Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

January 21, 2012

Return to Rapaki #eqnz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 3:50 pm
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For the first time in exactly eleven months, today I saw the city from the top of Rapaki track.

I became a regular walker there in 2010, and it was on Boxing Day that year as I stood in my driveway listening to my car alarm go off during one of our early rounds of aftershocks that I decided the time was right to push it up a notch. By the time the next jolt rolled around I was in a shop on Moorhouse Ave buying a mountain bike. As the salesman was adjusting my seat I was watching the Harvey Norman centre across the road empty as the ground shook.

My resolution for 2011 was simple. My goal was to be able to ride up Rapaki without stopping.
Early attempts were dismal. Nineteen or twenty dismounts later and I’d arrive, red faced and gasping. It’s amazing though how quickly your fitness lifts and to my surprise my goal had been achieved by the middle of January 2011. It then became a question of speed and how fast I could make it from home to the top.

I would scoot up there on my bike a couple of times a week, and usually run up there at least once more. There was a brief hiatus after the “Bike to Work Day” debacle on the 16th of February when I not only biked to work, I crash landed on my face directly in front of it. (Walking into a board meeting with a full on Norman Gunston do was not my best moment ever.)

It wasn’t until February 21st that I could more or less bend my knee, and once you’ve got the Rapaki itch it doesn’t leave you alone.

Strange grinding sounds and slipping accompanied gear changes on the way up the hill. A large clunking stopped me in my tracks in short order at the start of the descent. The rear dérailleur fell off. It had been an unnoticed casualty of the fall on the 16th. As the brakes still worked, I used my poor bike as a scooter to get down the hill in time to deposit the wounded object back into the shop it came from and make it back to work.

And then at lunchtime the next day, exactly 24 hours after I’d been up Rapaki, the earth moved again and I didn’t see my bike for weeks – it ended up inside the initial cordon.

That’s the last time I’d been up Rapaki, until this morning. I didn’t bike today, just went for a gentle walk with Pepper to see how it felt and get the legs back in hill mode again.

It felt strange.

The bottom section has big signs warning of rockfall danger. The odd substantial chunk of fresh rock (same height as the seated Pepper but maybe four times her girth) sits at the hillside edge of the track. There are frames where seats were but the boards in them have gone. The tracks into Mt Vernon remain closed due to rockfall hazard. Weeds are long and the dust is everywhere. A cocky with a trailer load of barking farm dogs attending to a full pen of sheep completed the picture.

Halfway up the signs advise that rockfall danger is now behind you and it’s a quick push to the Summit Road. What Harry Ell would think of the large orange sign from CERA warning of potential imprisonment should you proceed past the barricade I can only imagine. Still, the rockfall up there is clearly evident and not a little intimidating. You can walk across the Summit Road and gaze out over beautiful Quail Island and then you turn around and head on down, watching the cranes towering over the city’s poor damaged skyline come into view.

Next week I shall leave Pepper at home and try the bike up there again. I suspect it will be back to the twenty dismounts for a while before I manage to summit without a pause. I just hope the track stays open this year long enough for me to reprise last year’s resolution.

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September 10, 2011

Grief and the Rugby World Cup #eqnz #chch #RWC2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 7:57 pm
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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.

 

 

September 8, 2011

Rugby World Cup in Christchurch #eqnz #chch #rwc2011 #earthquake

It is Thursday, September 8, 2011. It is the eve of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

When a few years ago it was announced that we had the rights to RWC I started preparing my garden. (I’m a planner – this is what we do.) It’s full now of black pansies and violas and little black ferns. I had a plan of plots of black and white.

Our home is exactly a mile’s walk from AMI Stadium at Lancaster Park. The intention this time last year had been to invite overseas guests in and enjoy our little spare room. I wasn’t planning to go to any of the games – I was instead really excited about being a RWC volunteer. That’s because when the Lions toured here a few years ago, the heart of the city went off like I have never seen before. This year was going to be all that and then some.

