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Auckland Auckland

5th March 2012

A Day with Expatriates Strolling Along Takapuna Beach

Angus and Lillian
Anchor Damage Being Rectified and a Repaint
    I have no idea why, but I found sleeping in a proper double bed, after 3 months cramped in the back of a car, was not a restful as one would expect. It was basically a restless night; perhaps an anti-climax after the action-packed trek I've just experienced.
    I received a call from Angus early in the morning, and he and his wife Lillian kindly drove down from Glenfield to pick me up. "Let's head across to Takapuna Beach," they said, and soon we were heading north out of central Auckland across the Harbour Bridge.
    I learned that Angus and his cousin John (my brother-in-law) used to play together at their Aunt Dolly's house when they were kids. That was up in the northeast of England, where Angus and his wife originated. The two cousins had not seen each other now for over 50 years.
    The couple moved out to Auckland 25 years ago. "It wasn't so much for us, as for our sons," said Lillian. "There was not a lot of work about around where we lived, and we wanted the best future for our lads," she added in her northern lilt. 25 years in New Zealand had not affected their language at all; I felt quite at home listening to their twang.
    We arrived at Takapuna Beach, a delightful long stretch of sand directly opposite Rangitoto Island. After a chat over coffee in a seafront cafe, we had a pleasant stroll along the beach, crunching the shells under foot, the bright sunlight glistening on the azure waters. A grassy reserve fringed the shore line.
Ship Leaving the Port which was on Strike
    "The Takapuna Yacht Club located at the end of the grass reserve area there," said Angus pointing to a non-descript grey building, "want to extend their premises and build a car park on the reserve. None of the locals want this, and they would lose a picnic place by the sea when the tide is in. The new complex would only be used by a minority of individuals at the weekends for a few weeks of the year. But money will talk in the end," predicted Angus. The words "corrupt" and "practices" do not spring to mind.
    We popped around to their wooden bungalow in Glenfield for a spot of lunch, and discussed our children and grandchildren. When the couple left Britain it had been a traumatic experience leaving family and friends behind. It had not been a straightforward process gaining entry all those years ago. Angus had been a works manager, a skill not recognised in New Zealand. It was only when a sudden demand for draughtsmen arose that he managed to get the break he needed.
    The time approached when we had to part company, the couple collected their grandchildren from school each day, and then they were fully occupied until their son picked them up later.
St Andrews Church at Sunset
    "Just point me to the train station and I'll find my own way back to the city," I said. The couple laughed at this, there are no trains north of the harbour. "Busses then," I added. There was one a day from where they lived. Commuters rely on cars, and at rush hour the arterial roads become gridlocked. Indeed the whole transport infrastructure of the city seemed to be a mess.
    I said my farewells to Lillian, and Angus drove me back to the city centre. As we drove through the lush, leafy suburbs of Glenfield, populated by hundreds of wooden buildings, I asked Angus about the insurance premiums for such buildings. Their plus side was they would survive an earthquake better, the down side is that they burn easily. Angus wasn't aware of any hiked premiums because of their construction. However, as our conversation shifted to the Christchurch disaster, he knew that all premiums would be hiked up since the government earthquake disaster fund would need to be built up again.
    "All sorts of building malpractices have come to light since that quake," said Angus. "Some time back the government gave approval to use kiln dried wood in construction as opposed to treated timber. Over time, water had got into the dried wood and started to rot it, thus weakening it. Come the earthquake, these houses suffered badly. Now the government is trying to get the councils to fund 40% of the repair costs to these properties, but the councils were only acting on government advice," he told me.
    I have heard quite a few such stories over the last 3 months; there is a theme running through them all, and it doesn't inspire confidence in the authorities. I shan't say more.
    Angus kindly dropped me off in the centre of the city so that I could attend to an outstanding task; shopping for presents. Shopping is not one of my favourite pastimes (hey, I'm only a bloke), and it is more complicated by the fact that I will have to carry everything over three more international flights, each with baggage weight restrictions.
    After a few hours I was rewarded with just two presents sorted. I celebrated this major feat with a cool beer by the waterfront, content to people watch for a while.
    I reflected on my day with Angus and Lillian. They were a lovely couple and had made me very welcome. It was interesting to get their views on their adopted country, but I got the impression that deep down the northeast of England was still "home". Having said that, with their friendliness and helpfulness, I'd say they are Kiwi through and through.

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Auckland Auckland

Uploaded from Quadrant Hotel, Auckland on 6th March at 09:42

Last updated 6.3.2012