Hard News by Russell Brown


Grokking things by being places

A well-written story on the local blogosphere was recently kind about my own contributions but complained that "it's wearying to read about someone's social diary". Yeah, mine, that is. I prefer to think of it as grokking things by being places, and then trying to put the pieces together.

Places, for example, like Saturday's Grey Lynn Park Festival, where community political engagement worked quite nicely. Labour, National, Mana and the Greens had stalls, along with various advocacy groups. They seemed to be enjoying themseves. David Cunliffe and Winston Peters apparently turned up later and Len Brown, naturally, was fully in the area.

Ardern parked her retro caravan on a prominent corner of the festival market and seemed to spend the entire day out in front of it on her feet, working. Nikki Kaye's team didn't have such a sweet spot and looked a little uncertain at times. But boy, those Young Nats are keen:

I find the "I'm a KEY person" t-shirts a bit creepy, to be honest. Ditto the way some of the people wearing them have been acting as a kind of flying cheer squad, ensuring that John Key arrives to wild applause at his every campaign stop. But I can only applaud their raging motivation, seriously. (And, just to be clear, the photo above comes from the Twitterstream of one of National's keen young men, and I'm damned if I can find the account again to credit it. Sorry!)

As it always does -- when it doesn't rain -- the festival evolved as the day went on into a vast, peaceful picnic, full of freaks, straights, queers and families, the young and the old and thethirtysomething with kids. It cheers me greatly that this can happen.

And I especially dug these guys:

Also: the garlic guy who's there every year really does grow some excellent garlic.


"We went to the, ah, Grey Lynn Festival today -- it was great!" enthused the young, dreadlocked Frenchman outside the King's Arms, some time shortly after midnight.

He and his crew -- eight young backpacker sorts from various European countries -- were mooching around for cigarette papers. They'd been inside to see The Bats and loved that too (I'll post my own review in the Flying Nun thread), and now ...

"Let's go back to K Road and get something to eat!" declared one of the girls, and with that they were off.

"Bon soir," I said.

I felt pleased that a bunch of kids looking for fun had been clearly able to find it in my town. I headed over the Wine Cellar for a drink with another visiting crew -- a family of well-up-for-it Glaswegians -- and then walked the length of K Road, which lurched and staggered and laughed as you'd expect to at 1.30am on a Sunday morning. There is something comforting about that.


Later that morning I got myself over to La Cigale and was somewhat surprised to see these men:

In its way, Parnell's French market was even more alien territory for Winston Peters than Grey Lynn Park had been the day before, and he and his minder stalked the rows uncomfortably for a quarter of an hour before getting in their car (one of those BMW SUVs) and driving off. But perhaps he'd added some fizz to the morning -- I got bailed up three times to talk about media, politics and Media7.

I'd planned a ride for Sunday and soon realised that if I wanted to see the first elite race in the ITU triathlon, I'd need to be away by noon. I confess, my decision to get there for the first race was clinched by the thought that I'd rather watch fit, sweaty women than fit, sweaty men, but the intensity of the cycle leg, and of the CBD course it took, was remarkable. I could only smile as the leading group powered up Victoria Street while I eased up the footpath.

Up on Albert Street, Len Brown was standing on a corner smiling and watching the riders pass. He was alone and it didn't seem to be a media opportunity: he was just genuinely enjoying the race. I waved on my way past. The women zoomed by:

At the waterfront, Queen's Wharf was open as the base for the race. The pie bloke had a sign:

I felt pleased that even after the Rugby World Cup had packed out and gone, Auckland could still manage a sense of event. Perhaps it was just the road closures. I love it when they close the roads.

On the way home, it seemed that Wynyard Quarter was quieter than it had been during the Cup, but surviving. 

Ironically, I blew right past Cox's Bay Park, where John Key was attending a schools triathlon as near as he's gonna get to my electorate this week:

Mr Key was mobbed by schoolchildren as he opened the triathlon and signed hundreds of t-shirts.

One pupil remarked: "I'm never going to clean my t-shirt ever again."

Other children squealed at John Key but when asked what he did, did not know.

But they do know he's a celebrity.

Not long after I got home, I discovered the reason that APN staff got an email on Friday warning them to be aware of any potential breaches of office security and to look out for strange people. It was a bit mystifying but it didn't seem prudent to broadcast it the world.

Turns out, it was an understandable response to Michael Laws' despicable violent fantasies in defence of the teapot talkers:

Laws told listeners: "If I had a gun I'd shoot them - put them out of their misery - because they have gone rabid and they may infect others."

He then said: "Have you noticed ... the Herald on Sunday for example, which is rabid all the time ... no idea why somebody hasn't taken the shotgun there and just cleaned out the entire newsroom."

Laws has subsequently insisted it was all a metaphor, or alternatively, a joke. Well, I'm sorry I don't find it funny, you loathsome clown. Maybe that's because my partner works in that building.

I've been doing the odd phone-in commentary for Radio Live, and they asked me if I'd be available on election night. That won't be happening now. This should not be seen as any reflection on the people I've dealt with at the station, who have been pleasant and professional. But being on the same frequency as that sick little man just seems a bit too close for comfort at the moment.

So, yeah, great weekend in Auckland (how was yours, btw?). But I suspect I'm not alone in feeling like I need a break from this madness.

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