The backstreets of the Wynyard Quarter

Friday 05 November 2021 – Wynyard Quarter, Auckland City.

I enjoyed taking and editing the black and white photos in the last post so much I decided to do the same again today, focusing on the less appealing parts of the nearby Wynyard Quarter in downtown Auckland; the bits behind buildings, the official car parks and those yet-to-be-built on places where people also park cars. There is a lot of parking available in Wynyard Quarter. Like Wednesday I set myself up to take black and white photos.

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The walk wasn’t as inspired as the one on Wednesday, the sun was a bit too bright for my photographic style and there were too many people out and about. I have also come to the realisation that I like walking hills more than the flat roads of a harbourside, which I guess some people my think is a little peculiar. It was forecasted to be raining in the afternoon, and I hung on as long as I could but the rain failed to materialise. I wanted the rain. Rain meant fewer people, a darker sky and opportunities for reflection, and I don’t mean personal reflection. I don’t take a camera if I am planning on some of that sort of reflection. The weather forecasting in New Zealand is absolutely hopeless.

As well as carparking I also found visitor bike parking, which isn’t something I have seen before, but mightily approve of.  

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Anyway, I took photos and I had fun in both the taking and the editing. Half a day was mostly used up, and really I can’t ask for much more than that at the moment. Let me know what you think of the photos!

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The area has either been built on or is being built on, and as I’ve previously mentioned I think this space has been designed quite well, the apartment blocks are low rise and mostly attractive and there is quite a lot of greenery about as well as plenty of pedestrian space (though not as much as car space).

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I am really looking forward to cafes and the barber properly opening.

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I have added two colour images to finish, the black and white conversion didn’t really work on these.

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The news of the week is Auckland Library is now open to online order and onsite collecting. I ordered and collected. This made me very happy, though I got a book about Angkor Wat and the Khmer Empire and now I’m sad as I can’t travel to the places I am reading about, maybe I should make better book choices.

The flâneur

Wednesday 03 November 2021 – Auckland City.

I want to get this off my chest now, before I get too far into writing and give you, dear reader a false impression that I’ve always had this impeccable taste in music. I’m going to start with a confession.

Prior to his untimely death in February 2020 I hadn’t really paid a huge amount of attention to the music of Andrew Weatherall and his various guises. Dance music wasn’t my thing and I never got excited by the legendary Weatherall produced Screamadelica album by Primal Scream. The indie nerd in me was more of a fan of the Screams’ earlier un-dancey guitar based pop. I was, of course, very aware of him as a popular and well regarded DJ and producer and he had performed in Walthamstow on more than one occasion to rousing and popular acclaim. I just didn’t do dance music.

Weatherall’s passing generated a tsunami of broken-hearted and loving messages in my Twitter feed supported by numerous eulogies and heartfelt stories in the mainstream press. The outpouring of love for this man compelled me to read those articles and I discovered there was a lot to like and I was quickly sucked into his world, becoming, like so many before, an avid fan. I now own some of his records and in this period since his death have become far more interested in electronic music and dub. My music world view has positively expanded in the past 18 months and this journey was very much down to his influence.

I read this piece in the Social online in the weeks after Weatherall’s death that spoke about him as a flâneur; a stroller or saunterer. Apparently he was known for his flânering around various parts of London, dropping into a record shop here, a bookshop there or stopping for a chat in a favoured café, an act we both love, and have in common. I was reminded of this at the weekend when I came across a Guardian piece from April of this year that I’d read and saved titled ‘Why cities emptied by Covid-19 are perfect for the modern flâneur’. With little else to do at the moment, and a determination to fall in love with Auckland city centre, flânering looked like a good use of time.

On Saturday night Eleanor and I watched a new documentary from Todd Haynes on the highly influential New York rock band The Velvet Underground. VU were a band I listened to a lot and if you look through my record collection you will find Velvet Underground influences in well over half of the artists represented there. Musically and attitudinally the Velvet Underground and Andrew Weatherall are almost polar opposite to each other, but in their chosen fields they are/were key innovators, both taking modern music in new and exciting directions.

Velvet Underground were heavily associated with the artist Andy Warhol and he was a key influence on their style and the imagery surrounding them. I was very inspired by the footage and photographs in the documentary, which were mainly taken in the late 1960s and early 70s. Those grainy and soft black and white images made me want to go out and take photos of the urban environment around me; not that I am in anyway trying to compare 2021 Auckland to 1970 New York.

Today was a particularly overcast day with a forecast of rain and it felt like exactly the right kind of day to take a camera and go flâneur. I set the camera to be as close to a 60s film camera as it could get; black and white, a fixed 50mm lens and to get the grainiest possible images, an ISO of 6400, the highest it goes. To inspire a creative side to the walk I made a new Andrew Weatherall playlist and donning headphones I left the flat. No fixed plan, just see where the roads, and more importantly the construction-closed footpaths lead me.

The camera was out almost immediately.

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I walked for two and half hours, mainly around the centre of town, primarily sticking to the side roads and the small number of alleyways and open malls linking roads together, keeping away from as much construction as possible. I was looking for images that spoke ‘urban’ to me, that touched on an older Auckland; the one from my youth. Though there is little left of either that city or my youth.

I had a good time, I’ve walked all these streets before so there were no great reveals, but in the past I rarely looked at things in detail or even spend any time just looking.

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Lorne Street.

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The University Precinct.

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Downtown.

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I had planned on taking some time to sit and write over a coffee around the High Street / Vulcan Lane intersection, the ‘coolest’ part of Auckland City, or at least the area with highest concentration of decent coffee. Earlier rain had left all the public seating wet so I huddled in damp jeans with a too hot espresso next to a couple of recently stubbed out cigarette butts on a stair under the covered entrance to a closed office; looking more a dishevelled street drinker than the modern and sophisticated flâneur I was posing as.

I was hoping to take in the air and make pithy observations in this most sophisticated corner of the city, and though most of the shops were open for click and collect, other than strategically and poorly parked cars there was not a lot to observe, pithily or otherwise. There was a group of six or so men in High Street, just around the corner from my humble perch, guffawing and talking overly loudly in that ‘look at us’ kind of manner the over-confident have. Though I couldn’t hear what they were saying the noise was distracting enough for me to not stay for longer than it took to finish the over hot-coffee. I had experienced this group once before; they look like they work in a small IT business, when I was waiting to pick up a book from the shop over the road. That time they were collectively leering at a young woman who was unfortunate to be walking down the street. The most obvious of the group is in his early forties and wearing the overly tight shorts and t-shirt combination of a philanderer who has found himself recently and unexpectedly divorced. A part of me is a little jealous, if I was wearing those clothes they would bulge in all the wrong places and there’d be an inch long strip of hairy and pallid belly emerging between t-short and shorts, and no-one wants to see that. I guess I managed to make some pithy observations after all.

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It started raining again, heavier this time, so I set off in the direction of home, taking one last photo on the way.

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Once home I uploaded all the images to my computer, I’d taken about 50 which is a lot for me. I use Adobe Lightroom to edit images for here and social media, though I rarely do much to the images other than a few basic tweaks to give the RAW files my camera creates a bit of life. Shooting in RAW means that though the camera thought I was shooting black and white today, the stored images were actually still in colour. This meant a Lightroom conversion back to black and white.

This isn’t the first time I have converted a colour image to monochrome, though with more time available to me and with some base images I actually liked, I took time to teach myself some new editing tricks and techniques. Spending some extra time converting and working on the photos gave me a lot of enjoyment; this is not always the case, and it very much added to the pleasure I got from flânering with camera.

I will do this again.

It was the 30th anniversary of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica a couple of weeks ago and it’s being re-released as a double LP along with a box set of ten 12 inch singles from the band from that period. I won’t buy either of the tjem.

Muriwai Beach

Saturday 30 October 2021 – Muriwai Beach.

Yesterday morning Mum caught the train into the city to come and see me, and we met for an enjoyable coffee and a walk around Wynyard Quarter and Victoria Park before one of the many brief showers that have plagued this week finally caught up with us. While we were together I asked to borrow her car for a few hours over the weekend; an offer that she’d previously made to us.

