Across the Ditch - Part 4

[Image: View of Parnell Rise from our balcony]

A friend of mine who used to live in Auckland remembers Parnell – if a neighbourhood were a person – as a sophisticated woman in her 50s who attends fine art gallery openings, sends her kids to Kings or St Cuthberts, and vacations each year in the south of France. Let’s call her Maude.

I think it’s safe to say Maude is still alive and well in Parnell. She’s reading the New Zealand Herald at a corner cafe while waiting for her friends from the dramaturgical society. But a few tables over are Kevin and Terry, 40-something silver foxes with cashmere sweaters who are discussing which fintech startups to invest in. And across the street at an altogether cooler cafe started by Rasheed (who already has two gastro-pubs in Ponsonby and an artisanal bakehouse at Britomart but wants to start something uniquely chic and authentically Parnell), there is a line outside where Steph, Nic and Alycia are waiting to have their weekly brunch catchup. Nic has been promoted to team leader at the bank this week and Steph is telling the others about her recent work trip to Queenstown. They shuffle to one side to make room for Trish who is wielding two poodles and a newfoundland (she does dog walking while doing her masters) and Bev and Gary who go jogging together each weekend while their wives do barre body. On weeknights the concept bars are full of folk who lean in explain over the jazztronica about their cousins who know Heston Blumenthal, and on weekends families and couples turn up for a change of scene, to look around the local shops or to stroll around the nearby parklands.

Or at least, these are my first impressions after a week living in Parnell. The odd old-style convenience store (dairy), public housing block and antique store suggest a hint of what it might have been like before the forces of gentrification reached full swing. I am of course part of those forces, taking a break from my senior management role in research administration to write a journal of my thoughts and experiences over a single origin long mac. I too have a cashmere sweater. It’s a long way from where I grew up in Browns Plains, which – if it were a person – would probably be coming up for parole in a few years.

I am still the person who grew up in Browns Plains. We are all lots of people, shaped by our circumstances, connections and choices. These experiences become part of me as I take them onward, as I hope my contribution becomes in some small way a part of the places and people I encounter. Or as Carl Jung puts it: 'the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.'

One of my main goals for 2017 has been to find a new place to live, and, as I wrote at the end of last year:

This time I'd like it to be more of a home than a place to stay for a while. That probably means picking somewhere we're happy to stay for a few years that enables our hobbies and allows personality to express itself through the decor, and allows us to entertain guests. Friends and lifestyle conveniences should be within reach. On top of this and despite the costs of setting up somewhere new, I'd also like to continue our financial focus and boost our mojo savings considerably.

Last Saturday we picked up the keys to our new place on Parnell Rise, and it feels good to see this now coming to pass. The movers came to deliver and unpack the stuff we shipped from Australia, which Doug supervised while I scurried away to plan out our expenses for the next few months. When we left Melbourne at the start of 2015, we thought we were going to be living in Europe so we sold off most of our stuff. While we were on the Gold Coast we spent most of the time living with my parents, so most of the stuff we still had left from Melbourne has been packed away for two years. It was nice to see this stuff emerge again, including my favourite colourful rug I’d forgotten about. It also means there’s a lot of stuff we don’t have, like for instance anywhere to sit (except for my teal reading chair that my best friend thinks makes me look like Varys discreetly plotting the downfall of empires).

The prevailing advice has been to pick up some excellent second-hand bargains on TradeMe. And we will. But this move represents a lot of things for us and one of them is the chance to finally stamp our personality on a space to live, and so for the big-ticket stuff we decided to go new. Before we left the Gold Coast we bought a king-sized Bellisimo from Makin’ Mattresses (they make mattresses, I’m told) which we were finally able to unwrap and try out last weekend. I think it may be the best single purchase I’ve ever made.

Thanks to our friends in Sydney who let us crash on their couch in Camperdown, we had recently discovered the joys of furniture from King Living. So we decided to get one of these for our couch. We did consider getting one second-hand as they are pricey, but the showroom was just up the road and the winter sale was on, so we decided that the Delta was worth it.

We also did a big shop at the homemaker centre at Mt Wellington, including at Harvey Norman of all places, which will surprise some people who know it ranks high in my list of most loathed businesses along with Telstra, Foxtel and the Commonwealth Bank. (A couple of years ago we went to the Barrier Reef to see it while we still can, so I suppose in some way it makes sense to shop at Harvey Norman before it succumbs to coral bleaching at the hands of Amazon).

It’s very difficult to actually buy things at Harvey Norman, especially across departments. ‘It’s because it’s four separate franchises’, the staff explain, as if the point of a store were to arrange things for the convenience of the franchise administrators rather than the customers. But we managed to pick up some nice office chairs, a coffee table, some bedding and a bunch of electrical appliances with the help of a a young man who was most helpful and made the whole process as painless as it could be while still being designed by Gerry Harvey.

However, neither the couch nor the chairs or coffee table arrive for several weeks yet, so there is still nowhere to sit besides the Varys chair, which Doug and I take turns using according to an informal rota. And there are still no bookshelves, and our pictures are still in boxes, and there is stuff all over the floor, but I don’t mind because the place is ours, it’s what we wanted and it will be fun to watch it all take shape over the next couple of months (I'll post some before and after pictures then).

We also have no internet until the end of August because Chorus (the NZ equivalent of NBNCo except not really because they are actually succeeding in rolling out fibre to the home to the whole country) have to come and do the cabling. But this is ok, because 100-megabit fibre with no data cap is something I am prepared to wait a few weeks for.

So this week we watched Game of Thrones lying on the floor through 4G tethered to my laptop and a VPN, enjoying the prospect of our new furniture, keeping warm with our Dyson air purifier and thinking of all the friends we can have over soon and take to the cool concept bars up the street.

My name is Danu, and I am Parnell.