At the moment, our TV screens are full of RWC coverage. I hope I’m going to get to a point where I’m going to be able to watch it and fully commit to enjoying it. I’m not quite there yet and I do hope there are some readers of this blog who help make it so for me and for my friends.

It’s not that I’m jealous or envious of any of the other centres which are hosting games we’ve lost- that wouldn’t make sense. We in Christchurch are not in any position to host games because of damage to our stadium and our hotels. It feels a bit like being a kid who’s been punished for something they didn’t do – like we’ve been sent to our room for a crime we didn’t commit.

Yesterday, I spent time with some of the England team. They were lovely although I did fear for the capture of my pink hi-vis vest at one point. The England team had come up to Christchurch to show their support and visit kids and sick folk and generally share the love. Their media trailed after them, the camp followers in that symbiotic relationship.

Some of our publications criticized CERA letting the international media into the Red Zone. I’m more than happy for us to host those media. They will take our somewhat schizoid message back home – that on the one hand we are going through the biggest natural disaster (in insurance terms at least) that the world has ever known – but that (on the other hand) you can come and stay here and from the city west it looks like nothing has happened – and it is good to come here and stay, live and invest.

The international media also is helpful in spreading the equally schizy message that yes, we might have a jiggle while you’re here – but chances are you’re safe.

Make no mistake, Christchurch is open for business. Akaroa is open for business. Hanmer is open for business. Queenstown, Nelson, Blenheim, Hokitika – they are open for business. Although the Christchurch earthquakes have changed the specifics of that, they haven’t changed that overall.

We want visitors here. If you’ve come to Godzone (NZ) to see your team play in the Rugby World Cup, we would love it if you came and looked at our city, got a sense of what we’ve been through, brought your camera, your compassion, and your wallet.

If you’ve travelled a day to get here, we’re worth a half-day trip at least in your visit – don’t you think? We’re the beautiful place that is your natural stopping off point between Nelson and Dunedin.

While our spare room may now be occupied by teenage boys, there are still spare couches, roast lamb and kumara, lots of laughter and rugby on TV. Can’t want for much more than that. If you read this and you’re a Rugby World Cup visitor wanting to drop by for a wine and a chat and a bed for the night – get in touch. The games may not be here any more, but the hospitality hasn’t changed.

Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.

Welcome to Christchurch. Still open, still smiling, still here.

August 11, 2011

Christchurch adopts the draft Central City Plan. #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 8:30 pm
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“Make sure it’s environmentally friendly,” said everyone from my 81 year old dad to the neighbours to my kids. “Make it about people. About bikes and pedestrians more than just cars. Make us the safest city in the world.”

Today the Christchurch City Council adopted the draft Central City Plan which will now go out for consultation. When the CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act) legislation was passed in April, we were given 9 months to develop an implementable vision for our destroyed central city. Today we moved into the second phase of a three step process.

Since April, the council has met at least weekly on the plan. Our incredible staff and consultants have worked the most phenomenal hours. Together we identified the key themes and strands of the plan. They were teased out through the Share an Idea programme of consultation. Our staff brought back in distilled form the 106,000 opinions and suggestions offered by our community.

Our debates have been behind closed doors, and for good reason. Some of the ideas we canvassed were wild and wonderful and would have made great headlines that would not have helped move us forward. Our discussions have been free and frank. At times there have been cross words, stormy departures.

There was none of that today. The plan was adopted unanimously and consultation opens on it next week.

My kitchen played host some of the first informal discussions on the plan. When the senior staff saw my stove I had to stop pretending that I can’t cook. Even feeding them didn’t seem to alter their perception.

Our staff today looked absolutely knackered. The hours they have been putting in are just mind-blowing. I’m shattered after today. If they’re not tucked up in bed by now (it’s just past 8pm) I will be very surprised.

