending disbelief, eh. But no. After witnessing West Auckland, it's the sort of place where screwing the step-daughter while the Mum's in prison seems sane.
So, fuck Auckland. Titirangi might be the Wellington of the north but give me the real thing.