Researching my next book set in 1955 Auckland, I am rereading my two Auckland novels with characters and content relevant. Firstly The Monstrance set in 1959, and my 2004 take on contemporary Auckland, In Xtremis. It is not easy this rereading, you can see the clunky bits lurid as neon pink highlighter, pages of them. Both could be edited into brisker and more coherent efforts. Now I figure why Witi Ihimaera recently redrafted his novels.
That said, my modern Auckland is not too dated, at least until the return of the America’s Cup prompts another makeover. Indeed my cover shot may need a makeover when or perhaps if Fletchers finishes the Sky conference centre; this Key initiative may be showing signs of the Trumps. Meantime, here is a page of my prodigal son view of downtown City of Sails, the start of Chapter 6, the narrator returning from Devonport in my favourite approach to my home town these last three score years and ten:
The Sky Tower and the lanky container port cranes are the distinguishing city features as the ferry glides across the harbour. I guess the tower makes up for One Tree Hill treeless since I was last here. Auckland has a new iconic image, a concrete tree replacing a real one, with permanent light displays so you can’t miss the icon 24/7.
Way below the lonely needle the office blocks offer several slightly taller boxes, one with a tilted concrete halo, another an upended Stanley knife, proclaiming architectural input …
The Viaduct Basin is the major change for me, several sets of piers now supporting tiers of apartments, as if the passenger superstructure of several ocean liners had been sliced off and positioned around the wharves. There is not a lot apart from windows to distinguish them from the stacked container city that has moved to the east.
It is at the water line that this quintessentially marine settlement remains impressive, the ferries and yachts, the mighty white liners, the glum container ships, the bright little pilot launches and coasters and other small craft. The gleaming white police launch, more flexing antennae aft than fishing rods on a big game boat, was easing away from a nearby jetty as we came in, Miami Vice style replacing the venerable cutter Police used to share with Customs.
The solitary brick pile of the Ferry Building has been painted up like a piece of Mexican pottery, its forecourt sprinkled with sun umbrellas and sets of restaurant tables. To the right as we swung into berth I caught a glimpse of thickets of aluminium masts down wharf to the west, evidence the yachting set had acquired berths in latte heaven. There was no explaining the presence of a strange skew-whiff glass box on metal struts, unless it was awaiting repair, for surely even the most avant-garde architect was not going to put his name to this lopsided aberration. Below it was a small yacht hoist on some kind of plinth, which seemed only right and proper, a yacht statue for the City of Sails and easier on the eye than some belly-proud bronze politician. The traffic roar reminded me it was time to get going.