Give your soul to somebody soon.….…

Brigid says that arriv­ing at Auckland’s air­port always feels like arriv­ing at the farm after any time spent over­seas. Of course that’s rather unfair but it did make me laugh at the time, and most­ly it’s defined by the cheery folks from MAF, in their over­tight walk­shorts, or the Waika­to fam­i­lies wait­ing for cousin Reena or Aunt Mini.

And to be clear this ain’t a crit­i­cism or a snide way of say­ing that New Zealan­ders are not sophis­ti­cat­ed or are over­ly parochial. It would be both untrue, and for rea­sons of per­son­al safe­ty, very unwise to sug­gest such a thing. But it would also be absolute­ly untrue to sug­gest that you can’t spot a New Zealan­der in crowd with­out hear­ing a word or an accent, regard­less of how sophis­ti­cat­ed they may or may not see them­selves to be.

A few weeks back I received, via an email link, a pro­mo­tion­al video for Auck­land. It was, I’m told, made for oth­er New Zealan­ders to see, to entice them to come to the big smoke, and wasn’t aimed at we expats at all, but despite that, and hav­ing not been told that, I was sent the link by an expat site that added me (with­out ask­ing me, mind) to their mail­ing list.

I liked it, and said quite nice things about the way it made me feel. It warmed me, made me feel a bit fuzzy and, yes, home­sick. Not because it was par­tic­u­lar­ly good or great, although it was rather well exe­cut­ed – but because it looked like nowhere else on the plan­et. I’ve men­tioned that to a few folk in NZ and most­ly they’re bemused. One friend said some­thing to the effect that ‘but Auck­land has grown up a lot in the past few years’, which was much what peo­ple said to me when I came back in to NZ in the 1980s after a few years away.

We’re a defen­sive bunch, are we not?

You get the same sort of reac­tion when you dare to opine that, an hour or so a day, and only if you are on the wrong bit of road, Auck­land doesn’t real­ly have any major traf­fic issues. In fact, when put next to just about any city in Asia, the roads are pret­ty much emp­ty day or night. But instead of being rather glad about that, such an obser­va­tion is usu­al­ly met with a rather clear ‘but you don’t dri­ve over the bridge or to Manukau’.ak01.jpg

Well yes, but I have many times and I’m still of the opin­ion that it’s rather light. And, just to cap the offense off, you’re all, with the odd excep­tion, rather polite and gen­er­ous dri­vers. I like dri­ving in Auck­land, although the roads out­side the city are anoth­er mat­ter alto­geth­er and I found my trip a cou­ple of weeks back to the mid­dle of the North Island a bit har­row­ing.

I’m rather unsure what peo­ple mean by ‘grow­ing up’? Are we talk­ing about the much tout­ed Guc­ci store in Queen Street. If so, I got­ta say I don’t think that a high-end chain store, as found in every two bit sub­ur­ban mall in Asia real­ly counts as ‘grow­ing up’. Maybe it’s the food – yep, big range, won­der­ful wine at incred­i­ble prices, and lot­sa places to eat, some very adven­tur­ous, but Auck­land has been punch­ing high in an epi­cure­an sense for years (once you leave the fine din­ing end which strug­gles – as sad­ly do the high end attempts at Asian, like the ter­ri­ble Soto).  But, that’s not ‘grow­ing up’, it’s what big cities do — they all have great food if you know where to look.

The thing is, I don’t want Auck­land city to grow up, or feel the need to be grown up, what­ev­er that is. I just want it to be Auck­land. It’s won­der­ful: won­der­ful peo­ple live there, you hear won­der­ful things every­where, smell won­der­ful smells and roll over won­der­ful lush hills to won­der­ful and quite extra­or­di­nar­i­ly vis­tas, won­der­ful things hap­pen there every bloody minute of every day and I rather like it as it is, even with its shit­ty archi­tec­ture and some­times rather clum­sy attempts at being Syd­ney or LA, and it’s gar­ish try-hard mon­eyed set. It has the most beau­ti­ful har­bour in the world, it real­ly does.

I love Auck­land – and I love the way that I could look at that three-minute pro­mo thing, and, just ten sec­onds in, know I was look­ing at no oth­er city in the world.

Sure, it’s not always par­tic­u­lar­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed, although it’s eas­i­ly the most urban precinct in NZ, and our only real city; or quite as cos­mopoli­tan as its inhab­i­tants may think it is, but nei­ther is it the rus­tic back­wa­ter that Aus­tralians – for exam­ple – or many New Zealan­ders off­shore like to imply. It sits quite com­fort­ably in a vague space between the two descrip­tions.

I guess I’m home­sick.

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