Friday, July 22, 2011

The Big Smoke

I touched down at Auckland airport on Saturday lunchtime; from there I made my way to the autism group. I'd forgotten what a head-spinning occasion it can be, and that's speaking as someone who has never been diagnosed with any form of autism. Trying to keep track of ten conversations (or monologues) at once is no easy task. But for all the acoustic challenges the monthly meeting presents, it's still a wonderful thing they've got going up there. Autistic adults need all the support they can get. The Arie Smith case was a major topic of discussion again. The point I made (when I finally got a word in edgeways) was that Cantabrians are less tolerant of people who are a bit "different" than those from other parts of the country. In addition to having Asperger's, Arie is gay, and I'm sure that doesn't help his cause in red-and-black territory. Whatever, it should be blindingly obvious to police that he has a disability, and they should show some compassion (and common sense) by dropping the case.

That evening I settled into my hotel room in Parnell. The woman at reception wanted to know my ZIP code, then told me my room was on the first floor when it was on the ground floor. She sounded perfectly Kiwi to me, so what was with all the American terminology?

On a sunny Sunday morning I went to La Cigale, the popular French market nearby. I only bought some odd bits of fruit but was fascinated by their wine cellar. When it comes to the price of vintage wines it appears the sky's the limit. I couldn't figure out why a bottle sometimes differed in price by $100 from a seemingly identical bottle right next to it. Maybe Richard (who is something of a connoisseur) could give me some idea.

This 1957 Chevy was parked outside the market. A beast of a car with a number plate to match. Forget all those vowelless what-the-hell-does-that-say combinations you see so often; this one gets straight to the point. On the subject of plates, the letter G has started to appear as the first letter of standard (non-personalised) issues. It took a long time to get through the F's in spite of all the combinations like FAG and FUK that they must have skipped over - a sign of the tough economic times I guess. My Camry dates from the two-letter system - appropriately, given my reluctance to make decisions, those two letters are UM.

Sunday afternoon was a bit stressful as I hung around in the city, not really knowing what was happening. This wasn't anybody's fault but by the time we saw the final Harry Potter movie (Richard, another member of the Aspie group and myself) I was really past caring. The film was good, I think, but I hadn't seen any of them since number two and I struggled to concentrate. I was feeling a bit low and my mind was in a dozen other places.

Monday was an unusually busy day for me on the social front. First I met Julie in Devonport for coffee. The mental health system in Auckland has failed her, she's seen six figures disappear in failed finance companies, and most recently her dog (which he was very fond of and gave her some purpose in life) has been put down. She was understandably upset when I saw her. The good news is that she intends to leave Auckland and make a new start (at the age of 65) in Wellington.
I then met Mandy, the only contact I've kept from my last so-called big job. She left the company last September, nine months after I made my exit. She now works for another insurance company and is much happier there. We walked along Takapuna Beach in the sunshine, something I used to do regularly before our offices moved to an impersonal business park where there was nothing to do at lunchtime but attempt the crossword. As a side note, who should I meet on the bus from Devonport to Takapuna? None other than Bazza, for whom going to the shore is almost a day trip.

I had a quick catch-up with a guy from an employment agency who I still keep in touch with, and then met Andy in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen pub in Wairau Park for a drink. In his life things are moving at breakneck speed: he's got engaged (he met his fiancée just six months ago) and there's talk of houses, kids and all those things normal people have. Andy left shortly after six but I stuck around and ate a lamb shank (tasty and more meat than I'd bargained for). I got back to the hotel at around nine and eventually fell asleep watching darts on TV in a flashback to the early nineties.

On Tuesday I met Richard at his new flat in Greenlane after losing my bearings a bit on the way. He lives with three females if you include the Siberian Husky. I think it's a very positive move for him. We had lunch at a nearby eatery and a decent chat. He hopes (as do I) that he can make a trip to Wellington in the coming months. I then hung around town, which is something I did quite a lot of over the long weekend. When the time came to catch the Airbus I was very glad to leave: I find central Auckland an incredibly soulless place.

On Wednesday - my first day back at work - I felt pretty low. All my thoughts were a function of the state of my mental health. That evening though I spoke to someone in the UK about my business idea, and since then I've been back almost to normal, whatever normal is any more.

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