Archive for the ‘Earthquake’ Category

Today, the ninth anniversary of the major Christchurch earthquake, I was privileged to again lead an informal commemoration beside the river.  We were pleased that so many local people came.  I’m not sure of the number – at least 40.  Several told me how much they appreciate the opportunity to remember in this way.  Always a poignant occasion, I felt emotional during the two minute silence, and when I tossed a flower into the river while the piper played Abide with me.  I suspect the emotion will always be there on this date.  There’s a woman currently doing a study that suggests there have been changes in the brains of those who experienced the earthquakes.

Afterwards everyone was invited to a barbecue lunch at the Community Cottage.  Rain had been forecast for the middle of the day, but the sun shone, and we sat in the shade of a large gazebo enjoying live music.  The rain, much needed and very welcome, started to fall in the late afternoon.

Later as I sat doing the daily Code Cracker I realised that the first word was seismic, and the word earthquake also featured.  Good to have this oblique extra acknowledgement of the day.

Years ago when I was a Brown Owl 22 February was celebrated as Thinking Day because it was the birthday of both Lord and Lady Baden Powell.  I asked a current Scout leader whether this is still so and he told me they now call 22 February Founders’ Day – not sure whether they still use the day as an occasion to think, but in Christchurch we certainly do.

On this our special day of days
our memories come in different ways

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We went on a Heritage Festival tour of McLean’s Mansion this morning.  Having organised a Festival event myself I have some appreciation of what’s involved.  This one was many times more complex.  Our booking was for 10.20am.  We were asked to arrive half an hour beforehand, which we duly did, and registered.  We were given a copy of the Site Emergency Evacuation Plan, then obliged to wait for half an hour.  Luckily there were chairs to sit on.  We were able to wander around part of the gardens and to realise what a tremendous amount of work will be needed to restore and maintain them.

McLean’s Mansion

At this stage my trusty camera (only ten years old) refused to work.  Luckily I had my cellphone, but hadn’t used its camera for six months and it took me a while to remember just how to do it.  Unfortunately the couple of shots I took inside the house were too hurried and came out blurry.

At the beginning of our tour we were given hard hats and hi-vis vests – the third time I’ve worn these in recent weeks.  The guide then told a woman with a larger camera that she would need to leave that with a staff member outside the house.  When I queried whether any photos were allowed he replied that there was no problem with photos, but in an emergency someone might be inclined to focus on saving the camera around their neck rather than exiting quickly.  This seemed absurd to me but I refrained from pointing out that I was carrying a handbag at least as large as her camera (and I’d want to save it).

Our group of 16 was split in two with different guides for the ground and first floor.  It was amazing to see the earthquake and vandal damage, and how much has already been done to make the house safe to enter.

Graffiti inside the building

I have memories of the building from the 1950s and late 1980s.  In the earthquake thick brick internal walls collapsed completely, but because parts were reinforced with iron, much of the building’s integrity was maintained.  Built in 1900 it is New Zealand’s largest heritage wooden residential building and listed as Heritage Category 1.  It’s wonderful to know that it should eventually be restored as a centre for art, music, and community events, especially when Christchurch has lost so much heritage.  With 20 half-hour tours today and more tomorrow and Monday, the volunteers will be busy!  Of course the cost of restoration is tremendous, donations are required, and they are selling merchandise to raise funds.  Stephen assisted by buying a T-shirt.

Souvenir T-shirt

It’s great the Mansion will be saved
providing heritage that’s craved

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Stephen and I went on a Behind the Fences tour of Christ Church Cathedral, as part of the Beca Heritage Festival.  A group of 24 assembled by the police kiosk in the Square, and had our names ticked off the list.  Only three of these tours are scheduled, and I was glad I’d booked early.  A couple of people who hadn’t booked turned up and were politely told there was no room for them.

It felt privileged to be allowed through the gate and into the area which has been off-limits since February 2011.  We’d all been told to wear long sleeves, long trousers (no dresses or skirts), and enclosed flat shoes suitable for rough surfaces.  One man who was wearing shorts to below his knees was given overalls to put on, and we were all issued with hi-vis vests and hard hats.  All of this is required on the site because of Health and Safety regulations, and nobody under 18 was allowed on the tour.

The marshals were members of the Cathedral Reinstatement Project team, and our guides were two Cathedral Vergers, Jenny May who is Heritage adviser for the reinstatement, and Chris Oldham the Cathedral Administrator.

Commencing the tour with Jenny and Chris

It felt quite emotional to be walking on ground that has been forbidden to us for more than eight years, and to have a close-up view of the earthquake damage.

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Parts have been covered with plywood to make them weatherproof, and some of the treasures have been removed.  The statue of the Risen Christ which stood near the front door has been put into storage.  It’s expected that the reinstatement will take 7-10 years, and is still at the planning stage.  I could well be 80 years old before the reinstatement is complete.  All the bells but one survived their fall.  They’ve been refurbished and will be part of the reinstated building.  Halfway through, and at the end of the tour, a recording of the bells was played – nostalgic as we often heard them from home if the wind was blowing in the right direction.  This recording is played at midday every Friday.

There was no charge for this tour and no request for donations, although we were each given a pamphlet which included information about donating.

On the way back to the car park I was accosted by a Radio New Zealand journalist, asking whether I’d be buying a ticket for tonight’s Powerball Lottery, where the prize is $38 million.  I told him I’d never bought a Lotto ticket and disapproved of gambling (you may hear me on Checkpoint this evening).  I did say that when I was in paid work Lottery had paid part of my salary and I’d appreciated that.  I thought afterwards that the Cathedral reinstatement may well be hoping for financial support from Lottery.

We went inside Cathedral fence
the project planned there is immense.


