Friday, May 27, 2011

Blue Box

Carmi is exploring blue at his blog this week. I had a bunch of photos picked out, but when I passed this portable toilet on my way to an appointment today, I knew I had to get a photo, so I stopped on the way home.

Doctor Who was nowhere to be seen - off saving the world, no doubt.

There are still 10,000 homes in areas of Christchurch where the sewage is not working properly. So we will expect to have these in the streets for a while yet. At least when you're out, you're never likely to be caught short!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Land of Counterpane, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.


I've had a nasty cold for the last few days, and spent some time curled up in bed and on a chair under blankets with a pile of books. So, I'm posting this poem in a fit of nostalgia.

Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses was the second poetry book I ever owned. (The first was The Golden Treasury of Poetry edited by Louis Untermeyer). I can still view it in my mind, though where it went to I'm not quite sure. I had many favourites in the book and may post more on another occasion.

Stevenson came from a well known Scottish family of lighthouse engineers, but though he studied engineering for a short time, his heart wasn't in it, and he turned to literature. He was an only child, and frequently ill with a weak chest. This poem no doubt recalls his own childhood growing up in Edinburgh.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Inversnaid, by Gerard Manley Hopkins


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.


Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was an English poet and Roman Catholic priest. His poetry was heavily influenced by archaic language and Old English rhythms.

I have always loved this poem, Inversnaid. It refers to a watercourse that tumbles into Loch Lomond on its eastern shores. We stayed in Scotland not so very far away, and later passed up the west side of Loch Lomond, but didn't actually get to Inversnaid. Still, every time I heard the small stream tumble down the hillside at the hotel where we were staying, on the nearby Loch Ard, I thought of this poem.

Visit the main hub site for more Tuesday Poems, and check out the sites of the other Tuesday Poem bloggers (close on thirty) linked via the side bar there.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Earthquake Update

Yesterday morning as I was about to leave for work, a courier arrived with a package. He commented that he was supposed to deliver it the previous day but contractors had refused him entry to the street, saying it was "residents only". That surprised me, since there was no evidence that contractors had been in our street - the wonderful blue water pipes are still above ground, and the street still has all its cracks, humps and dips. We live in a little cul de sac off a road that runs along the river. Later, talking to my husband, we figured that he had tried to enter the river road at the end where there is work going on to repair the broken sewer pipe under the river. All he actually had to do was drive round and come in at the other end. No problem, you would think, but apparently it was too hard.

Speaking of the blue pipes - a neighbour told me that they would be dug underground before winter comes, to avoid problems if they froze. Now I am watching anxiously, because winter is getting close - we have already had a few frosts. And there is no sign of action. I'll be making sure our emergency water supplies in the cupboard stay well-stocked.

Some heartening news: a permanent head has been appointed to CERA (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery authority). He is Roger Sutton, head of Orion, the electricity lines company who did an amazing job of restoring power to the city after the quake - and communicating effectively what was being done. His appointment seems to have met with universal approval, as residents hope that what needs to be done will be done effectively, quickly and with a high degree of transparency. Let's hope disillusion doesn't set in as no doubt not all his decisions will meet universal approval. In particular the tension between those who say "demolish it all and open up the city" and those who want particular buildings saved at all costs will be hard to neogtiate.

I'm not so pleased with New Zealand Post who have announced that the Post Shop in Sydenham - my nearest until our local shopping centre can be rebuilt in about a year's time - will not reopen. It is undamaged, but the decision has more to do with supposed changed traffic patterns, and no doubt the fact that NZ Post is losing money and is also axing Post Shops elsewhere in the country. Still - if a dairy owner can open up in a shipping container and do good business, surely the Post Shop can reopen and also do good business in an area that is rather short of options.

