Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

May 5, 2011

Bob Dylan and the Beehive #eqnz #christchurch

I need to begin by offering you an apology. I didn’t check in with you last night. I was busy having far too much fun.

An old friend of mine from north of the Bombays was in town, down to figure out ways he can help going forward. I picked Mike up at the airport, and took him on the tour.

Down beautiful untouched Memorial Ave. Around lovely autumnal misty Hagley Park. And then a little frisson at the edge of the red zone, down Fitzgerald, out (very gently) through the east to Pacific Park, to Sumner and Redcliffs, to Lyttelton, back over the Port Hills, over Ramahana, then off to Barrington to buy chicken for dinner and Riccarton for a glass of pinot, to meet some more people. By that stage, we both needed it.

His reaction was unprintable after a while. It constituted mournful head shaking and the odd guttural expletive. The overarching comment was to do with the scale of what we’re looking at. The TV and newspaper coverage can’t capture it. Our tour took over two hours. We didn’t stop. We didn’t pause, even. I just showed him, a chap with lots of Auckland fundraising connections, what we were dealing with through a slowly moving 4WD window. I hope it’s going to help him explain, when he’s talking to other people, how much we value being remembered, how much we appreciate every dollar, every email, every word of support and encouragement.

Having brought him well and truly down, we then met some nice youngsters at the pub – they were who he was really down to meet up with. I was just the icing on the cake, or the homemade chilli sauce on the chicken as the case may be. Because from the pub, it was home to drown out the children.

The evening proceeded with lashings of dreadful home-made music. He demonstrated more than adequately to my bemused boys that being an excellent player of stringed instruments does not translate into being a competent pianist. I proved the opposite equally well. We both sang horribly but with great gusto, and were Neil Young and Bob Dylan even a little bit dead just now, they would both be rolling in their graves at what we did to their masterpieces. Thank heavens I’ve loaned my Beatles Complete to Simon (haven’t forgotten Bucko) or we’d still be there now.

He was carefully instructed on the etiquette of nocturnal aftershocks before I shut him in the spare room. The key message was “if it really packs a sad just sit tight until we come and get you.” We only had a tiddler or two last night, just enough to welcome him to Christchurch.

Last night is the first time the piano’s been cranked up since it fell over on the 22nd of February. I did warn him about the drop zone. I’m not sure if he believed me until I showed him what it did to the piano stool when it fell over. Must buy a new one of those. Need to get the chunk missing from the front of the piano sorted too.I have no idea what kind of tradesman fixes that.

There’s so much I need to get sorted. I think one day next week I might stop doing stuff for everybody else for a day and clean up my own mess. Have to put the contents claim in, have to open some mail eventually! I’m staying on top of my council stuff but my domestic desk is not a pretty sight.

Nor was 6 o’clock this morning. Today’s job was to catch the red-eye to Wellington to present the Council’s submission on the Building Amendment Bill #3 to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. (I can feel you yawning just reading that sentence. You didn’t have to memorise the submission!) Even the nice steward on the plane patted me on the shoulder as I was going over it on the way up and said “you’ll need to be reading faster Ms Wells, it’s only a 30 minute flight!” I had taken the version that was in the March Council agenda, so I had the whole damn thing with me. He could at least have given me an extra lolly.

There was a little spare time before the meeting and so I caught up with some of the IPENZ board. I’ve been coopted onto a governance group that they have set up to help our earthquake response. I was uncertain about participating initially – the E in IPENZ is for Engineers, and I’m an Arts graduate. It’s been really good though. It’s helped my thinking about infrastructure, and I think I’m adding value in their world too, from a completely different perspective. It was nice to meet them in the flesh. I came away armed with a copy of their May/June magazine. You’ll be delighted to know, Nicki – I read it cover to cover on the plane and I came away wanting more.

Then through the drizzle, up the hill to the big house. The select committee was, as always, well prepared, thorough, and good listeners. I always feel we get a great hearing when I go and speak. That’s a great feeling especially when as was the case today CCC’s submission on the bill was not perhaps as complimentary as the government may have wished for.

Its essence was that while we agree the current Building Act regime is overly complicated, the modifications proposed are going to impose a liability risk for councils that’s reminiscent of the Leaky Buildings issue. We don’t want our ratepayers copping another one of those, ever. Our proposals included a mandatory government backed warranty scheme and we asked that we have the opportunity to participate in discussions on regulations before they are imposed.

This change was in the wind long before the earthquakes, and there will be more amendments to the building act as a result of what has happened since. I’m not going to bore you with the details of our submission here but it is in the March council agenda which you can find on the ccc webpage if sleep is not your friend tonight.

I was back in town just after lunch, marvelling at the the audacity of even an airport cafe charging $8 for a poxy bagel. Next time I’ll be tempted to take my own. (I can see that going down a treat in the Beehive. Have to be honey sandwiches I think.)

There was an American rock group on the plane – Disorder or Disturbance or Mayhem or Chaos or something. Heaven only knows what they thought of me. I got about four metres inside the terminal and one of the ground staff gave me a big hug. I hadn’t seen her since Murray Wood’s funeral. Those were her exact words. And then she started to cry. (There’s been a lot of that around lately. I think we’re going through a bit of a low point in the grief cycle.) Welcome to Christchurch, where the elected members snog the airline staff upon disembarking, to the point where they weep.

By the time I got home I was hanging out to take Miss Pepper for a good little romp around Hansens Park. She found some pooches to play with – I had a day without a run and gave her some quality doggy time. She needed it. And then back home to do paperwork, which I’ve been doing since four, interrupted only by takeaways (yay, the fish and chip shop is doing cheese and pineapple burgers again) and a quick watch of something called “Community”. The kids love it. It has Jack Black in it. I don’t love Jack Black. I’m going to have to grind my teeth when he’s talking, because the rest of it was funny and I like watching things my boys watch.

It’s so easy to lose touch with what your teenagers are thinking about, talking about. Last night, I discovered to my chagrin that Nick and I are both TED watchers. I don’t know which of us was more appalled – me at feeling like the world’s worst mother, or him at discovering that his mother is into the same stuff that he is.

Ah well. It can’t be all bad. Auckland friend Mike texted me today and said “I’ve been thinking about yr boys. They are inspirational.” That made me smile. Granted, Chris did demonstrate just how well he can mix. (He actually can. Seriously, he actually really can.) And Nick – well, Nick was Nick. (I’ll know if they read this blog because they’ll come up to me one day and say “Mum – can you please not write in your blog that you love us? It’s really embarrassing.” But I do my darlings, I do.)

Tomorrow will be a quieter day. Some domestic stuff in the morning, and then I think a great big long lovely run. Then I need to do some prep for filming on Sunday – just in case I end up with guests this weekend. I so hope I do. I love having friends to stay. Even when it means I’m too busy living in the moment to write down what’s happened and how it feels.

It’s quarter to twelve. The earthquake curfew is now on. We decided tonight, my Facebook friends and I, that the City Plan does not permit unconsented earthquakes post 10.30pm. Therefore, tonight we shall have a good night’s sleep. And so (with the possible exception of Pepper whose earthquake prediction face I am diligently choosing to ignore) say all of us.

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