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Flora and Otto have found a new home on the daffodil lawn beside the Botanic Gardens in Hagley Park.

Flora and Otto

I first saw these pieces in Colombo Street five years ago.  The mosaics are made from china which was cracked during the Christchurch earthquakes.  They make a quirky and comely earthquake memorial.

Now any daffodil explorer
may chance to meet Otto and Flora


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It was my privilege today to lead the Earthquake commemoration at The Bricks beside the Barbadoes Street Bridge.  It’s the third time I’ve done this, representing the Avon Loop Planning Association who host this annual event.  After a brief introduction, I sounded a gong for two minutes’ silence, then a piper played Abide with me while we threw our flowers into the river, remembering the changes the earthquakes brought into our lives, and thinking of our hopes for the future of our city.

Piper Gordon McAlpine

This area of the river has special significance for both Maori and Pakeha.  It was the site of the pa of Tautahi for whom Otautahi/Christchurch is named.  On the other side of the bridge is Te Wai Pure, a sacred stream which flows into the Avon, and which has been used by Maori for ritual purposes since Tautahi and his wife Riki were married there.

The Bricks cairn marks where the Deans brothers landed because their boats couldn’t go any further and this whole area was the focus of early Pakeha settlement.  It is also where the tidal waters of the estuary meet the fresh waters of the Avon, a fitting symbol of the bi-cultural heritage of the Avon Loop.

The effects of the earthquake eight years ago are still being felt by many of us, especially children as an article in today’s Press describes.  People who came to The Bricks appreciated the opportunity to be part of a low key commemoration and to come back to the Community Cottage afterwards for refreshments.

We can’t forget eight years ago
when all our lives were altered so


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What’s the most expensive thing you own?  What was it like to buy it?  These questions got me thinking.  A house and car would be the most expensive things I own, but once bought they’re not often changed.  We bought our current home 32 years ago, still love it, and hope to be here forever.  We did buy a new (to us) car three years ago, only because it was no longer economical to repair the old one.

The only other expensive items I can think of are furniture and overseas holidays.  I’m not an avid consumer, and try to live frugally.  However there is one ‘frivolous’ purchase I’ve been quietly seeking for some years.

One of my mother’s prized possessions was a table lamp always referred to as the White Lady Lamp.  My brother in Australia had a similar lamp at his bedside – it must be something in the family genes.  When my mother died I inherited her White Lady Lamp, placed it on a shelf in the lounge above the TV, and always had it on in the evening.  I consider the image to be of Diana/Artemis, a goddess I admire for her ability to set and reach goals.  My mother used a homemade fabric shade which had become tattered, and I replaced this with an attractive stained glass shade.

When The Earthquake struck the lamp fell to the floor, the shade was shattered, and the electric fitting which ran down the centre was broken.  I took it to an electrician who pronounced it beyond repair.  Now my White Lady sits on the shelf bereft of her Lamp.

I’ve looked at TradeMe and in antique shops, but so far have not found a replacement for this 1950s lamp.  If I did I’d buy it, move the Lampless Lady to another spot, and once again bask in the light of a White Lady Lamp.

‘I think perhaps some day I might
buy a new lady lamp that’s white.’

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Two innovative inner city schools, Discovery 1 and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti occupied a central city site until the building was destroyed by earthquakes.  The two schools have merged to become Ao Tawhiti Unlimted Discovery, and will return to the central city in early 2019.  Thier new campus is currently under construction at the corner of St Asaph and Colombo Streets.

New school on its way

In adjacent Mollett Street the students have designed a creative hoarding called ‘Homecoming’  Different classes created works to hang on the stave ‘like washing on a line’.

Homecoming artwork

It’s good to know the school will soon be back taking advantage of all the learning opportunities the central city can offer.

‘They offer a new way to learn
student directed at each turn.’


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This is an amazing book about an amazing family.  Chessie covers the story from the birth of her parents, through an African honeymoon, isolation in the Tokelaus, the experience of major earthquakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura, and the family’s determined support of each other through many challenges.

Much of it is set in places that are familiar to me.  The chapter on the Christchurch earthquake makes breathless reading and brought back many memories.  Reading about the feeling of fragility that lingers after the trauma made me wonder whether I should be reading this at all.

Another theme is the overwork and stress of G.P.s, especially rural ones, together with the difficulty of admitting when one is facing burnout and needs help.   The whole book gripped me.  I am in awe of the skill and understanding displayed by the young author and wonder what she will choose for her next subject.

‘As Chessie’s family make it through
I wonder what else she might do.’


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The Rose Historic Chapel in Colombo Street has reopened after earthquake repairs, and the public was invited to visit this afternoon.  I remember walking past in March 2011, when earthquake damage meant you could see right through the building.  Today it looked as good as new.

Rose Chapel

Apparently someone painstakingly collected all the pieces of coloured glass and the exquisite stained glass windows, reputedly some of the best in Canterbury, have been lovingly restored.  I especially like the one that’s dedicated to the memory of the Gardner family.

Gardner family window

I have fond memories of taking weddings in this chapel and it was good to visit today and sit and listen to Helen Webby playing the harp.  There were crowds of people and I’m sure the chapel will again be popular for ceremonies and concerts.  It’s wonderful that one of our historic buildings has been brought back.

“This fine stone chapel now restored
a project we can all applaud.’

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The memorial garden on the CTV site has now been completed.  The families of the 115 people who died here were able to have their thoughts and wishes included, and it all looks very appropriate, with cherry trees, a place for mementoes, and discreet lights for nighttime.  I like that they’ve left some of the original surface and carparks.

CTV site

Place for mementoes

With the 185 white chairs just across the road, this area has far more meaning for me than the bland national memorial by the river.

“One place will suit some, one may not
and each may choose a preferred spot.”

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