The inner-city pad

Wednesday 29 September 2021 – Auckland City.

We have just completed the first week in our new flat, and the good news is I am still happy. This is particularly good news as we are here until the end of February and I don’t want to be sad for five months.

The flat is located on the fringe of Auckland city centre, opposite a park, a ten minute walk to the harbour side, five to the supermarket and less than 15 to Eleanor’s office; assuming she will one day be able to go to work there. Yes we are still in lockdown, though down to level 3 for the last week, which for us is basically the same as level 4 but with takeaway coffee and food. Though, we have had one takeaway coffee and one take out lunch, so far. If things go well there will only be one more week of level 3, before dropping to 2 and a lot more freedom to do things; like visit Mum for instance, and have a pint in a bar.

The flat is very comfortable, fully furnished, modern, and expensive. We didn’t have to buy anything, such as bedding and towels to move in, so I think things will balance out in the end. All property is expensive in Auckland. The thing I am liking the most is that given we are quite central and near some fairly busy roads it is pretty quiet and we don’t hear much of the neighbours; which is a blessing after the Air B n B.

I took a few bad photos of the place; and now realise there is an art to taking good real estate photos.

The building is eight storeys tall and two flats wide on our side, meaning we only have one neighbour, as well as one above and one below. The flat straddles two streets, the entrance on the quieter Dock St, though our flat is on the opposite side.  I love the pipe work.




We are on the 4th floor and have a view of Victoria Park and up to Ponsonby from the deck and the city north from the bedrooms.



There was a stunning sunset on Monday night, though the sun itself is blocked by the big tree directly opposite. We have had two early evening glasses of wine on the deck; there is traffic noise, but it wasn’t too intrusive. There is a BBQ on the deck and I am looking forward to testing that out when the weather permits.



There is a car park with a locker and bike storage in the basement, though we do not own a car and it appears that not many of our neighbours do either as I have only ever seen one car parked in any of those nine spaces.


The living area is comfortable and larger than I expected it to be, we don’t feel cramped, even with us both ‘working’ in the same space.


There are two bedrooms, one of which is off the living area and separated by a glass sliding door. This was quite common with the flats we were looking at, and now we are here I can see the point, it really does open the living space out and brings more light in via the bedroom window. We bought a cheap desk and office chair and Eleanor has her workspace in the doorway to the bedroom and this works well. I am perched on the dining table.



The master bedroom has an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe, neither of which I have had in a flat before. There is a TV and though I am not a big TV watcher this could be useful if I am want to watch TV while Eleanor is working or on conference calls and I need to leave the living area. I can be disruptive at times, particularly when bored. Eleanor does have a bit to put with some days.



I like the kitchen area, over the week we have got used to how it works, and how we can work in the area together; like making lunch and breakfast. The main issue with the kitchen is those lovely shiny surfaces are now covered in fingerprints. I will not be looking for something that shiny in my next house as I don’t want to spend my time wiping more surfaces than I need to.



In summary, the flat is great (the neighbours are quiet so far) and I am as happy as I can be given we are living in fairly restricted times.

The other good news over the last week is that the three boxes of clothes we shipped over from the UK were finally delivered on Saturday, about six weeks after they were due. We now have a good collection of big jerseys, heavy coats, scarves and beanies, just in time for summer.


It was good to get the first week out of the way; we have fully unpacked, settled in and have good routines for living. All we need now is to be able to go out and do things.

Symonds Street Cemetery

Tuesday 21 September 2021 – Auckland.

Warning; this post contains rare positivity.

It is (hopefully) our last full day at the ‘modern loft style apartment’, all being well we should be moving into our new flat tomorrow. I cannot wait to leave these neighbours behind. [Edit – We have moved.] I took the opportunity of our (hopefully) last day here to walk through the nearby Symonds Street Cemetery and take some photos. It was supposed to be overcast and showery but naturally the sun was shining most of the time I was out, unusually that actually worked for me. Here is the positive bit; I was really pleased with my photos, I liked just about all of them and was surprised at how good that made me feel when I started the edit process. A rare treat. Yay for me!


Symonds Street was the first European cemetery in Auckland, opening in 1842. It was only open for burials for 44 short years, closing in 1886 when the larger Waikumete Cemetery opened out west. As you can see from this image, there was not a lot to Auckland in 1842.


It is now run by the council and is a grade 1 listed site, though the council have invested very little into the place and it is largely run down. Other than what you see walking along the main roads, it’s in a sad state of repair. The sad state of repair is in its way quite beautiful and possibly deliberate. Most of the cemetery is buried (excuse the pun) down the side of a steep gully in regenerating bush and the graves are overgrown by trees and weeds; fallen down, pushed down, broken down and collapsed. An apt warning for the rest of city centre, maybe. And like the city centre itself the cemetery is dominated by the sound and fumes of cars and trucks, a motorway cuts the cemetery off from the Catholic church.


