Random Play by Graham Reid

City life

Usually I don’t bother responding to those who bait me about my hometown, they are usually parochial yokels whose opinions about Auckland are based on something they saw on the news. Traffic and crime for the most part.

But this week an aside from Linda “I mean” Clark really irritated me, it was one of those smug jibes from someone living in Wellington which seems to style itself as some crucible of aesthetics and arbiter of the arts.

It was a bad week for Clark actually: on Friday her promo, full of gravitas, repeatedly said they would be paying tribute to “the late Paul Fuemana“. Fortunately Manu Taylor, who knew the late Phil Fuemana knew which brother he was talking about.

Then there was the segment by the programme’s residents wits (their words, not mine) Te Radar and, I think, Jon Gadsby. I know it wasn’t the execrable Jim Hopkins, a man who laughs after everything he says to make it sound funny, and never finds a pun too low to be beneath him.

The wits were on about Winston Peters’ showing in Parliament and the matter of a man who once unwittingly employed a paedophile in the US (in the same year as the Chill’s Love My Leather Jacket if you want some time perspective on the matter).

The wits and Clark were stumped as to what Winston had to gain from his shameful outburst, as have been any number of highly paid political pundits I noticed. I have waited for someone to point out that two dogs will scrap over a bone but won’t work together to bring down a cow.

And just days before the Act (2%) conference wouldn’t it have been in Winston’s interests to kneecap Rodney Hide? Just a thought.

Anyway back to what Clark said this week. It was in a discussion about the AK05 festival and how it hadn’t pulled quite the numbers the various promoters had hoped. At this Clark sniffed and laughed, “Aucklanders and art”.

The subtext was clear: Aucklanders aren’t interested in the arts.

I’m not sure about that, and was pleased that Carla Van Zon who had worked on the International Festival of the Arts held in Wellington said on television that it had taken a decade before it had made a buck.

Clark’s snide aside about Auckland needs to be put in some larger kind of context, so here goes. My two cents worth, as Kent Brockman on The Simpsons says.

Auckland is a city and, like it or not, other places in this country are large towns or villages. And I include Wellington in that. It is a big town and, at best, maybe a really small city.

During AK05 we went to a few things: the sellout Town Hall show by Zakir Hussain and the opening night of the much over-rated play Three Furies which received a fair and damningly polite review by the Herald critic. If I’d read that review I wouldn’t have bothered going.

During that fortnight we also went to a couple of movies (there are about three dozens screens within a 10 minute drive from our place, six within a five minute walk) and went to the art gallery for the Mixed-Up Childhood exhibition.

We also went to the International Cultural festival at Potters Park, and walked around the corner to spend half a day at Pasifika.

I mention this because Auckland isn’t a big town, it’s a city. A lot goes on in diverse arts all the time.

International rock bands and musicians regularly pass through here without venturing anywhere else in the country; there are pocket-sized film festivals regularly; at least half a dozen dance/DJ events on Friday and Saturday nights; dozens of art galleries; and blah blah blah.

So AK05 wasn’t the only thing on our agenda the past fortnight. Aucklanders don’t feel we have to rush off to every damn arty thing, there will be more coming down the turnpike.

That’s the problem arts festival organisers here have to live with, but of course isn’t a problem if you are an arts consumer, or even just like getting out of the house, in a big city.

During AK05 we also went out to dinner a couple of times, on both occasions to Ponsonby Rd oddly enough which isn’t a place we normally go. Why not, when it’s the Restaurant Mile?

Well, we live five minutes from the intersection of Valley and Dominion Rds (where we can choose from a dozen different Asian restaurants, an excellent GPK and a Russian place), or can walk up to Kingsland which is the new Ponsonby (at least the Ponsonby News devotes pages to all the café‘s, funky shops, restaurants, frock shops and so on which are within the 100 or so metre-long strip).

There’s also multi-ethnic Sandringham a five minute drive away. And Parnell, Newmarket and other suburbs I suppose.

Oh, and one afternoon I went for a swim at the beach at the end of Sentinel Rd in Herne Bay which is literally a five minute drive from the foot of Queen St. (Yep, Auckland Harbour water may not be the cleanest on the planet but at least it is warm).

So when civilians from elsewhere in the country are sniffy about my city I generally couldn’t give a shit. I like where I live: it is an interesting, diverse, amusing and lively place.

Hell, even the mayors of Wellington and Hamilton conceded it was the economic powerhouse of the nation when I interviewed them a few years back.

(By the way, Auckland didn’t lose the V8 race, it didn’t want it. Wellington is now stuck with it, and already rates are going to rise and the bike race there illustrated how even such a small event can disrupt traffic. I wish you luck with big noisy cars in the middle of your town.)

So that’s my take on my city. I don‘t decry the place where anyone else lives, that‘s their choice. But maybe we need some perspective. Auckland is a city.

And “Morningside for life,” as Prince Charles says.

That’s it: it’s Sunday avo, the papers are read, and we’re now off to the Great Blend.

Couple of final things though: my sincere thanks to all those who have responded to various columns of late. I reply to everyone although a few e-mails bounce back. I appreciate your humour and so here’s a quick catch-up on some things.

Yes, the Ask Ms Manners column (Jan 27) was a joke but thanks to those who added their own urban protocols (no weed eaters or lawn-mowers before 10am on weekends is a good one), and way back I wrote about the great Pacific guitarist Bill Sevesi (Under a Pacific Sky, Dec 31). Bill now has his own website and it’s really good.

Thanks also to those who suggested what to do about my noisy neighbour (whom I genuinely like) in the previous blog Come. Feel the Noise. The one I liked best was borrowing an album of animal noises from the library and when they start getting loud and intimate to put it on. Neighbours will think there is bestiality at work and call the cops. Ha!

Of course many, many thanks to the sincere and often moving messages after my column about my mum (Family Matters, December 4, 2004). All genuinely appreciated. And by the way, my book which I have I mentioned a couple of times is currently being printed and will be out late May. Check www.elsewhere.co.nz for some background.

And way back I mentioned I was going to the gym. Lots of nice supportive e-mails and so to all you people you’ll be pleased to know I am still going. I was there this morning actually, but followed Joe Rokocoko into the showers. His taut physique tells me I still have some way to go.

But I am twice his age. And he was the one in pain and limping.