Auckland – some reflections.

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For the diligent reader of this little blog you will recall that I am making my farewell journey to Auckland in my old role this week. It is definitely not my last trip to Auckland however as my new employer are based in Auckland. I shall be a regular visitor.

I will however, in the interests of fairness and with a sense of order, offer some reflections on my association with New Zealand’s most populous city.

I started coming to Auckland as a boy. My lovely Aunt Angela (one of my late mother’s sisters) has lived in Auckland for a very long time. We used to have many (if not all) of our school holidays in Auckland as a result. Angela was a police officer and has the most amazing sense of fun. So holidays were always highly anticipated and invariably memorable. The trip itself, from Christchurch was part of the adventure.

I can recall flying on Vickers Viscounts, Fokker Friendships and very early model Boeing 737s. We sometimes drove, taking the Rangitira from Lyttelton to Wellington and then driving to Auckland. Other times we caught the ferry to Wellington and the train to Auckland. I remember the wonderful night trip on the Silver Star.

When in Auckland we would ‘do’ the zoo, a day trip to Rangitoto Island (including the compulsory walk to the summit), MOTAT historic park, trips to Piha, trips to Orewa and lots of wandering around Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill.

I spent my 5th form year as a student at St Peters’ College Epsom. My dad had moved to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and along with my mother and younger brother and sister I moved to stay with Angela for the year. It was an interesting year. I went from a school of three hundred to one of about nine hundred. I used to walk from Balmoral (where we lived) to school via Dominion Road and then along a railway track, dodging locomotives and there rudely gesturing drivers.

I didn’t really enjoy my 5th form year much and had occasion to bunk from time to time. I could walk from St Peters’ to catch a movie (or two) in Queen Street.

I remember also going to many ‘double-bills’ at the cinema down Dominion Road. My brother and I would go and see Clint Eastwood in those atrocious “Every Which Way But Loose” movies or the Cheech and Chong rubbish. I do recall seeing some of the best movies ever in Auckland for the first time however. There was a cinema up Queen Street that used to show classics and I first saw “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “The Dambusters” there, along with “Lawrence of Arabia”.

I once watched all three Godfather movies in a weekend at the St Jame’s in Auckland. The first two on the Saturday (back to back) and the new Godfather 3 the next day. Awesome. I spoke like a gangster for weeks.

I spent a lot of time mooching about the waterfront in Auckland.

In 1984 I returned to Auckland in what I like to refer to as my “monastic phase”. I thought I’d become a Catholic monk. I lived in a community of Catholic monks in a converted primary school in Herne Bay. Again walking and movies were a halmark of this year. I would walk all over Auckland. And as the monks had taught the Kerridge boys we got free tickets to attend any movie at the Amalgamated Theatre chain. A privilege a merrily abused. I saw “The Big Chill” that year, it was a movie that had a strong impact on me.

I had some interesting and diverse part-time jobs that year. On a Friday night I worked at the local butchers cleaning up. It was a real laugh but enough to drive one to become a vegetarian. Tales of maggot-infested drums of old meat come to mind.

During the week I worked as a nurse aide in a hospice. It was here that I learned to be very pragmatic and accepting of the reality of death. I believe the experiences I learned at St Josephs’ were some of the most valuable I’ve ever learned. I was exposed to the entire spectrum of dying. It was a very special experience. Little was I to know I would have to put this experience to good use with my parents so soon.

It was a rather lonely existence as a young fellow living in a monastic world. Monks are not supposed to have any personal relationships that would get in the way of their service to the Church. This clearly wasn’t going to work for me, as I was falling in love with everyone I met! (one of my traits). So I packed it in at the end of the year.

I then started travelling to Auckland for work in the late 80’s. It was, is and always has been the base for the IT development for the Companies Office. I have spent many creative hours, days, weeks dreaming up IT solutions and reengineering processes in Auckland.

I have some very dear friends on the Auckland staff. They are really what I enjoy about Auckland.

Until relatively recently (5 years maybe?) the Companies Office was located in the Auckland District Court Building. A foul building but relatively central. I recall numerous dinners at the nearby Mai Thai restaurant. I recall staying in a squillion different hotels in Auckland over the years. The tedious trip from the airport to the CBD which on some occasions took as long as the flight from Christchurch itself. What other city in the world has such a poor connection between the CBD and airport?

I love the weather in Auckland. I have a special affinity for the waterfront, in particular the ferry terminal area. I would spend hours just watching the boats and the world go by. I love Devonport and the ferry trip to it.

It would be fair to say Auckland and I have yet to really like each other. My past relationship with the city has been marked by adolescent angst and aloneness.

I am looking forward to learning to like the city more now it will be my HQ. Foster Moore have an apartment for out of town employees to use which is down on the Quay, overlooking the lovely harbour and close to the ferry terminal so that’s a good start…

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