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Archive for the ‘Earthquake Reflections’ Category

Corner View – Pretty Eyesore

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Earthquake Facade

Earthquake Facade

When I saw the topic for today’s Corner View I thought of these photos – taken a few weeks ago in the middle of Christchurch – and thought it might be an appropriate time to share them.  For a long time the Christchurch CBD has been closed because of the massive damage caused by the earthquakes we had here in 2010 and 2011.  Over the last year or so though little bits of it have been opening up and now we’re at the point where most of it is open again – despite it being comprised mainly of ruined buildings and vacant lots.  In some of those vacant lots though beauty exists amongst the ugliness.  Little edible gardens are springing up on empty land throughout our inner city.  Parsley, marigolds, silver beet and sage now grow where shops and office blocks, night-clubs and bars, banks and bagel joints once stood  And seeing those little gardens and their cheerful little crops never fails to put a smile on my face – they’re a symbol of regeneration, new life, renewal and – most of all – hope.  They’re prettiness amongst the ugliness – balm for the eyes 🙂

Edible Garden

Edible Garden

Flowers amongst the rubble

Flowers amongst the rubble




Where I live – Walls

Friday, May 11th, 2012

When I saw today’s theme I immediately thought of all the beautiful old stone walls – including those of our cathedral – which are coming down here in Christchurch. We used to be a city full of beautiful neo-gothic architecture. Now, despite the fact that much of it still stands – and could be saved if there was a will to save it – most of it is going to be demolished. Our cathedral has already received its death notice – and demolition began a few weeks ago.  I wonder if there is any other city in the world that would so easily give up on its cathedral?

Demolition has, however, been temporarily halted due to the howls of protest from many in the city. They are due to start again in early June if we can’t persuade them otherwise. These buildings can never be replaced . . . it seems so very strange to make such hasty decisions to bring them down. What’s the hurry? Why not wait and see whether it is possible to save them? That’s what they do in other cities apparently. Why not here?

Singing in a new season

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

On Friday night I was lucky enough to sing in a lovely concert with all the gorgeous people from the Southern Opera Chorus. We have been an opera chorus without any operas to perform in for the last year or so – our two major theatres are both out of action – but we have still found opportunities to get together to make music in the various little churches still left standing around the city. On Friday night it was St Augustine’s – a lovely little church in the Cashmere hills.

Right now we are not sure what the future holds for Southern Opera – but we’re all crossing our fingers that we can keep singing together and that one day we’ll all be back on stage helping to bring opera to life in Christchurch again.

Corner View – Monument

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Christchurch's Anglican Cathdral

Christchurch's Catholic Cathedral

Apologies Corner Viewers – I am doing yet another earthquake post – but when I saw the topic tonight it was really hard not to.   It’s really late and I should be in bed so I’ll make this brief. These two buildings were monuments to many things – new beginnings in a new land, community spirit, spirituality, gorgeous music, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical architecture, Anglicanism and Catholicism, to name but a very few. They are still – at this moment in time – monuments to all those things and now, also, they stand as monuments to the unbelievable power of the natural world . . .


Lost and Gone Forever – Christchurch Cathedral

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Front page of our local paper today

I’m sorry but despite my best intentions to make sure my next post did not mention the earthquake I find myself unable to keep silent about the announcement today, from the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, that the Anglican Church will not be bothering to attempt to save, or even partly save, the Christchurch Cathedral.  While this cathedral may not have been the most beautiful building in the world it was dear to the hearts of many Christchurchians – Christians and non-Christians alike.

It stood in the heart of our city, many of us walked by it almost every day, we ate our lunch outside it while we listened to buskers who plied their trade in its shadow, we laid presents under its Christmas tree, we took our friends from other countries to it, we went to concerts in it.  Indeed the cathedral represented Christchurch – it’s image was central to our city’s logo – plastered all over any communications from our Council and instantly recognisable not only to those of us who call Christchurch home, but to most New Zealanders.

Thus, despite the Anglican Church ‘owning’ the cathedral in a legal sense, in reality it belonged to all of us and it saddens me that the people of Christchurch were given so little say in its fate. There were many good ideas floated about how the cathedral could be at least partially saved (it is, surprisingly, largely intact, apart from the front wall and the spire) . . . and either reconstructed in all its Neo-Gothic glory or re-built as a mix of old and new (like Coventry Cathedral in Britain).