It is a hangout for drunks and druggies, for illicit sex, a home for the homeless and a place for the local goths and occultists to congregate at night. It is a scruffy edgeland in the centre of a city. I liked it.


The cemetery was divided along sectarian lines with Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Wesleyan and Jewish sections. The Catholic, Jewish and Presbyterian sections are on the well managed, tidy open side, bordered by Symonds St, K’ Rd and the motorway. I started my walk here. The photographically interesting Wesleyan and Anglican section is on the other side of Symonds Street and drops down, quite steeply in parts, into the bush clad Grafton Gully.


When the motorway was constructed in the 1960s, the cemetery was cut off from the Catholic church, with more than 4100, mostly Catholic bodies needing to be re-interred. Old photos of the church show a steeple, which no longer exists and I wonder what happened to it.


I popped out of the cemetery on to the bike/pedestrian path that runs alongside the motorway and used that to cross under a lockdown quiet Symonds St. I expected there to be a way back in from the bike path but there was nothing there, I walked down as far as Grafton Bridge, then back up again and jumped the fence at a point where I could see the muddy stone path through the trees.



The first thing I saw were these two helmets, one still attached to the locking mechanism of the scooter, but not the rest of the scooter. On the assumption I wasn’t going to come across any illicit or aggressive meetings (I didn’t, but I was conscious that there are people living here). I knew I was going to enjoy taking photos.


There are a few official trails in here, they don’t go down as far as the small, almost dry stream at the bottom of the gully, though there are numerous bike and shoe made trails down there. I know this used to be an unofficial urban mountain bike spot a few years ago and wonder if it still is. There would be some interesting riding here, the gully is quite steep on this side, and you can see where gravestones have slipped. I was wondering if any bones would be sticking out of the soil; I would be a bit freaked out if I came across a hand grasping for the air. I didn’t look hard.



The path took me back underneath Grafton Bridge.


The bridge was built between 1908 and 1910 to replace an old suspended cable pedestrian bridge that was closed when it was discovered it was dangerously unsafe. On completion the new bridge was the largest bridge of its type anywhere in the world. It remains, in my view, one of Auckland’s best bridges.




As well as looking down and into the scrub for interesting looking grave stones I also kept my eye on what was going on above, hunting for images of the foliage and the light filtering through the leaves and boughs. The trees did not disappoint. There are some lovely Californian black oak trees scattered throughout the cemetery and I had a few attempts at getting a strong image, though none really made the cut. The further down into the gully and the protection of the trees the more the birdsong stood out over the roar of the traffic, even the limited number of vehicles out in lockdown were enough to create a constant rumble. Focusing on the birds and the trees I could almost, but not quite, wish away the sounds of the city.



I meandered around under the tree line for a few more minutes, stopping to take photos here and there. Rounding a corner I almost walked into a youngish man sitting on a rock looking at his phone, we both got a fright. It felt like he was just there escaping for quiet from the nearby student accommodation, though he could have been there for a more nefarious reason. It is that sort of place. I was taking this photo a couple of minutes later when he sauntered past me, still looking at his phone.


There are a few headstones that have been well looked after, repaired or replaced, cleaned and de-mossed over the years, some more recently than others, most are in a poor state though. I like the mix, and I liked knowing that someone at some point cared enough to pay money or attention to a departed ancestor.


The path eventually took me from out of the trees, back under a slightly overcast sky, and a lower ISO setting. I wandered around the open, top section of the cemetery, taking a few final pictures. While I this part of the cemetery was interesting I enjoyed being in the messy bush area much more. This was the only adorned head stone I came across all morning, which surprised me somewhat, the plastic flowers faded by the sun. I really like this picture.




I finished my walk at the grave of William Hobson, the first Governor General of New Zealand and one of the British signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi.


As I said at the start of this post, it was a good day, I really enjoyed the cemetery, being under the trees in a small section of scrubby bush and taking photos, there are not many day time things I like to do more.


The abandoned St James Church, Mt Eden

Monday 20 September 2021 – Mt Eden.

Yay, some good news today. After 34 days Auckland will drop from Covid lockdown level 4 to level 3 at midnight tomorrow. The only change for us is we can get takeaway food and coffee, which has some appeal, but is not quite where we want to be. i.e. being able to see friends and family. There is still Covid in the community, so we will continue to be cautious, but I am looking forward to buying a flat white on one of my walks; even though we have a perfectly good coffee machine in the Air B n B.

I have been for a two hour walk every day in the past week while Eleanor works, and often for a further hour with Eleanor once her day is done. I rarely take the camera these days as I have walked the neighbourhood enough and have almost run out of things to take photos of, though I am getting fitter and the days of aching limbs and joints are long gone. Who would have thought that exercise was good?

