I’m enjoying a genuine good feeling for the future, tingling in my hardened arteries after spending summer in and around the Bay of Plenty. So much so that I feel moved to use my column inches to elaborate on  the theme.

AS AN ANNUAL VISITOR I AM VERY AWARE OF THE ACCUMULATION OF GRADUAL, STEADY CHANGES, such as the height of my grandchildren and the sense of prosperity, growth and confidence in the people of the B of P. There are the hard measures like house prices, traffic volumes and the new businesses popping up. But they are nothing compared to the general feel-good factor. Smiles, lively children and families, and people engaging with each other in a positive way. I think it’s called happiness.

OPTIMISM BREEDS SUCCESS AND VICE VERSA. Many social conversations and unsolicited observations reveal a widespread contentment with schools in the area, the choice and quality of restaurants and bars, with community institutions like local surf life saving clubs, local authority services, and shopping choices. There are noticeably smarter cars on the road, better offerings from consumer outlets – an indication of more spending power and healthy competition – and a proliferation of places with the “Cool Kiwi” style, such as Pap Tav, Mount Social Club and Vaudeville Bar.

TWO MUSICAL EVENTS AROUND THE MOUNT OVER NEW YEAR EXEMPLIFIED WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE AREA. I can pretty much guarantee that few, if any, other grumpy old so-and-sos had the opportunity to attend the Ja Rule, Ashanti and Chingy rap
event at Soper Reserve on the eve of New Year’s Eve. Not only that but, also to attend the amazing Bay Dreams festival in the ASB Arena the day after New Year’s Day. There were eighteen thousand joyous, young attendees. The organisation was remarkable but unobtrusive; and there were heaps of star turns such as Yelawolf, Sticky Fingers, Peking Duk and Grandmaster Flash, to name but a few.

At Bay Dreams with Team UNO. Left to right: Creative Director Emma Staddon, Photographer Tracie Heasman, Publisher Mat Tomlinson, me, Editor Jenny Rudd and Photographers Kseniia and Alex Spodyneiko.

NOT MY USUAL CUP OF TEA, I must say. In fact, I freely confess that I had never heard of any of the performers at either event. Equally, I admit that I absolutely loved both experiences. Listening to live music within the context of the ecstatic audience reaction taught me to enjoy, if not love, these other genres which are so rarely appreciated across the generations. I attended as part of Team UNO. courtesy of the organiser (and cover star of this issue), Pato Alvarez. Pato is a highly impressive, surprisingly youthful person. He has two qualities that many great people possess – he is generous with his time, and has an infectious, calm confidence. I took an instant liking to him and I believe he is and will continue to be, a highly beneficial player in the Bay success story.

ANOTHER LOCAL ASSET OF HIGH QUALITY, which is clearly increasing in its relevance and popularity, is the venue Totara St at the Mauao Performing Arts Centre in The Mount. I, and a good number of others, attended a hugely enjoyable evening entitled Blue Sapphire, a techno swing outfit featuring a great singer, Kitty Martini. Another night we saw a three-piece rock band called My Baby, who were also superb. There’s some really good stuff going on here. I understand the MPAC also provides music lessons.

THESE ARE RELATIVELY SMALL ELEMENTS OF ONE BIG PICTURE which is the absolutely stunning Bay of Plenty. I particularly love The Mount: the beaches, the facilities, the harbour, and Mauao itself. It provides a reference and facility for all to see and enjoy. It forms an iconic, sacred, historic volcanic cone, which is constantly circumnavigated by walkers, joggers, canoeists and paddle boarders, and is scaled daily by hundreds of locals and visitors. Including me.

Mike Rudd — Memories

I remember the facts — the sights — the smells — the sounds — the journeys — the accommodation — the meals — the schools. But I don’t remember how I felt.

Mike Rudd, RAF fighter pilot and ex-Otahuhu College boy, leaves his UK armchair and spends summer in New Zealand.