I'm still travelling to the extreme north of the city to collect mail for Takahe magazine from the mail sorting centre by the airport. This is because our Post Office box is in the central city inside the cordon. We haven't been offered any good options at this stage if we want to keep the same box number. It's classed as a business account even though we make no profit - so a two months free redirection is the best they can offer, after that we would have to pay. So far, I've combined it with other trips but my business in that part of the city will be coming to an end soon.

Yesterday it shrunk from a full day's work to four hours. Which left me time after collecting the mail to check out my favourite bookshop, Scorpio Books, now relocated. The good news is that their new premises are considerably more spacious than the old shop inside the cordon - and that they have been allowed in for long enough to retrieve their stock, though some is damaged by dirt and grit blowing in the broken windows. The bad news is that their new shop is in Riccarton Road - now the busiest, most traffic-choked part of the city. They tell me there is parking out the back. That helps, but it doesn't help with the slow journey sitting in traffic on the way there.

The photo at the head of the post was taken in Merivale, where the mall is still open, despite the facade of these shops on the street side having fallen down. I've been intending for a while to stop by and take a photo of this large papier mache mushroom which I find intriguing - finally got round to it on the way to work yesterday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Sitting Woman With Fish Hat

Sitting Woman with Fish Hat

(after Picasso)
I'm sitting here with a turbot on my head
This is ridiculous
I hope it's finished soon
Even with the lemon on top,
This fish is starting to stink.
That fellow - Pablo something-or-other -
Calls himself an artist - Hah!
He's given me two eyes on the same side of my face
Like a flounder
Doesn't know a front view from a profile
If he's an artist, I'll eat my hat

Another one from the archives. The image that inspired this poem can be found here.

This week at the Tuesday Poem hub the guest editor, James Norcliffe introduces a poem by Christchurch poet, David Gregory. Both the poem and James's excellent commentary are well worth reading. More Tuesday poets are linked in the side bar of the Tuesday Poem hub.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday Excursions

I'm in the process of reorganising several commitments in my life. Last Friday was my last day at one of my two jobs - my last permanent day, that is. Due to various circumstances, I said when I resigned that I would be available on Fridays for a few weeks to help out if necessary, which proved to be the case today. I think I will be fully done with this job by the end of May, and then I will have Fridays free. The Wednesdays that I was also working there have been taken up by my other job which will now be four days a week.

I'm really looking forward to free Fridays. Today, though, I was able to get away before three, in time for a physio appointment. The roads were already crowded with traffic. After my appointment I went in search of clothes - a plain long-sleeved red top is what I was after. I didn't want to head back into the crazy post-earthquake traffic so I checked out some areas that were on my way home, and have only recently reopened. Unfortunately the shops I wanted hadn't reopened. So I will be shopping again at the weekend.

Sydenham has whole blocks of old shops that have been completely demolished. In the midst of it all, this dairy (convenience store) was trading out of a converted shipping container (see photo above). I hope the owner does well, he deserves to.

Not so some of the other businesses which have perfectly good green-stickered buildings, and yet remain closed. The Post Office clearly has not been entered since the quake - all the mess still lies on the floor. And yet the placard says "no restrictions on use or occupancy". I fear that it is one of the victims of government cost-cutting, and may remain closed. Don't they realise how few options people have on this side of town? Not everyone has reliable transport to travel several suburbs away to do their errands. The WINZ office (government agency for income support such as unemployment and sickness benefits) was also shut, with no indication of a likely reopening, despite its green placard.

My optometrist, on the other hand, has reopened. As has Spotlight, a large fabric, craft and homewares store, which is really good news, as I no longer have to travel across town to buy a reel of thread or a few buttons.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Z

Time for something light. I seem to be quite good at starting series of poems and less good at finishing them. At one stage, after playing with lists of words I liked, I started a series based on letters of the alphabet, but didn't get very far. As I recall, I managed "Z", "O" and "X", but the one I liked best was "Z". This was first published in the Christchurch Press, and also in "The Chook Book" - now out of print, but I have a few spare copies.


points both east and west
a Byzantine ziggurat
a jazz riff, Dizzy Gillespie on a trombone
it's a double puzzle
a blazing breeze
a horizon zigzagging to the zenith
an awkward couple
a figure 2 sharpened
catching z's in a double bed
all knees and elbows.

copyright Catherine Fitchett

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Around the Neighbourhood

This is the carpark of our local shopping centre - now scheduled for demolition. This rather large slump in the ground has filled with rainwater, and the gulls were enjoying themselves when I went past. They also have a rather large sandbank nearby, so it is quite beachlike!

