One year on from: Feb 22 2011: The day a city shook and then time stood still
I am not sure that I expected to be quite as emotional as I was when I walked around what is termed the Red Zone in Christchurch. All of us have seen the pictures and read the stories since that fateful day last year but to experience it up close was quite staggering. I walked through Hagley Park, out through the Botanical Gardens, crossed the road and then followed Worcester Street to the river. I could see the larger buildings still towering above the CBD but my attention was drawn to the ruins in the distance. When we last visited Christchurch in 2008 we had enjoyed wandering around Cathedral Square and looking up at the stone building and realising what a showpiece it was – not just in a religious way but in a focal point for Cantabrians and all New Zealanders. As I walked towards it all I could see was a cavernous hole where the Rose Window was and suddenly it all seemed real. The destruction is quite overwhelming and trying to place buildings is not easy – we stood and looked at the vacant lot that was once a restaurant that we dined at trying to work out if it was actually where we thought it was. Noise along the river drew me to the site of the Crowne Plaza, which was in the midst of being demolished. There are not many hotel sites you see with curtains billowing and large diggers five floors up. At this stage I felt like I was taking on a slightly macabre interest in others misfortune so I walked from the CBD to a bar and ordered an ice cold beer and just sat there watching the world go by.
Last Friday night we were at Logan Brown and chatted across a table to a couple from Christchurch. Their house was, to echo Bob Parker “munted” but their outlook on life was amazing. They accepted what they had been dealt and had taken the opportunity to rebuild and move on. They were very upset with the media and elements of the community that preyed on media attention. They were such positive people and I came away feeling that small things don’t need to be sweated – we all have bad days but for me I am not sure I have ever experienced a life changing day like they had. And I hope I don’t.
The taster of Christchurch was all too short but we saw what we wanted to and Narelle completed her second last presentation for CETA. We stayed at a hotel next to Hagley Park – it gave me an excuse to run around it, which was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It did mean early starts for our flights in and out of Christchurch, which may have been the reason for us having room service for dinner and then me hitting the deck leaving Narelle to watch Colin Firth - and a bit of Bridget Jones….
It was a quick trip to Dunedin early morning. Narelle only had to go as far as the airport as that was where her presentation was taking place – to all of two people! It was a room looking out over the Arrivals and I helped her set up the computer while also ringing Hotels.com to check where we were staying. Unbeknown to us the hotel we were staying at had closed due to a fire so we needed new accommodation. After much chat with Ahmed in Pakistan we were sent to the Living Space complex in the CBD so that is where I set off to in the rental; once again leaving Narelle to do the work!
The hotel reminded me of a Formula 1 in France – a room with bathroom and all very sterile. It was all we needed for one night. The quite unique idea was to have the bathroom within the room and sectioned off by a large glass wall – it was like walking into a Tardis. If anyone ever needs a cheap and cheerful night in Dunedin away from prying eyes then this is the place – the kind of place I would head to if I was on the run!
Dunedin has always had a family link for me as it is where my father went to Teachers’ College in the 50s. So I retraced some of his steps around the Octagon and also checked out his old flat in Dundas Street. Family legend had said that his name was still on the back wall of #64 so I went to check – sure enough it was! Hard to believe sixty years of students have lived in the flat and the names have never been painted over. It was freshers’ week in Dunedin so there were many students walking around – sadly we missed the toga party!
My cousin Chris happened to text me as I wandered round Dunedin and told me that I should not miss the Speights Brewery bar – thankfully I was standing outside it at the time. So I went in and joined the tour, learnt all about hops and gravity fed breweries but in reality was there for what others were there for too – the free tasters at the end. For some strange reason I remembered Homer Simpson on his tour of the Federal Mint and him looking so sad when they said there would be no free samples at the end! Speights were great – not only one free sample but you could pour your own ones at the bar; so I did!
Dinner was at an Irish pub back in the Octagon and then it was back to the room/ bathroom to ready ourselves for our next stint – we are off to Queenstown tomorrow.
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