I’m going to offer more detail on the plan over the next couple of days when I can keep my eyes open properly. In the meantime, here’s the link so you can have a look at it yourself – www.centralcityplan.org.nz

What I will say to you is it’s green, it’s people focussed, and I don’t think Dad will be disappointed when he reads this first draft. I hope that he (and you) will take the chances starting from next Tuesday and again share your thoughts on it. This plan needs to belong to us all.

Very tired. Bed beckons. Going to leave you with this lovely comment from Suzy who brought tears to my eyes when I read it.

“I’ve just read the plan cover to cover. I had expected to be disappointed however it’s bold and visionary. Inspirational even. It makes me want to stay, to live and to invest. It gives me hope. What an incredible gift it is to this city. To those responsible – thank you.”

Suzy – right back at you. To you and all the 106,000 contributors, to the staff, the consultants, my colleagues, I thank you too.

 

August 9, 2011

AMI Stadium, Convention Centre, Town Hall #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 8:26 pm
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I went inside AMI stadium today. I’m not quite sure when I was there last but I know doors have been locked since February 22.

I know some of the people who were there that day. My friend Fiona, who works for the diplomatic corps, was there with a number of very highly placed US dignitaries when the quake struck. She has stories to tell about how they were evacuated and where they went and where their luggage did and did not go at the same time I was running into town to find my kids.

We can all see the grounds on the outside of the stadium. There the liquefaction mounds are obvious and pronounced. I’ve seen pictures of the turf inside the stadium before, but until today I didn’t realise that the patchwork holes across the pitch are human formed, inspection holes to look at the drainage systems.

We the Council and our insurers have yet to make calls around the full future of the complex.

The Council engineers are recommending the demolition of the Hadlee stand.

The other three stands would need complex repair work if they can be fixed at all.

Recommendations should be at the council within the next couple of months (I add a grain of salt to that and call it discussions with the insurers).

I’ve driven past the Convention Centre. I won’t be going in it. Nobody will. Engineers are telling us that the roof structures are not in good shape and that there will be no internal inspections – they are recommending its demolition.

Our insurers are yet to agree to that but we are discussing things with a view to reaching a mutually satisfactory outcome.

Perhaps the saddest news of all is the uncertainty around our Christchurch Town Hall. A group one listed heritage building, it sits on the Avon River bank.

That complex has three buildings near Kilmore Street, one near the river bank. The latter has moved about 100mm away from the others and is sliding closer to the river. The others have suffered badly from liquefaction. They have reshaped to match the contours of the land. Whether they can be saved is not yet known. It is not just a matter for insurers and the council, it is also a question of whether repairs will impact on the very heritage fabric that we would be hoping to save.

What a day.

Jendy Harper and I sat on the top stand today and reminisced about the various things we’d attended at the stadium. As we sat there, we noticed the clock on the western side of the Hadlee Stand stopped at 12.51, and the flagpole on the eastern side pointing aimlessly to half past something.

I don’t know yet what the future holds for AMI stadium.

I know for sure that underneath it lies Lancaster Park.

Some things never change.

A vote of thanks to the UK rioters. #not #ukriot #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 7:59 pm
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Dear UK rioters.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you.

If ever I question my faith in rebuilding our beautiful southern city, I will think of you and this last day and remember why Christchurch matters and why we bother doing what we’re doing.

I spent the day today at our city’s earthquake damaged stadium. Here we are agonising over how to fix the damage nature has done. You’ve spent the same day incinerating shops and homes, looting, trying hard to find new ways to burn down the place real English citizens call home.

We have fallen victim simply to gravity and we will rebuild stronger and better here. You who are striking down your cities are nasty little neanderthalic two bit muppets with too much time on your hands and pathetic hate in your hearts, the waste products of drugs, laziness and chronic dependency. You don’t have it in you to build. You only have it in you to destroy.

I have to say, dear UK rioters, our earthquakes came as a shock to me but your self-destruction surprises me not at all.