Businesses have had various approaches to the earthquake, some more useful than others. This I felt was one of the better responses - offering those who don't have transport, particularly the elderly, the chance to get their shopping done, while helping provide customers to a supermarket that is in an area now rather short of traffic due to the inner city restrictions.

The fence on the riverbank near us was constructed of about thirty foot long steel girders. It was interesting watching them being put in place. The river bank was slumping bit by bit, endangering not only the road but also the water and sewer pipes beneath the road. It was a practical response but I hope, not a permanent one as it's a bit ugly.

The footbridge damage is not obvious in this photo, but it has completely broken off its supporting pillar at one end. Pedestrians were going back and forth over it without incident for a week or two before it was fenced off. I imagine it is quite low in the queue to be fixed, cars coming before pedestrians.

I've been asked by a few people about our chimney. The roof has been made watertight by workmen sent by EQC (the government earthquake insurance agency). The gap where the chimney was has had replacement steel tiles put in place, which almost but not quite match the existing tiles. The gap in the eaves where the chimney came crashing through has also been mended, with replacement panelling in the soffit, replacement spouting and replacement roof tiles (there may also have been a beam or two that needed patching at the end). Any further repairs are waiting on a full assessment.

There is a priority system for repairing chimneys for those for whom it was their main heat source - especially the sick or elderly. We don't really qualify for the priority queue as we have other heating although not in the same room - an electric heat pump in our dining/living area and another in the room my husband uses as an office. In the living room where the fireplace is, we will have to use a portable electric heater or in an emergency, a portable gas heater. (Power cuts are likely this winter, as the whole electricity system is "cobbled together with extension leads" at the moment). Technically, open fires are no longer allowed to be used in Christchurch anyway. So the replacement programme allows for an alternative heat system to be installed - a heat pump or approved log burner, for instance.

Despite the bylaw banning open fires (due to clean air regulations) no one is to be prosecuted this winter for using them. Presumably because of the overload on the electricty system. However, the public are strongly advised to get their chimneys checked before use, even if apparently undamaged. I saw the consequences of not doing so today. On my way to work, I passed a house with a gaping hole in the roof around the chimney, exposing charred roof beams. Presumably, they ignored or hadn't heard the advice. A hard lesson to learn.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Driving to work this week, I realised that I am now able to take exactly my normal route, that is the route I took before the earthquake. The cordons are shrinking a little, however I gather it could be many more months before they are gone completely.

My favourite bookshop has reopened in new premises. That's the good news, the bad news is twofold: firstly, that they haven't been able to access any of their stock from their old shop. I think that's because the tower block over the road is unstable and until it can be made safe no-one is allowed near. The second part of the bad news is that they have relocated in Riccarton, which tends to be congested at the best of times, and since the earthquake is like Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and school holidays all rolled into one as shoppers from all the parts of town where the malls are closed head there instead.

Supposedly all roads are now passable. The road workers have done a fantastic job. However "passable" seems to have a slightly flexible meaning - apart from the fact that the inner city is still cordoned off (the roads may be OK but there are many unsafe buildings) there are streets like ours where we can get in at one end only.

This is the other end, only pedestrians can get through. There is a broken sewer pipe under the river, this is quite complicated to fix and in the meantime there are temporary pipes, pumps etc all over the place.

There are 38,000 damaged sections of road, although they have been patched up they won't have permanent repairs done until the water and sewage systems have been fully repaired.