Noel Gillespie’s funeral began and ended to the strains of “The Last of the Summer Wine”. It was so apt, the season on the turn here and the grapes thick on my vine, a misty drizzle in the air in this morning.
He died of natural causes, at peace in the company of the family he so loved. They spoke of his humour, his love of an argument, his certainty that he would meet his first love on the Rainbow Bridge, of dinners-for-breakfast and breakfast-for-dinner.
I wasn’t a chum of his as such, and with some of the political decisions I have made I suspect I may have been on a list somewhere. I knew him as a local historian. He probably had no idea that I respected enormously his thoughtfulness and the contribution he made to our community. (See Noel? I didn’t just turn up to your funeral so I could get the last word.)
Noel was a writer, amongst other things. He wrote about things he loved, including the street we share, Hawford Rd in Opawa – although his living here predates mine. Lots of fascinating people emerge from this street. I’ve thought of him frequently since September 4 and our first earthquake. I’ve been pondering on and reading more about Christchurch’s history and connection with the land, so important as we move forward to rebuild.
There’s a paragraph early on in this third work which seems almost prescient.
“The Canterbury settlers chose to establish an English city on this swampy wilderness and to impose an English landscape on an alien land. Planning by the town’s engineers was swift, to a point of the ridiculous, and in true British tradition a city they did establish, luckily without the modern restrictions of today’s Resource Management Act’, which imposes a stagnating and unreasonable restriction for developers, whose only beneficiaries are lawyers. Were this to have applied to Wakefield and his engineers and planners, Christchurch would never have been built until the early 1900s.” (Opawa, The Outpost on the Banks of the Heathcote, 2007 ISBN 978-0-473-12404-5)
I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes there, but it’s provocative and thoughtful, and I like people who make me think.
As we was sent off today, we enjoyed tales from his three sons too. Stories of stolen smokes and watered down beer – the stuff of happy times in big gardens with potatoes growing in the back yard and Glenn Miller playing on the wireless.
Noel’s family made us all laugh today, even through their tears.
And then I went to Countdown and did the grocery shopping, came home and did the housework, attended to my council affairs and am now sitting here with an enormous lump in my gut having just sent my little contribution to Jo Giles’ obituary off to the Press. Her funeral tomorrow will be vastly different to Noel’s. Today I wore a soft blue grey. Tomorrow it will be all singing, all dancing, full on colour. I have not dreaded a day so much in a very long time.