The Kiwi Connection

October 2, 2007 at 6:05 am (Uncategorized)

Llew and I returned from our Auckland short-break late last night, so now I’m back in Sydney reeling from the idea that something anticipated for so long has ended so quickly. I rarely get to see these friends, and it’s hard accepting the fact that now we’ve been and returned, I don’t know when or where I’ll see them next. This is the fate of the long-distance friendship, and it was always thus.

I must say, it felt as though I was visiting Auckland for the first time, although this wasn’t strictly speaking the case. Sarah and I travelled around New Zealand in 1994, and my 22nd birthday was spent in downtown Auckland at a transport information centre down in the Viaduct area (was it even known as that then…?) booking bus seats for the remainder of the trip. Not my usual birthday program, I can assure you, but I was overseas to see my friends and prepared to make an exception. This time, Llew and I weren’t going anywhere, so we just kicked back and enjoyed seeing a bit of our cuzzy bros across the Tasman.

Our friends live in a great area, right near Ponsonby Rd, in one of the lovely character-filled weatherboard cottages that really dominate the Auckland housing scene. They’ve renovated theirs, and it’s lovely, one of a growing number of homes transformed by the economic growth and prosperity of New Zealand’s largest city. We stayed on Ponsonby Rd, which was full of boutiques, bars, and cafes, and it proved a very convenient point from which to scout our way around the rest of the city. K Rd is very nearby, on which I loved St Kevin’s Arcade, and walking into the downtown area or to Newmarket’s Parnell Rd proved very easy indeed. There were plenty of bowls of good coffee, some fine food and some very pleasing retail opportunities. One foodie highlight was the Northcote Point bistro The Engine Room. We had a fantastic meal and the service was perfect. The Engine Room waitresses also recommended our next stop, Shanghai Lil’s, a joint that puts the Sydney bar scene to shame. Part opium den, part Auntie Mame, Shanghai Lil’s gave me a serious case of venue envy.

But of course the real highlight was also the sole reason for being there: our friends. I’ve known some of the people we were there to see since I was 16 years old. They’re very important to me. Somehow, somehow, we have managed to stay in each other’s lives, even though I can count the number of times I’ve seen them since we last lived in the same country (Canada) some 16 years ago. I am connected to them in ways that I can’t adequately explain, and I do think part of it has to do with our antipodean bond. We share so much for being – practically speaking – so far apart (although – in stark contrast to every Aucklander I encountered over the past few days – Sydneysiders seem to have abandoned wholesale their old reputation for friendliness. I think we now have the dubious honour of being one of the most obnoxious, arrogant populations in the southern hemisphere). And some of the things we share never change.

Plenty of other things change dramatically. There are wives, husbands, fiances, babies, toddlers, brothers, sisters, mortgages, pets, debts, jobs, stresses and everything else that arrives and competes for time in the average person’s Western existence today. Life happens to other people even (or especially) when we’re not there to see it taking place. There’s always a brief period of adjustment, of absorbing the new world order whenever we do manage to meet. But then faster than seems possible there comes that unmistakable feeling of connection, of almost psychic recognition. It is a cord that tugs weakly across the vast distances that separate us, but it’s always firm enough to draw us together when we meet, when it binds us to each other once more. I guess in its purest form it’s simply friendship. Just plain old love.

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