The Western Line
Bad things happen to people who lock their cars. At least that’s what my late mother used to say. “Lee, if someone wants to break into your car, they’re going to, end of story. So if your car isn’t locked, they won’t have to smash your windows to get in.”
As I pulled into the ‘park n ride’ car park at the Ranui train station I chose to ignore the words of wisdom about car security from my late mother; we were in Ranui after all.
I’ve often heard Ranui being called the arsehole of Auckland. I don’t think that is an accurate representation at all. I mean, I grew up in and was moulded by Ranui’s tender bosom from age two to age twenty, and having spent the majority of my life in a suburb where people lock up their rubbish at night and eat their rice bubbles with a fork to save the milk, I can say that the suburb of Ranui far more resembles a sock.
It should be called the sock of Auckland. A sock is something that you use to cover up something, something raw, and something that you want to protect to prevent festering, infection and to stop cracks appearing.
I had to dodge a sugary minefield of grape flavoured Hubba-Bubba and ‘roll your own durry’ butts in order to sit my daughter down on a freezing cold and rusty old bench that you wouldn’t even want your worst enemy to sit on.
Ranui – translated from Te reo Maori – means ‘Big Sun’. That always made me smile, because while the sun brings light and warmth it can also cause sunburn and melanoma. Ranui ... good Jesus, I have actually quite missed this place. If you have ever been to Jerusalem or any other Middle Eastern country for that matter and hopped off the plane and walked towards an armed guard with an AK47 and you weren’t phased by the whole ordeal; then you would probably be fine stepping off the train and onto the Ranui station platform.
It would appear that not even trains want to stay for too long in Ranui. The 12:45 pm train was an entire 6 minutes late, and with a hungry but overzealous three year old raring to go, 6 minutes is a lifetime.
Today was a good day, I was taking my daughter out for a special lunch date. She had been bugging me to take her on the train for the past 3 weeks and now that I was on mid semester break I could finally do it. As the train rolled out of the station two barefooted Maori children threw a couple of rocks at the window of the car I was in. CRACK on the window right by where I was sitting. I looked out to congratulate them on their accuracy and was greeted with a one finger salute from each of them. Classy.
“Little shits.” A lady sitting next to me muttered while shaking her head in disapproval. Her name was Marion, she taught the two small boys at Birdwood primary school last year when they were both ten years old.
“Just having a bit of fun,” I replied. “No harm done.” Marion went on to tell me that around four months ago these two rapscallions, brothers named Zeppelin and Marley (Tremendous parenting by the way), took to the principal’s car bonnet with a vivid and drew some pretty “crude drawings,” as she put it. She later mouthed the word ‘penises’ to me as she mustn’t have wanted to use that word in front of my little Lucy. We both had a bit of a chuckle before she jumped off at Henderson to pick her car up from the “bloody Indians” at Westland Automotive Mechanics.
The road to Britomart from Ranui has numerous stops; the last train station in West Auckland is Avondale (despite it actually being zoned as ‘central’ I still class it as being on the Westside). The last time I visited Avondale I was being beaten up at the Sunday morning markets while holding onto a bag full of nice but obvious knock off Ray Ban sunglasses, Louis Vuitton wallets and a few steamed pork buns. A large local man thought I was someone who picked on his children at the markets the week before. I wasn’t.
The diversity in people that was represented at this train station was similar to the faces on a guess-who board; white, brown, black, bald, goggle eyed etc. A big fat man boarded the train and sat just a few rows in front of Lucy and me. He had the most impressive white beard that I have ever seen. Being bearded myself I found myself unable to not look at it. It was majestic. Lucy piped up and said, “Look, Dad, it’s Santa.” I quickly changed the subject and pointed out the window to some of the local graffiti.Look, Lucy: look at those paintings on the building outside.“How did they get up so high?” she queried as she gazed, truly mesmerized, at the heights of which some of the pieces of graffiti were scrawled on the side of the buildings that ran contiguous to the train tracks. Some of the graffiti was more than 6 metres high up the building.
Wow ... Daddy, can we do some paintings like that when we get home?
Of course we can, sweetie.
I didn’t want to tell Lucy that I used to walk these very tracks when I was a teenager with a handful of mates, a backpack full of spray cans and a fifty bag of weed and jump on the shoulders of one of my mates (usually Dwayne, he was the tallest) and deface the very same buildings.
As we raced into the Kingsland station my stomach decided to kick up and let me know that it was time for something to eat. Not too many more stops until we reached Britomart.
Britomart was unlike anything Lucy had ever seen. I felt so glad that we'd decided to come here for lunch and even more pleased that we trained in. She couldn't stop staring and pointing at the multitude of trains that are waiting to carry their passengers back to where they came from or where they are headed.
First things first, a toilet break. Given how fancy the underground station was at Britomart, I was expecting the toilets to be of the utmost quality. I meandered into the Gents’ with my wee one (child that is) and much to my displeasure found the facilities anything but satisfactory. So Lucy and I headed for the adult/child baby changing station toilet. I really should have headed straight there in the first place, it was lot nicer, hospital grade kind of clean.
I remember once stopping into one of these toilets for a sneaky vomit one night when we were on the razz and caught the train to town. Very few people would have children out in a downtown train station after eleven at night so I didn’t feel too badly about it. Everything here is so expensive but hey, you can’t put a price on memories; well actually you can and it turns out that price is $32.50 for 2 sandwiches (one of which barely got touched), a glass of orange juice and a bottle of water. The goddamn water wasn’t even complimentary. When Tania our waitress asked me what I wanted to drink, I simply said:Just a bottle of water for the table will be fine.Had I have known that this particular bottle of water was going to set me back $9.50, I would have flagged the whole thing and just grabbed a Heineken. While I was at the till paying for our food I had this feeling, a feeling that I really should say something about the mediocre sandwiches and the exorbitantly priced bottle of water. After all, every other restaurant I have been to offers complimentary water in some kind of a glass bottle with a swing top lid: you know the kind?
Still or sparkling?
Would you like still water or sparkling water?
Just a normal bottle of water.
We have San Pellegrino or Evian, which would you prefer?
What are those? I just want a bottle of water. Just normal water, honestly I’d be fine with tap water. I’d just like a glass of water. [I knew that she could tell I wasn’t from around these ways from the look on her face].
Those are brands of water Sir. Which would you prefer?
I’ll have the Evian. [It was the only name I could pronounce without sounding like an absolute moron].
Wonderful choice, sir.Hi there sir, was everything to your satisfaction, did your little girl enjoy her meal?The train ride home seemed to take twice as long. With Lucy asleep on my lap, arms wrapped around my shoulders I couldn’t help but force a smile. Today was a GOOD day. Today I took my daughter on a very special lunch date. If you can indeed put a price on memories, then I am actually quite glad that today’s memory only cost me $32.50.
She did yes, well, she barely touched the sandwich but that’s kids for you.
And how about you?
Yeah the sandwich was O.K. but ...
I just don’t know why I wasn’t offered a complimentary bottle of water? Instead I was brought a bottle of Evian which costs $9.50.
I am sorry Sir, you should have requested a bottle of water for the table and then there wouldn’t have been a charge.
I did request a bottle of water for the table and the waitress gave me two options, San something or Evian ...
Did you choose Evian?
Yes I did.
O.K, well that’s $9.50 then.
© Lee Weir