When I visited your country a couple of years ago I came home horrified at what I’d seen. I was appalled at your hands-out culture, the level of your public subsidies for housing and transport and education for people eligible for it simply by spawning little urchins and refusing to create themselves a constructive future. I was disgusted by the hatred I saw for the immigrants who have populated your country as part of your EU membership. I was baffled at how you were going to afford to pay for those immigrants and your own welfare dependent lifestyles. Clearly, so are you.

Here we are trying to rebuild our city, doing it hard, doing it together. You are trying to tear your country down, a country for which you clearly feel nothing but contempt. You don’t even know why you’re doing it. It’s just another excuse to steal. That’s all you know how to do. To lie and cheat and steal from your neighbours. You are an embarrassment to your nation. I have the right to say this because you are part of my heritage and you disgrace me.

In the beginning of your outrage was one emblematic man who died at the hands of the police. His family and friends have made it clear he was not a martyr to your cause. You have stolen the reason for his death, you bunch of parasitic hooligans. You’re having a party on a dead man’s grave. You are beneath contempt.

How drab and sad your little lives must be that this is your big excitement. How proud are your parents – what hope they must hold for their grandchildren.

You have a nasty little lesson coming your way which I believe is going to take a lifetime to learn. It’s that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you get what you work for, and that the community which sustains you in times of trouble isn’t built by burning it down.

Dear UK rioters – I thank you for renewing my faith in rebuilding this beautiful city so far away from you and your horrible Jeremy Kyle culture of greed and expectation.

Dear UK Citizens – for you I mourn, I grieve, I send my love and compassion. Your rioters are a vile minority, but you have bred them and fostered them and unless you change the way you nurture them they will be with you for generations to come.

Here we have the experience of a community being brought together by being brought to its knees. You have the experience of having a bunch of muppets rip your community apart. Give me an earthquake any day. I’d much rather submit to the vagaries of the earth than regret having raised a generation of vipers.

Ka Kite.

July 24, 2011

Grounds for revenge – a tale of coffee and bazookas. #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 4:17 pm
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I drink black coffee. In truth, I prefer Moccona to complicated. Therefore the difference between a latte and a flat white has been a mystery  to me, and as for cappucino – I wouldn’t have known one had it jumped up and bitten me on the nose.

Those carefree days have come to an end. On free weekends, I run away to a bar owned by friends in  the south. It’s great to get away and do something completely different. All care and no responsibility, and I love dealing with the public. Unfortunately, some of the public enjoy dealing with coffee – hence my crash course in barista training.

Anja spent hours yesterday trying to teach me how to make coffee.

She’s a beautiful, tolerant soul with espresso toned hair, enormous beautiful mocha brown eyes, smoothy creamy skin and a sweet personality. When it comes to coffee, Anja is a member of the cognoscenti. I am a member of the idiot brigade.

“Why isn’t it coming out?” I wailed, trying unsuccessfully to make a takeaway flat white with a single shot and three sugars for our most demanding regular customer.

“What have you done this time?” she said with a sigh.

“I have absolutely no idea. Shall I put this in here, give it a bang and try it again?”

She turned towards me at the point and walked towards what I can only describe as the cardboard bazooka I had unwittingly created from a takeaway cup and the industrial strength coffee machine.

“Sue, what have you done?” she repeated, peering into the container.

“BOOM” it replied.

Her face was a picture. So was her neck, her chest, her top, arms, torso – so in fact was the entire bar.

Little blobs of coffee grounds peppered every visible surface.

“Ow,” said Anja, or words to that effect. And for a moment the world fell silent.

“I’m so sorry,” I wailed, “does it hurt? And while you’re thinking about that would you mind if I got my camera?”

She stood there, gazing at me, all big brown eyes and little brown blobs of coffee. Behind her, the snorting of elephants came from the end of the bar. Our most demanding regular customer was trying not to sob with laughter. He didn’t do very well. Nor did the customers at the other end. The entire bar gazed in wonderment at our pepper potted beauty as I slowly picked morsels of Arabica’s finest from her person, apologising and ever so slightly weeping with suppressed laughter as I went.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry” I chanted for the rest of the day. “Can I make you a flat white to make up for it? How about a moccacino? Hot chocolate? By the way you’ve missed a bit in your hair. Come here. Oh sorry – it’s hardened off. Would you like me to cut that bit out?”

