The Tron

May 21, 2008

Mysterious Dave and I have been discussing why it is that people don’t seem to understand Hamilton.

We grew up there, on the banks of the mighty Waikato River.

In winter time the fog rolls in and it can be so thick you can’t see the end of the car’s front bumper.

In summer time it can get so muggy (it is, after all, built on a swamp) that at night you want to lie down and melt.

It’s a nice town. Good size population. These days it has seven movie screens. Of course, Auckland does have more, but I’ve noticed a tendency for every one of the movie houses to show the exact same movie that’s being shown on all the other movie houses at the same time. Seven o’clock? Must be Horton Hears a Hoo in Cinema 3. So in this instance, the number of screens is pretty much irrelevant.

There’s a university, several high schools, a polytech. There are local radio stations. There are a good dozen restaurants or more on the main drag alone that are worth a look.

And yet there are still people who are surprised by Hamilton. Slackers likes to use it as a term of derision when talking about the North Shore. And I quote:

There is plenty to like about Hamilton, it’s just a matter of where you look. I ran along the bank of their mighty river. It was tranquil, brooding, and, in the morning light, quite ethereal. The museum has its own distinct identity, with its marae leading visitors to the water. There was an exhibition on Italian immigrants to New Zealand which was precisely what I was in the mood to see
.

Of course, Slackers doesn’t see the point to Lone Star restaurant, whereas readers of this blog will know it’s the Cobb and Co of the 21st century. For the love of god.

And then there’s Jane Yee, whom I always liked on C4 music station but bump into less often now she’s a blog.

Jane’s been twice now. Yeah, that’s right, twice.

First time round, she played the “Aucklander Just Passing Through” card.

Look, I’ll be honest with you. Like many Aucklanders, I’ve traditionally held a pretty grim view of Hamilton – don’t ask me why, it’s just an inherent disdain. Previous Ham-bound journeys were born of necessity, and there hadn’t been a trip to that fine pinnacle of Waikato living that has managed to change my opinion. That is… until this weekend.

Even her second visit didn’t disappoint, with the self-appointed Waikato Bloke to demonstrate some good old-fashioned ‘Tron Hospitality.

So about twenty minutes later, there we were happily minding our own girly business when this same guy comes hurtling towards us yelling “you’re not from Auckland! You’re from Morrinsville!” – um, no, no we are not from Morrinsville. Where is Morrinsville? Anyway, this guy’s theory was that we didn’t look old enough to be allowed to drive alllll that way from Auckland (as opposed to driving from Morrinsville where there are no laws… apparently).

But you tell people you quite like Hamilton and they look at you funny. And I’ll leave Dave to expound on his points of view in the comments rather than steal all his good ideas and claim them as my own.

Hamilton. It’s not entirely, necessarily for weekends you know.

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12 Responses to “The Tron”


  1. I’m a Hamilton native also, and my weekends back are a magical whirlwind of catching up with family and friends for Rugby, Cricket, drinks, cups of tea and high cholesterol breakfasts. Could I live there again though? The teenager in me still says NO WAY, but with a family on the way, I’m thinking better traffic, decent places to eat and drink, and being no distance from the family bach is appealing. I even get a far away look in my eye when it’s foggy here…

    BTW as an ex-Hamiltonian living on the Shore, all my disparaging geography jokes are about Palmerston North. Or the South Island in general.

  2. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    Following Audent’s kind invitation, to expand on my point of view, this discussion we had earlier is probably what he is thinking of.

    In response to Audent’s comment “Nobody believes anything about Hamilton. It’s strange but true.”, I wrote:

    ‘You tell people “It’s a nice place to live.” They just blink at you.

    You tell ’em, “It’s a boom town. My Dad has been working on new houses constantly for over 40 years. Population has multiplied by 5 or 6 since World War Two.” they look perplexed.

    You say “More people live in Hamilton than live in Dunedin. Either counting tertiary students, or not counting them.”, they feel certain such a statement can’t be right, but can’t articulate why.

    You say “You can go anywhere you need to go in the town in less than twenty minutes travelling. And the town has everything you need.” strangely enough, they are not surprised. Until you get to the ‘everything you need’, when they stop believing you. Who can live without a beach?

    Perhaps it is because you now live in a town where they only think of Hamilton when they need a place to tell a joke about. When they actually need something, like a place to dump rubbish, steal water, or scrounge funds for Auckland projects, it is known as part of the “Greater Auckland Region”.

    For me, where I live, for many Hamilton is an abstract place. Some where to the North. Farther than distant Taupo.’

    And Richard, I’m the same about fog, and I use to miss frosts, because I used to live in areas that didn’t really get them (steep hill suburbs in Wellington, near the sea). What is weird, I live in Wellington, and I have to explain to people here that the weather in Hamilton is good. They seem to think it is a land of perpetual fog. And they don’t understand when I tell them that you get a good autumn in Hamilton. They don’t seem to know what a good autumn is, with the winds whipping dead leaves of the trees so fast around here it is a concept I think they don’t really have. Which is my only complaint about Wellington weather, the rest of it is fantastic. It is interesting, every day is a new event.

  3. Audent Says:

    Richard, I was the same about living in Hamilton. I still don’t think I could, but the idea that I could live in a big house with lots of land on the edge of town and STILL be at work in the CBD in 20 minutes is quite appealling.

    Oddly, I find myself defending Auckland as well to people who have never even been to the city but know (somehow) that it’s the Devil’s Plaything. This I find odd… how do they know we’re all sodomite children of Satan and if we are, do I keep missing the invitation to the parties?

