Monday, April 25, 2011

From a Distance

We have been having beautiful weather this weekend and I decided that after weeks of having the physio pummel my Achilles tendon I could trust it enough to go for a walk in the hills. Many of the walking tracks are closed because of the dangers of loose rock after the earthquake. So I headed for the Huntsbury Track, the nearest track to me that is open, probably because it goes along the top of a spur so there is not much chance of anything falling on the track (or the unsuspecting walker).

For some reason I've never walked this track before. I was surprised to find how far up the hill the road took me, so I was already half way to the top when I parked the car. That made it quick and easy to reach the top - probably about half an hour though I wasn't timing - and to catch a view of the harbour on the other side.

From up in the hills, the city spread below looked very normal.

Although when I zoomed in, I could see the Science Alive clock tower sheathed in plywood to stop loose bricks falling - and once I figured where to look, the "leaning tower of Christchurch" - the Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has sunk on one side, and will have to be demolished. Easier said than done, it hasn't been quite decided yet how to achieve this without putting the demolition workers at risk, and without damaging surrounding buildings.

But for the most part, I forgot about the city and enjoyed the walk.

And when I reached the bottom again, I spotted this young fellow in a paddock, who was curious enough to wander over to check me out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Pause by Ursula Bethell


When I am very earnestly digging
I lift my head sometimes, and look at the mountains,
And muse upon them, muscles relaxing

I think how freely the wild grasses flower there,
How grandly the storm-shaped trees are massed in their gorges,
And the rain-worn rocks strewn in magnificent heaps,

Pioneer plants on those uplands find their own footings
No vigorous growth, there, is an evil weed:
All weathers are salutary.

It is only a little while since this hillside
Lay untrammelled likewise,
Unceasingly swept by transmarine winds.

In a very little while, it may be,
When our impulsive limbs and our superior skulls
Have to the soil restored several ounces of fertiliser,

The Mother of all will take charge again,
And soon wipe away with her elements
Our small fond human enclosures.


Ursula Bethell (1874-1945) was born in England, grew up in New Zealand and spent her early adult life in Britain and Europe before returning to New Zealand. She lived in the Cashmere Hills on the south side of Christchurch. Many of her poems refer to gardens and gardening.

The last stanza of this poem was quoted in an article a couple of weeks ago in our local paper, on the Canterbury landscape in literature, as related to the recent earthquakes. It had me seeking out the full poem, which I found in the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English.

For more poems, visit the Tuesday Poem hub, where you will find the Tuesday Poets listed in the sidebar.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Getting to Use My Wind-Up torch

This evening just before six we had a large jolting aftershock and all the lights promptly went out. After the two main quakes I felt as if I was on an adrenalin high. This time it was more like "enough, already". I felt - well, tired.

But at least I knew where to find my dynamo powered hand cranked torch, which I had bought after the February 22nd quake, not expecting to ever have to use it.

And we do have a gas stove top, so I was able to continue with cooking dinner. But eating by candlelight really doesn't feel romantic any more.

Eventually the lights came back on, along with computers and everything else. There are reports of more damage such as burst water mains, a building that is now on a lean, and so on. Some cordons that had been removed have been replaced - the road I drove down yesterday is now closed again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

As buildings are made safe or demolished, more roads are beginning to be opened, which gives me more possible routes to take to work. This morning I took the opportunity to stop and take some photos on the way, because buildings that are still there today (although damaged) may not be there next week.I stopped at Cranmer Square (above) where I was able to find a parking space - not always easy because of safety fencing, road works etc.

The Cranmer Centre on the south side of Cranmer Square was the original Christchurch Girls' High School, and featured in the film Heavenly Creatures with Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.

It was being inspected...

A detail of the door.

On the north side of Cranmer Square are the Cranmer Courts - a lovely old stone building, once the Christchurch Normal School, later converted to upmarket apartments.

Corner detail of Cranmer Courts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

I was at the physiotherapist yesterday and I commented that I was getting exercise by walking back and forth to the Portaloo. She looked at me in some surprise and said "are they still using them" as if she thought everything would be fixed by now.

In fact it's been estimated it will take two years to fully fix the sewerage system. Half of Christchurch is still using Portaloos and chemical toilets, the other half (north and west) really seems to have no idea of how great the damage to the eastern half is.

