Graham Brazier, musician
Adjoining the Surrey Cres shops, next to the barber, lies a relaxed row of five Victorian terraced-style brick houses. The house sharing a wall with the barber was for many years home to musician Graham Brazier. The salty old rock'n'roll pirate also tried his hand at renovation, with help from a mate. "Not sure if I renovated it or destroyed it," he says.
He was a keen observer of the street life of his neighbourhood. Brazier's pad lay not far from the old St Joseph's Convent-turned-halfway house. "It used to be a convent but now its residents are being realigned into society after doing prison terms."
Brazier's father left Liverpool to escape the oppressive class system of Britain and the socialist bloodline has been passed on to the son.
"As Ponsonby became the Toorak of Auckland, certain people gravitated towards Grey Lynn. There's always been a healthy collection of mad people in Grey Lynn. -Going back to Ponsonby now sticks in my craw. I'm very blue collar, very working class. We don't have a class system here, it's about money -rather than family. Same effect though."
Tapping his cigarette into an ashtray, he leans back and quotes: "It's the same the world over: it's the rich what gets the pleasure, it's the poor what gets the blame." During the 12 or so years Brazier lived on Surrey Cres, he occasionally played -music and spoken word gigs around the neighbourhood.
"I played at the Grey Lynn Tavern. It used to be called Radarz. The King Cobras would be in there quite often, playing Texas hold-em poker.
"After the Gluepot closed in Ponsonby they didn't have a local, so they migrated to Grey Lynn to drink. I was having a smoke out the back of the tavern one evening, when I was struck by a wonderful photo opportunity - you can see the crosses of three church steeples, lined up like the crucifixes of Calvary."
Under a Surrey Crescent Moon was the name of a 2012 Hello Sailor album and song.
Just after this book had gone to press we learned that Graham Brazier had died at the age of 63, older than some would have predicted, younger than anyone would have wanted. No man was a better friend to those he loved. And no man was more loved by those he touched with his music.
The real thing
A changing cultural mix, shifting demographics, gentrification - however we choose to describe the changes taking place in Grey Lynn, it's a subject that polarises opinion.
Repeka Lelaulu is a local real -estate agent with a long-standing connection to the area, and is, a little unusually for the central Auckland real estate industry, Samoan.
Her daily work is at the forefront of the changing face of the neighbourhood, which gives her a unique perspective.
She says it's not a case of rich Palagis and their real estate agents targeting Islanders in Grey Lynn and aggressively buying them out.
"I like to keep the Pacific flavour here as much as possible - I don't go out hunting down Pacific Island families," she says.
With even a derelict shack and a long drop selling for more than $1 million in Grey Lynn these days, selling the old family home usually nets a large profit. After decades in the neighbourhood, where did the Island families move, once they sold up?
Lelaulu explains that although I-sland people living in Grey Lynn since the 1950s and 60s now reside in a highly valuable asset, when they decide to sell, they're driven by the same motives as anyone else. "An elderly Samoan man living in Coleridge St had his wife pass on. The house was too big for him, he -decided to return to the islands, so he sold up."
An elderly woman who had -recently retired without enough -income to maintain an old villa, -decided to sell her house. "She was able to buy two investment properties in Mangere and -remain in Grey Lynn herself, by buying a small unit."
Others realise some income by renting out their place. After years and years their house is now in a highly popular area. Lately they're residential landlords.
The legacy of the strong Pacific Islanders Congregational Church endorsement of home ownership with the first waves of Island settlers is evident today in the strong Pacific character. Land ownership creates deep roots, a real stability.
Purchase of property is a commitment to a neighbourhood, to the schools, to local businesses and -organisations. Relationships -develop with neighbours and shopkeepers. The church is close by with all the connections usually involved.
As well as forming strong ties to the neighbourhood by owning their homes, Pacific Island people also made themselves immune to rent increases in the area. It started to become fashionable for a new wave of non-Pacific home owners to -invest in Grey Lynn through the 90s. People looked further afield from the already expensive Ponsonby and St Mary's Bay areas and pushed Grey Lynn rents up. "If the Pacific -Islanders were renting," says Lelaulu, "they would have had to move out of the area very quickly when rents started going up."
Grey Lynn could struggle to retain its Pacific character in light of the gradual movement of Pacific Island and Maori people away from the neighbourhood. But it appears historical ties are still strong. Speaking with Lelaulu is a heartening experience, she seems to relish the future while promoting preservation of links to the past. As she says goodbye, a car pulls up with the window down. "Smoking" Joe Stanley, celebrated Samoan All Black of the 80s, grins from his vehicle. The two of them chat happily though Joe's car window.
Kerre McIvor, broadcaster
Kerre McIvor takes a sip of beer and ponders the eccentrics and rough edges of the neighbourhood. "We had Aladdin's brothel round the -corner, a Tongan lady across the street, an Indian woman on the -other side and a gay couple in the purple Alice in Wonderland house a few doors down. The naturo-pathy college is next door and an RSC across the road. Where else are you going to get that? Perhaps that's why media and creative types like it here, a mix of people, not too much polish.
