A blonde boy wearing a Canterbury rugby jersey reduced me to tears last night.
He swooped, he leaped, he tackled, he scored. Hundreds of goliaths fell as he ran across Eden Park, the number 11 emblazoned boldly on his back.
He was the child we all were who dares to dream. We have all been the hero on the field, wearing the shirt of the place we love the best. For that lad, the shirt was red and black, the emblematic colours of our broken city.
His hero, Jonah Lomu, our unconquerable former All Black met him at the end of his journey. Our Canterbury lad was then supported by New Zealand’s great, the past supporting our future, the whole of our nation supporting our province. It was subtle, it was beautiful, it was immensely appreciated. It made me cry. Remembering it now is making me cry again.
I’ve done nothing but leak in the last 24 hours. I even woke in the middle of the night, crying. This tournament is bringing to the fore the most enormous sense of loss. There isn’t an ounce of jealousy or resentment – if I get half a chance I’ll be whizzing down to Dunedin to share the buzz that we all should enjoy. This emotion is far more primal than that – it’s grief, pure and simple.
It’s to be expected after all. We have lost so very much. People, buildings, and this week has sheeted home for me how much joy we have temporarily waved goodbye to.
We should all have been surrounded by visitors now, and our town would have been glorious. We have lost a once in a lifetime experience. Unsurprisingly, that hurts. It is a huge loss, and it is traumatic.
Al Nisbet’s fantastic cartoon in The Press summed it up perfectly this morning. Auckland, lit up by a skyful of fireworks. Munted Christchurch, lit up by a couple of search lights, some torches and candles and a single left over sparkler.
It probably doesn’t help that the tournament arrived in the week of our first earthquake anniversary. That’s a time which was always going to be hard. I do feel like we’re something of an embarrassment at the moment too – as if we are the sorrow that must not be named lest we spoil the national party. (I suspect I’m being hypersensitive there – that’s ok – that’s perfectly normal as part of the grief process.)
A tweep mused today that they had hoped the Fanzone might be the thing which brought the town back to life. Although it’s a lovely thing, I doubt it will have quite that big of an effect.
I think the thing that may do it is Cup and Show Week. When we get our hundred thousand back enjoying the fashion and the sun and the horses it may start to feel hopeful and normal again. The Ellerslie Flower Show will do it for me too. I won’t be at Le Race this year, but that event is on the radar too as something to aim for. Getting shops back into Cashel Mall might do it but that will carry its own shocks, I think.
The big notch for me will be when we get Rapaki Track back. I hope it’s while I’m still fit enough to ride it. (Ran 20k with the dog today – my legs have not forgiven me.)
Tonight, I’m on my own and enjoying watching Japan vs France (I’m cheering for France) and then Argentina vs England (sorry England, even compliments from your captain about my pink hi-vis can’t sway me). I’m in my dressing gown with my Argentina hat, armed with a cup of herbal tea, a basket of fruit, a novel in case the game gets dull and a snoring border collie. I’m enjoying the rugby and at half-time I might even streak around the living room. The heat pump is blasting away in preparation for that momentous event.
I would love to have been in Dunedin to share the buzz around the town tonight, but I have been asked to attend a civic event tomorrow with a VIP from the UK, and duty comes first. Might have a wee wander into the Fanzone after that – Australia vs Italy at 330. As much as I love our cousins across the ditch – Viva Italia tomorrow. Got to support our Great Wine Capitals partners – unless one of them ends up in the final with us. Then the grief will be heading in their direction.