Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Photos: February 2011

I didn't take many photos in the first part of February, but I did spot these child sized hard hats lined up on shelves outside a child care centre...

and this fellow posed on top of my recycling bin...

My daughter's peach tree bore a bumper crop. The bottling was done on February 21st...

and miraculously the jars didn't fall off the bench on February 22nd, though much of the rest of the city fell down:

The above photo shows where I was sitting (on the left) when the earthquake struck.

Below, our chimney in the driveway.

With power out for two days, candlelight quickly became unromantic:

Much of the city turned into a giant wet and sloppy sandpit:

and the banks of the river moved together, with the result that most bridges had rather odd V-shaped humps on either side:

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Photos: January 2011

I haven't participated in Carmi's Thematic Photographic for a while. This week he is asking us to post favourite photos from the past year. While looking through mine, I decided instead to post a collection from each month that somewhat represents the flavour of the month. A large number of the photos are of earthquake damage and were taken more for documentary purposes than for photographic excellence. Still, I think I can find a good selection of other photos as well and I hope you enjoy them.

So, here is January in pictures:

The Christmas lilies were blooming in our garden (no doubt these are called by a different name in the northern hemisphere where they would bloom in June or July).

I took a trip out to Sumner (a seaside suburb of Christchurch) to check on damage to the iconic Shag Rock from the September 2010 earthquake - you can see a freshly exposed rock face where a large slice of it fell away.

More photos from Sumner:

The bird is a shag, also known as a cormorant, and is the bird from which Shag Rock took its name.

One of the little boutique shops that are found in the area.

In the centre of the city, market stalls were operating in Cathedral Square.

I took a ride on the tram, as I have an annual pass for the tram and gondola (which I have been unable to use since February 22nd, as both are out of action - the lost months will be added on when they re-open, but I have no idea when that will be).

This lovely couple were posing in the Square for their wedding photos.

I took photos of earthquake damaged buildings - this is the Durham Street Methodist Church, which sadly collapsed in February, killing three people.

This building in Cashel Street has also now been demolished.

Engineers inspecting a damaged building in Cashel Street Mall - the damage was from the Boxing Day (26th December) aftershock which, though smaller than some, was centred right under the central city.

I captured these two after they had finished their gig at the World Buskers Festival, a regular January event here. (It is much harder to get a good photo of buskers in performance, due to the large crowds attending)

And these two showed up by the river near our house..

I think though, this is my favourite - below an apartment window, a Christmas bauble sat in a shrub. Presumably it had fallen out unnoticed. Taken towards the end of January 2011.

So, that was January - sunny, festive and hopeful that repairs would soon be in full swing in the city. Sadly, February was to be another story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post - Christmas Update

We have had several days beautiful fine weather marred only by the fact that every so often the earth shudders like an animal twitiching in its sleep. Or sometimes, more energetically than that. In fact, since my last post, we had several major aftershocks within a few hours - a 6.0 as well as a couple more of 5 or more. And since then there have been constant smaller aftershocks for the next few days, well over a hundred by now, although they are gradually getting further apart again. There is no obvious worsening of the damage to our house, although today P was checking various cracks and commenting about the need to brace the roof in one spot. Still, I don't think it's about to fall down.

I was glad that none of it started until half an hour or so after I arrived home, having finished my Christmas shopping. The adult offspring though, had put theirs off to the afternoon. Of course on Friday afternoon, all the shops shut to clear up broken glass and spilled liquids, and get engineer's checks (yet again) to make sure the buildings were safe to enter. so they had to brave the crowds on Saturday afternoon among the shops that had managed to reopen.

Most of the shops, if they hadn't reopened Christmas Eve, managed to open for the Boxing Day sales. I don't usually "do" the Boxing Day Sales, as there's nothing I want badly enough to brave that sort of mayhem. Especially with ongoing aftershocks - I'm not scared of being in a shop in an aftershock, but it's gradually dawning on me that edgy crowds and aftershocks are not a good mix, given that some people will panic and stampede for the doors, even though that's not recommended behaviour.

Anyway, my daughter and I headed off to dig silt instead. There was less liquefaction this time than in previous shakes, but there was still a considerable amount in the hard-hit eastern suburbs. Some of it was in areas that have already been largely abandoned, as the ground is too damaged for houses to be rebuilt. But there were plenty of people whose Christmases were marred by land flooded with a sludgy mix of sand, soil and ground water forced up by the shaking - in some cases mixed with sewage from broken pipes. I'm not really up to digging all day, as some volunteers do - but I hope that the few hours we managed made a little bit of difference.

Since then I have been reading Christmas books, napping and pottering around. My intention was to do lots of walking in the three weeks I have off work. So within the next day or so I will probably stir myself to take to the hills and see if all the tracks have been closed again (I'm hoping not - there were fresh rockfalls, but mostly in areas that were already off limits).
There's also the beach - slightly less appealing given that Friday's quakes brought more sewage spills into the waterways - hopefully minor enough to have been washed out to sea within a few days.