"We had a party for the builders when they finished the renovations and invited the whole street to come. We had a lovely time."
Some of the new Grey Lynners have caused irritation, those earnest, well-meaning people who, in McIvor's view, exist in an oblivious fog.
"They say to me, 'I just want Grey Lynn to be like it was.' Like when? When it was a kauri swamp, when it was a huge abattoir, or when it was lovely during the dawn raids?"
McIvor loves the history but is not too romantic about it.
"These were muddy roads, people living on [Francis] St would have been factory workers or trekked through the mud over to Epsom to clean people's -houses. Much -later, when my mum was training to be a teacher, they dreaded getting a placement in Grey Lynn schools."
Aladdin's closed in the late 90s and is now the site of an -organic baby shop, selling hundred-dollar merino hoodies for toddlers, which their promotional material -promises will "make your life simpler, more meaningful, empowered and full of joy".
Pausing to consider her own role in the evolution of the neighbourhood, McIvor reflects, "I used to fit in to the whole grungy halfway house vibe when I was a solo mother, now I'm part of the bourgeoisie really; I sometimes feel like I'm living someone else's life.
The slightly scruffy character of the neighbourhood suits McIvor.
"I can throw a jersey on over my pyjamas and go up to the dairy with my ugg boots on. In Remmers or Herne Bay, you'd need your tasselled Tod's loafers on to go for a wander."
McIvor remembers training for the 2008 New York marathon, the premise for her successful and -hilarious book Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner, subtitled Never Run in a G-String.
"The Richmond league boys were always running the same streets. We were all out there in our grungy shorts and frizzy hair, we'd raise our eyebrows at each other before starting the hellish -ascent of the Bullock Track, faces scarlet. There's no prancing around immaculately coiffed in your Lululemon gear - you don't have to. I love that about this place.
"I do fear for some of the -lovely neighbours who have lived here forever but have no family. It's the only home they've ever known, and they might be forced out because of -higher and higher rates.
"They are the backbone of Grey Lynn. It's sad because I know we are part of the process of pushing them out, although I like that some -Samoan and Maori families have come out with a good dividend."
The Cat Lady is a Grey Lynn enigma, perhaps a home-grown prophet. Through bus windows, glancing up from newspapers, mystified people strain to read the messages borne across her shoulders, as she cuts past on her bicycle, disappearing round a corner.
The Cat Lady is Kim Thompson, a kind of cycling superhero for cats - a long-established local, whose vocation is to feed and protect Grey Lynn's hungry, homeless felines.
Her legend is interwoven with contradictory threads: good Samaritan or caustic antagonist, peaceful altruist or cacophonous pariah.
One winter's evening the Cat Lady stands on a corner, white vestments swirling like a ghost in the dusk. Her bicycle leans against a villa fence, her gas mask lying next to it.
Surrounded by cats and plates of food, she explains calmly: "I have to take the mask off to call the cats."
Thompson has cared for the cats for many years, but has recently become a divisive figure, as some newer residents are unsympathetic to her cause.
They are swift to grumble and hubristic in their recourse to police and the law. Most often the complaint is about the noise from cat calling.
She -arrived in Grey Lynn in the late 1970s, from a Maori family in the Hauraki Plains. After a stint in Australia she again settled in Grey Lynn in the late 90s, when she started feeding cats.
"I started with one starving stray -kitten, and that was it, I was gone - had to keep doing it for the others.
"I wanted to get all the cats off the street, but now I don't know. One year I got nine cats well enough to take to the SPCA."
Many Grey Lynn people support the Cat Lady's endeavours. Some donate cat food.
The Grey Lynn librarians say the people at a new apartment building have been big grouches.
"When they sit on their balcony in the evenings they don't want any noise. The Cat Lady is only there for about half an hour. They live on a busy road anyway."
In August 2008, Thompson was charged with disorderly behaviour for loud cat calling.
The beneficiary was convicted and fined in Auckland's District Court.
When prominent barrister Chris Comesky heard of the ruling he was incensed and filed a pro bono appeal in the High Court to get -Thomson's conviction quashed.
On the Crummer Rd corner, the cats are fed. The Cat Lady makes ready to leave for the next spot on her evening rounds.
She points up the street: "There's a flashy business couple on that road with a sports car. The woman said she doesn't like the type of cats I feed. She told me to take them down to South Auckland. I didn't think we had that type of snobbery in New Zealand."
The Grey Lynn book: The Life and Times of New Zealand's Most Fascinating Suburb, by Matt McEvoy with photograph by Stephen Entwisle. Available November. RRP $60.
The Herald on Sunday has three copies of the book to give away. To enter go to: winwithheraldonsunday.co.nz and enter keyword "Grey Lynn".