Coventry Cathedral

Our Mayor made a personal plea to the Bishop to put the cathedral into public ownership so it could be saved but his offer was rejected. People from all over the world have offered their expertise – and their money – to help restore and rebuild it. Instead the Anglican leaders have elected – on the basis, it seems, of purely financial calculations – to completely demolish it.

This decision is – sadly –  terribly symbolic of the general ‘knock-em down’ attitude we seem to have in Christchurch post-earthquake (and indeed prior to the earthquake if the truth be known). If we can’t save Christchurch’s most iconic building I wonder what on earth we will deem worthy of saving?

Corner View “…”

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012


Flowers in a road cone - Christchurch, New Zealand, February 22nd, 2012

Flowers in the rubble - Christchurch Festival of Flowers 2012

When I saw this week’s theme I immediately thought how symbolic this was of the uncertainty we are feeling here in Christchurch right now – the gaps, the holes, the question-marks that pepper our lives here.  But where there are gaps, of course,  there are possibilities. Things can happen in gaps – new ventures can pop up in empty places, new ideas have space to take flight, flowers can bloom . . . as the two photographs I’ve posted show

The first pic is of flowers placed in a road cone on the anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake on February 22nd. Hundreds of cones across New Zealand were thus decorated as a memorial for those who died in the quake. It was a lovely thing to see – wherever there were road cones (and there are a lot around Christchurch) there were flowers. The second picture is a floral arrangement from our Festival of Flowers – I’m not sure how clear this is in the photograph but the flowers are placed amongst rubble from the ruined city. Where there’s life there’s hope . . .

PS: Sorry to make this yet another earthquake post. It’s been hard not to think about earthquakes here in Christchurch this last few weeks.


February 22nd

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Front page of today's Press

Today is the anniversary of our dreadful earthquake. I thought I would manage OK but I have been very emotional for the last couple of days. I keep thinking about it. This time last year we were doing this, or that, or the other thing. This time last year everything was normal. This time last year we never dreamed anything so cataclysmic could happen here in quiet little Christchurch. We went about our business entirely oblivious to the huge forces marshalling themselves beneath our feet.

Up until that day I had been spending most of my time at school with Brianna – helping out as they went out and about around the town. We picnicked in Latimer Square, we swam in Centennial Pool, we walked the streets of Christchurch beneath facades and verandahs that on February 22nd would be reduced to rubble. On February 22nd I decided it was time to leave her at school by herself. I had things to do – places to be. She cried when I left – a little dot, not yet really used to being a big school girl. I tried to convince myself it was for the best. She needed to learn to stand on her own two feet. What a day to choose to leave my little girl to stand on her own two feet. My biggest regret about that day is that I wasn’t there with her. But thank God other children’s parents and the wonderful teachers of Discovery 1 School – located in the heart of Christchurch – were there with her. And it is to them that I owe a debt of gratitude that I have no way of paying – for being so calm, for helping the children out of their shattered school, out of their shattered city in a way which left – on Brianna at least – very few scars.

It was a long walk into town for me that day – but I found my little girl when so many other people lost their loved ones. And I am just so very, very, very grateful.

A section of today's Press dedicated to the 185 people who died in the earthquake

Wildflowers and other good things . . .

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

A vacant lot becomes a field of wildflowers

I was driving down Worcester Street the other day – on my way to have lunch with my husband at our favourite cafe (Under the Red Verandah) and I saw this little patch of wildflowers growing in what was previously a vacant lot. We have too many empty spaces in Christchurch right now but it was just so heartening to see these flowers. Someone had taken the time to go out and buy a packet of wildflower seeds – a month or two later – magic!

And speaking of Under the Red Verandah – they have been another inspirational Christchurch story. Their gorgeous old building had been destroyed in the earthquake and only a matter of days later they had started business again in the small cottage next door. They could only serve coffee and snacks but I can’t tell you how it cheered us up to sit there – surrounded by friendly staff and fellow Christchurchians – doing something normal when everything else seemed to be broken. They have now renovated an old building that was at the back of the original restaurant – and are back in business serving their usual fabulous food. I had a roast pumpkin, feta and rocket salad when I was there the other day and it was divine!

