Half Buried Memories

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‘Half Buried Memories’

No, it’s not the results of a New Zealand earthquake, but rather a sculptural piece in Auckland commenting (perhaps) on the loss of historical buildings, and that greater emotional loss which accompanies that process.

While I was taking the picture on the weekend, a colourful local approached and told me that he had opposed the sculpture’s installation years ago. A “waste of money” ,”not actually real”. Just attracted people wanting to take photos (“like me?”, I asked smilingly).

That was as may be, but there was no getting around the period in  the 1980s when developers, according to the bloke, were hell bent on pulling down old buildings and replacing them with new and shiny edifices, before new “heritage” planning rules prevented them doing so without some preservation measures being undertaken.

It is a burial site of a kind, even if “not real”, and evokes the feelings you associate with those places.

In the background, the newer high rise buildings of downtown can be seen through the trees.

There will come a time when they too will be demolished to make way for something “better” and more progressive.

And only memories will remain.




Working Wharves

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‘Working Wharves’

Pictured, a scene of Auckland’s main port facility on the scenic Waitemata Harbour.

The port has been feature of Auckland since the modern city’s birth.The city was built on trade and commerce .

Politicos  and lobby groups now want the port to be shifted out of town; out of sight and out of mind.

It seems some people just do not want to have working wharves on their doorstep.

Dirty commerce!

There are plenty of lovely and enjoyable beaches, vantage points and eateries in the vicinity.

Equally though, I love the sight of freight ships from Panama, Liberia Singapore, or wherever, sweeping over the harbour after loading or disgorging their cargo.

I like to think the ‘nice to have’ and beautiful bits can co- exist with the functional hum, grind and sheer energy of a working port.


Food That Pleases

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Majestic Diner, Atlanta GA

You don’t come to this joint, or others like it, for the haute cuisine.

You might though if you’re hungry, famished even, need coffee (and lots of it), chat with a friend, or just hang out at any time of the day or night. And you can see your meal cooking on the grill in the kitchen before you get it.

The art deco neon signage in the top picture proclaims the simple pleasure of food.

The diner is described in utilitarian fashion on the internet thus: “Landmark diner serving classics including blue-plate specials & grits 24/7 since 1929”.

Heritage, check.

All day, every day, check.

Grits, check.

And not just any grits. Buttered grits. That come with your eggs.

Cheese, too, in your “de luxe burger”. All kinds, as long as its American or Swiss, and you don’t mind that the Swiss sort is probably American too. If you’re eating the burger, you don’t mind, because you’re probably starving or just not that fussy.

It’s all splendidly functional, yet the old school diner revels in its own American history and mythology, as told in film, story and song. Tom Waits’s ‘Nighthawks At The Diner’ album and Suzanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’ are memorable examples of the latter.

Everyone needs to eat, and diners are non-denominational temples to food where the sacraments are served to the faithful, good, quick and hot.

Egalitarian, in that the rich and poor, the loved and the lonely, and those of every stripe in between, get the same service and can all chow down or sip coffee in proximity to each other, without anyone really giving a flying f**k about who you are or why you are there.

Food, and a vibe, that pleases…




Stone Arches Tell No Lies


Curves of a different sort today.

This time around it is a stone passageway in the White Tower of the Tower Of  London.

Visited  there yesterday  and walked the same  steps  and corridors and under arches  as the infamous prisoners and dead of history. Spooky!

History ( the Tower is soaked in it, like blood on  chopping block! ) is linear and a tale told only in retrospect. You know how you got from A to B.

If you put yourself in the moment of a place, as I tried to ,it is all twists and turns, dark corners and bright windows of the unexpected.

Cruel  curves, awful arches…

History Is Not Young

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If “youth is wasted on the young”  – as Oscar Wilde’s witticism had it – sometimes I wonder whether history is too.

Not that young people cannot understand history ,when stories of the past are told well (as they must be), it is more that their present is constantly shifting,and becoming the future at light speed.

Leaving little time and energy to reflect on a past which appears increasingly irrelevant to them.

Case in point : The young man in the photograph sits at the foot of the Savage Memorial  in Auckland. It commemorates Michael Joseph Savage,New Zealand’s much respected  first Labour Prime Minister,and he is buried there.

One of Savage’s government’s great achievements was the establishment of comprehensive state social housing in the 1930s.

The young man and his peers face a crushing reality of totally unaffordable rents and house prices ,totally removed from the vision of affordable housing for all ,even the poorest, expoused by Savage.

That dream has faded in recent times, to the point that it appears to the young that is as dead as the late prime minister, and his memorial  is just something to lean your back upon….



Commemorate or Celebrate?

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A plaque commemorates historical New Zealand events of the mid-19th century that were either righteous protest or causing insurrection, depending on your viewpoint.

A Maori leader, Hone Heke, and his followers ,repeatedly chopped down flagpoles flying the British flag.

And so the story is preserved.

But not celebrated necessarily – ill-feeling can still be stirred up by the story.

I recently had the privilege to draw up a will for a woman who adamantly wanted her funeral to be “a happy party.” That got written in, as she wished.

Which made me wonder, when it is our own turn to go ,will be our lives be celebrated or merely commemorated?

A House Repurposed

The house below is architecturally gorgeous, and a favourite local destination of mine, but I am equally intrigued by its history of change.

Built as the showpiece mansion of a prominent merchant in the mid to late 19th century, it has subsequently become a Catholic noviate school , an orphanage, housing for the homeless and now, in public hands, a cutting edge art gallery.

So, big money built it and religion, charity and culture have all lived there since.

The building hasn’t really changed but it has been drastically repurposed from time to time.

The truth it speaks to me is that while we may appear as the same person we have always been (maybe our facade deteriorates over the years!), we are constantly being repurposed in ways we would never have foreseen.

What new thing will occur in our rooms? Who will visit the mansion next?

Pah Homestead, Auckland, NZ    June 2019 

Portrait: The Antique Dealer


I took this shot of an antique dealer in a provincial New Zealand town coming back home from further afield .

Needed to find a special birthday gift for my wife ,entered the bursting at the seams but tidy shop .Managed to be talked into ,and sold, a gorgeous blood red coral necklace.

This obliging gentleman even hung it round my neck for size. This in a really conservative town! But I was happy with the likely  fit for the donee. Really excellent and knowledgeable customer service. We got on like a house on fire, and in talking found we a mutual acquaintance. NZ is truly the land of two degrees of separation.

The charming man posed for a picture before I hit the road again. I really like this one, the emperor of the emporium seated on his throne ,surrounded by pre-loved vintage homeware and curios.

Plenty of history ,a heap of passion, and great facial hair!

Where Sugar Comes From


Shot of the iconic Chelsea Sugar factory, home of sugar in New Zealand,on the edge of the Waitemata Harbour. Lots of history and sweetness…actually the refinery process gives off a slightly acrid aroma. The nearby company wharf is a dedicated port of entry into the country, as the raw sugar comes in from the tropics and straight to the factory. I was particularly taken with  the roof angles ,the tower, the slightly arched windows and the tan/pink walls of the refinery buildings,as they caught the sun.

The photo version below is in homage to the pink and white colour scheme of the maker’s familiar sugar bags.

Chelsea Sugar Factory, Birkenhead, NZ, February 2019.