Category Archives: local events

The Beloved of the River Goddess.

At long last The Beloved of the River Goddess, the sequel to my first novel, The Amulet of the Hunter God, has appeared on the cyber-shelves. It is available from the publishers, Writers’ Exchange, http://www.writers-exchange.com or from http://www.amazon.com for the very affordable sum of $3.99. The Beloved of the River Goddess continues the adventures of Edrun Jaranacad and Jina Kadicath as they struggle though the tortuous intrigues and machinations of the Noble Clans and Temples of the Islands of the Sixteen Gods.

Beloved cover art 2

Happy St Pat’s.

Caed Mide Failche!

The top o’ the mornin’ to you all. Here’s a toast to many fond memories and to absent friends. I shall be thinking of you all. Just as well I have a big head, because that’s a lot of thinks.

One Year On.

To Cathryn and Louise and Anne and Fi and Hazel and Jockey and Smurf and Chris and Spike and everyone else who sent me birthday wishes; thank you. I had a lovely day doing very little. I spent much of it doing nothing, sitting under the walnut tree in the back garden, which is something that I do very well. My friend Bentley, who is also expert at doing nothing, and, indeed, does it with much more style and aplomb than I can muster, joined me and sat on my lap. We sat together for a long time, companionably doing nothing in our own individual ways. Then I went to the pub, and later Ruth and I had a marvellous dinner at Tiffany’s courtesy of Louise. It was indeed a most happy birthday.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, the natives are restless. A large demonstration had been planned for today outside the Christchurch City Council offices to protest, ostensibly, at the pay rise given to the Town Clerk, Tony Marriot. Many of the good citizens of Christchurch feel aggrieved that Mr Marriot has received a very large increase in pay at a time when may of said citizens are without homes, living in rented accommodation that they cannot afford, or in Aunt Mary’s garage. Many point out that Mr Marriot’s rise of $K65 [give or take] is more that most people earn in a year and he does not even live in Christchurch [he lives in Hamilton and commutes]. Mr Marriot has offered to return the sum, provided that the Council toe the line, but many have said that this is unacceptable as the servant does not hold the master to ransom, and it is too late for that anyway.

Protesters outside the City Council, Hereford Street.

They are right, of course. As far as the matter of being too late is concerned, anyway, because the demonstration that was held today was not really about Mr Marriot’s rise. That had become a catalyst, a last straw, if you like, in a litany of woes that would take thousands of words to fully catalogue.

It has been, in short, a shit of a year. Homes have been destroyed, jobs have disappeared, businesses have vanished, many people have been ruined financially. There is a lot of anger, frustration, and bitterness in the air, and people want someone to string up from a lamp-post. Mr Marriot is a convenient butt for this concerted anger, but anger is misleading guide and a terrible master. Angry people do not think clearly, and I would bet money that many of the people demonstrating today would have trouble fully and clearly articulating their reasons for demonstrating, let alone forming those reasons into any sort of manifesto. They want new elections, they want to run the Town Clerk out of town on rail. As if that would make any difference.

But they are barking up the wrong tree. The concerns that most people have are not with the Council at all, but with insurance companies, the Earthquake Commission, and a central government that quite clearly has an agenda of reducing the powers of local governments. Local politicians have made some wrong calls, and there have been some appalling public relations blunders, but what of that? We all make mistakes, particularly in difficult situations such as that in which we have found ourselves. Arrogance and muddle-headedness are reprehensible but they should not be hanging offences.

I had grave doubts about going into the City today. I avoid demonstrations like the plague, because as Town Crier I cannot be seen to be partisan in any way, and I did not want to get mixed up in this confrontation. I went in anyway, to see what I could see from a safe distance, and indeed to see if there was anything to see. Everyone has been predicting a large turnout, but knowing the weight of societal inertia as I do I would not have been much surprised if no-body turned up. As it happened, there were lots of people in town when I arrived. By about 1030 there was a steady little stream of people working their was from wherever along Oxford Terrace an over the Hereford Street Bridge. Numbers started to accumulate.

Mostly, the people gathering were middle aged and elderly, not the sort who usually go to demonstrations. There were younger ones, of course, and a few placards, but everyone was pleasant. It was, withal, a lovely day, warm with a pleasant breeze, an excellent day for a stroll through the town.

The numbers continued to swell and by midday the police had closed Hereford Street to vehicular traffic. There was a large crowd outside the Council offices, completely blocking the road and jamming the empty site of St Elmo’s Courts just to the west of the municipal building. There was a lot of good-natured-sounding noise and the occasional burst of applause, so obviously someone was saying something that people liked, but I approached no closer that Oxford Terrace. The last thing I need is a TV news shot of the Christchurch Town Crier at a protest march.