Roast Pumpkin, Feta & Rocket Salad - Under the Red Verandah

Under the Red Verandah - Viewed from the street

Life in Christchurch

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

A recent front-page spread from our local paper

This front-page spread in our local paper recently really brought it home to me how living in Christchurch right now is quite a strange experience. We are a city of two halves in all sorts of ways. A large number of people have had their lives turned completely upside down – their houses have been completely ruined and they are unable to live in them, everything is in limbo while they wait to see if their home will be demolished or fixed. These decisions are taking months and months – many are still far from resolved. A sizeable number of people are still living in essentially unliveable houses because they simply cannot afford to do anything else.

There are large swathes of our city out to the east – the areas now called ‘Red Zones’ – where houses stand empty and previously lovingly tended gardens run wild. In these areas the decision has been made from on high that the whole suburb will be abandoned. Even those whose homes seem OK have to go. Eventually the bulldozers will come in and completely erase all traces of the homes and gardens that once stood there, the lives that were once lived there.

Then there are large numbers of people who  have been hardly affected – their houses are still fine, their suburbs still viable – most people in the affluent North-West of the city fall into this camp. We – in our little working-class suburb of Addington –  are also lucky enough to be part of this largely unaffected group. For us, while we may miss our central city terribly and mourn the loss of our previous way of life, it’s pretty much business as usual. Work, school, keeping house, tending our gardens, worrying about the silly things we all worry about.

Indeed, if there has been a period of time without any discernible aftershocks life almost starts to feel normal. And then – seemingly out of the blue – there’ll be another big shake and it all comes rushing back. We’ll remember that we live in an earthquake zone. We’ll remember those poor people out in the east who we should never have forgotten, we’ll remember that awful day when the earth shook for 20 seconds and changed our city, and our lives, forever.


After the Earthquake – More of the city opens …

Monday, December 12th, 2011

There has been a walkway opened up between our Container City Mall in Cashel Street and Cathedral Square. The walkway goes down Colombo Street and then snakes around the edge of the Square. We finally got to see our poor broken cathedral in the real – after seeing countless photographs of it since the quake.

As we filed around the perimeter of the square we saw a number of buildings – still standing tall and proud – which have been marked for demolition. Too expensive to fix them – so they have to come down

In this photograph the very tall building on the left – The Forsyth Barr Building – has to come down. And so does the building with the slightly pitched roof-line which you can see popping up behind the rather ugly squat concrete monstrosity on the right. This building  – the Price Waterhouse Building is, despite appearances, actually Christchurch’s tallest building – I think, from memory, it has 21 floors. It is a baby by world standards, but for Christchurch it is a biggie.  I used to do some occasional work for a law firm on the 19th floor when I was in my late 20s. I remember experiencing a small earthquake up there and being amazed at how much the building swayed. It was designed to do that of course – it was built on rollers so that it could move if it had to. No-one was hurt in this building on February 22nd. Everyone got out safely.

Another building which must come down – known as the BNZ Building it has never been a favourite of mine. I won’t be too upset by its demise. It was one of the first tall ugly modern buildings to be built in Cathedral Square – which used to be surrounded by beautiful old buildings.

Looking down Cashel Street – the tall building on the right is the Westpac Building and is also slated for demolition. We used to look at it out the windows at Discovery (Brianna’s school) – which is in behind the buildings in the left foreground. Just the strangest feeling to see these deserted streets that used to be full of people and cars.

After leaving the Cathedral Square Walkway we headed off south down Colombo Street towards our carpark and we saw Brianna’s old school – up above the building which houses the Robert Harris coffee shop on its second floor.  It was much easier to see from this vantage point than it used to be due to the building that used to be in the vacant spot behind the fence being gone.  The windows you can see above the Robert Harris building are the windows of one of the main open areas of the school – Brianna and her friends used to eat their lunch there, play in the ‘family corner’ there, do music sessions with Mary there. This area led to the only outdoor play area available in the school – a small terrace with some basic play equipment – slides, climbing frames and the like. The pale beige section of building was where Brianna’s homebase was – on the middle floor.  The adjoining section of building – the same beige colour – which is badly damaged – contained the stairwell, the lifts and the hall leading from the car-park to Discovery and to the shops on the lower floors.  I definitely felt very strange looking at all this. It’s the first time I’ve seen Discovery since the earthquake. It still sends shivers down my spine to think that Brianna was in there – without me – in the middle of the city – on that awful day.