Spent much of the week in Auckland. It is always a bit weird going back there: I lived there for 10 years and the fingerprints of memory are still grimily splattered around the place.
Mostly the inner west and south: Of the 11 years in the Sprawl I lived most of the time in a run of flats in an arc from Western Springs, through to Kingsland/Sandringham and across to Royal Oak.
It bucketed down on the Saturday and I was having flashbacks to long aimless Auckland weekends, the feeling you often get in your 20s, life hasn’t really started yet and there’s all sorts things, a lot of them undefined, you need to do but for various reasons can’t yet.
This was pre-property boom Auckland: arrived in 1985 just as the sharemarket frenzy was taking off and even though the first two years saw me working for business magazines all that stuff struck me as being a bit inflated. In retrospect it was a bit weird, being exposed to that mirror glass world and then going home to crappy, un-gentrified villas, passing round the cider or the Baileys (or a cheap home made substitute) and listening to Flying Nun bands and the Smiths.
I have a theory – and its a long way from being original – that some people are born to be a certain age. There’s an assumption that someone’s prime is in their 20s or so – its there in that word “prime” – but that’s utter balderdash.
I wasn’t all that good at being young. Nothing particularly horrendous happened: it was just a bit meh.
Some of us are rather good at being middle aged. I probably got the knack of this when I was about 15, in fact. It’s been a long wait.
The only big birthday I’ve celebrated as an adult was when I turned 30 because it felt like I was leaving all that crap behind and as it turned out I was right. Left Auckland a year later.
It is a very different city now. In 1985, for all the surface froth, there was a sense of subsidence. A legacy of the Muldoon-era orphan-of-British-Empire vibe, perhaps.
It was a lot more mono-cultural and becoming more so in the central city: in 1986 I chucked in full time journalism and became a postie (it paid more) and was delivering mail in the Ponsonby area.
Again, major dissonance: gentrification was under way at the top end of places like Norfolk, Summer and Anglesea streets. There would be BMWs parked outside, I’d be delivering mail which included listed company annual reports and Labour Party membership newsletters to houses which, in the weekend, always seemed to have the soundtrack from The Big Chill blaring out of expensive stereos.
At the bottom of those streets were still the last of the Pacific Island immigrant families, slowly being forced out. Sometimes I’d be taking in registered letters: they were damp and horrible houses and often the registered letters would obviously be from debt collectors or landlords.
Now, of course, those houses are worth more than a million bucks.
Anyway, the music from that era still resonates. The attached clip is a mournful Celtic-type number from a Flying Nun band who may have done other songs but I never heard them.
This though, “Actifed Blues” is a lovely, sad number. [Warning: clip contains the Kiwi Bacon Factory, a lot of trains, a phone box at Auckland Uni, and more trains. ]