If nothing else the demonstration managed to severely disrupt traffic in the central City, as I found

Protesters in Montreal Street.

as soon as I sought to drive home. The Police had closed Hereford Street between Cambridge Terrace and Montreal Street, and Montreal Street between Cashel Street and Gloucester Street, which meant that traffic quickly locked up and what is normally a journey of less than ten minutes took almost half an hour. But that is a small price to pay if something is achieved, and I think something will have been achieved, even if it is only the letting off of steam.

No, more than that. The elected members of the Council have been given a message that they will ignore at the peril of their public careers. The people who came to the demonstration are not wild-eyed fanatics, nor a rent-a-mob, nor are they the often fuzzy-edged young rebels of the Occupy movement. Mostly, they are older people, many of them retired professionals, people who know what they are looking at and can understand what they are hearing, people with very deep and very immediate grievances.

The people of Canterbury are, in my experience, very generous, and very forgiving. But they have very long memories.

Farewell Piko

There’s a grinding just outside the window,

A rumbling just beyond the door.

Crashing, heavy, blow by blow,

Timbers breaking,

Rippers raking,

Shuddering up beneath the floor.

**

I had to walk up to the crossroad

To witness what I knew to be;

Heavy trucks that, load by load,

Iron crumbling,

Bricks a-tumbling,

Were breaking Piko’s; I had to see.

**

It always had to come, I guess.

Nothing could delay the end.

That elegance reduced to mess,

Grandeur falling

Down, appalling,

Before my eyes; good-bye old friend.

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 30.

Wednesday 23rd March 2011 – Day 30.

Thirty days. One calendar month, or near enough, since the Second Big One hit. For some reason, time passes quite quickly. There are always things to do; cooking, dishes, making the bed, tidying, washing, shredding paper for His Lordship’s kitty litter. Emptying His Lordship’s kitty litter tray into the compost. A new routine is forming. Every day we hear more snippets of news that suggest that more and more of the central City will have to be pulled down, which means that any return to the old normality is receding further and further from view.

But there is nothing really new happening, and I see, looking back over the last few entries, that I am starting to talk about the wider picture, the longer term, the greater implications. That is not and never was my intention. I began writing this series of daily notes to record day to day events as they unfolded on the ground around me, a sort of hedgehog’s-eye view, assessing those things that I saw and heard and felt. It is not my part to take a broader view. There are plenty of commentators and self-styled experts to do that. I shall stick to the minutiae of day to day existence, and the gradual unfolding of the new reality as I experience it, which would suggest that, for the time being at least, I have said all that I have to say. More would inevitably become repetitive.

I now have to focus more on my own emergent reality, and, like everyone else in Christchurch, I must ask questions of and about myself. For example: what of a Town Crier without a town to cry in, or indeed an audience to cry out to? Without a fully functioning and populous City Centre there are no tourists. Without tourists, my clientele disappears. Town Crying is pre-eminently a social vocation; it is not something that you can do working from home. There is much else that I can do, and much to be done. I can resume my studies in Old Babylonian, or perhaps start to research the next few chapters of Britannia Capta, looking at those years between the departure of Gnaeus Julius Agricola and the rise of Clodius Albinus. But that is not what this series of notes is about.

So I will stop the regular note-taking henceforth. I shall certainly comment from time to time, as events arise, but not on a daily basis. For now, however, I am off to Pomeroy’s Public House, a fine place to enjoy a pint or two http://www.pomeroysonkilmore.co.nz/. Just one more thing, though, a thought for the day that occurred to me a little while ago:

The motto on the City’s coat-of-arms in ‘Fide Condita, Beata Fructu, Spem Fortis’, ‘Founded on faith, blessed with fertility, with the strength of hope.’ Turgid, verbose, and so long that almost nobody can remember it, let alone what it means. Very Victorian. I would suggest that the City scrap that one and replace it with a new one [Latin, of course]; ‘Resurgamus’ – ‘We shall rise again’. It has a certain ring to it, I think.

To be continued [or not]….

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 29.

Tuesday 22nd March 2011 – Day 29.

Ruth had to go to a meeting in Merivale at midday. I drove her over and, as she was going to take two hours, I had the opportunity to do a few things by myself. I drove down to the Verkerk’s Factory Shop and bought a few packets of their excellent bacon, then made my way around to the Northlands Mall.

