Hard News by Russell Brown

An Auckland Weekend

I hate Newmarket. No one should have to go there, especially on a Saturday. But my good friend the complex manager (oh how we chortled when he first produced a business card with the words "complex manager" under his name) had kindly offered us his four passes to the preview of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Is the Wilson carpark opposite Village 8 the worst-managed facility in town? Anxious parents with cars full of kids shuttled around looking for parks that clearly weren't there. We eventually squeezed in beside some containers, with bags of refuse up against the tyres.

These big previews - a total closeout, with all eight screens going - are a natural habitat for media people and medium celebrities. Two television women chattered away in the seats behind us. One of them had pretty much not eaten for four months "and then I realised I was just really hungry". She was on a diet now. Honestly, it's not like you try and hear this stuff. A newspaper photographer came and stood all over me to get their picture.

The movie's good. It's much better visually realised than the first one. Leo and I agreed that the scariest thing was the whomping willow.

Afterwards, there was a queue of about 30 trying to pay and get the hell out of the Wilson carpark. The roads around were full of fools charging around in late-model cars. How I hate Newmarket.

Some exotic and fortuitous microclimate was still hanging over the Grey Lynn Festival when I got there later, by bicycle. It was warm and muggy for maybe the first time this benighted spring, and there were so many people there that people were pretty much all you could see. I couldn't even find any preserves to buy, so I flopped down on the grass and enjoyed Fat Freddy's Drop. I'm sure there never used to be this many people in Grey Lynn.

Overnight, I watched the All Blacks beat Wales by a somewhat flattering 43-17 after scoring three tries in the last four minutes (Tappe Henning is not only the worst referee in test rugby, he's the worst timekeeper). I'm not one of those people who think resting a few players is selling the black jersey too cheap. Now that we don't have proper tours with midweek games, there's not much choice. Sending a team full of tired, out-of-form Cantabrians might well have been a disaster anyway.

Sunday, we hired a babysitter and went to the Ellersie Flower show, which, perplexingly, was not nearly as crowded as the Grey Lynn Festival, but it seemed to have gone well. I don't know anything about flowers - nature did not make me a gardener - but the music was shite. How many gruesome pub-band covers of 'Feel Like a Woman' and 'Complicated' does anyone need? We ducked into the TVNZ corporate tent, where David Beatson and some friends were drinking a lot of wine and laughing.

We didn't go to the Santa Parade. We never do, for some reason.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers played at Western Springs in the evening, after the drizzle had cleared. We could hear them all the way over here in Point Chev, on the wind. What was really strange was that when the songs finished, you could hear individuals in the crowd screaming. How the hell does that work?

I must express my admiration for the people behind the STV (Single Transferable Vote) petition, who had a good presence at the festival. They need 5% of enrolled electors to force a vote on adoption of the proportional system for Auckland City. There's an explanation here. I think STV has obvious weaknesses as a national electoral system, but it would greatly improve the quality of democratic representation in our increasingly diverse and densely populated city.

She turned down Leno, she turned down Letterman. Now, Ellen Feiss, the stoner goddess from Apple Computer's 'Switch' campaign, has broken her silence with an interview with a college newspaper. She is so cool.