Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

July 13, 2011

When I am an old woman I shall wear a purple hat and a red coat #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 9:16 pm

He raised an eyebrow at me this morning. I know what it means when Kim does that.

Granted, I was wearing something of an unusual ensemble.

“I’m taking the dog for I walk,” I told him. “I don’t want to get cold.”

The eyebrow went higher. “Or mugged?” he inquired sweetly.

It’s day 7 of the man flu. I’m protecting myself. “It’s the hat, isn’t it?”

The other eyebrow rose. Corners of the mouth too. “Is that what it is? I was looking for the teapot.”

I snorted. A dangerous move that considering my cold is still productive. Chuckled about it all around the park with Pepper. She was in Kim’s bad books already.

It’s not often you wake to find a border collie at one end of the couch and a chewed up pencil at the other. His pencil. Fair’s fair.When he complained about it I told him it could have been worse. Offered him some suggestions of what the dog could have chewed. It didn’t seem to placate him. Men. What’s with them? 🙂

Morning walk over,I did some phone calls and paperwork before a pre Bastille Day lunch with M. Etienne, the French ambassador. He and his wife Jane were in town today, bringing a cheque for over $47000 to Christchurch Girls High School from a French school with whom they have forged a relationship.

It was at the old CGHS in Cranmer Square that I learned French. Mae Lummis was one of those who taught me, and it was she who had charge of me when I won the Prix National de l’Alliance Francaise at the end of my seventh form year. The prize was to study French in Paris and I did so for a time after that. It was a big place to be alone and 17 in the middle of a European winter.

I learned about that prize on my second day in third form. That was when I decided I would win it. I spent the next five years at high school with my eye firmly on that goal. As far as I was concerned, success was never in doubt. Having something to motivate me, something to aim for, made progress inevitable.

I must admit, as a third former at Girl’s High, I never thought I’d be spending the day before Bastille Day representing Christchurch at the table with the French ambassador. Nor did I think I’d end up as the councillor dealing with all the French media who are beginning to descend on Christchurch ahead of Rugby World Cup 2011. Nor did I think I’d ever see the school I spent so many hours at end up as a comparatively small dusty section on the corner of Cranmer Square.

I drove home through a fresh part of town. Up Durham, east along Kilmore. You can drive past the Crowne Plaza now, the back of the Town Hall. It’s the wrong way down the one way and I felt very naughty. You can drive down Colombo past the block formerly known as Johnson’s Grocers and Baileys 818, hang a right and you’re able to drive past once was Briscoes and see new parts of Cambridge Tce.

The pace of the city’s change is picking up. It’s a busy place in behind the cordon, trucks with rubble and demolition materials everywhere you look. There was a nasty little aftershock while I was at the supermarket today. My old friend and colleague Robin Harrison were gossiping over the trolleys at the time. He didn’t even feel the shake. I think the marks I left on his arm should fade in a day or two.

Jiggles aside, it was beautiful today. The sky was a brilliant winter blue, it was warm and lovely. We haven’t started our winter yet. I suspect this weekend could be rather different.

I do hope by then I’ve found my hat again. Since I’ve been home, I haven’t been able to locate it anywhere. When I asked Kim if he’d seen it before, he just raised that eyebrow, and smiled.

So did the dog.




  1. Nice blog. I felt the aftershock as well… Not surprised you marked your friends arm. Keep strong. 🙂

    Comment by Scott — July 13, 2011 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

  2. Such a good poem – bears repeating for those nascent red-hatters:

    Warning – When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

    By Jenny Joseph

    When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple

    with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

    and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.

    I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired

    and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

    and run my stick along the public railings

    and make up for the sobriety of my youth.

    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

    and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens

    and learn to spit.

    You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

    and eat three pounds of sausages at a go

    or only bread and pickles for a week

    and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

    But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

    and pay our rent and not swear in the street

    and set a good example for the children.

    We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

    But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

    So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

    When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

    Comment by Michael A — July 15, 2011 @ 10:52 am | Reply

    • It it doesn’t shock you too much the ‘sobriety of my youth’ line should give you a clue that I’ve been well on the way to red and purple from the day I was born 🙂

      Comment by Sue Wells — July 17, 2011 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: