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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Home

Thursday 22 July 2021 – London.

It’s hot, too hot for me. I am wired and tired after a long couple of weeks and the past few nights have been intolerably hot. London summer hot, thick and far too warm for houses built 120 years ago. Sleep has been hard to find for the last seven nights and it’s showing in my mood, which has not been the best. Eleanor has gone to bed (not due to my mood) and I am sat here in the backroom of her house in Walthamstow drinking wine and pondering bed but knowing I will just lie there sweating, with an aching hip or knee or ankle, or some rotating combination of all three, just like last night and nights previous. A part of me is saying what is the point of going to bed? Wine seems like the best solution right now, but shit, I have to make some effort to ‘attend’ the last day of work tomorrow. I have one last document I said I would write…

I was slumped on the sofa, listening to music and staring at the wall in front of me when I realised what was on that wall in front of me. This started me reflecting on what this room contains and what it all means to me. My laptop was on the floor playing music so I picked it up and wrote this.

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Directly in front of me is Eleanor’s tiny desk, she finished her last contract at the end of June and her monitor is now in the loft with a bunch of possessions we are leaving here. Resting on the desk is a map of Auckland with pins and post-its and highlighter marks showing where my family live, the bits we have visited and places we could consider living in. An orientation map; we have visited three times, but I do the driving, and well, if you aren’t driving do you need to know how you get to places? I think this map has been helpful for Eleanor to better understand the layout of the city.

Above and left is a framed map of Walthamstow. Eleanor was born here so this is her home town, and she has a huge amount of (deserved) pride in the ‘Stow. Auckland is not my home town, but it is where I spent my life from the age of 11 so there is some symbiotic relationship between our maps. I love Walthamstow too, and hope Eleanor loves Auckland, maybe she will love it more than I do.

Next to the Walthamstow map is a small book shelf. On top of the shelf is the framed cover of the December 1977 issue of ‘Air Dukes!’ a Walthamstow music fanzine, with a photo of The Clash on the cover. Eleanor saw The Clash, and lots of my other favourite groups, a lot. Next to that is a print of a poster of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust – Live at the Rainbow. In front of the Air Dukes poster, and mostly covering the photo of The Clash is a half flat football, with Tottenham written on it…

We both love football and music. It has to be said that Eleanor loves football more than me, she has been a Tottenham fan all her life, as I have been an Arsenal fan; though my fan-ness has been distant, and I have not been a multi-year season ticket holder like Eleanor. There are certain games we do not watch together; other than those games our football rivalry only bubbles up in the occasional sarcastic comment regarding refereeing decisions and the odd tetchy moment. Naturally I am at fault for all of these. Apparently.

The bookshelf is packed, doubled up books on every shelf, we have books everywhere; in the shed, in the loft both here and at my flat, and there is a full shelf of books behind me too. I look at the books in front of me and there is no order to the chaos. Eleanor’s books, my books; novels (the pulp ones are mine), music, travel, history, football and cooking, they all stand out. We read a lot, some, but not all have been read by both of us and some have been read more than once.

To the right of me is the record shelf. We have a lot of records between us. Unlike the books our records have remained separated. I point the finger at myself for this, and no I cannot explain this either. It is deeply complex and way too tied up in my psyche to explain, especially after a wine or two too many on a Thursday. We both love music, though I am the active purchaser of records at the moment. Leaning against the shelf is a large framed print of a photo I took from some friends seafront balcony in St Leonards of dark angry storm clouds looming over the sea. They are borrowing the print while we are away and I am quite pleased by this.

To the left is a TV and a door to the garden.

Behind me, to the left is another comingled bookshelf and my meagre collection of 7” singles, and to the right is another shelfing unit with more of my records, my old turntable, an amp and speakers and Eleanor’s 7” singles. The amp and turntable work, but don’t get used as much as the one I had in the flat, which is now in the loft.

The sofa I have semi-slumped into is a 70s Ercol sofa I bought for my flat, Eleanor had the cushions reupholstered  and it’s the only piece of furniture we brought back to Walthamstow.

So, what is this drunken ramble saying? It is saying that this small, 10 by 12 ft (very hot) room pretty much encapsulates what drew us closer together; the things that made that first date in 2013 turn into a second and third date and still interest us now; books, music, football and our place in the world (and pizza).

Next Thursday we leave for Auckland and a new phase in our lives, but I am looking forward to being back in this room, sitting on this sofa, drinking wine, listening to old reggae and reflecting on those new adventures.