By COLIN HOGG
Like many of my neighbours, I feel tugged two ways when the barbarians beyond the Bombays raise their rough voices against Auckland and those who dare to call it home. We know the sound of them by now, but it never fails to unsettle us.
It especially unsettles those of us who came from beyond the Bombays in the first place. Auckland is where we live, but is it truly home? Well, that's what we used to wistfully ask ourselves. But increasingly, as those barbarian voices are raised again and again, I've come round to thinking, "Bugger them and their boring bias."
It's time to start shooting back. We've been stockpiling our ammunition for ages. We've been turning the other cheek to the slings and arrows of fearful people from faraway places for far too long. We've been far too sophisticated about it. We even helped to fund an anti-Auckland television documentary with the abusive title Jafas (as in "Just Another eFfing Aucklander"). It screened last week, serving only to hurl more ordure over our city walls.
We have done nothing to deserve this abuse. Living in Auckland is like being in one of those marriages where a lot of crockery gets broken. It's an intense experience and it isn't for wimps. That's why we drink so much coffee. We have to keep our eyes open. Anything can happen and often does.
The only thing never likely to happen is the traffic getting any better. The rest of the country has no idea what we put up with. No idea. And, as we well know, get-well cards are out of the question.
Auckland, increasingly, has a non-penetrative relationship with its traffic and, for a city that loves the car as much as Auckland does, this is a very frustrating experience. But it's hardly unique. Traffic in big cities everywhere is slowing down. There's almost an unwitting race to be the first city to stop.
The average speed of traffic on the roads of London is down to eight miles an hour. A hundred years ago it was 11. Auckland's figures might be almost as depressing. The way things are going we could be better off selling the Honda and buying a horse. But that would probably turn out to be just as bad.
"Sorry I'm late, darling. Damn horse threw a shoe in Hobson Street. I had to call 0800BLACKSMITH on the cellphone and he took ages coming over in his dray."
Not that we expect the barbarians to understand or sympathise with our big-city problems. But there may be ways to get them a little more involved. The only sensible answer to keeping the traffic moving in our biggest, most productive, most important city is to build more roads.
Forget the public transport. Aucklanders hate public transport. It's mysterious, unglamorous and unpredictable; it never takes you straight to where you want to go and it often involves sitting next to total strangers and standing in the rain.
The only thing that puts any bums on the seats of our buses - and the buses don't get many, anyway - is lack of cars. We need more cars and we need more roads and we could easily fund this simple solution by selling several of the country's smaller, less useful towns and cities that are languishing, tragically, well past their use-by dates.
I don't want to start naming names, but there are settlements out there so unloved that you can buy whole streets for the price of an Auckland house.
This is a terrible, humiliating situation and it's no wonder that the simple souls living in these lost places find escape in abusing a successful place like Auckland. I could almost understand it, if I wasn't so sick of it.
They've pushed it too far and now the big worm has turned, the Jafa has rolled. We have the numbers, we just haven't had the attitude. I'm confident that with a little effort we might just develop it.
We don't want to do this, of course. Many of us come from those very far-flung places that are now flinging scorn in our direction. We're torn by this scorn. It's a terrible thing. But an angry Aucklander is a terrible thing, too, and we are becoming angry.
Be afraid, rest of New Zealand. It may not be too late to mend your ways and offer us the support and understanding we need. Otherwise, be very afraid.
By COLIN HOGG