Tag Archives: Ireland

Watching the All Blacks!

Saturday was a day of much excitement – not only was it World Gin Day (which involved Gin & Tonic scones), but I went to an All Blacks game!  I watched the All Blacks play in real life for the first time ever!  And at Eden Park, no less – scene of their victory in the World Cup (we’ll just skip over the details of who they beat, ahem…).  I’ve wanted to see the All Blacks play in real life for as long as I can remember, so this really was a big deal for me.  It was also the perfect occasion to finally bankrupt myself buy an All Blacks shirt, which was quite an emotional undertaking, for personal reasons that I won’t go into.

The game was the first of three test matches that the All Blacks are playing against Ireland over the next few weeks, so not a particularly important game, but I wasn’t particularly bothered about that.  Since it wasn’t an important game, I don’t really think that many Ireland supporters would have flown over for the matches (since you know, it’s the other side of the world and a little expensive to do so), so I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Ireland supporters that were at the game – I had no idea that there were so many Irish here in Auckland.  The game itself wasn’t the most nail-biting rugby I’ve ever watched, and with a final score of 42-10 (to the All Blacks) it wasn’t exactly a case of not knowing who would win until the very end, but it wasn’t bad rugby and Ireland weren’t exactly pushovers.  My general excitement at just being there more than made up for it anyway.

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I really like Eden Park as a stadium.  We had seats in the terraces in one of the corners behind the try line, so we got drizzled on a bit, but we were fairly close to the pitch (which is always good), and I think the stadium itself is more or less square, which makes the pitch really wide and gives the impression that the opposite posts aren’t actually that far away.  The only thing that I found a little disappointing was the haka, the notorious Māori dance that the All Blacks do before every match to scare the crap out of welcome their opponents.  This was probably the part that I was most looking forward to.  We were conveniently placed so that the All Blacks were facing us when they did the haka, so we could see what was going on, and they transmit close-ups on the big screens around the stadium (which I imagine is what is being televised), but they don’t seem to have microphones that pick up the sound and transmit it around the stadium.  The haka is significantly less impressive if you can barely hear it.  And I know that the haka is for the “benefit” of the opposing team rather than the spectators, but it’s such an integral part of watching the All Blacks on TV that it seems a shame to lose most of the effect when watching in real life (on the other hand, perhaps having the haka booming around the PA system of the stadium would be a little too terrifying…).

More haka

If you’re a rugby fan and ever visit Auckland, I’d definitely recommend checking to see if your trip coincides with any All Blacks games – just the experience of watching the All Blacks play at Eden Park is totally worth it.  I’m afraid I can’t give you any information on acquiring tickets because somebody else organised that.  You can travel by train to Eden Park from Britomart (the train station at the bottom of Queen St) and back again for free with your match tickets.  I’m not sure if this is also the case for other train routes in Auckland since we left from Britomart.

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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What self-respecting parade isn’t complete without a nod to the Potato Famine?

Saturday was St Patrick’s Day – when a large proportion of the Western world pretends to be Irish (aside from those who actually are Irish, obviously), and most of the rest of the world probably spends the day being confused as to what the Hell is going on.  I think Auckland is the first place that I’ve lived where St Patrick’s Day is such a huge celebration – there is an annual St Patrick’s Festival, which included a St Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday morning that I went to see.

This is the first big event that I’ve been to here in New Zealand, and I was (pleasantly) astounded by how chilled out the whole thing was.  The parade went down Queen St (the main street in Auckland’s CBD) and then down to the Viaduct Harbour, which is currently set up as the Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopover Race Village (more about that in my next blog post…).  I went to the Farmers’ Market before the parade, but was meeting a friend near the start of the parade, so I had to walk most of the length of Queen St just before the parade started.  Considering that Auckland is the largest city in NZ (about ⅓ of the country’s population live here), I was expecting barriers everywhere, severe traffic disruptions and lots of police officers.  The reality was much more pleasant and felt more like a small town parade (I was reminded a little of the Kate Kennedy Procession in St Andrews) – there was not a single barrier to keep the crowd apart from the parade, the traffic was stopped from going down Queen St all of two minutes before the parade got underway and I saw a grand total of 4 police officers the whole length of Queen St.  What a wonderful relaxed attitude!!

The parade itself was good fun to watch.  I think I’d describe it as a little thrown-together, but not in a bad way.  There were four pipe bands spread throughout the parade (waking up to the sound of the bands practicing and warming up about 2h before the start of the parade confused me a lot), various Irish fiddle musicians and groups being towed on floats, and a procession of the crests of all the Irish counties.  Nothing unusual there, but there were also a few groups whose main reason for participating seemed to be that they were just wearing green.  Various Irish pubs were also represented, and in the middle of all of that the Honorary Consul General of Ireland in a vintage car, along with a random Asian drumming/dancing group (wearing leprechaun hats, which clearly made them Irish).  Oh, and the Team New Zealand cheerleading team.  I genuinely have no idea why they were there – I’m not aware that cheerleading is a huge thing in Ireland, and they weren’t even dressed in green.  My personal favourite part of the parade was a group of children carrying sacks of potatoes followed by a carriage of people all in green with ginger wigs – because stereotyping is underrated, clearly.  The Kiwis seem to have a general disregard for being incredibly PC, which I must admit I’m a huge fan of – it’s wonderfully refreshing!  The parade drew to a close with St Patrick blessing everybody, surrounded by snakes and leprechauns (St Patrick was down with the leprechauns, don’t you know).  Amusingly, the float with St Patrick was pulled by a Guinness-branded car – Ireland in an incredibly stereotyped nutshell?

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Wherever you are in the world, I hope you all had an excellent St Patrick’s Day!

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