I have been waiting for a cloudy day to take photos of the derelict, for sale, St James Church which is not far from us in Mt Eden. Though the (worst predictions ever) forecast keeps predicting rain each day, all we seem to get is sunshine. It was exactly this today (predicted showers in the morning, then rain in the afternoon, yet sunny all day), but I took the camera to the church as this is one of our final days before we move to the new flat in a different part of the city.

St James Presbyterian Church was built in 1900 and was active as a church until 2012 when he building was deemed as structurally unsafe. A developer bought the church, a hall and the land in 2014 with the understanding they could bulldoze the buildings, though as the building was protected this was challenged by the council and the council won.


In a situation remarkably similar to that of the St James Theatre mentioned in my last rant post, there was a mysterious fire in the hall, causing that building to be demolished. The land and remaining church building were on-sold to a further developer, and who knows what will happen next. Look out for a 34 story block of ugliness coming soon I suspect.



I looked for sneaky ways to get inside, but it was quite well boarded up, and while I would have been happy to enter if there was a way, I wasn’t going to force my way in.




I like the building and it is a shame it has been left to rot. We should be preserving our history where we can, and it’s not as if the church didn’t have a few spare dollars tucked down the back of the sofa to make repairs and keep the building viable. Not everything has to boarded up and turned into a dumping ground.





Another lockdown day (warning: contains whinging)

Tuesday 14 September 2021 – Mt Eden, Auckland.

The weather forecast for today, and for the next three days is pretty dismal, rain intermingled with showers and high wind. It wasn’t raining when I got up so I chose to get out early and hopefully miss the worst of the weather coming later. It is now 6pm and it still hasn’t rained, I got hot and sweaty power walking in a coat for nothing, slightly better than getting soaked I guess.

I try to find myself a walking mission to do each day, one that gets me at least two hours out of the flat exercising, so far so good, and I am losing some excess flab which is a bonus. Yesterday I walked to Vermont St in Ponsonby to look at a house that is available for short term rent. It is more than we would like to pay, but it is available and we (I) have finally accepted the reality of property being ludicrously expensive, especially if we want to live somewhere nice and close to the city. I liked the look of it and I had a good walk as well as picking up groceries on the way back. I didn’t take a camera so there are no pictures from that outing, but it was a good one.

Over lunch Eleanor and I got in touch with the real estate agent who had the Ponsonby property about a second listing she had. This new one is a newish two bedroom apartment just outside the city centre and most important it’s available for a short-term let. After a couple of chats with the agent it was sounding positive so my mission today was to do a walk-by and see if I like the location and the look of the building. In lockdown level 4 we cannot view the inside, which has added to the hassle of finding somewhere to live. I just assume all city apartments are going to be noisy, and rule most out just by their location when they could be amazing.

Eleanor had a video meeting at 10:30 so I was out the door before it kicked off, wrapped as previously mentioned for the pending heavy rain and wind. I took the big camera as I wanted to take a few photos in downtown Auckland while there were so few people about. With heavy rain due and with the city in lockdown it should be almost deserted, just how I like it.

If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know my views on the centre of Auckland City and that I pretty much hate the place, which I find quite depressing as I love the broader city; especially the parks, hills and beaches and even some of the suburbs. I have long thought the centre to be insipid, uninspiring, suffering from a lack of vision and leadership, poor planning and a vast amount of developer greed. My view has not changed after today’s walk. It is verging on criminal what has happened to this city over the past 40 years. Sitting on the edge of a lovely harbour, with a long main street that rises up a valley with a park on either side it should be the crown jewels of New Zealand urban landscape and design. It is just a mess, hideous and soul-less. Yes, I know it is lockdown and the centre is devoid of life but it looks and feels just as shit when it is full (mainly of cars and trucks) every other time I have visited.

The Skyworld Entertainment Centre was opened in 2000, just 21 years ago, as THE centre for entertainment in Auckland, with its giant Imax screen and futuristic layout and lighting and the much loved rocket lift it was modern and innovative and looked amazing. I think it is closed now, leaking and falling apart, too expensive to run. An apt symbol of the decay and thoughtlessness let run riot in the city centre. Mismatched and poorly designed buildings, made on the cheap and barely meeting the extremely low building standards of the time, yet construction continues at pace and the skyline is littered with cranes.



I walk past the back of the derelict St James Theatre, between it and the library. The library forecourt is a small homeless village, though I am assuming (hoping) the library is still functioning. As I was taking this photo a guy out walking stopped and we talked about the state of development across Auckland, he was as unhappy as I was. I went to the cinema at the St James in the 70s, it was the fancy theatre in a block of three, the other two are long gone now, one just a hole in the ground. At some stage in the last 20 years the St James became a music venue, holding 2000-3000 people at a guess. I went to some fantastic gigs there and it was the best mid-size venue in Auckland. The land was sold for flats, there was a mysterious fire sometime over 10 years ago and the place is being left to rot while developers and authorities argue its future. Auckland really doesn’t need another 34 story residential building over a revitalised cultural centre. Auckland needs more housing absolutely, but this is not the solution. And yes I am bitter about what has happened over 40 years to what was my home town.