At our place the choice is :
1. Use the toilet but flush very sparingly - the trucks come round every few days to suck silt out of the sewer pipes, and there are broken sewers leaking into the river.

2. Chemical toilets - one per household, actually quite clean and hygienic but they are a pain to empty. Since there are five to six people in our household, it fills up a lot faster than, say, at my daughter's where there is one.

3. Get some exercise walking to the nearest portable toilet on the street. Also surprisingly clean and hygienic. Not so much fun at night time, or in heavy rain. After the first earthquake the areas with damaged sewers had portable toilets distributed, one to every couple of households. But now we are pretty much using up the available world supply, and there are a couple per street if you are lucky (none on our street, we have to walk about a block).

I mentioned that the boil water notice was lifted the other day. However it is heavily chlorinated to make it safe. I read some advice on how to remove the chlorine taste: boil it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mostly an Earthquake Update

I'd been thinking that I needed something to look forward to - something to do other than going to work and doing house and garden chores at the weekend. So last weekend (8-9 days ago) I had a great time at Joanna's poetry editing masterclass, walking in Hagley Park, and then shopping (although the shopping was a bit frustrating).

The trouble with that is that all the things that have to be done don't go away. And many of them take longer because nothing is in its usual place. The result was that I started the week feeling rather overwhelmed. So this weekend just gone, I went back to pottering round doing chores and errands. (Oh, and the NaPoWriMo plan has gone by the board - much as I am missing the fun, the last thing I need right now is an obligation to write a poem a day. They would probably all be really bad earthquake poems, anyway).

On Saturday I thought I was doing quite well. I actually managed to find some flat sheets packaged separately, not in packs with the fitted ones, so my foot will no longer keep poking through the hole in my sheet. I bought a birthday gift for a family member, and in the process of doing those two errands found a couple of shopping centres which actually had some parking available. In fact the South City centre, which was originally inside the cordon, actually had a nearly empty carpark. Probably because you have to figure out which roads you can take to get to it, and because half the shops there are still closed. But it would be a useful place to go if what you want is in one of the shops that are open.

At the second shopping centre, where I found the sheets and the book, I also walked straight past a bakery and let myself be tempted by a very tasty cinnamon loaf. I went to a garden centre and bought cascading pansies for some hanging basket colour over the winter. I plan to collect rain water for the baskets, we have a total ban on garden watering because of many damaged water pipes. And then I stopped beside the road on the way home to dash into a dairy (local convenience store) for cheap milk, and did something I have never done before - I locked the keys in the car with the engine running! My car beeps at me if I open the door with the keys still in the lock. But it turns out, only if you have turned the engine off. My phone call home was followed by a very long wait beside the car for a rescuer to come with a spare key.

However - the good news is that the boil water notice has been lifted. Since we have been using very little hot water though, I thought there might be some contaminated water still in the hot water tank. So I decided on a very long soak in a hot bath which was both relaxing after the car frustration, and served to flush out the tank. I also put a load on warm wash in the washing machine - I have been doing cold water washes and washing in a basin of water for the last month and a half. I also washed my hair - and forgot to put the conditioner in. So now it is sticking out at rather odd angles. I combed a bit of conditioner through this morning and I am avoiding mirrors until it settles down.

Then - I bucketed the water from the bath out to the garden, because I didn't want to let that much water down the fragile waste water system. I was getting a bit tired of carrying it out the front or back door, so I decided to chuck the last lot out the window of the spa. The spa pool is in a conservatory entered from the bathroom, we haven't used it for a few years as it needs repairs that we haven't got round to.

I opened the door - well, I started to open the door, it opened about an inch before it stuck. It wouldn't open any further, and it wouldn't close again either, it appears that opening it released some pressure and allowed the sides of the door frame to move in. It must have warped in the quake. Well, at least we now know to add it to the list of damage for the insurance inspectors when they come.

So, all in all it was a mixed weekend. Much of the rest of which was spent dozing off in various places. I think I have caught up on some much needed sleep, though.

Back to work today, where things are much more normal than our house - only a few small cracks in the wall linings, and actual flushing toilets. There, my boss and I commiserated over the fact that TV 3 has chosen to show really bad movies on Sunday nights instead of our favourite programmes - The Good Wife, for both of us, and House, for me.