She was very sweet and very forgiving and said she didn’t mind at all that I’d just given her favourite shirt a makeover. I suspect that’s not the whole truth but as she refused to accept my offer of a new one I’m going to have to sneak one up on her when she least expects it.

It is snowing in Dunedin, so today’s lesson is going to be in hot chocolate and Irish coffee. Anja has come prepared. She’s wearing a black and white spotted outfit and a wary expression.

“What did your boyfriend say when you told him what happened?” Kim asked her.

Anja frowned. “He gave me a cuddle and asked me if I’d been serving a lot of coffee.” She gave me the look. Across the bar ran a ripple of suppressed sniggering.

“Anja didn’t serve as much as Sue did,” someone whispered.

The airport has now shut and the chances of getting home are slim. We could be in for a long one.

I suspect it could involve snowballs. And Anja.

To be fair – it is her turn with the bazooka.

Frappacino, anyone?

July 21, 2011

Gather ye rosebuds. And lamingtons. #eqnz #chch

Rosalie McLauchlan met John Riach at the Latimer Dance Hall.

Rumour has it she looked down from the balcony, gave him the once over and knew he was the man for her. According to legend, he laid eyes on her and the same occurred to him.

Aunty Rosalie knew there’s such a thing as love at first sight. With nearly half a century of marriage behind her, she proved it’s the kind of love that lasts.

My birth mum Bev’s oldest sister, Aunty Rosalie is one of the reasons I’ve had annual mammograms since I was in my mid 30s. When I met Bev almost 25 years ago and my family tree of two parents and one only child morphed into an ancient wisteria vine too complex to explain, one of our first discussions was about what genetic landmines lay in wait.

I’m very grateful to have that knowledge, and very grateful too for the screening programme that’s offered in New Zealand. I’ve had the experience of failing that test and being called back because they’ve found something (which was nothing, as most of the things they find are) – it is the most awful feeling in the world. That happened to me this February. I got the all clear just a few days before the earthquake.

I have a pink ribbon on my black coat at the moment. Another of the aunties was handing them out at Aunty Rosalie’s funeral yesterday. That was my ninth funeral this year. If I have to hear Amazing Grace one more time between now and Christmas I may well scream. I couldn’t bring myself to sing it yesterday. As soon as I heard the wretched thing movies of all the other funerals and memorials I’ve been to started playing in my head again. It’s a trigger, that song. Best avoided.

The song my sisters Sandra and Brenda and brother Dion sang however, Bette Midler’s The Rose, was a fine and fitting tribute for a lovely good woman. I’m so proud of my siblings. It’s hard enough speaking at a service, that I know from experience. To get up there, play guitar and sing when your voice and your heart are both breaking – that’s above and beyond any expectations. They were wonderful yesterday, as they are every day, and I am lucky to have them in my life even though they’re all taller than me.

Aunty Rosalie was sent on her way on the most beautiful warm winter’s day you could hope to imagine, her casket covered in pink camellias and sweet scented daphne, a single purple helium balloon released as the hearse pulled away. A bright orange digger was busily knocking down a building on the other side of Cashel St, and a giant crane a couple of blocks to the south was helping the deconstruction of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, its onion dome now a transparent frame.

They served raspberry lamingtons at the aftermatch function that matched the flowers. They served chocolate ones too. I was no lady. I rather like those.

To burn them off I took Pepper for a long walk after that, the longest since I’ve had this stupid cold and the nasty tickly cough. The weather was so beautiful and I’ve been inside so much I seized the moment and we had a lovely time.