Eleanor is under physio orders to not walk too far for a couple of weeks so her knee pain can be resolved. Borrowing the car so we could do something more than walk the block was her idea and I’m profoundly grateful to her for having it. I’ve been in a slump this week and getting out of our immediate surroundings was the right thing to do. I must admit to having thought of asking to use the car, but rejected it as I really wasn’t in the mood for driving as I often find driving in New Zealand stressful. I’m not the road warrior I used to be, or thought I was. Anyway, it was a great idea, and we had a nice, albeit brief, time at Muriwai before the rain arrived and we made our way home again.

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Muriwai is one of my happy places. As well as being a place where I’ve enjoyed mountain biking, trail running and photography, Dad’s ashes were scattered here too. It’s a place I always visit when I’m back in Auckland. It is the only place I ALWAYS visit when I’m back.

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Eleanor and I caught the bus out to Henderson and met Mum in a park near her home. We had coffee and a chat (Covid) before getting the keys to the mighty Hyundai Getz, a small getabout car that was perfect for Mum and our needs, and my driving reluctance.

Muriwai Beach is normally a thirtyish minute drive from Henderson. The traffic was really heavy today, and there was a long tailback going into Kumeu. It felt like normal, unlocked down traffic to me, and both in Kumeu and at Muriwai there were a lot of unmasked walkers. More than in the city centre at least, the west was always a bit wild. I don’t blame people as I’m sick of mask wearing too and my compliance in some situations is waning.

We arrived at the beach just on midday and went straight to the café to order a portion of fish and chips for lunch. We have been thinking (drooling at times) about chips for quite some time, but sadly these weren’t as good as we would’ve liked for our first non-MIQ chips, oh well. I am sure there will be other opportunities. It was nice being able to enjoy fish and chips outside, near a beach and in the sun; the perfect place to eat them.

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After stuffing our (mine in particular) faces with chips we did the short loop walk from the beach up to the cliff top viewing platforms that look out over the sea and it’s renown gannet colony.

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Just below the first of the viewing platforms, on the Muriwai Beach side is where we scattered most of Dad in 2007. I always stop and take a moment or two to reflect on what a good man my dad was and that I still miss him. This year I hope to be able to visit on the anniversary of his passing.

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I took a couple of photos from the viewing areas, though I am not particularly pleased with the output; the images are all a bit ‘soft’. I think I was shooting at too slow a speed for my ability to hold the camera still. I was also using a polarising filter which I now regret, though I think the case for the filter is in London, which isn’t much use to me here in New Zealand.

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I love the viewing platforms and they were quite popular today with both humans and gannets. There are about 1200 pairs of gannets that mate and nest on those small vertically sided islands and this narrow stretch of cliff, attracting a significantly higher number of human visitors each season who come to see them.

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There were some people making a huge mandala in the sand at Maori Bay which was looking pretty good, though very unfinished as we walked back down towards the car as light rain started to fall.

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I drove us along the short and mostly unsealed road to North Muriwai, where I used to run and ride in the pine forest before I went on my travels. I was interested in seeing what it was like now, and very busy was the answer, so we didn’t stop. On the way back to the main road I was passed by some yelling knuckle-dragging youth in two of these ridiculously large utes (utility trucks) that seem to be everywhere in NZ. I said bad words, loudly.

It was good getting out of the city and I very much appreciated having the use of Mum’s car. A number of people have offered us the use of a vehicle, which has been lovely and very welcome. Once we were home and I’d successfully negotiated how the car lift to the car park in the block worked I was feeling so much better about the world, so thanks Mum and Eleanor, xx.

Sunday update – The car was making very strange sounds when I started it to go out for a Sunday drive. I ended up taking it back to Mum in case it was something serious. She told me later in the day that it always sounds like that when the engine is cold. In lieu of a drive and a short walk somewhere different Eleanor and I had a glass of wine on the deck instead. That was enjoyable and probably less stress inducing than driving again in Auckland’s traffic.