And when I got home, while fetching in a load of nice warm fresh laundry from the line, and planting daffodils, I noticed that our roof didn't have a hole in the edge any more. Our emergency repairs - to make the house weathertight - had been started about two to three weeks ago, and seemingly abandoned. Especially when the workmen came back a week or so later and took away the ladder they had left behind. So it's really good to see it done, even though it is just a small item on the list of all the things that need fixing.

And not so earthquake related - the Tuesday Poets have written a collaborative poem to celebrate the first anniversary of Tuesday Poem - check it out.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Fresh Bread

Tuesday Poem is one year young! On the main hub site, there is a collective poem which is being added to all week by the Tuesday Poets. Watch it as it develops.

Here, I am posting one of my early poems as my contribution for the week. We were asked for something celebratory, and this came to mind as both celebratory and youthful. "Fresh Bread" was first published in the Christchurch Press and in the anthology "Big Sky" edited by James Norcliffe and Bernadette Hall.

Fresh Bread

You walked home from the dairy
the loaf still warm
cradled in your arms
You picked at the kissing crust
couldn't resist

That afternoon
you climbed to the top of the tallest pine
rolled down the hillside till you were so dizzy
the hillside rolled down you
made daisy chains a mile long
stayed out till sunset
gulping blue sky

Ate bread still soft
in rough chunks
thick with butter
not like grandma's sandwiches
cut from yesterday's loaf
in careful thin slices.

copyright Catherine Fitchett

The "kissing crust" may not be familiar to all readers. In the days before sliced bread, our bread came as a white loaf of two halves which could easily be pulled apart. The torn surface where the two halves met is what we called the "kissing crust". For some reason, we always competed to see who would be allowed to have it - fresh, soft and spread with thick chunks of butter.

A "dairy" in New Zealand is a convenience store which sells milk, bread and other items.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

April is for Poetry

I am still dithering about whether to take part in NaPoWriMo. I am inclined to do so, but I will be starting late and have to play catch up. This weekend, instead of writing, I am participating in Joanna's poetry editing masterclass which was postponed (with a change of venue) from just after the earthquake.

The workshop is in two sessions and the first was excellent - I have never looked at a single poem quite so intensely before as we did today.

Afterwards, I wanted to walk in Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens, which have been open to the public again for a couple of weeks at least. I wasn't sure about parking though. The usual carpark at the entrance to the gardens is currently closed. It is being used as a vehicle recovery area for vehicles retrieved from behind the cordons. The car parks on the other side of the gardens have big yellow signs up saying "Hospital Parking" as some of the hospital parking is inaccessible due to proximity to unsafe buildings. However I did find a park and walked through to the gardens and out the other side, where I looked at the Arts Centre, which reportedly has $100 million dollars worth of damage and will take four years to fix. Along the street a bit further, a small crowd was watching the demolition of St Elmo Courts through the security fencing.

I walked down a block or two and took more photos of the city through the fencing, then back to the car.

Then I figured since I wasn't too far from the Westfield Mall, I would go to Farmers Department Store and buy some socks and sheets. There is a hole worn in the sheet on my bed, just about where my foot keeps catching it. The mall was busier than Christmas, and I was about to give up and go home when I spotted a park beside the road a couple of blocks away. So I walked back, and was successful in the sock search, but it turned out that only the downstairs was open - which has pretty much nothing but women's fashion, with a small corner each for men and children. Upstairs where all the linen, homewares, furniture etc are found, has been closed since the earthquake. The city, Eastgate and the Palms stores - which are all nearer to me - are closed completely. That leaves two branches fully open, one on the far west and one on the north of the city.

I wasn't about to travel that far, so I gave up. Then I remembered Briscoes, so I checked in there on the way back to the car. They had 40% and 50% off all their sheets, so I walked past shelves and shelves of sheet sets - one fitted sheet, one flat sheet, two pillowcases all packed together - but couldn't find separate sheets except a very few in really horrible colours.

I seem to have been here before. The lack of sheets packaged separately is probably why my sheets are so thin in the first place. The fitted sheets don't actually fit our bed. Besides, I like to wash the bottom sheet and put the top sheet to the bottom, rather than change both at once, especially now when we are trying hard to minimise anything - like laundry - that produces waste water.

Reports are that it will take six months working 20 hours a day to fix our sewage system. Longer if it is a very wet winter.

But hey! I have new blue socks with cows on them. That's got to be worth a smile.