Finally, a festive photo from the shipping container dairy in Sydenham - which is surrounded by a growing number of vacant lots where damaged buildings have been pulled down.

Friday, December 23, 2011

And Another One...

Just when I thought things were settling down, we had another significant aftershock a few minutes ago. My daughter has just reported from Twitter a 6.2 magnitude preliminary estimate. Must be a bit further from us this time as we still have power and internet, I am waiting for the details to show up on geonet.

At least I have all my Christmas shopping done. Sigh...

Now being reported as 5.8 and centred about 10km off the coast, so a bit further away than the February and June quakes. Shops have been evacuated, phone lines are down in some areas. It's not quite the Christmas present we were looking for.

And here's the seismograph drum for the last half hour or so:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Idea of Trees

The Idea of Trees

The cherry tree has had its last revenge,
its thirsty roots seeking out a crack
in the drainpipe, prising it wider.
We call the plumber to dig up the driveway.
We think we love trees, but we don't.
We are in love with the idea of trees,
try to make them fit the confines
of our tidy suburban plots of land.
They are not tame. We are surrounded
by their amputated limbs
where we try to keep them clear
of the gutters and power lines.
Remember the peach tree,
the one that the neighbours cut down
two summers ago? First they picked all the fruit,
arrived on our doorstep with overflowing bags.
Two weeks later we were still eating,
juice dripping down our wrists and elbows,
as we savoured the fruit
of a tree that didn’t exist.

copyright Catherine Fitchett


My final Tuesday Poem for the year. It should probably be something festive, given the season. At least this one mentions fruit - the cherries we associate with Christmas here in the southern hemisphere, and the peaches that will be ripening by late January and early February.

The poem appears in the latest issue of Takahe magazine, which should be hitting subscribers' mail boxes this week. It's a great magazine - one of the few in New Zealand (possibly the only one) - that still manages three issues a year, and well worth supporting.

The cherry tree referred to in the poem used to stand outside our back door. When we first came here, I didn't realise the fruit was edible. The birds always got to it as soon as a hint of red was showing, so we never had much chance. Eventually the tree towered over our two storey house, and one summer I found two very ripe cherries hiding under a leaf where the birds had missed them. They were delicious. After that we tried various ruses to protect some of the fruit from the birds, including netting, but they were very devious. Eventually we had to cut the tree down, because it was just too close to the house for such a large tree.

This is the last week of Tuesday Poem for 2011. It will return on January 17th. In the meantime, I hope to get in some writing time, along with the general relaxing in the sun that comes at this time of year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Broccoli


I miss the shops
in low rent buildings
whose owners ran into the street
as the ceilings fell inside
or sheltered under counters
as parapets tumbled into the street
or sometimes made the wrong choices
I miss the corner dairies
with their buckets of flowers on the pavement
where you could buy what you needed –
a bottle of milk, a newspaper,
a lottery ticket, a box of matches
the little local bike shops selling tyres
and puncture repair kits
the second hand clothes shops
the bakeries, the stationers
with their birthday cards, magazines,
envelopes, the immigrant greengrocers
with white lettered windows advertising


In November I attempted a challenge to write a poem a day - many of them were written to prompts at the Writer's Digest Poetic Asides blog. As the aim is to produce a chapbook (by editing the poems and submitting them before the end of the year) I wanted a theme to my poems, and thought it would be a good chance to write earthquake poems and get the whole thing out of my system (as if!).

The prompt on one particular day was to take the name of a fruit or vegetable and use it as the title of the poem. When pondering how to write an earthquake poem about fruit or vegetables, this sprung to mind. A lament for all the demolished local shops.

I was a guest reader the other week at the Canterbury Poet's Collective. My writing buddy had said of this poem, that of course it wouldn't work read out loud as the last few lines are rather visual - but I had already figured out what to do about that. All it required was the words written on a large sheet of paper, and an assistant to hold it up at the appropriate moment.

For more Tuesday poems visit the main hub site here.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Don't Knock the Rawleigh's Man, by Vincent O'Sullivan

Don't Knock the Rawleigh's Man

Don't knock the Rawleigh's Man
when he opens his case and offers you
mixed spices, curry powder, chilblain
ointment, Ready Relief, brilliantine,
don't say Not now, don't think
Piss off, but remember:
think of a hill called Tibi Dabo
behind Barcelona and the legend
that up there Satan
showed J.C. just what he was missing.
What he offered was not simply
the vulgar things - the girls
with buttocks like mounded cream
or enough money in brewery shares
to take a Rotarian's mind off mowing lawns
for octogenarian widows,
or the sort of drink we all know
Vice-Chancellors drink when they drink
with other Vice-Chancellors -
not that but more deftly
the luciferic fingers fondled
buttons nostalgic with little anchors
as in the Mansfield story
and bits of coloured glass from old houses
and variously, these; good punctuation,
unattainable notes, throaty grunts
at bedtime, the nape of the neck
of lovely ladies caught in lamplight
like the perfect compliance of the pitch
in the last over when the last ball
takes the intransigent wicket -
yes, he did. Satan offered those things,
those were the things turned down,
that's how serious it was.
And what was round the corner as we know
was a tree already chopped
waiting to be a cross and a woman
at home rinsing a cloth white as she could
and Joseph of Arimathea still thinking the rock
he had hollowed at phenomenal expense
was going to be his, forever,
not Some Body Else's, for a spell...
So when the bag snaps on your doorstep,
flies open like leather wings
and you see instead of feathers
the tucked-in jars, the notched tubes,
the salves the spices
the lovely stuff of the flesh,
ask him in, go on, in for a moment.
There's no telling what else he might show you -
what mountain he has in mind
you may cast yourself from,
what price that your hair shimmer
like a diving hawk.

