Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

Archive for July 2010

Titirangi

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Titirangi. I named this blog Titirangi Storyteller after the village I call home. It’s part of Waitakere City, considered one of the ‘rougher’ areas of Auckland – but the way I see it, that rep keeps the house prices down and snooty folks who work in ‘firms’ rather than for companies’ away from the place. They’d clear the trees and put in lawns and swimming pools. There’s enough places in the world like that already. Gimme trees any day.

Located at the edge of the Waitakere Ranges, Titirangi means ‘fringe of heaven’ in Maori. Perfectly named, the English pronunciation titty-rang-ee never fails to get a rise from the menfolk back in New York.

The week I arrived in New Zealand, shell-shocked from leaving everything and everyone I’d ever known 9000 miles away – we went for a ride. Not sure how we meandered this way, but driving through suburban Auckland, we ended up out west and came up the famous Fungus sculpture in the middle of the roundabout at the edge  of Titirangi village.

Fungus sculpture

Fungus sculpture

We continued west and found ourselves winding through lush bush: kauris, rewarewa, tanekaha, putawetaweta, totara, manuka, kanuka – trees I had never imagined, interlaced with ferns and palms, so dense it seemed you would need a machete to get through them. There were houses in there. Ordinary people’s houses… not strange hillbilly huts or millionaire mansions – at least not all of them – most of them were fairly ordinary one or two story, three bedroom homes. Out of Hansel and Gretel they seemed – and I determined that I was going to live there one day.

bus shelter

bus shelter

It took a few years – but a few years ago that dream finally came true and I got my house in the trees. Little glimpses of the harbour from the kitchen and two of the bedrooms. Tuis and wood pigeons playing in the trees. There’s a stone bus shelter nearby and two beaches within walking distance.

To me, Titirangi IS heaven. Back in the US, anyone living on a half acre of woods with beaches this close and a major city half an hour away would have to be very well off. Here there’s beneficiaries, working class families with young children, middle class and also some wealthy folks – each tucked up in their corner of the woods. No, it’s not like that everywhere in NZ, but there’s something wonderful about living in a place that’s not divided along socio-economic lines, a place where people know their neighbours.

Lopdell House

Lopdell House

For the last half century, it’s been home to some of this country’s renowned artists – the Colin McCahon house is on the next ridge over and the tiny village is full of galleries and cafes, with Lopdell House, the only building over two storeys tall, housing a prominent art gallery and live theatre. There’s a thriving music scene with live music in a couple of the cafes on the weekend, a folk music society and an annual music festival showcasing Waitakere talent. I live just down the road from Lopdell House – and the walk home is breathtaking. Hard to capture in a photo – but there is an incredible bougainvillea

100 foot tall bougainvillea

100 foot tall bougainvillea

that has grown nearly 100 feet tall, supported by a kauri tree. In summer it is a wall of shocking pink blossoms. It’s summer now, so I was able to get this shot of it today. Try walking past that without a massive grin.

While the flora here is unlike anything else on the planet – the fauna is even stranger. Wood roaches are just plain icky. They look like common roaches, but fatter and slower. And yes – a few will come in the house. Fortunately, they make their nests outside, so you would never have an infestation.

Weta

Weta

Then there is the weta. One could easily mistake it for a massive spider – and reason enough to get off this island immediately. But it is related to grasshoppers and crickets. This weta’s body is about 2 inches, or 5 centimeters long – add feet and feelers and it’s over a foot long (30cm). This one was lounging on the side of my house when I got home one night. They are completely harmless and will never wander inside. They’re still good for a fright!

But my favourite spot is my garden. It’s all trees, no lawn, and if I sit just right, I have a view across the Manukau Harbour – to the airport. I sit out there in the cool of the evening, watching the planes take off and plan my next overseas adventure. I’ll leave from there… and always, always, always come back here.