There are few people on the street, and about half seem to be homeless or street drinkers, some unenthusiastically attempting to beg from the very few pedestrians taking exercise or escaping their tiny box-like studio apartment. I didn’t feel unsafe in the slightest, but it was grim and there was an air of unhappiness and resignation. Walking down Queen St was not pleasant, there are a number of deserted shops in the mid section of the street; these do not look like Covid closed places, these look like the premises of someone who has given up and moved their business to someone newer and less dispirited. Queen St should be Auckland’s premier street, this is where we invite tourists into the country, cruise liners dock not far from where the street used to end by the harbour. It used to the place to go when I was young, but no more.


The bottom end of Queen St is much more upmarket, perhaps this is as far as the cruise liner day trippers want to walk; as far up the street as the Dior and other fancy overseas shops go. Perish the thought that overseas tourists are shown anything from New Zealand, other than some plastic tat, tea-towels and placemats in an overprices souvenir shop. I guess they ‘Buy New Zealand’ on one of the other, less urban day stops.



I cross over to what used to be lower Queen St, and past the being redeveloped Britomart train station. Across the square is the Downtown Mall, perhaps it has another name now? This is also being redeveloped, and the posh foreign shops are moving here. There is a sign on the hoardings round the building site for Commercial Bay – ‘Auckland’s most exciting fashion, hospitality and business precinct…’


This completely sums up why Auckland City Centre is in such a terrible state. Rather than fix the problems we have; fix the issues with rent that means businesses cannot afford to be on Queen St; fix the issue that means so many are homeless, begging, sniffing glue and drinking in the city centre and encourage the arts and culture back, we just give greedy developers permissions to build a new centre, slightly away from the last. In 20 years this will happen again and this new ‘precinct’ will be as run down and rubbish as the one it is trying to replace.

I move on to walk past this apartment we are interested, ironically less than a kilometre from here, a place I so obviously dislike. The apartment is on the fringe of the centre, opposite Victoria Park; walking distance to cafes and restaurants, but with none in the immediate vicinity (I think) that will create a lot of night time noise. It is less than a 15 minute walk to Eleanor’s office as well, one of the reasons we chose it. I liked it, being near and having a view of a park will be nicer than having a view into someone else’s living space.

I meandered my way back up town, avoiding getting any further depressed by Queen St. I liked this piece of street art hidden away by the side of a bike-path off Upper Queen St.  One thing that has improved since I have been away has been the increase in safe cycling in the city centre. More needs to be done to remove cars, but cycling looks to be much safe than when I used to occasionally cycle to work.


The path lead me to a side entrance of Symonds St Cemetery, which has long been a late night goth hangout. I took a couple of pictures as I pass, though the need for a loo stop was building and the public toilets all seem to be closed in lockdown so I was forced to carry on home. I will come back and take some photos here another day.




Once back at the Air BnB I rang the agent to advise that we liked the look of the flat and was given a number to call for the previous tenant who lived there for a few months while working in Auckland. He advised the flat was pretty quiet with the door to the deck closed and that it did look as nice as the photos suggested, just what I wanted to hear. The flat comes fully furnished and even includes bedding, towels and everything we would need to move in and start living normally. This will save us some hassle and a lot of money.

The upshot of all this is, we now have somewhere to live to the end of Feb, and we move next Saturday, the 25 Sep. There is a clause in the contract that allows us 48 hours from when Auckland goes to Level 3 to view that flat and withdraw at no cost if for whatever reason we don’t like it. I will post some photos once we have settled in.

10 more sleeps here, if I can stand it that long. I dislike the neighbours here so much it almost hurts.

YAY !!

The Man in the Carriage

Below is the piece of flash fiction I submitted in April to the Bridport Prize, an international story competition. I was emailed overnight and advised I didn’t win. I was not shocked at this, though I think this is a good story. The reason for entering was to release some fiction into the world, with the hope that this action would lead me to write more as it gives me pleasure; once I get going. The getting going is the bit I struggle with.

There was no theme to the competition, the only rule being the story had to be under 500 words. I hope you enjoy it. I am still pleased with it, five months later.


He’s staring at me through mingled legs and torsos from across the crowded carriage. Disapproval is written on his face. I don’t stare back, it’s an aggressive position I don’t want to take, however the need for the occasional furtive glance can’t be resisted. His eyes don’t shift and the fixed, disdainful expression remains.

I just know he loathes my ‘Out and Proud’ t-shirt and the hand-made ‘Fuck the Police’ ‘#blacklivesmatter’ sign clutched nervously between my ripped jeaned knees. I notice we’re both wearing Doc Martens, but there is no subliminal connection, my rainbow laces adding to the litany of complaints I list in my head on his behalf.