- Vincent O'Sullivan

Used with permission

I came across this poem in one of Vincent O'Sullivan's early collections, and loved it immediately. Unfortunately I can't locate which collection it appears in, as our Central Library collections are still largely inaccessible and the branches seem to have mostly more recent volumes. It does also appear in "100 New Zealand Poems" edited by Bill Manhire and published by Godwit Press.

I heard Vincent read it some years back, and he commented that as a small boy, he had wanted to be a Rawleigh's Man when he grew up. The reasons are clear in the poem - the sense of magic when the travelling salesman opens the case and shows his wares. I remember the Rawleighs Man visiting my grandmother. At the time I viewed the products as rather old-fashioned. My grandmother's purchases were the salves and ointments. Even then I must have been a budding scientist, and thought that they were largely snake oil, and of course anyone with any sense would only trust medicines that came on a doctor's recommendation or at least a pharmacist! Later though, I discovered Rawleigh's essences and became quite a fan of their strawberry essence, their orange essence and in particular, butter rum essence which is quite deliciously decadent. The Rawleigh's Man no longer goes door to door as presumably he would find few people home. But the products are still available as the above photo (taken at a Saturday market) shows - and they don't seem to have changed much.

I do love in this poem how it is the small things that Satan offers and that are the most important in life. O'Sullivan's particular small things might not be my choices - the last ball that takes the intransigent wicket, etc, but the principle still applies - and the last two lines, the hair shimmering like a diving hawk (no doubt by the appropriate use of the Rawleigh's Man's products) seems to round it all off perfectly.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

A Walk to the Square

(More photos later in the post)

For a few weekends, a walkway has been opened from the newly reopened Cashel Mall into Cathedral Square. So, despite a very busy weekend, I squeezed in a bit of time last weekend to get down there and have a look. I wasn't sure if I'd get to see it as there were only 300 people permitted each hour (now increased to 400). However, I thought that if I went down after my poetry workshop which ended at 4 pm, with a quick stop to vote on the way (yes! general election day), I could at least look at the Ballantynes Christmas windows, size up the crowds and see if I could make the walk or not.

As it turned out there was plenty of room. Probably because for the last few weeks there have been bus tours of the red zone in the weekends and evenings. I hadn't been on any of the bus tours as it required phoning to book - but only between the hours of eight and five "and please don't phone between 8 and 9.30 a.m. or at lunchtime when the phone lines are most overloaded." Well hello! some of us are at work during those times. And I'm not in a job where I can tie up the phone for ages will I sit in a "hold" queue.

Actually, I thought the walk option was a better option - it didn't take us as far, but viewing on foot sounded better to me than peering through the windows of a bus. And the city is not that big, you can see much of it from outside the fence just by looking down the empty streets. Cathedral Square was the bit I most wanted to see.

So, I duly read the warnings, went prepared (take a fully charged cell phone, wear sturdy shoes, tell someone where you are going, carry ID on your body not in a bag, and yes you might die - obviously someone was covering their butt when they drew up that list, and I had no expectation of dying, no more than anyone had on February 22nd). I thought that we would be checked as we entered but apart from someone standing there with a clicker to keep count, there was no actual check of cell phones, ID etc.

I took quite a few photos:
That's the Anglican Cathedral at the beginning of this post. It's hard to see how it can be rescued given the state that it is now in.

The Bank of New Zealand building is being prepared for demolition. Upper levels are being emptied out by crane using shipping containers.

The Heritage Hotel appears to be OK still. This is the old part, on the right hand side is a glimpse of the much taller new wing.

Also surviving so far is the old Chief Post Office, now housing and information centre and Starbucks (both of course currently closed).
Not surviving are the historic Press newspaper building, and the Regent Theatre with its beautiful dome, both now completely demolished.

Down a blocked-off and deserted street is the Westpac tower, also I believe due for demolition. The problem with many of these modern buildings is that the soil underneath proved unstable due to the many old creeks and streams in the area, so the foundations are damaged. This makes repairs very difficult.

And back at the mall, the Christmas displays were delighting small children. As part of these, a story-teller reads traditional stories from a large book (papier mache I presume)

(Not a very good picture, I found it hard to eliminate reflections).
As I arrived, the tape had just got to the part of the "Three Little Pigs" where the third little pig is safe and snug in his brick house. And all I could think was "what the...? what were they thinking? Is there any small child in Christchurch who actually thinks you can be safe in a house of bricks?"