MR AND MRS Brown first met Paddington on a housing development platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the development.
The Browns were there to meet their daughter Judy, who was coming home from school for the holidays and she needed a place to stay. It was a warm summer day and the development was crowded with people on their way to Courtenay Place. E-bikes were humming, buses were roaring past, homeless people rushing about shouting at one another, and altogether there was so much noise that Mr Brown, who saw him first, had to tell his wife several times before she understood.
“A bear? In the Paddington development?” Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. “Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!”
Mr Brown adjusted his glasses. “But there is,” he insisted. “I distinctly saw it. Over there – near the live-work units. It was wearing a funny kind of hat.”
Without waiting for a reply he caught hold of his wife’s arm and pushed her through the crowd, round a trolley laden with chocolate and cups of tea, past a bookstall, and through a gap in a pile of packing crates towards the Whistling Sisters Brew-Pub.
“There you are,” he announced triumphantly, pointing towards a dark corner, “I told you so!”
Mrs Brown followed the direction of his arm and dimly made out a small, furry object in the shadows. It seemed to be sitting on some kind of suitcase and around its neck there was a label with some writing on it. The suitcase was old and battered and on the side, in large letters, were the words APARTMENTS FOR SALE.
Mrs Brown clutched at her husband. “Why, Henry,” she exclaimed. “I believe you were right after all. It is a bear!”
She peered at it more closely. It seemed a very unusual kind of bear. It was brown in colour, a rather dirty brown, and it was wearing a most odd-looking hat, with a wide brim, just as Mr Brown had said. From beneath the brim two large, round eyes stared back at her.
Seeing that something was expected of it the bear stood up and politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. “Good afternoon,” it said, in a small, clear voice.
“Er… good afternoon,” replied Mr Brown, doubtfully. There was a moment of silence.
The bear looked at them inquiringly. “Can I help you?”
Mr Brown looked rather embarrassed. “Well… no. Er… as a matter of fact, we were wondering if we could help you.”
Mrs Brown bent down. “You’re a very small bear,” she said. “Much like the very small houses here…”
The bear puffed out its chest. “I’m a very rare sort of bear,” he replied importantly. “We like tiny bed-sits with investor potential ! There aren’t many of us left where I come from.”
“And where is that?” asked Mrs Brown.
The bear looked round carefully before replying. “Darkest Auckland. I’m not really supposed to be here at all. I’m a suburban housing prototype in the middle of the city. The Mayor is awfully upset!”
“The Mayor? Mr Foster?” Mr Brown lowered his voice and looked anxiously over his shoulder. He almost expected to see a policeman standing behind him with a notebook and pencil, taking everything down.
“Yes,” said the bear. “Andy Pandy. I was looking for a tiny house too, you know.” A sad expression came into its eyes. “I used to live with my Aunt Lucy in South Auckland, but she had to go into a home for retired bears who couldn’t afford the Auckland property markets.”
“You don’t mean to say you’ve come all the way from South Auckland by yourself?” exclaimed Mrs Brown.
The bear nodded. “Aunt Lucy always said she wanted me to emigrate to Wellington when I was old enough. That’s why she taught me to speak English.”
“But whatever did you do for housing?” asked Mr Brown. “You must be desperate.”
Bending down, the bear unlocked the suitcase with a small key, which it also had round its neck, and brought out an almost empty glass jar. “I took out a mortgage,” he said, rather proudly. “Bears like mortgages. And I lived in a live-work unit.”
“But what are you going to do now?” said Mr Brown. “You can’t just sit on Paddington development waiting for something to happen. The houses simply aren’t big enough for a bear. They’re barely big enough for a possum!”
“Oh, I shall be all right… I expect.” The bear bent down to do up its case again. As he did so Mrs Brown caught a glimpse of the writing on the label. It said, simply, PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS PROPERTY. THANK YOU.
She turned appealingly to her husband. “Oh, Henry, what shall we do? We can’t just leave him here. There’s no knowing what might happen to him. Wellington’s such a big place when you’ve nowhere to go. Can’t he come and stay with us for a few days?”
Mr Brown hesitated. “But Mary, dear, we can’t take him… not just like that. After all…”
“After all, what?” Mrs Brown’s voice had a firm note to it. She looked down at the bear. “He is rather sweet. And he’d be such company for Jonathan and Judy. Even if it’s only for a little while. They’d never forgive us if they knew you’d left him here. And the neighbourhood is ever so dodgy.”
“It all seems highly irregular,” said Mr Brown, doubtfully. “I’m sure there’s a law about it. Isn’t there something in the Medium Density Residential Standards about a minimum height for a development? Or if there wasn’t before, I’m sure there is now…” He bent down.“Would you like to come and build townhouses in the suburbs? Bigger ones than these, with better indoor-outdoor flow?” he asked. “That is,” he added, hastily, not wishing to offend the bear, “if you’ve nothing else planned.”
The bear jumped and his hat nearly fell off with excitement. “Oooh, yes, please. I should like that very much. I’ve nowhere to go and I’m not very good at planning. The houses are all far too close together and everyone seems in such a hurry, and will be peering into your bedroom! And these houses are so small and there is nowhere to park a car! Not that I have one, of course, for I am just a bear.”