He’s old, square, out of place and he knows it. Those shiny enamel poppy and union flag pins on the collar of his Barbour jacket separate him from the rest of us; a joyous, scruffy, mixed mass of BLM supporters.

The wave of discomfort he’s radiating is palpable, I feel it through the bodies packed between us. Right here, right now isn’t where he wants to be, but it’s where he is and his Englishness dictates he won’t get up and leave, he must bear this. He’s carrying this cross for all right-minded Englishmen, for the silenced and marginalised majority; middle-aged, middle weight, middle England. His people, not mine.

The train stops, the clump of bodies thinning as I stand up, shrugging into my jacket, grabbing my sign.

“Come on Dad, let’s go”.

WheresPhil is 10 today.

15 September 2021 – Auckland.

There is some sort of symmetry to being back in Auckland for the tenth anniversary of the creation of the wheresphil blog and its first short post, The Plan. There is also some symmetry with my life as it was 10 years ago in that I am once again in a state of flux, though this time it is a ‘we’ that is in flux rather than an ‘I’, sorry Eleanor. 10 years ago I was about to sell my house and go travelling and now we are back from travelling and are looking for somewhere to live.

Anyway, 10 years. 10 flipping years!!

I genuinely cannot believe I am still writing so long after starting this thing, nor how much I enjoy the writing, particularly over the last 16 months as we have lived through a variety of levels of lockdown. The blog gives me a reason to go out and do things, take photos and go for walks and those things in turn gave me something to write about. Writing this blog for me rather than for the clicks, likes and comments means I am not tied to any specific cycle of posting or any particular subject, I write what I want and when I want. I like that.

I have not really done much with the site over those ten years. Though due to the volume of photos I have imbedded, I was forced to move to a paid-for version of WordPress. This has also meant I can have my own URL ‘’ rather than the ‘’ address I had for most of those ten years. While I am not working I will have a look at some changes to the pages. Maybe teach myself some WordPress as I go. Maybe.

I very rarely go back and read old posts, other than to link to them as a reference in a new piece. On those rare occasions that I go back I get a little embarrassed about the number of typos, the poor grammar and sometimes garbled sentences. I have been tempted numerous times to just re-write entire posts, though I’ve never done so. However, I’m not above the odd tweak.

Happy birthday blog; you have grown and are doing well, and here is to a few more years. xx

A two hour walk to the supermarket

Thursday 09 September 2021 – Mt Eden, Auckland.

If you read the previous post then you will know how I was feeling this morning when I wrote it, not overly positive. However, the weather is reasonable; there is some sun forecast, so I chose to beat some of the blues and get out for a decent walk and pick up some bits to cook for dinner. Walking was a good idea and I felt much lighter by the time I returned. I had a route in mind that passed the only known piece of brutalist architecture in Auckland, the University of Auckland Medical School, so I packed the big camera just in case.

We are currently looking for somewhere to live for a few months after we leave the ‘modern loft style apartment’ in a couple of weeks. I find looking for accommodation stressful enough as it is, but it is a lot harder in lockdown as we cannot go and see anything.

We found a flat we both liked, which is not a simple thing, and registered with the rental agency. It is in a new build block in Grafton, far enough from the city to be away from the noise, yet close enough to be able to walk to work. It has two bedrooms and we would both have a space we could occupy during the day where I wouldn’t get in the way of Eleanor working, assuming work from home continues to be a thing.

I took a walk by the building again this morning and still liked the look of it. Which turned out to be a bad idea as we were advised late Friday that we didn’t get it as someone was willing to rent it for a year; something we are going to be up against a lot I suspect. Oh well, back to the drawing board at the weekend.

The flat was on the way to the Med School building, the first destination for today, and it turned out to be a major disappointment. It was definitely brutalist, or had been before some sort of modernisation took place. The external fabric of the old part of the building is that classic brutalist concrete, though it doesn’t have many of the harsh angles and features you see on London’s Southbank or Barbican, or maybe they are now covered by the new cladding and extensions? There was some great pipe work though. Along with loads of pre-cast concrete, having some of the usual interior bits as part of the exterior is a classic component of brutalist architecture.



It was still nice being able to walk around and not have loads of people getting in the way of photos; one of the only benefits of lockdown I guess. It is a shame the building has been extended and re-clad in places, hiding some of its true and brutal nature. I knew I was going to be disappointed by the architecture of Auckland city, and so far I have not been disappointed in my disappointment. To be fair we didn’t return to Auckland for its buildings though.


It was really nice to find some silver birches at the back of the building, they are lovely trees, though they are considered weeds by many in the UK as they grow so prolifically. Hopefully they will remain scarce and environmentally controlled in New Zealand.



