Day 95 and tonight’s entry is more a culmination of a personal journey than a record of living in the time of coronavirus, although the process by which I got here was most definitely shaped by the pandemic. In August 2017 the life I knew, or thought I knew, ended. In May 2019, I lost my home. Nine months later, at the end of February 2020, I arrived in Devonport to shelter with my friends Ruth and Robert until mediation in mid-March. Then along came lockdown and I was here to stay, indefinitely. I spent those strange, quiet weeks walking the streets, climbing the volcanic cones and becoming more acquainted with the immediate environs. Slowly, slowly I was falling in love with the beauty of a place of extraordinary natural beauty, situated at the end of a long isthmus across the water from a major city.
When I was finally able to begin the house-hunting in earnest, I think it was level two, things happened fast. I was in the midst of viewing a different house when I spied my future home, towering above me. ‘What about that, I said to my lovely real estate agent?’ pointing up into the sky. Very soon she had arranged a viewing and I knew immediately that this was where I would put down roots — in the sky. Since then I’ve been speeding like a bullet train through the acquisition process up to last Friday, 26 June, when I became the owner of a fifth floor apartment in a twelve storey tower on the end of Stanley Point, Devonport. It was opened in 1966, seven years after the Auckland Harbour bridge, which can be seen from the northern end of my new living room. The first apartment block ever built in Auckland, the only tower block to be built in Devonport, it was designed by Neville Price, originally a boat builder, who went on to design the elegant and sculptural West Plaza in downtown, a structure that was voted Auckland’s best building for many a year. Bill Mackay, architectural critic said of it ‘West Plaza helped turn Auckland from big town to international city.’ Neville Price eventually moved to San Francisco and to a long architectural career there.
I love this new/heritage building its clean lines and functional simplicity, even the concrete stairs with their refined steel balustrades painted chestnut brown appeal. My apartment is small, 110 square metres, and will require a Japanese approach to storage solutions for tight spaces. In a way I am relieved to be impelled into diminishing my footprint. And anyway the nomadic passage has shown me that it is entirely possible to live with a smaller collection of belongings and still thrive. The shedding of things — there will be more when I finally bring everything out of storage — and the smaller floor area brings with it a feeling of lightness. I can lock up and leave this home, head off on research trips, or travel south to visit family and friends and when I return home I will be safe and snug in my writer’s eyrie with its all day sun and expansive views as far as the eye can see — east to Takarunga and Rangitoto and south over the harbour to the city side and all the way along the bays to St Heliers and beyond to the Tamaki River, and further still to Chamberlin Island and the Coromandel. From the far end of the living room and the bedrooms I can see north over the bays and inlets towards my daughter’s home on the Whangaparaoa, and round to the west to the harbour bridge, as well.
When I am in this space there is a feeling of hanging suspended above the land, its waterways, parks and bays, the heritage buildings and trees. Over this past weekend I have been watching the weather, a constantly moving and ever-changing pageant passing through. I've seen bright sun and brilliant cloudbursts followed by mysterious mist so dense it swirled around the building and obliterated the far view. When friends arrived on Saturday afternoon the weather had pulled in like a curtain around the windows and I had to say ‘But Rangitoto really is out there’. Today rain fell on the diagonal in sun showers, the light picking out the rain drops turning them into paper darts. On both days there have been rainbows appearing through the day and this afternoon I saw one gracefully falling through the fog and touching on two 19th century churches on the lower slopes of Takarunga.
I can see I will get no work done in this setting. Today I found myself stopping mid-task. The dishes were underway but the scene beyond the far windows, light illuminating watery bands making them shine silver whie softly shading the narrow strips of land dusky pink and tawny brown. I simply had to stop what I was doing and gasp.
There is more but very soon the word count will be exceeded. I will pick up again soon...
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