“Well, that’s settled then,” said Mrs Brown, before her husband could change his mind. “And you can have marmalade for breakfast every morning, and – ” she tried hard to think of something else that bears might like.
“Every morning?” The bear looked as if it could hardly believe its ears. “I only had it on special occasions at home. Marmalade’s very expensive in the Matakana Market.”
“Then you shall have it every morning starting tomorrow,” continued Mrs Brown. “And at home here on Sunday. In one of these tiny, tiny units.”
A worried expression came over the bear’s face. “Will it cost very much?” he asked. “You see, I haven’t very much money.”
“Nobody here has any money left,” continued Mrs Brown. “They’ve spent it all on their property at Paddington.”
Merhaba. This is a lovely story about a lovely bear. If only the lovely bear knew about Bear Week in Sitges then Paddington could afford Marmalade. I believe that Paddington cannot be a New Zealander – he is a colourful little habibi, compared to the black covered kiwis – they are always dressed for a funeral. We should do the right thing – find a nice little apartment in Vilanova, and Paddington can enjoy the bear life he/they so deserves, just a little train ride to the Bear Bar in Sitges. Au revoir Matakana – village of petite jams.
Lovely to have your comment Amer Juber! Looks like this is the start of a beautiful friendship with the bears…
Aaargh, I’ve just searched for Bear Week in Sitges…. Now, that wasn’t what I was expecting, or was looking for! But Amer, as long as you are keen on them bears, I won’t get in your way.
My favourite book containing a bear is The Terrible Plop.
The bear plays the rowdy antagonist, who ends up getting scared by the rabbit’s words and a brilliant natural sound effect. It was a favourite, reading it to my kids when they were younger, complete with silly voices.
Seamonkey – you have kids? I always thought that you were younger…. interesting! Silly voices in stories are great, aren’t they?! I’m always surprised when I go to see a children’s film of an old favourite, and the voices of the actors playing the parts are, of course, nothing like what I had imagined them to be. The voices inside your head are truly the best ones….
I’m disappointed that this article has not taken a more serious tone. This Paddington development is a disastrous scheme, a pox on genuine good urban planning that is too obnoxious to be laughed off at with a cheap and cheerful cute story of a bear. It is, to be honest, not just city-wide shame, but probably even a national shame – the houses are way too close together, the sight of a two storey new building in the heart of central wellington is shockingly inept and way too small, and this authorised building of what appears to be a deliberate screw-up is a slap in the face to those of us that have been involved with urbanism in NZ for the last few decades. This is an urban disaster, there is no other way of putting it. The architect, the developer, the Council – all should hang their head in shame. And you, Nemo, for aiding and abetting it, you’re just playing to the gallery.
I think Paddington (the development, not the bear) is really dumb. I wish those involved nothing but financial ruin. But I am also morbidly attracted to a certain amount of planarchy. The replacement of a bunch of inner city car yards by poky little terraces seems like a fascinating experiment in stupidity and an unwitting reinstatement of Old Te Aro.
How will they look in 10 years? Who will want to live in them? Perhaps they will prove the perfect environment for pakapoo and opium dens – the ultimate revenge for Joe Kum Yung.
Thanks Alan – as always, you bring out the best and worst of me. Yes, I piked from making the really harsh points on the development, but then again, I feel that the purpose of this blog is not just for me to make comment, but to create the opportunity for others to do so. It’s interesting – I know that people from the Council and from central Government are watching and reading this blog – but apart from Mayor Foster, they hardly ever comment. We’ve got a prominent Wellington Lawyer who reads this regularly and comments infrequently – and of course many architects and at least one builder – as well as the lead researcher from the Gonville Urban Research team!
I’d really like to hear from people who are buying into Paddington – or perhaps those that looked, but did not commit – what do they think, as the day for moving in draws ever closer? It was a fast selling development – despite its drawbacks and obvious problems. Do I need to point out what those issues may be? Or the advantages? Or shall I just leave it up to the Eye of the Fish community to comment? I think the wider design community should be weighing in, not hiding behind closed curtains.
Jeez Alan, if you furrow those brows any deeper I’ll plant a row of potatoes in them..
Yes the Paddington development is a sack of shite
Crooked framing, incompetent subbie carpenters early on getting fired, cupboards under the stairs being called “wardrobes”, yes it’s true
Some building projects, much like some people, are destined to become a warning to others not to go down that dark and twisted path
It’s like personalised plates – are they a moronic blot on the landscape? Yes
Is the fish, or you, or me responsible for what fools do with their money? No
So given that we are ostensibly living in a democracy where people who follow the rules can do what they want and no-one else has to buy their product, just what do you propose?
Do you want to wade in to private property and tell them what to do with their own money?
Yes it is a piece of shit but if someone wants to make a fool of themself, isn’t it better to take the piss out of them rather than rush to stop them?
Alan, who do you think buys all of those Celine Dion, Taylor Swift and Meatloaf albums?