My onward trip to the supermarket took me through Auckland Domain and past Auckland Museum. The domain is a large park with small formal gardens and the lovely glass winter gardens; reminiscent of the Victorian buildings in London’s Kew Gardens. Alongside the formality of ‘proper’ gardens there are rugby and football fields, which double as summer cricket pitches. It is Auckland’s oldest park and a wonderful inner city green space.



One of the choices we need to make is where to live, and one of the key components of that decision making is green space and places to walk. Auckland is blessed with lots of green space in and close to the city centre, as well as a harbour within an easy walk from downtown. This makes choosing to live near the city a lot more logical, and also means we can get away without needing a car for a longer period. All we need to do is find the somewhere that will have us on a short term, and one we can afford.


The supermarket in Newmarket is inside a shopping mall, and it was a strange experience walking though a mall when all the shops, apart from the supermarkets, are closed and there are so few people around. A part of me wishes going to the supermarket was always this pleasant.


The streets were very quiet as well, also very much to my liking.


The walk perked me up a bit, a good two hours of strolling and taking photos was good for my soul and I am pleased that I did it today, and pretty much every other day too.

Maungawhau Mt Eden

Monday 06 September 2021 – Mt Eden, Auckland.

It’s Thursday, and three days later, as I write this and I’m bored (“I’m the chairman of the bored”, as Iggy once sung). I’m bored and frustrated and sick of lockdown and sick of being in a small flat with occasionally noisy neighbours. I feel like I cannot do anything or go anywhere; though obviously I can walk, but I am a bit bored with that too. Eleanor is working from home and I imagine she is getting bored with me moping around the place while she is trying to focus on work. I don’t envy her putting up with me. The heavy rain and wind yesterday did little to help my trapped feeling, though I did get out for a decent and spirit cleansing walk to the Domain and down into Newmarket this morning. I will write about that in the next couple of days, editing photos and writing these posts gives me something to do.

Back to Monday…

We moved from my sisters to an Air B n B we arranged back in April in Mt Eden on Saturday, so there are new streets to roam. We roamed a little at the weekend, though mainly to buy food and supplies for the flat. We are here for three weeks and I have concerns on the length of time we have left. I/we liked the flat, though it is not great as a work from home base, and the neighbours can be noisy. I am not a fan of noisy. 

As Eleanor settled into her working day I got out of her way and went for a longer roam taking in the cone of Maungawhau / Mt Eden and the posh supermarket on Dominion Road. It was a nice walk and I am really glad I took some water with me (I often forget) as it got quite warm during the two hours I was out.

Since I left New Zealand 10 years ago the use of the Maori word for things, particularly places, has proliferated, with signs all over Auckland in both te reo Maori (te reo = the language) and English. This is a good thing and I will try to use both the Maori and English names where I can. 

At 196 metres Maungawhau is the tallest of the 14 volcanic cones in Tamaki Makarau / Auckland, there are two cones on the hill and it is thought they last erupted around 28,000 years ago. The mountain was heavily used by Maori pre-colonisation and you can clearly see some of the defensive terracing and food storage pits, similar to those found at the Iron Age Loughton Camp in Epping Forest near where we lived in London.

A lot of the mountain was damaged during quarrying and the construction of a reservoir as well as the roads built to service those and take visitors to the top. There is a great 360 degree view of Auckland from the peak.

Maungawhau is a ten minute walk from the flat and I took the big camera with me for the walk. As well as being useful for taking photos, having a few extra kilos in a pack on a walk contributes a little to losing a few extra kilos of body. Something I need to do.

I took a few photos…

The central part of Auckland city, you can just see the building that houses the flat we are in, it is about a centimetre to the left of the base of the yellow crane at the bottom left of the photo.

We have taken a few walks around the area and have decided that we quite like the city fringe and are looking here for somewhere to live more long term. It would allow Eleanor to walk to work, and offers a range of walks as well as loads of cafes and restaurants; assuming they re-open. It is a bit more interesting than a purely residential area, and will be much less manic than the centre.


The view over the west, where I used to live in Green Bay and over to my beloved Waitakere ranges, along with a vary tasty looking localised shower!



I took a few photos of trees, as you would expect.



I walked up to the trig on the peak, there were a few people on the top, most were masked up, which was good to see. The crater is about 50 metres deep and people are not allowed to enter it as it a site sacred to Maori.




There is now a boardwalk around the crater and I walked round to the far side which has the view towards the city centre. I passed a couple of the ancient Maori food pits on the way. Like the ones at Loughton Camp, these do not look much, just grassed over holes in the ground, but they are an important connection to the history and heritage of Aotearoa / New Zealand.



Auckland City.


I took a small side path to a lower area of the hill, which was flat and I am guessing is a roof over the reservoir. There were these entrance hatches into the ground, something that always fascinates me. I am wondering if there is some sort of (not so) secret bunker under here and the authorities just tell everyone it is full of our drinking water so we keep away. I would love to look under one of those hatches, apparently they are monitored. Keeping the secrets.