Then to a tweetup before heading to sister Brenda’s to catch up with family again. A late night and it was a slow start this morning as a result. I’ve achieved very little today, aside from buffing and polishing. All in one day I’ve had the facial, the waxing, the hair all sorted. I’m downright peccable. Even the house got a look in today – wifey came and sorted the mayhem. What would I do without her?

Tonight I need to sort my clothes for tomorrow’s film shoot and also pack a bag for  the weekend. Judging by the weather forecast I’ve picked a good one to run away. There’s snow forecast down to sea level on Sunday. I do hope I don’t get stranded and miss a day’s work. I’m now going to try and write that again with a straight face. 😉

As I drove through town today I noticed a tree on the corner of Montreal and Oxford Tce in full pink blossom. I can remember filming a soft and fluffy news item for CTV about that selfsame confused tree. The harbinger of spring, I called it. I remember that piece vividly because we filmed it towards the end of August 1992. Any thoughts I had of being a weather forecaster vanished in puff of smoke round about then. A day or two later, on the 28th of August 1992 I was working at CTV which was broadcasting from Gloucester Street at that stage, sharing facilities with TVNZ. About 2 in the afternoon Jason Gunn got on the PA system and started singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” He got his wish. The blizzard shut the city for 3 days. I anchored the TV coverage until our transmitter died. Someone had topped up the diesel in the emergency generator but they hadn’t put the lid back on properly. We ran out of gas. After that I answered the phone on reception until my voice gave out. It’s worth noting that the blizzard, as awful as it was, was not enough to make the city declare a state of local emergency. It puts a state of national emergency into a pretty good context, doesn’t it?

I have a hunch that tree blooms this time of year every year. More than likely I’ve driven past it being beautiful hundreds of times, so wrapped up in trivia and my own thoughts that I haven’t given it the courtesy of a sidelong glance. I noticed it today because its petals reminded me of the colour of the lamingtons at Aunty Rosalie’s funeral, and it dawned on me that she won’t get the chance to see that tree again.

As I head to my very tidy room to pack, let me leave you with a poem, Bud.

TO THE VIRGINS, TO MAKE MUCH OF TIME

by Robert Herrick

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry :
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry.

July 11, 2011

You don’t need a trophy to be a hero. #eqnz #chch

I have no voice left. Nor does the cat. The dog is not a lot better.

The dog started it in Hanmer. We popped up there yesterday on business. When we took her for a quick walk she went one way – we went the other. Pepper lost sight of us for all of a nano-second, then to say she screamed is an understatement. The dog, we discovered, has lungs on her that would make a fire engine sit up and take notice. As soon as she figured out where we were it wasn’t an issue – but unlike Ms Garbo, Pepper does not want to be alone.

I snoozed on the drive back, the cold medicine doing its job nicely. By the time we arrived back in Christchurch I was alert enough to wobble inside and crawl into bed for a late afternoon nap.

Our rugby watching last night was done in dressing gowns, in front of the fire. It was a magnificent final, a real game of two halves. Rugby was the winner on the day, and all that.

At half time as I opened the hall door and came to the almost instantaneous realisation that black cats should not sleep in the shadows, and no matter how short the distance you should always turn on the light before you wander barefoot at night.

“MIAOW!”, declaimed Zorro loudly and invisibly as I stood on her in the darkness. “@#$#@!!!!!” I replied even more loudly immediately afterwards. Attempts to regain our dignity and pretend it hadn’t happened were somewhat hampered by Kim’s howls of laughter from the lounge. It took lashings of pickled onions and cheese to settle back in for the balance of the match. What was left of my vocal cords disappeared along with Brad Thorn’s unawarded try and the Crusader’s well deserved hopes for an even more well earned Super 15 victory. Our Canterbury team understands as well as any team ever could that life, sometimes, is just not fair.

So a long sleep and still more cold medicine and today I felt a whole lot better. Just as well, since I’m on deck for the city at the moment, and it was down to me today to welcome the Crusaders back to Christchurch. (Yes, yes, I know – it’s a tough job but somebody had to do it.)

