Love letter to Auckland: 'Warm hands and a cold heart'

By Fiona Pardington

This week, artist Fiona Pardington considers her love-hate relationship with her city.
The summit of Mount Victoria.
The summit of Mount Victoria.

Love letters, the heart's most earnest emissary and one of the most fascinating of all ephemera have bounced on to untold carpets in hushed houses, paper pom-poms of desires crushed, littering literally thousands of bedroom floors throughout the world, throughout the centuries. Sometimes sent sodden with tears, sometimes received in a fluster, stormed over then torn up and thrown out the window in fast succession, a kind of confetti of the rejected sooner forgotten the better, raining down on earthworms who wait beneath the grass to patiently ingest them, erasing their plaintive pleadings and promises bite by bit.

My father was from a whanau of oyster merchants in Bluff, but my mother's paternal family were the first family of Devonport: the Wynyards. I am the product of that unlikely long-distance tryst. My maternal grandparent's families both lived in Farrar Street, Ponsonby when they married. My grandfather grew up in Harcourt Street, went to Newton Central School and my parents were the first couple to marry in the then newly constructed All Saints Church in Three Lamps, Ponsonby.

I was born in Devonport, and at that time my family lived in Kerr Street, the street directly above the Victoria Theatre and Cinema. So I have a huge pull to Auckland, and an equal yearning for the land beneath my feet to be the whenua of Murihiku, Moeraki and Arahura.

Fiona Pardington.
Fiona Pardington.

So it is no surprise that I have had an on again, off again relationship with Auckland. If Auckland were a man he'd have warm hands and a cold heart. I've definitely got cold feet. My interest is nothing more than a flirting elbow graze with him lately, I've flown away happily, driven away deliberately and enjoyed him disappearing behind me, sometimes I'm here hanging out because of family and work responsibilities when in truth I'd rather be in the middle of nowhere on a desolate Tai Poutini West Coast beachfront, walking and working. I am acutely aware of the privilege I now have as an artist, being able to work anywhere, from home, wherever that is. Though I'm torn over my turangawaewae, I stand firmly in a place of gratitude.

At the moment, with house prices that bring to mind Monty Python's Mr Creosote, I'm no longer dating the land-guzzling monster Auckland has become. He's smashed through the fence (he's no longer nimble enough to jump) and is partying on the real estate equivalent of Tinder. I can't afford to buy a house in my turangawaewae.

The Waitakere Golf Club.
The Waitakere Golf Club.

What I see in my mind's eye when I summon up the spectre of Auckland are kids with no shoes on their feet or food in their stomachs, kids living in cars with their parents who are usually now what Americans know so well - the working poor. My Auckland based maternal grandmother was a political supporter of Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson. I long for Lange. Michael Savage must be spinning in his grave.

My favourite five:

1 The top of Mt Victoria in Devonport
2 Fairy Falls in the Waitakere Ranges
3 Waitakere Golf Club club rooms - open every Wednesday night, a classic old-school bar and eatery
4 Bethells Beach, where I live
5 My Grandma's old brick council flat in Parau St.

Fiona Pardington's work is currently on show at Auckland Art Gallery.

- Weekend magazine

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