I love how this pohutakawa tree is growing sideways, I am guessing it was blown down in a storm and has just carried on the fight for survival.


I found another side path to wander down that took me to Mt Eden village. I liked the handmade nature of the sign where the path ended and the road began, a change from all the plastic signs stuck all over the place.


I walked for another hour, a loop down to Dominion Rd where I grabbed a few things for dinner before walking back home. I was a bit frustrated at the supermarket, with its large car park full of cars, yet there was nowhere for a person on foot to sit and rest, even the curbs were too low for comfortable sitting. It is just not good enough for a huge profitable corporate to not provide any facilities for pedestrians, just loads of space for bloody cars. No wonder so few people walk in this city.

The Modern Loft Style Apartment

Monday 06 September – Mt Eden, Auckland.

It’s 6:35 and Eleanor has gone for a pre-work stroll, but I’m still in bed. I might have dozed off for a few minutes after she left as I’m drifting between dream and lucid thought as the building starts to wake. At first I’m not sure if the noises are real or just the dying elements of an already forgotten dream. Daylight is filtered into the room through and around heavy red drapes that are two storys high. Shapes and sounds are fuzzy and not yet familiar; it is our second morning in this space.

From silence I hear the rush of water, I immediately think it is raining out and hope Eleanor has a coat, on closer listen and I realise the sound is coming from somewhere on the inside of the building. It is not any of our neighbours showers, it seems to come from deeper in the fabric, past our front door; seemingly coming from above and below simultaneously.

There is a loud metallic thud from somewhere in the walls, immediately followed by another, I listen intently but there are no further repeats, only that sound of rushing water. A loud ting follows a few minutes later, like an old water-filled radiator heating up, ting, ting, ting. There are no radiators, or anything else in the ‘loft style apartment’ ™ that could make that noise. I wonder where it is coming from. Every sound seems to echo more than is natural, this building is all square edges and concrete, sound is not absorbed; maybe it travels with the water through the pipes, only to appear for ears that are awake to hear it. There is a creak, gentle yet grinding, humming away in the background, competing with the water for my attention. I can only focus on one at a time, allowing the other to fade until the focus swaps.

Just before Eleanor returns 40 minutes after departing, the building is fully awake, and I start to hear the noises of people moving about; doors banging and footsteps of neighbours on the sheet iron stairs; identifiable and placeable sounds. The underground noises of the building stretching into its day fade away. I lie here for five more minutes and wonder if this 1930s warehouse now converted into ‘loft style apartments’ ™ wakes itself from memory, shaking and stretching a long lost limb before realising its glory days are gone and rolling back over to sleep some more. Much as I want to do.

We moved into the ‘loft style apartment’ ™ in Mt Eden on Saturday and are here for three weeks. Before moving in we contemplated extending the stay, and while the apartment is nice enough there is only one space (due to it being a ‘loft style apartment’ ™), which is impractical for both of us, especially with Eleanor working from home during the day.

The place was advertised as a ‘loft style apartment’ which we find rather amusing as it is on the ground floor, and the floor is probably just below street level. I guess they want some of that edgy New York feel, most of the flats in the building seem to have been advertised for sale using similar wording. I tried to find some information on the history of the building, but there is very little. It appears to have been built in the 1930s and was converted into flats in the 90s. I found reference to it once being a warehouse for the Farmers Trading Co. which would be ironic as we may move to a flat in the old Farmers department store building when we leave here.

The building doesn’t excite from the outside, and the common areas are a bit dark and bleak, verging on the shabby.


The interior is OK; all white paint, concrete and light wood. it has been decorated in a slightly edgy New York style loft theme as well. I love the acoustic guitar, de rigueur in all the best rentals in 2021. It will remain unplayed during our stay, though I should not be speaking for Eleanor here so perhaps it will have its strings caressed. 


The view out those huge windows is of a construction site, which may be in keeping with the broader theme, though I suspect that is purely coincidental.


With just one open-plan space, other than the modern and dark bathroom, it would be perfect for one person. Sadly, however, we are two persons so we will move on.






Pah Homestead and some big trees

Thursday 02 September – Auckland.

Flippen ‘eck, how can it be September already? Last time I looked it was only August!

For a year that has really dragged, the last 12 months have disappeared way too fast. Perhaps it is due to the exceedingly rapid approach of my 59th birthday, which, by my reckoning, is only one year short of 60 and then I will be proper old. If we are back in Blighty by then I will be eligible for free public transport in London, a sure sign of old age. Though knowing those bastard Tories they will change the rules just before its my turn and make it 61, then 62 etc. Maybe not having a free bus pass will keep me young?