What a fantastic turnout. Quite literally hundreds of people, babies to retirees, turned out to the arrivals hall at Christchurch International Airport. A passage of cheering red and black fans erupted every time the customs doors opened, to the dismay of some unsuspecting travellers and the delight of others. “It’s just what we do in Christchurch,” I heard someone say. “Welcome to Canterbury. It’s always like this here.”

And to the strains of the familiar anthem “Conquest of Paradise”, our boys were back in town. They looked tired, they weren’t in party mode, but the crowd went crazy, and so they should. On the city’s behalf, I welcomed them back home, told them they were heroes, and when Richie McCaw finished his speech and the microphone was gone, I took the chance every armchair commentator would. “You were robbed, mate. That was a fair try Brad Thorn scored. Robbed.”

What a lovely bloke Richie McCaw is. He didn’t even object when I gave him a hug.

I wonder if it’s easier for the Crusaders dealing with a Reds scrum that outweighed them by 30-odd kilos or a media scrum the likes of the one today. There was even a French TV crew there, the first it seems of many as we build up to RWC 2011 which kicks off in not quite two months. I had a wee chat to them too. How the word for “shopping” could have left my linguistic memory when I needed it most is something I will ponder for a long time.

Kim and I then adjourned upstairs to check out the new restaurant area in our stunning new airport terminal. It is quite simply gorgeous. If you haven’t been there, make a trip on purpose and go for a look. Hats off to the CIAL team who’ve delivered us such a fantastic facility, and if you want any proof that business is alive and well in Canterbury the terminal should be all you need.

After-match refreshments there were the order of the day before we came back home and Kim whipped up steak & potatoes with french beans and a blue vein sauce. Spoilt? Me? Grateful? Absolutely. I gave him a hug too, a bigger one than I gave Richie in fact. He didn’t object either. It seems I’m on a roll.

Kim and I have sat here this evening watching “Walk the Line” together, and with Pepper snoring her little head off in the corner it is nearly time to call it a night. I’ve a radio call from The Breeze first thing tomorrow morning then a variety of things to do throughout the day.

It’s been a lovely weekend, even with that rugby result.

After all, you’re not always going to win the game. Sometimes just getting to the end of it is a big enough miracle. I’m so proud of our Crusaders, one of our many symbols of Team Christchurch.

Holding a trophy doesn’t make you a hero.

Doing your very best for as long as you possibly can, does.

July 7, 2011

If you’re going through hell, keep going. #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“You’ve been very quiet lately,” one of my tweeps said today. “Is everything all right?”

EQ blues like everybody else, I replied, and work has been chaos. And it’s tax time. And I’ve got a rotten stupid headcold. I need some cheese with this whine, except I think I’ve eaten everything in the fridge. Three kilos of quake weight in as many months and I feel like calling Greenpeace for help every time I roll over in bed.

Life at  the moment feels like it normally does in the week before Christmas when everyone is totally knackered and past the point of being nice to each other. At Christmas though the weather is warm and there’s at least a hope of Santa sticking something pretty under the tree (even if Santa’s handwriting looks remarkably like your own).

It’s not that I’m without hope here – it’s just been such a long haul since September 4th 2010. That’s over 10 months ago. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say I’m currently a tiny bit over it.

I’m not despondent, don’t get me wrong. I know that things will improve. We have things to look forward to. We have the Crusaders game on the weekend, and a welcome home for the boys at the airport on Sunday afternoon. We have the entertainment zone gearing up in Hagley Park. That’s lovely too. There is a ton of good stuff being done for the city’s future by any number of strong, enthusiastic, energetic people and organisations. But sometimes you just run a bit low on puff.

I was asked to write a piece for a book that’s being published about “things I love about Christchurch”. I wrote it. The author edited it because they didn’t think it was upbeat enough. I pulled out of the book, because I’m not going to sugar coat how hard things are for a whole lot of people right now. We’re all missing things. It’s part of a grief process and I’m not embarrassed to admit that.

