A Love letter to ... Glen Eden
I never thought I'd live in Auckland, let alone fall in love with its notorious west side.
As you round the corner to my suburb of Glen Eden, you're flanked by the Auckland city skyline on one side and the expanse of the Waitakere Ranges on the other.
It's suddenly greener here and more humid, the houses verging on a rainforest with breathtaking bush walks topped by endless kauri.
Glen Eden is a 'more affordable' suburb meaning there's sometimes tension, sometimes violence, always traffic and a few shady characters thrown in for good measure.
The shops still have a few too many seedy barbers and greasy takeaways but there's also multiple organic food stores, a boutique butchery and a locally famous bakery with some of the best pies in town.
For better or worse, it is slowly gentrifying - what was once gangland and poverty stricken rentals making way for the inevitable push from young families buying up the last of Auckland's cheaper housing stock.
Around the corner from my house, there's a community garden tended to by volunteers year round.
When I was pregnant the garden satisfied my never-ending cravings for grapefruit with its laden citrus grove.
A few minutes in the other direction is a peaceful stream walk, winding its way to an epic children's playground, sports fields and a strip of native bush.
Behind my house is the Glenora Bears rugby league club.
When one of their rising stars was killed in a street fight recently, the roar of a day-long haka swelled from their headquarters stopping many passersby in their tracks.
Glen Eden may still be shaking off the remnants of a bad reputation but it's got heart.
Life here is real, sometimes confronting but never boring. West side for life.