  4. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    With Auckland, it is the shear travel time to get anywhere that got to me. And I wasn’t really travelling far.

    I’m sure, if you had a house in the right area, like the same side of town that you work at, life in Auckland would be perfectly pleasant. As an outsider though, (and Richard or Audent could correct me)it seems just getting into a house in the right area is difficult. Witness the many people crossing the harbour bridge twice every day.

  5. audent Says:

    The bridge is one of those mental blocks more than an actual block as far as I can tell. It’s Auckland’s general sprawl and lack of alternative infrastructure that’s my bother. Robbie was right – we should have had more rail built in the 60s. I blame central govt for railing (railifying?) Wellington then refusing to do AK.

    My beef is that somehow everyone in Auckland is supposed to be exactly the same as everyone else in Auckland. We all live in Ponsonby, have blow waved hair and talk incessantly about property prices. Well, we do that but the last time I had hair was in Hamilton.

    Oh and did I mention how we’re all sodomite children of the dark lord?


  6. I love Tron visitors’ comments like ‘Oooh, isn’t your house close to next door’ or ‘hasn’t your cat lived a long time for a townie cat’. That and asking for directions to the motorway in triplicate followed up with a white knuckle call from the car once they get there.

  7. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    You did mention the sodomite children of the dark lord, now you ask. And do the other sodomite children tease you about the lack of hair?

    It’s the general sprawl of the Auckland that leaves visitors lost for direction. To a person that doesn’t live there, Auckland looks a lot like a bunch of roads and motorways, that look like the other roads and motorways, surrounded by suburbs, that look like all the other suburbs. I know other towns have all of this too, but there is so much more of it in Auckland.

    I may be a bit bitter after a few lost hours travelling through the city, wondering where I was going to sleep that night.

  8. audent Says:

    Oh come on.. you were fine, once you found the bridge weren’t you?

    They do tend to freak out a tad about the traffic. Yet visitors from overseas tend not to notice what the fuss is about. I particularly like the comments from the chap that designed Britomart – they asked him how his design would help with the traffic problem and he said “what traffic problem?”. Honestly, try the ringroad system round Bromsgrove some time. THEN Auckland seems like a walk in the park.

  9. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    Yes, I’m sure visitors from overseas don’t know what all the fuss is. But to sound parochial for a moment, aren’t we discussing Auckland as she is percieved by New Zealanders?

    Actually, aren’t we discussing Hamilton?

    One funny thing I’ve noticed is people who say “I couldn’t live in Hamilton, but I could live in Cambridge.” Without acknowledging that they probably couldn’t live in Cambridge, if a town the size of Hamilton wasn’t right next door.

    Another funny thing is Mystery Creek. Ever wondered why nobody says “I wonder why its called ‘Mystery Creek’?”. I have…

  10. audent Says:

    I’ve often wondered what the mystery was at Mystery Creek but I fear it’s one of those Kiwi things (y’know, like “We call this Northern Stream because it’s in the north” and that the mystery is nothing more than “What should we call this place? It’s a bit of a mystery to me why we’re even here…” etc.

    I could live in Cambridge. Just don’t go to the Super Loo. It’s not and they actually employ someone to sit in there and change money so you can use the facilities. FFS.

  11. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    Right, this is what I have found on Mystery Creek, and the following extract comes from Reed, A.W. ‘The Reed dictionary of New Zealand place names’ (A. H. Reed & A. W. Reed, 2002): page 331. Unfortunately, I’m quoting a book, quoting a book, but the jumps between texts should be obvious.

    The ‘mystery’ is graphically described in ‘Plough of the Pakeha’ by Eric Beer and Alwyn Gascoigne.

    Christian Hansen’s farm bordered the main route from Hamilton, via Ohaupo to Te Rore and Te Awamutu:

    “It was hence quite a common thing for him to be asked the road to different places at any hour of the day or night. Hansen did not suspect any mischief was at hand when, at about midnight, a person knocked at his door and asked the way to Te Rore. Shortly afterwards the man returned with a companion who had his face blackened. Walking straight into the room, one of them presented a large knife at Hansen’s breast and demanded his money. His mate went to a box in the corner where the Bohemian kept his savings and took out twenty-one gold sovereigns. Hansen managed to reach behind himself and to get hold of a loaded rifle. The man at the box spotted the movement and grabbed the gun, deliberately fullcocking and firing. The charge entered Hansen’s left wrist, shattering the bone to splinters… his attackers made off. On coming to he made his way to Orum’s hotel about two miles away…”

    He had to make the long journey to the military hospital at Cambridge, where his hand was amputated.

    “Hansen had never mentioned to anyone that he had money, and, as the thief went straight to the box in the corner, it was naturally assumed that the deed could hardly have been done by a stranger … there was much sympathy for Hansen … It was a complete mystery. The culprits were never brought to book and the episode would probably have been forgotten in time, but a few months later, a settler was looking for a lost cow in a gully and came across the body of a dead man lying near the creek. It was obvious that the remains had been there for some time … Captain Clare and Constable Noonan investigated but nothing was found in identification. It was gradually believed that one of the men who had robbed Hansen had strangled his accomplice for his share of the booty. Ever since the place has been known as ‘Mystery Creek’.”

  12. audent Says:

    Oh, a real mystery! I like it.

    Orum’s hotel. Sounds like a place where economists meet to plunder the wealth of the nation while partaking of the local waters.


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