But it feels really shallow and selfish in the light of so many greater hardships to admit the particular things I’m missing. Still, if we don’t acknowledge them, how do we get past it?

I miss roaming on the hills, I miss letting my dog swim in the river, I miss the easy access we had to town. I miss the traffic jam free roads, I miss my local supermarket. I miss my friends who’ve moved away. I’m not even going to begin to talk about buildings and people, we all carry that burden every day. I miss the security of knowing when I wake up in the morning the contents of the pantry will be in the same place they were when I went to bed (teenagers aside, of course). I am sick of waiting for the next shoe to fall.

This is one of the hard points along the way. When you think about it, and you reflect on the series of physically exhausting events we have been through, and then some people get the extra trauma of losing their home or their family member, and you put the time frame into the mix, it’s no wonder there are many brave faced Cantabrians who are part of a weary grouchy mob at the moment.

Some of the challenges people are facing are homes which are still cold, still occasionally surrounded by piles of liquefaction (and then dust if it isn’t removed). Getting insurance is a real problem, and for people currently living in the red zone who are being offered their Crown Offer of Purchase, that is a worry as they look to a new property for the future, if they can afford to buy one at all. Some people don’t want to be living here but their houses are keeping them tied here. Others don’t want to leave but their jobs have gone. Schools are still a big cross town journey for many, our thriving business community has largely shifted to the north western suburbs with all the consequent impost on their resources –  oh, and did I mention it’s winter so you can probably chuck a lump of seasonal affected disorder into the mix as well.

So many problems. One simple solution. Winston Churchill put it well, I think, when he said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

So as we all will, I am.

I filed my tax return today, on time, if down to the wire. The staff at the IRD were just lovely over the past three days as I first failed to remember my user name, then subsequently my password, then I deleted the emails with the all the information in and had to start again (I emptied the trash too – no half measures.) The login information they gave me then didn’t work – it turned out to be a browser problem. And now it’s fixed.

I read a novel this week – the first I’ve read all year. Dave Marshall’s truly lovely book, “Shaggy Dogs and other stories.” I laughed so hard the family discussed calling the men in the white coats until I read them the section on the exploding budgie and we all wet ourselves together. I’m now embarking on reading another novel. It’s called “Paul Henry, what was I thinking”. I have no idea how it will end but so far it involves more explosives than the ether that blew up the bird.

The gardener has been and the vege garden is weed free.

I went for a 10km run yesterday over Ramahana Rd and Aotea Tce. When I told them this at the dinner table last night I  was asked if I had tailored my run to suit Maori language week.

Pepper has had a visit to Splash & Dash and no longer smells of pre-loved duck – as she has taken to sleeping on the floor of the bedroom that is certainly a plus. The cat has started stalking her now. We were woken in the dead of last night by an enormous growl and bark and what can only be described as a cat tittering behind her paw. (This makes up for the moment earlier in the week where Pepper was running for the door, barking violently at a knock, only to accidentally stand on the cat who was lying innocently in the sun. Yelp, hiss, scrabble, slash, yike yike yike.)The once timid Fang now waits malevolently until I put food in Pepper’s dish, and then saunters off and very slowly hoes into the biscuits. Pepper sits patiently and waits until she’s done, a little like a white zone resident waiting for the Tonkin and Taylor report.

And tonight, after a late afternoon nap, my gorgeous Chef fed me a delicious home made red Thai curry which is guaranteed to make my rotten cold run for the hills before dawn breaks. Just as well, because I’m filming a week’s worth of shows at CTV tomorrow and there’s nothing sexy about a drippy nosed on camera performance. I am well looked after, I am well loved, I am a very lucky woman.

Downs, yes. Ups, yes. As the IRD knows, you need to look at both sides of the ledger in order to reconcile where you’re at.

And where I’m at – is I’m keeping going.

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