Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

October 8, 2011

Central city plan day 6 #eqnz #Chch #CCC

Today’s hearing, in marked contrast to the wintry weather conditions, was largely upbeat and positive. Our new venue is the damaged Beckenham Service Centre. The earthquake attacked its lovely green heating system so we freeze or fry while we’re there. It’s only 3km from my home, so the bike ride there in the pouring rain warmed me up nicely. (I have yet to see a report on the building which won the National Architects Award when it was constructed. I hope ease of repair formed part of its sustainability indicators – not that anyone could have predicted the ferocity of February’s underground bomb.)
Today’s high point was the self described Japanese immigrant who urged us to build a city reflecting our identity, to paint it as the people we are. She wore vibrant yellow and her enthusiasm for living here was made doubly meaningful by her residential address – a red zone resident, not that she mentioned it in her submission.
The most poignant submission today was by Heidi Berg’s mum, Julie. Julie suggested that as part of the memorial, families be invited to choose a tree. They could be grown in time for the Ellerslie Flower show next year. Families of Japanese students might be offered a cherry, she suggested. For Heidi, whose memorial sheet sat in front of her throughout the presentation, a New Zealand native would perhaps be a good choice. Julie asked us to think about including volunteer gardeners in the development of our new city. She presented to us, she said, because she knew had Heidi not been lost in the CTV building, she would certainly have been having her say on the city’s future shape. (Rest assured Julie – she is.)
As it’s Saturday, Kim popped in at lunchtime and we shared the break together. A quick snack was followed by half an hour trying to rescue a mother duck and her brood from the despair of the near empty moat.
We finished around 4, and I biked home just in time to be in the garage for the first of a series of gnarly little shocks rumbling across from the peninsula – the first a 4.8 had me hoping the garage window wasn’t going to fall in again as it did in February.
We have walked the pooch, Kim’s cooking salmon for tea, and there are superb Rugby World Cup games on today. Wales/Ireland, England/France. Not a bad backdrop for another big evening’s reading.



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.

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