Eleanor and I have been in Auckland for a month and two days, with only three of those days not spent in either managed isolation or New Zealand’s quite strict level 4 lockdown. We are expecting to be in some form of lockdown until October. Our timing wasn’t the best; maybe instead I should blame Covid and say it’s timing wasn’t the best?

Eleanor started her New Zealand contract on Monday, a job she managed to arrange from England (well done Lovely, x). I’ve been looking for work, though the lockdown has made that more complex. With Eleanor working and things being so expensive, me taking on a contract makes sense, it’s not as if we can bugger off on an extended road trip. Though I’ve been off work for just over a month and I feel partly rested, I haven’t had anything that remotely resembles what I would call a holiday. Some may say lounging around in a hotel room getting room service and reading books sounds like a holiday, but anyone who has read this blog for the last few years would know I like to do stuff on holiday, lots of stuff. Too much stuff usually.

I’ve been out walking for a couple of hours every day since my negative Covid test, even if one of those days was just to the supermarket (the long way) to get provisions. Spring officially started yesterday, though we didn’t experience an Auckland winter. It never got properly cold, though it hammered with rain on Monday night and there was some severe flooding in parts of Auckland, but not where we are thankfully. Unusual floods, another thing we seemed to have brought from London with us.

On Monday I took the camera for a walk down through Onehunga. I have started a series of photos of the old wooden churches and halls that dot the cities and countryside.



Across the Manukau Harbour via this walk/cycle way that has been tacked on under the motorway bridge, to Mangere Bridge.



There was nothing interesting on the far side (the grass was the same green), so I took a photo under the bridge and walked back. I had visions of walking to the stone fields, but they were further away than I thought, and I am lazy and was dressed in too many layers and needed a pee and all the toilets are closed due Covid. It was a listless walk, a walk for the sake of walking is not one of my favourite things. At least when we move to level three lockdown I can hunt for a coffee.


On Wednesday I walked back to the harbour at Onehunga, and to a new walkway that has been built around the shoreline towards Waikowhai. I read somewhere ages ago that there was a plan to make a walkway right round this part of the coast and after spotting this on a previous walk I thought I would go and check it out when I next had the chance. I have lots of chance right now. I took a few photos, most of which were rubbish. The walkway is great!


I passed this (I think) school building from 1920. It says ‘19 BOYS 20’ over the door it. Next door is the complimentary GIRLS building. They have been converted into houses and I think they are lovely. I took this on my phone.


I also passed this very sad mini buried in a hedge on a quiet residential street and I wonder how long its been there? Decades possibly. I had a quite laugh to myself that someone had dumped a shopping trolley there as well.


Today (Thursday) was glorious. Sunny and warm and the perfect day to go back to Monte Cecilia Park and take some photos of the Morton Bay Fig trees, then home via the supermarket to get more pinot; both noir and gris. Nice pinots are so cheap here compared to the UK and it is all I have been drinking since we arrived (he says while drinking a can of APA), though we are now on restricted Thursday-Saturday drinking to try and reduce any further belly expansion.

On Monday the legendary reggae/dub producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry died in Jamaica at the ripe old age of 85. After years of just dabbling with listening to dub I have been listening to and enjoying a lot of it over the past 18 months. His music was the perfect accompaniment to a walk under new spring sun. R.I.P The Upsetter.

Pah homestead was built by James Williamson (not the Stooges guitarist) in 1879 as a ‘gentleman’s residence’. It was the largest house in Auckland when it was completed. Monte Cecilia Park surrounds the building and is all that remains of the large original grounds, there are a large number of trees from the original grounds, including the oldest Morton Bay Figs in Auckland. It is a great residential park and it was nice to see there were a lot of people walking; both their dogs and their kids. Park walking in New Zealand means saying hello/good morning/gidday to lots of people which is fabulous and made more difficult with masks, and in my case headphones on.


After a year of renovation the house was opened to the public as an arts centre and cafe in 2010, and is run by the council who took over the property in 2002. Prior to the council owning it the building had been used as a homeless shelter, migrant housing and nunnery since 1913 when the Sisters of Mercy (not the band) bought the house from the bank. It is closed at the moment.


I spent an hour or so wandering the park taking photos of the Morton Bay Figs, they are just so magnificent and I have not really done their size and complexity and wonderful, amazing root systems the justice they deserve. Trees can be difficult to take photos of, especially when the sun is bright and the shadows deep.

I love how those huge roots look like the back of a massive great eel or some mythological worm rising and descending back into the earth.









On Saturday we move out of my sisters’ place and into an Air BnB at the Eden Terrace end of Mt Eden for at least three weeks. It has been great staying here after coming out of MIQ, especially with Covid restrictions meaning we cannot see other people.  It gave us the chance to settle into Auckland, get some basic things organised and for Eleanor to start working from home, without having to worry about too much. Thanks sister of mine xx

I will miss our day time friend, and I think she will miss us next week when my sister is at work and their is no-one to provide daytime tummy rubs.