This much I know: Judith Baragwanath

By Sarah Daniell

I am a recluse because, contrary to popular belief, I was always a loner. I like my own company. I'm beholden to no one thing and to no one person. It's the ultimate freedom. Jean-Paul Sartre said: "Hell is other people." Truth. They'll let you down. Expect nothing and you'll never be disappointed.

I pay no attention to fashion fads and trends because by the time I was 35 I knew what suited me best. Thousands don't and they have wardrobes of expensive mistakes to prove it. I happen to favour military attire and men's suits. They're tailored to fit, timeless and built for the long haul.

I abhore closed minds, hypocrisy, stupidity and ignorance.

I adore reading. It's priceless. I open a book. I am transported. You can't beat it. Posture. Elegance. Style. Funny, decent and kind people. I hope like hell I'm one.

My current pet hate has to be the zombies in human form with eyes glued only to their phones. Sitting, standing, eating and walking all over the footpath - they are a curse.

It's like a mass hypnosis and they go into a death spiral if they can't use their toy 24/7. The kids are the worst. Enter a room - they don't even look up. Listen up, dudes. You'd better learn to look up because the real world is staring you down and it has a nasty habit of biting you on the ass if you haven't got your wits about you. Wise up. Ditch the phone.

When I look back at Auckland from Waiheke Island I see a city searching for an identity. The wrecking ball smashed so many of our handsome, historic buildings in the 80s and their replacements are a travesty. Queen St? Ho-hum. I am overwhelmed with indifference. Hobson St? Ditto. It's morphed into a racetrack. Once it was filled with fascinating buildings and extraordinary characters. All gone. Fort St after dark? Sanitised out of existence but, mercifully, there is still a vibrant day and night life up on K Rd. And a decent, modern building to stare at: Ironbank. But where, I ask, are our other strangely interesting new buildings? Our daring, terrific, architecture? I'm talking about the brilliance of Frank Gehry or Friedensreich Hundertwasser,who was actually living in this country for decades.

I blame the mayors, past and present, and their aesthetically blind councillors ... but now I'm frothing and raving. On the up-side: the Britomart Precinct and railway station, Metropolis and rows of white villas in Ponsonby, gleaming in the afternoon sun.

Looking back on my life, I've discovered I'm an optimist who caught some lucky breaks and will give, out of curiosity, anything a shot. (Okay, maybe twice.) When I found I was naturally cheerful I was appalled. My dreams of standing in the shadows sulking and pouting in a swirl of poetic gloom were dashed forever. Who needs bitter and twisted, anyway? Not me. Looking on the bright side tinged with black humour is a gift that keeps on giving. Ultimately, know thyself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Life's lessons will show you the way. It's called experience: the supreme teacher of all things.

Judith Baragwanath is a writer and former model.

- Canvas

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