It was huge, and bustling with shoppers and children in school uniforms. I had to drive around a while just to find a car park. The shops were doing a good trade, mostly. A place that offered shiatsu massage was not exactly bursting at the seams, but most of the others – Warehouse, Pak’n’Save, Whitcoulls, various chain stores – were humming. Outside, while there was considerable damage to shops in the wider shopping area, and whole rows of premises were fenced off, there seemed to be plenty of life. Traffic along Papanui road was bumper to bumper, and I carefully planned my route so as to take right hand turns at controlled intersections otherwise I would have been experiencing long delays. There was no gridlock, and traffic was moving continually, but it was very busy on the road.

Merivale Mall, likewise, was alive with shoppers, with the supermarket and associated shops trading steadily. The shops along Papanui Road, as I have said elsewhere, had sustained heavy damage, but there were plenty of others still operating. Even the Brewer’s Arms, where I stopped for pint before collecting Ruth at 2:00 p.m. had a healthy little crop of loungers. The car park behind the Mall was almost full, and as at Northlands, I had some difficulty in even finding a space.

The moral of all this? The Christchurch economy is alive and well and living in the suburbs. The newer shopping malls are going to thrive, and any new shopping precincts will be built in such a way as to ride on their success. Is anyone going to go into the central City to shop? I doubt it, and the longer the Civil Defence Controller keeps people out of the City, the less likely will it be that ordinary trade will resume there. People will quickly become more and more used to shopping and doing business in the suburbs, and new routines will be built up around suburban shopping and activity as opposed to that of the central City.

The main hotels are in the centre, and the main banks and business houses, as well as Government departments, will likewise remain there, so there will always be people there. A concentration of pubs and cafés will quickly return to cater to the civil servants, bankers, solicitors and others, and to the tourists staying at the main hotels, but normal retail trading? I really do not know. Ballantynes, God Bless them, have vowed to rebuild and return to central City trading, and they will. They may well provide a core about which a new retail area can coalesce, but this is going to have to be very, very carefully thought through, and will require very careful nurturing. Can it be done? I do not know, but if it is done, it is going to take a very long time, and whatever it is when it finally comes it is going to be nothing like it was before.

To be continued….

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 28.

Monday 21st March – Day 28.

Very little has happened here inside the cordon. Nothing has changed since yesterday. The police and soldiers are still at their checkpoint on the bridge, the armoured car appears from time to time, and the police caravan is still in place. There is no sign whatsoever of the cordon being pulled back towards the City centre. It is wet and miserable and cold, conditions that match my mood entirely.

Grand Chancellor Hotel from the intersection of Fitzgerald Avenue and Cashel Street.

I managed to make it to the mail centre without incident, and I was able to stop on the way to take a photograph of the Grand Chancellor Hotel. Even from the very considerable distance of at least a kilometre from the intersection of Fitzgerald Avenue and Cashel Street, the damage is apparent. The eastern wall with its great windows now askew looks for all the world like some vast doleful face with a droopy eyelid. Impressive, but depressing at the same time. I did not linger.

If there is little new doing within the cordon, there is certainly a lot of controversy looming about it and its possible effects. A revolt by business owners who have been forced to remain outside while their businesses, together with records and chattels, are summarily and often without consultation demolished and hauled off to the tip, is gaining momentum and there is talk of demonstrations, even of storming the checkpoints. The Tory government, known for its preference for autocracy over democracy, is talking of a State of Emergency for months to come. This will allow it to virtually rule by decree, possibly installing all sorts of social and economic changes that it would never ordinarily be able to initiate.

Memories of the arrogant and autocratic dismissal of ECan, the Canterbury Regional Council, because it was taking too long to make a decision and was, moreover, veering towards a decision favourable to the environmental lobby, will long remain in memory. We can only wonder what decisions will be imposed on us, decisions that can be effected with the wave of a ministerial hand but may take years of legislative wrangling to unravel. Meanwhile, the Civil Defence National Controller is El Supremo, capable of overriding the elected governing bodies of Canterbury, a position that surely will be deeply satisfying to a group in Wellington who see in our present pass fertile ground for the creation of a whole new world in their ideological image.

We live in interesting times indeed.

To be continued…

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 27.

Sunday 20th March 2011 – Day 27.

As with all post-quake Sundays, the day was very quiet here inside the cordon. It was grey and wet and chilly, so we could not do much outside – not that there is anywhere much to go, of course. We had, however, heard that Pomeroy’s Pub in Kilmore Street had reopened so we joined our friends Hazel and John from next door and set out to find out what was happening around the corner.