View from the garden

View from the garden

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

25/07/2010 at 11:31 am

Some things I noticed in New York

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190309NYC - Midtown22Back in March 09 my pal Bindi and I abandoned our husbands to ten days of looking after themselves so we could take a little jaunt of our own off to New York. You may recall in the piece Planning for New York on the Cheap, that we made a zillion plans and hoped to get around to as many as we could. In brief, we did a few – like Bindi was dying to go to the top of the Empire State Building and I couldn’t give a stuff about it, so whilst we were on our way into Macy’s I pointed it out to her.

If she’d had a paddy, I would have taken her – but she agreed there were so many more interesting things to do. Two of which DID involve a Paddy – one the St Patrick’s Day Parade, which, after a leisurely breakfast we dashed off to see – had enough after fifteen minutes and then went and bought shoes from her favourite designer who just happened to have a shop on the street we were watching the parade from.

190309NYC - Midtown24We didn’t go to St Patrick’s Cathedral either. We stood there on Fifth Avenue with the cathedral to our left and Saks on our right and made the only sane choice under the circumstances. I took photos, Bindi bought perfume. And we had the most divine chocolate at the Charbonnel et Walker Chocolate Cafe.

All up I took over 1000 photos. Not surprisingly, it’s taken me this long to get through them – and there are still several hundred languishing as RAW files on my hard drive, but this TIME business is just so flawed – if I can’t buy some more, I wish I could borrow it. Although I suspect the only time I could afford would Monday mornings, or Friday at 3PM, which would be going cheap, but wouldn’t be of much use, either.

There are a million New York stories – and I can tell you about a third of them. And eventually I just might… What I like about THESE photos is they tell stories of their own, so I don’t have to waste time with words. Your interpretations of the stories are most welcome!

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

18/07/2010 at 9:05 am

The Turd Sandwich

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“Life is a long turd and every day you have to take a bite.  But you can’t feel so sorry for yourself you piss on people – at least not the people who love you.”

turd sandwich

credits to South Park for this image - I couldn't quite get my head around making my own.

A quote from Mifune, Danish director Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s  1999 contribution to the Dogme 95 School – a rather good film actually, not fully appreciated for the number of levels in which it operated. This quote is uttered by a prostitute who’s been keeping her bratty younger brother in a posh boarding school – and he’s been wagging. She is beyond disbelief at his disregard for her sacrifice on his behalf. She’s been eating a lot of shit sandwiches.

Long after I’d more or less forgotten the film (and Dogme 95 – is it still in existence?) that line stuck with me. Certainly in this context it is true – but I realised it pretty much applied, if not to life in general, at least not my life in general, there are times, or have been times when it was absolutely true.

doilyWhen you’re young and starting out, you need to convince people to give you jobs, mortgages, let your children into their school – and everyone you try to convince gives you a little or sometimes not so little shit sandwich to eat. At first, well, you refuse – and rightly so. A shit sandwich, regardless of the paper doily on the serving plate is still a shit sandwich. But if you want the job, or the house or that elusive status symbol – you hold your nose and take a bite. Usually one is enough – and you can say ‘thank you, that was lovely,’ sign the papers and move on. You get used to it after a while – you need so many things…

But then, somewhere along the way, you might discover you don’t really want something that bad – you’re just not in the mood for a shit sandwich. Usually by the end of your forties your done with them. Oh sure, someone will offer you one every so often, but you politely decline and if it should somehow end up in front of you – well, you’ll just send it back. You are done with that.

thanks to the Japanese for tidying this image up for me...

thanks to the Japanese for tidying this image up for me...

Then boom! One day, when you least expect it – there it is, sitting on your desk, waiting for you. A big shit sandwich. All the toppings. It sure looks like someone’s gone to a bit of effort to come up with this. But why? Hmmm…

You KNOW there’s no way in hell you’re gonna eat that thing. Nope, ain’t gonna happen. You’ve got to send it back – that’s all there is to it.

Except… you don’t really know where it came from. Or why. Or…

You’re not going to eat it.

But where do you send it back to?

(Remembering not to go and piss on the people who love you in the meantime.)

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

06/07/2010 at 7:19 am

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