Sunday, 28 January 2007

weekend wanders

It's Sunday evening here in High Street, central Auckland on a warm muggy evening which is typical of this time of year, something the rest of New Zealand likes to throw in Auckland's face, the muggy humid part being a personal afront to the country, and yet another example of Auckland's perversity, and determination to be different since its founding in 1840.

This anniversary is celebrated with a public holiday tomorrow, and, as is also usual, there is a regatta on the big wide Waitemate harbour. Sailing of course, is a public sport, and access to the water a human right here.

I've spent the weekend in what has become a series of habits since moving into the inner city and setting up camp in an apartment in the High Street. I love it.

I also love a Saturday. Usually it begins with a bus ride up Queen Street, and away from the water side to the rim of the the hill of K Road, to while away a morning drinking coffee, note taking , reading, or just musing away the time in the Alleluia cafe in St Kevin's Arcade. The arcade was build, I guess in the 1920's, has a wide open common space around which the shops cluster, while down the back, massive metal framed windows look back down through the gully of Myers Park.

The cafe takes up this window end of the arcade, the tables a motley collection of tongued and grooved deal trestle tables, the odd square old mahogany classic, and a collection of chairs which seem to move around the tables on different days, just to be sociable, or maybe its to keep the regulars from getting too attached to a fixed position.

Out of the window you see the park. In the middle of the arcade a big stone staircase takes you to it.

It's a joy, and like so much of New Zealand, a bit of a secret; the big European exotics, like the oaks and ash, happily sharing with a whole bunch of Norfolk palms, which pass the parcel down the winding path back down the old Queen Street gully, passing a kids playground, and an occasional bunch of teenagers huddled on the grass planning their next move.

This weekend, I changed my mind, and began by walking up Lorne Street to call into Jasons Books to check out their new arrivals.

Saying they do second hand books feels like a lapse of taste. What they do best is recycle the most recent quality fiction, and a parallel track in non fiction which ranges from recent USA/European/local politics, new biographies, the best of the the current publishers vogue for literary and religious history, not forgetting the odd bit of science and art history.

And that's just the new arrivals table

Being on the first floor it feels more like an attic big room, so the shelves have a high backed intimacy, which for some reason reminds me of the Edinburgh of my teens, but I can't remember the connection - maybe the first floor coffee shop/bookshop that used to be in George Street, where three life times ago, aged 15, I nervously skirted around the beards and sandals. Though I might have dreamt that?

Back in Jasons, the shelves range all round the room leaving lots of space on the floor for lounging in chairs. On the shelves you can either go for the literary fiction, or current popular [Ian Rankin seems to be in both?] , or head for the usual subject sections - art - new zealand - lit. crit - business etc.

I go there , and to three four others of the same ilk, to continue the book buying plan I began last year - for sure, indulge in new books, but also, take the chance to recycle the books I will never want again, and replace them with really nice sets, or, subject, to funds, editions of classic authors which I want to reread, or read for the first time - and, while I am at it, make sure they are nice ones.

And it works! It's a brilliant way to have fun, as well as keep connected to the world of print, and the wee boy who used to scour the old bookshops in Stockbridge in Edinburgh where ,once, I scored a 26 volume set of the Waverly novels, and promptly gave them away to my big brother Michael.

I think he still has them.

So far, I've managed to a set of Proust from a lovely second hand shop in central Wellington [reference, I promise to come!] - a hansome 3 vol set of Hugo's, Les Miserables - a brilliant little bunch of E.M. Forster, from Busy Bees in Courtney Place, Wellington -and, just for the art deco covers alone, a 3 vol set of Agatha Christie, Miss Marple's, as well as a really nice volume of Rabelais.

And last, but not least, I have this eccentric notion to collect a set of Dickens with each one a different publisher, with a special mention to the old Nelson classics that came out of Edinburgh.

On the brand new front, I'm also occasionally [courtesy of book tokens - my preferred koha of choice for a speaking spot ] buying new copies of old favourites in brand new livery.

On Friday I totally overindulged with brilliant new Penquin editions of Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey. They seem to be some kind of special edition - they have lovely rough edges as if mimicking the old cut pages of the 19th century, the paper almost creamy? Beautiful.

I left Jason's empty handed this time round - although did spot a couple of likely suspects for another day, including a 3vol set of Montaigne's essays for a ridiculous $30. On the latter, I have a notion, currently under review ,that he, and the likes of Johnson and his Rambler , were the bloggers of their time.

My next port of call was Auckland City Library for a cup of coffee in their cafe, and a quick squiz of what was new. Nothing caught my eye immediately, 'til I saw the display for a new campaign they are running called, Books for the Beach .

Four minutes later, I'm back in the cafe stroking John Steinbeck's, East of Eden. I've never read it. The Grapes of Wrath still haunts me, and, more pleasantly, dog eared copies of Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat circumnavigated the Brixton /Stockwell housing coop world in the 1980's.


And if you are wondering what all this has to do with that internet thing, apart from the links on offer here, I suggest you do yourself a favour and check out some brilliant web sites currently on offer from your local public library, for example - Auckland City, or Christchurch City, or Puke Ariki in New Plymouth.

As for the second hand book world - check out . and yep, there are plenty of New Zealand vendors there - try searching for Gone West as a start.

As I write, the storm has broke, and the rain is tipping it down. The rest of New Zealand can sigh in relief - the world is as it should be - in Auckland, its pouring of rain!


Chad Taylor said...

Hey Paul - nice to catch up! It makes me feel like I should go for a walk -- although I'm having fun working on the next secondhand to be. I've reactivated my old Blogger account but only for info purposes - it's not as fun to read as this...

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul,

Is it a conscious decision to have links open in same window?

redhelen said...

As a contribution to the 2011 Mix and Mash NZ competition this post and the associated image is licensed Creative Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) [link to:

Bill NLNZ said...

Magic to hear Paul's voice again through this contribution Helen - many thanks. For me, it was a lovely coincidence because I happen to be reading Ian Rankin's "Let it bleed". How well he conjures up the city of Edinburgh through the power of the written word. Can't wait to see what mashes come out of Paul's blog from 2007!

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