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20, 23 and 27 September 2007

In the Steps of Jack Leigh

Chapter 3: Grey Lynn, Western Springs

page 1

There's been some changes made...

When Jack wrote about this walk, the tramlines from Motat to the Sir Keith Park Air Museum were being contemplated, and where he warned us about wet and muddy feet at the far end, there's tarseal all the way. There's also graffiti.

But the most impressive change as far as I am concerned is the transformation of the old City Mission shop in Grey Lynn into a bunch of boutiques, coffee shops and apartments. I'm not usually impressed - quite the contrary - by development of this kind, but along the front of this group of shops is a mural by Kate Millington that has to be a part of any visit to Auckland.

I've heard all the customary artistic cant about celebrating this and spiritual that and cultural the other thing, and mostly it leaves me cold. It's pretentious and frequently callow bullshit. But here's a work of art that I walked away from feeling good. And I haven't really felt like this since I met my first stoneware pots back in the sixties, and headed off eventually into a seventeen year career making casseroles, bowls and mugs and teapots.

It's not just a collection of stylised national icons (read cliches). The windmill has a puffy white cloud behind and beds of flowers in front. The sea is alive under the three-master and the bears are huddled and move carefully in their bleak environment. And so on.

Every time I've been back, each time I've reviewed my photos of the mural, I feel the same sense of aliveness.

Here's the closing piece, and we'll look at the whole as we go past, but for a really close look, bit by bit, I've set up a special page of photos.

We begin just a touch before Jack's walk, to simplify parking problems. The entire walk is around 6km. By the (fatman) time you've got back to the van you won't have much change left out of 3hr plus, depending on how much time you spend with your camera.

The main constraint for people living outside of Auckland is that, outside of weekends, you need to be on that motorway out by 3pm at the latest. and the morning rush is usually not done till round 9:30am. However, If you start early, instead of after lunch you'll manage all right.

First time we did this walk, we left out the Grey Lynn-Surrey Crescent section, and when I finally did do that, it started bucketing down about 10 minutes into the walk. Despite sheltering my camera under my raincoat there were still water spots on several pics, so I came back later on a fine day to capture the mural and several other bits that had suffered in the wet.

(Moral: Always use a UV or similar filter across the front of your main lens. It's relatively easy to clean/dry, and cheaper to replace than the main lens if worst comes to worst. I usually keep a microfibre cloth in the camera bag - equally good for dust and water drops. Dan also has clear strong, sticky tape across the press button controls to keep out moisture. Ultimately you need a caddy with an umbrella.)

The Grey Lynn shops are a strange mix of high end and seedy. (Hell Pizza is difficult to place. Upper-middle end food, very seedy advertising.) Like all of us the $2 Shop is faced with inflationary pressure.

Across the road is a tattooist

and, part of any neighbourhood that hosts large numbers of immigrants,

the Western Union office. Down the street further, a dairy/grocery/florist/greengrocer spills out onto the street.

Hairdressers are hard to find these days, but there are two barbers about a hundred metres apart.

and while the old Auckland Laundry building at 58 Surrey Cresc is now a thriving refurbished office building, Auckland's only 24 hour laundry operates from much smaller premises right here.

We have yet to reach the start of Jack's walk, and much to interest already. Next is a tavern, looking nothing like the pubs we have been used to. Not a Lion Red or Steinlager ad in sight.

Hey! Somebody's taking pictures.

Probably after Jack's walk, too, is the Angkor Bakery, part of the almost total takeover of pastrycooking in Auckland by the Asian community. Part of the sales pitch around these is that they have allegedly brought to our shores the finest traditions of pastrycooking from the far eastern French empire.

Well, I'm not French, or Vietnamese, so I can't answer that, but I do believe that the New Zealand pie has undergone at their hands a regrettable change comparable to what one might expect if every Asian restaurant was cheffed by (talented) Englishmen. If you want to explore this further, make a point of sampling the pies next time you are in the South Island, where the Asian bakery is not as widely established.

The change is in the gravy - I suspect in the thickenings used, but I wouldn't swear to that. I do know that when I, for example, make a curry, I make one that tastes absolutely wonderful to me and to my European friends, who frequently rave about them, but I doubt it would get the Indian vote. OK, but missing something....

Where the Mad Butcher has not set up shop, you will most often find something like this. The small business butchery is almost a thing of the past, pretty much priced out by the bulk buying power of the big boys. The few who survive are expensive and usually top quality, often with a special line like venison or salami.

Speaking of export quality meats recalls our OE in London in the late sixties. It was our first meal in our first flat, and we'd bought in cutlery, dinner plates and stuff from the markets, and decided to go patriotic and have NZ lamb chops, mashed spuds and veg. The chops were so tough that they bent the forks we were using.

Jack started his walk from the post office. Gone. Same building but now it's Kiwibank and Postshop, part of the massive Rogernomics restructuring post-Muldoon.

Gone, too is the Cameo Theatre just up the road and now hosting a SUBWAY sign.

We pass the slightly shabby exterior of the Don.Bo resaurant.

It boasts its own website and advertises "Asian fusion and creative fettucine."

Nearby is Zeitgeist. That looks a lot like my old Rickstan table in the bottom left corner.

A brick wall provides a canvas for a professional graffitist/e. And others.

The wall of a medical centre catches the eye as well. It's unfamiliar design, slightly reminiscent of tapa cloth patterns, and I'd be interested in its background. Maybe another visit when I've got time to ask questions.

We're now approaching (from the other way and on the opposite side of the road) what Jack saw as the Auckland City Mission shop, (originally a hall dating from 1909), and the big mosaic mural.

Those who want a closer look at the mural should go to this page. The others, go to



(info from Google:)

Refurbish and Add Value

  • Ready for a facelift
  • Prime character filled building
  • Big floor plates over 10,000sqft
  • Dual street access

The old Auckland laundry building sitting on a large freehold site of 3,126sqm offers a developer or owner-occupier a very rare opportunity to refurbish and add value in this high demand city fringe location. Sold concrete construction with soaring stud heights over large floor plates averaging approximately 10,000sqft each. Mixed Use Business 4 zoning allows a wide range of potential uses including office/ retail/ residential/ showroom. Significant potential to add further floor area.

Building Area 3,795sqm
Land Area 3,126sqm
Carparks 55

Holding income $180,000pa (approximately) from monthly tenancies
Potential income (refurbished)* $1,050,000pa net (approximately)
(*based on refurbished office space)

Tenders Close 4pm, Wednesday 12th July 2006
4 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland








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