Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Traveller’s tales

I spent last Thursday in Auckland with the five other members of the board of Copyright Licensing New Zealand, our CEO and a guy called Henri who spent seven and a half hours trying to teach us how a board should work, what our responsibilities were to the organisation and what to the shareholders, a whole bunch of other stuff. He was fantastic. Always good to learn new things, and governance is something that I have never really understood before – I wish I had known all this at Quote Unquote and the Auckland Writers’ Festival, and also when I was involved with the NZ Society of Authors and the Sargeson Trust. Those days are over, happily. But seven and half hours in a small room with no open windows and seven other people is an introvert’s nightmare.

Afterwards I went for dinner with Vanda Symon, my author friend on the board, to Hanoi, the Vietnamese restaurant in the Britomart precinct. When I was editor of Architecture NZ we published the masterplan of the precinct when it was just a gleam in Jasmax’s eye, so it’s a real pleasure to go there and see the place humming. I’d been to Hanoi once before with a friend who helped set it up, and Vietnamese food was exactly what I needed. Upstairs was as buzzy as my favourite Auckland diner, Coco’s Cantina (the Les Deux Magots of K Road), and on another day that buzziness is what I would have wanted but – traveller’s tip! – there is a smaller room downstairs, maybe two tables for four and four tables for two, where one can have a quieter time and gossip. So we did.  

Another traveller’s tip: we stayed at the Mercure hotel, corner of Queen and Customs Streets, which used to be all sorts of other names. I remember it as the South Pacific in the 70s. It was great then – there was a very louche bar in the basement – but it’s better now. I had a large room with a harbour view, there were helpful staff (we’re talking Russian babes) on the desk, there is still that bar on the top floor – they don’t call it the 13th floor, though it is – with glorious views out over city and harbour, and Unity Books is a five-minute walk away. Totally recommend it for business travellers.

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