Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

Meadow Court Motor Camp in Cranford Street is where we spent our first week in Christchurch.  I’d chosen it because it was near St Albans in an area I knew.  Some time before I’d read a library book about communities, which had introduced me to the Avon Loop and made me think that was a place I’d like to live.  I knew about the innovative recycling scheme, the Sunday evenings spent sharing crumbles on the riverbank, and the riverside carnivals.

We rented a house in Armagh Street and had fun exploring the inner city.  In Auckland we’d lived in Ponsonby and Onehunga, both distinct historic districts, and we were sure we didn’t want to live anywhere suburban.  We were struck by the friendliness of Christchurch people.  Somehow everything seemed much more personal than in Auckland.  One time we saw a large white rabbit in the garden of a house., something we’ve never forgotten.

While I sought paid work, Stephen took a voluntary role at Ferrymead Heritage Park where he drove a horse and cart.

Stephen @ Ferrymead, January 1987

One day he told me he’d seen a man walk past our house wearing a fez.  I asked whether the man had looked Egyptian and Stephen said no, he thought he may have been part of Alf’s Imperial Army.  It turned out that our next door neighbours were a group of young men who belonged to the Canterbury Regiment of that army.  We soon all became friends and enjoyed lots of fun with ‘battles’ involving paper swords and flour bombs, as well as ‘messes’ where everyone sang Rule Britannia and similar stirring songs.  Stephen loved these links to his English heritage, and before long he was commanding the Canterbury Regiment.  Our younger daughter, who’d been drawn in during frequent holidays with us, commanded the Auckland Regiment.  I was not heavily involved, being quite content to play the Commander’s ‘Lady’ and wear a crinoline for special fun occasions.

Off to a ball at the Art Gallery

We’d planned to wait a while before we bought a house, wanting to be sure that we could manage to survive a cold Christchurch winter.  On our perambulations we occasionally visited homes for sale just to see what might be available.  One day we were returning from inspecting an uninspiring unit in Madras Street when we saw a characterful cottage in Barbadoes Street where the owner was in the process of nailing up a For Sale sign.  She was happy to show us through and we were both attracted by the building despite its rundown appearance inside and out.

Cottage on the Corner, Feb. 1987 (before the power went underground)

As I went through the door, I was intrigued by the poster for the Kate Sheppard Women’s Bookshop.  The cottage had been used as a weaving studio and as a Women’s Refuge.  Daphne, the owner, was one of the founders of the Christchurch Women’s Centre, where I would later work, and the energy of the cottage made me feel very much at home.  After careful consideration we bought it in February 1987 and moved in in March.  Our daughters were a little surprised at our buying another house that needed doing up as we’d never quite completed renovations to our Auckland home.  Stephen spent the next couple of years renovating and improving, sometimes with Alf-ish assistance.

We joined the local residents’ group, the Avon Loop Planning Association, and when I told an older resident that I’d read about the communal life here she said: It’s much better now those hippies have moved out.  Discretion kept me from expressing my disappointment.

I wanted our home to have a name, and many possibilities were considered and discussed, but in the end we settled on The Cottage on the Corner, which suits very well.  It was hard to find out much about the history of the cottage, because the City Council didn’t have old building records.  We knew the land had been subdivided in 1877 and thought the cottage was probably built in 1878, but a History Librarian last year showed me a map which indicated it’s been here since 1877.  So many local buildings have been demolished since the earthquakes that there are now few that are older than ours, and we like to think of our cottage as being an architectural oasis.

Our older inner city home
gave us a base from which to roam

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