K Road Plasticware Centre

Closing DownThe Plasticware Centre (which may or may not be “Payless”), has been a K Road fixture for years, lurking in the basement of the HB building on the corner of Mercury Lane.

But, sadly, a sign has appeared recently advising customers that the shop is closing down. One more piece of old K Road is going.

It’s not your average plastics shop. It feels like that at one point it may have been quite ordinary – perhaps at some stage in the ’70s, when Newton was a dying, working class suburb, decimated by the newfangled motorway and trying to find itself again. Back then, people needed to be able to buy cheap plastic goods, cos they surely couldn’t afford anything pricey.

Even though the Plasticware Centre gets plenty of light from the Mercury Lane side windows, it still feels a bit damp and dodgy, but that just adds to the charm.

What I like best about the Plasticware Centre is that some of the stock appears to be decades old. I found a set of kitchen scales just like the ones I grew up with. My mum bought those in the ’70s. I could buy a “new” pair from the Plasticware Centre if I wanted.

If you were wanting to deck out your kitchen in a ’70s or ’80s retro style, forget Iko Iko – the Plasticware Centre has all your needs, including a ye olde spice rack full of spices that probably aren’t so spicy anymore.

There’s 10% off everything now, and stuff is pretty cheap there anyway, so there are sure to be bargains to be had. It’s worth a bit of an explore anyway, just to enjoy its quirky character.

Two short points on Auckland bookshops

1. Unity Books, probably the best Bookshop in Auckland (along with this one. And this one.) are having a sale, and it just got real crazy. Discounted books, most of which are going for, like, twelve or ten bucks, have just been marked down by 50%, and even my BA Majoring in English (not that you’d know it with all the commas in this sentenceyour English lecturer) brain can do that math. It’s not clear how long this As Seen On TV-style discounting is going to last, so I reckon you should get to the Auckland branch at 1 High Street, stat.

2. Borders may well be the Starbucks of book retail, all male white corporate oppression, but are you going to liberate the Borders employees from Stevie Wonder? My last three visits to the Queen St branch (hey, they send me vouchers) have been accompanied by the dulcet tones and funky basslines of the dreadlocked, sunnglass-ed maestro, in some kind of greatest hits package. You know, Superstition, Higher Ground and the like.

It could be worse, but if I’ve noticed Stevie in three infrequent visits, they must be thrashing it around the clock. And I bet it’s driving their  generally helpful and professional team nuts. I say pull your socks up, Borders, get some new CDs out of your impossible-to-open shrink wrapping, and give the team a break.

Misery doesn’t love company

We’re not normally in the business of reprinting press releases straight, but today I figured I’d be the NZ Herald to Misery’s Bob McCroskie*:
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Oratia? It’s over there, by Glen Eden.

If you’ve ever driven out to the Matakana Farmers’ Market, you might have found the whole thing a little overwhelming. There’s the lengthy crawl through the show-home-heavy bits of Orewa, and that giant roadworks project which is seemingly never going to get finished, and then by the time you’ve made it to Matakana there are approximately 97,000 people all trying to sample the Omaha blueberries at once. You might have said to yourself ‘I wish there was a relatively obscure newish farmers’ market in the Auckland region – say, out west – which is much closer, and much more laid-back, and way less crowded, but also a bit rural and close to some vineyards and beaches.’ Luckily, the Oratia Farmers’ Market, weekly on summer Saturdays from 9am-noon, fits the bill. Yes, the drive is a little less picturesque (OK, a lot less picturesque if you come down Bruce McLaren Road), and there are fewer foodstuffs to choose from, but there are several advantages: petrol savings, westie-spotting, some flirty Italian guys who make fresh pasta right in front of you, and a gloriously rich-tasting-icecream stall. There’s also the close proximity (like, 20 metres) of the market to a local vineyard with its own cafe, and everything is right next door to my favourite weird antique/junk shop, Just Plane Interesting. Where else in Auckland could I have bought a vintage promotional poster for Smokey and the Bandit II? And by the time you’ve made it all the way out to Oratia, you might as well pop over the ranges to Piha.

Shops we adore: Artisan Wine Suppliers

Last time I was in Auckland, I stayed at the Elliot Street Apartments (I’ll be doing a roundup of Auckland hotels in March), which was above the Elliot Street Stables,  a very Europeany food court-ish space, with an assortment of eateries opening up onto central cobblestoned alleys with communal tables. It was a lovely space, with a nice cool breeze and as my sister and I started to eat our way around the world (Italian bruschetta, Morrocan and French sausages), a man with some tiny little plastic cups came up to us, and asked if we wanted to try the wine special of the day. That’s a big hell to the yes, so with a little free chardonnay inside us, we decided to purchase a bottle to drink that night. We found our way to his shop and the joy continued. We asked for something aromatic, kind of Waipara-ish, good for drinking after a hard day and under $25, and Kevin the proprieter didn’t baulk at all. Instead, he asked us if our tastes ran to the turkish delight-ish, which they do, and he promptly recommended two kinds of Gewurztraminer. We took the one from Malborough that we’d never heard of before, and we also gladly accepted his advice to wet towels and hang them in front of the fans in our rooms in order to cool them down. And oh man, that wine was scrumptious and perfect.

It was so delicious, in fact, that when we were waiting the next day for our ride to our wine day out, we went back to thank him for his splendid advice. When we said that we’d buy more except that we were Matakana-bound, he gave us enthusiastic advice about which vineyards we should go to, and which ones were skippable. It was very obvious that they only stock wines that they drink and love. I was also impressed when he gave me his card so that I can email him to find out where I can buy that wine that I loved in Wellington, except that I’ve forgotten its name. Chances are Kevin would remember though. Artisan Wine Suppliers for the win! Such lovely friendly thoughtful service. We’re recommending it to everyone we know.