A love letter to Paritai Drive

By Louise Wallace

'The Real Housewives of Auckland' star Louise Wallace remembers a wonderful childhood of trespassing and playing rounders in the city's dress circle.

Paritai Drive, pictured from North Head. Photo / Richard Robinson
Paritai Drive, pictured from North Head. Photo / Richard Robinson

What's not to love about Paritai Drive? The dress circle of Auckland, where new money meets old, where bad taste meets good and where tourist buses rumble past every hour on the hour, full of perplexed-looking visitors. Where, on any night of the week, teenagers can be found smoking bongs, eating Maccas and having sex in their car. Why would you want to live anywhere else?

Orakei is the best-kept secret in Auckland — Ngati Whatua weren't stupid — they knew a jewel when they saw one. Okay, so there are a few eyesores; a few monuments to architectural folly, some ghost houses, the occasional overgrown berm and the odd calling card that we step on during our morning constitutional. Apparently, rich people are too lazy to pick up dog poo.

People assume I'm new to P Drive but this has been my hood since I was a bouncy baby (give or take a few years in landlocked Remmers). I was brought up in Coates Ave until my parents built their state-of-the-art home in the front row in 1977. We moved in with the owners of Cardigan Bay on one side and the founder of Barker & Pollock on the other. Perhaps typically, I introduced myself to my mother's neighbour of 40 years, only the week he sold his house.

He said: "I remember you when you were in your school uniform ... but I'm not a pervert." That was reassuring.

Our house was the first of its kind in Auckland and looked like something more suited to Mulholland Drive than Paritai. The best thing? We had our first swimming pool. The second best? My parents decided to live half the year in the United States, leaving me, at 17, flatting with my besties in a brand new mansion. Yeh!

Louise Wallace, The Real Housewives of Auckland. Photo / The Public Good
Louise Wallace, The Real Housewives of Auckland. Photo / The Public Good

Boyfriends came and went, rum and Cokes were spilt on the white carpet and exams were taken as seriously as they needed to be. I drove to Turoa and back in a day with two mad friends and returned to find the locked-in cat had had feline campylobacter. Quelle horreur! Rum and Coke was the least of our worries.

Nothing can beat the bond between Orakei girls. Still true blues, 45 years later. Whether it was sitting on our stone wall lifting our tops to passing cars, trespassing on the Wongs' lawn at Guy Fawkes to watch their superior fireworks or getting knocked unconscious while playing rounders on Fenton Circus, we had THE best neighbourhood.

On rainy mornings our mothers would take turns to pick us up and drive us to the bus stop. They had bouffant hair and perfect makeup from the neck up; dressing gowns and high-heeled slippers from the neck down. All beautiful in a 60s, martini sort of way.

There was sadness too. When Erebus happened, it took one of our local girls, who was a hostess on the flight. She had been married only three weeks.

My children love returning to where they swam in water-wings with Nana; friends remember my parents meeting them at the door, pouring heart-stopping gins and welcoming them; and I am never happier than when in this house and in this street.

Louise Wallace stars in The Real Housewives of Auckland, which premieres on Monday, August 22, at 8.30pm on Bravo and will be simulcast on TV3. It then continues Tuesdays at 8.30pm, exclusively on Bravo.

- Weekend magazine

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