Yes I agree that the planners should make a minimum height in the area – the only useful purpose then that Piddlington will serve is as an example if anyone asks why they have done so
Now, the real question, is Paddington a bear, an otter or a twink?
Cracker of a comment 60, I wish I could meet you in person – I’m sure you’d be a laugh in real life, as you are on screen here! Although, while I 100% agree with you on the Celine Dion album, I’m guessing that you used to shake your booty / fling your mullet around to Meatloaf back in the day!
Original title for this blog post was going to be: When is a Slum a Slum? I pondered this question, literally for months – but in the end, thought that light-hearted prodding would be better. I just hope that the developers have seen this post. I know the architects have…
I am, I confess, too scared to google what an otter or a Twink are, after what I found when I searched for bears in Sitges. I mean – I shouldn’t have been surprised – I had some friends in Barcelona once many years ago, and they used to go off to Sitges even back then and fling up their heels and have a gay old time, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
I wonder if it was the reaction (official and unofficial) that led Paddington’s developer to propose the over-height Hyde Lane tower? I don’t know anything about it – it might be as amazing as episode 6 of The Book of Boba Fett or as awful as episode 4, but at least it’s not a suburban sarlac pit like Paddington.
Yes, I believe it probably was. That Hyde Lane project is a behemoth alright – a real monster of a block. Hopefully, more commentary on that project later….
Oooh, and I’ve gotta say – kudos for the advanced Star Wars connections. I keep getting told that apparently I look exactly like someone / something in the Book of Boba Fett, but as I haven’t yet seen it, I’m honestly not sure if that is a complement or a firm slap in the face…
Oh, and Paddington is a cub. He’s too young to be a bear or otter, and too old and furry to be a twink.
And I could mention something grotty about uses for marmalade jars, but Andy Pandy and Diane Calvert would immediately roll out the TTM and paint over the rainbow crossing.
No Meatloaf, no drama please
Chico is right, definitely a cub
On to family friendly topics, Paddington 2 is a bloody good film if you like perfectly tailored escapism
Of course Nemo is always catching the latest cool French thing like Call My Agent, no?
Excusez moi monsieur soixante, mais j’avoue que je n’ai pas encore vu ce film…
Quoi?! Ce n’est pas un film – c’est une emission de television!
Ne pas de television – c’est dans le Flix de Nette! J’avais rien Nette… J’avais le TV1, 2, 3 et el Primo.
(This is mentally exhausting – going back to 5th form French classes, more than a few years ago…)
Looks like a good cast – with great names. Thibault de Montalembert and Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu ! And plot lines like “The team gets news of the accidental death of Samuel Kerr, head of the agency, after swallowing a wasp while on vacation in Brazil.” Sounds even more convoluted than Shortland Street (which I have never watched).
Just to point out the bleeding obvious as to why Paddington sold out so fast and what made it so attractive to buyers. Coming out of the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake, insurance companies started ratcheting up their insurance premiums, especially for apartment buildings. Several companies also started stepping back from this area, reducing competition and meaning that those remaining could just about charge whatever the hell they wanted to knowing that under the Unit Titles Act 2010 (section 135), “the body corporate must insure and keep insured all buildings and other improvements on the base land to their full insurable value”. As a result, body corporate fees went through the roof. I saw an apartment for sale at the end of last year in Alpha Street (‘The Courtenay Mews’) where a simple 80sqm unit had a GV of $530k but wasn’t selling at <$500k because annual body corporate fees + rates came to $18,400 p.a! Assuming that you had no mortgage, that would still be over $350 per week to live in your own apartment. That might be OK if it were a swanky $2m+ job with a concierge, media room and a gym, but this was a simple apartment with no lift, no central heating and no communal facilities of any kind. The apartment was fine, structurally sound and came through the earthquakes without any issue but the insurance company have decided it is high-risk and are charging the body corporate accordingly.
Enter into this environment Thames Pacific with their Paddington development that offered freehold title, body corporate fees replaced by a much lower annual management fee and owners can sort out their own insurance of a non-tower structure to whatever level they want to pay. Is it any wonder that it took off?
There is an amendment bill currently in the House introduced 18 months ago which might have its second reading later this year which goes some way to improve the Unit Titles Act but there are still some fundamental problems with the way body corporates are structured that will lead to planning disasters like Paddington arising until it gets sorted.
Absolutely John H – I absolutely get that is the problem. 100% understand the issue. But the problem is, Paddington is also 100% not the answer in its current location, but is a great answer for somewhere further out in the burbs. The Thames Pacific solution is a perfectly understandable response to the ridiculous insurance situation (I live in the inner-city and I pay way more in insurance than I do on my mortgage) – its just that the City should never have been able to be blackmailed into permitting Paddington to go ahead in that location. Having spoken to people in both local gov and central gov, it appears that the Paddington was one of the key reasons why the law was altered on us all last year – and done in such a way that no one was allowed to say “No, this is dumb, don’t do it”. Literally thousands of people said that, and all were ignored, except for Chris Luxon. “Democracy” in action.
There is a part 2 to the Paddington article coming soon – keep an eye out. The story gets worse…