We walked around the devastation that used to be the Kilmore Street – Barbadoes Street intersection, through the checkpoint which was being manned by two very bored-looking young squaddies, and along the middle of Kilmore Street. There was a little activity, people passing to and fro, or doing things about damaged roofs and toppled walls, but mostly it was quiet.

Pomeroy’s was open and welcoming, its usual range of excellent real ales available in all their malty multiplicity. I stuck to the Whole Malt Dark, a good, hoppy, cask-drawn beer with plenty of smack. We chatted, and more people came in out of the cold. A healthy hum of conversation permeated the bar. Time passed quickly, and we were painfully aware that we are still under curfew, so we headed home as the hour approached 6:00p.m.

For me, Pomeroy’s is definitely the better choice for a quiet pint or two. Speight’s Alehouse up the road is fine if there is nothing else doing, but it is much larger and has very much the feel of what it is – a franchise, like a McDonald’s or the old Cobb & Co chain. It has no real personality of its own. Pomeroy’s is smaller, more organic, with much more of a local feel to it, and there are familiar faces there even if I cannot always put names to them. A real pub, in fact, and an ideal place to waste a couple of hours on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Just in case we were about to get too complacent, however, we were jolted by a sharp and quite prolonged tremor at 10:45 p.m. or thereabouts. It registered 5.1 on the Richter scale and was centred close at hand at Wainoni, an emphatic reminder that it is not over yet.

To be continued….

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 26.

Saturday 19th March 2011 – Day 26.

When Ruth returned from her morning jaunt to get the ‘Press’ from the dairy, she had to pass, perforce, through the checkpoint on the Barbadoes Street bridge. The soldiers on duty, recognizing her, passed her through but she was told by the WPC in command that she had to show her red sheet of paper. On querying this, she was told that ‘they’ had changed the rules and things were being tightened up, which meant that if I wanted to pass through the checkpoint I would have to have a red sheet of paper as well.

Later that morning as we drove out to do some shopping, we stopped on the bridge just to double check, and it was just as well. Apologetically, the WPC explained the edict had been countermanded half an hour later, as I rather expected it would be, and all that was needed was the usual photo identification and proof of residence. It seems that she had sent several people up to civil defence, and I suspect that they had experienced what we experienced a couple of weeks ago. When they got there, they were told that bona fide residents did not need red sheets of paper, and CD officials had passed the word down the line to rescind the order to insist on them. As if we have not enough stress without this bureaucratic hopping from foot to foot. I sometimes think that progress is being made in the City not so much because of the bureaucracy but in spite of it.

Greatly relieved, we continued on with our chores, first to Merivale to the optician to repair Ruth’s glasses and go to the Supermarket, then on to the shopping centre at the top of Marshlands Road where there is a Bunnings, a Henry’s, a GlobalPC, a Payless Plastics, even an Asian supermarket of sorts, as well as several other standard chain stores which, bland and totally lacking in flavour or local content, can supply the goods that we need. The place was packed. Whatever is happening in the City, suburban Christchurch is seething with activity and all the neighbourhood Blokes are doing their handymanly projects with vigour and determination.

Bentley has come out of hiding and is gradually taking command of the household. Not only does he accept homage, he is beginning to demand it, vocally. The master and servant relationship that is at the basis of all cat and human interaction is falling into place easily and naturally.

To be continued….

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 25.

Friday 18th March 2011 – Day 25.

A memorial service was held in Hagley park this afternoon, and today was ordained a public holiday. Ruth and I, along with many others, did not attend. It is much too soon for a memorial service. The dust is still in the air, there may even be bodies still in the rubble; a lot of people are still missing, and although it is a while since any have been found, yet they may still lay there. It is indecent and premature to hold mass memorial services now. Many will have attended, of course, as HRH Prince William is here to have a look at things, and Hayley Westenra has come home to sing. Perhaps a concert in the park is timely, but not a mass memorial service.

Ask me again on the 22nd February 2012.

I spent the day talking to Bentley and trying to coax him out. He took refuge under the bed as soon as we got him home and out of his bag. He came out during the night for a drink and some bikkies, and I was able to scoop him up and put him on the bed. He very much enjoyed cuddling with us, and stayed, dozing, for a long time, but eventually he returned to the safety of his hidey-hole. He is still there, just within arm’s reach. I can stroke him and he purrs and obviously enjoys the attention, but he does not want to come out yet. He will, in time. And we have plenty of time.

To be continued…

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