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D-Day approaches. It’s semi-finals weekend in Auckland for the Rugby World Cup and the place is buzzing.
So is the ‘travel retail retreat’ at Kohimarama Road in Mission Bay, Auckland.
Last night the newly arrived house guests – Colm and Breeda McLoughlin, John and Karl Sutcliffe and yours truly – welcomed Adrian Littlewood, Paul Divers and Lucy Thomas from the Auckland Airport commercial team; long-time travel retail executive Nick Hillyard and his friend Roger Meadows; Julian Bottaro from DFS; Ed and Barbara Aster of Reliance Wines, plus a living legend of the New Zealand music industry, Phil Garland (below).
Phil is a much respected folklorist and musical balladeer who has recorded 18 albums that chronicle the history and stories of colonial New Zealand. For over 30 years his mission has been to gather and preserve for posterity the country’s heritage in story and song.
Last night, the assembled guests had a glimpse into that heritage at a marvellously informal Kiwi-style party. The Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Steinlager flowed; the camaraderie was rich and the talk resounded for once not of travel retail but of rugby, friendship and this incredible country we are all privileged to be visiting.
Today was clean up time, as I introduced my fellow housemates to the ‘Hoover Haka’ (below) as practised by locals across this land.
Today we wandered around the Viaduct area on Auckland’s waterfront, epicentre of World Cup activity. The place is teeming with activity and both permanent and temporarily adopted loyalties. Most Kiwis seem to be favouring the Welsh today for the latter’s match with the French; tomorrow there will be no split loyalties.
[Karl Sutcliffe forms a formidable French/Irish/Welsh front row]
‘Yes we can’ screams the giant front page headline of today’s Weekend Herald, above a picture of the All Blacks team preparing for their traditional haka. There’s only one problem – arch-rivals Australia will be saying exactly the same thing. It’s all to play for, and a nation’s collective heart is in its mouth.