Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I knew, of course, that Christchurch had been very badly damaged in the series of earthquakes that hit the city in 2010 and particularly 2011. I knew that the cathedral had been massively damaged and that many buildings had come down and that many lives had been lost.  I knew all that.

It was nevertheless quite disconcerting to drive into the city yesterday morning and find large pockets of derelict ground being used as car parks; buildings in a state of disrepair; cranes and building works everywhere.

And despite the proliferation of temporary car parks, it was surprisingly difficult to find one that we could use (many of them are not available to the public but are reserved for various businesses).  But find one we did and off we went to explore.

It is a very English city - deliberately so.  It was designed as much as possible to mirror an English cathedral city

Bridges over the river Avon

They have punting on various stretches of the river!
We set off walking, but didn't really know where we were going. Then a tourist tram pulled up at the tram stop we were unknowingly stood at while we discussed what to do.  Tourist trams, as you will be aware, are very expensive - but I have to say that on this occasion it was money well spent.  We toured most of the city centre and were very well informed by the time we left about the effects of the earthquake, but also about the history of the city and the rebuilding activities since 2011.

I think they are doing some fabulous things.  They are making imaginative use of the spaces, and the building materials and objects for both permanent and temporary structures.

They are using lots of shipping containers, which make splendid, relatively mobile spaces for retail, food and hospitality.  There are coffee bars based in shipping containers.  And shops

They are also filling some of the empty spaces with pianos, artworks, sculptures and pavement chess boards

The city, which was obviously seriously traumatised by the 2011 earthquake and its aftermath, is nevertheless buzzing and vibrant and energetic.  And in the centre of the city, in Cathedral Square, stands this, bravely hanging on

Its future remains undecided.

In the meantime, rising from the catastrophe is the Transitional Cathedral

I think it is  glorious

We had something of an excitement trying to board our flight back to Melbourne.  At the check in desk they scanned our passports.  The lady looked at her screen, slightly puzzled.  She then asked me if we had visas for Australia.  I confirmed that we did.  She scanned the passports again.  Was I *sure* that we had visas for Australia?  Fortunately I carry paper copies of any visas we might need. I handed them over.  The rescanned my passport.  Yep.  All fine.  Here's your boarding pass.  Jim's, however, refused to believe he had a visa.  The lady called over someone else.  They stared intently at the screen and at the visa print out.  Eventually one of them exclaimed: Ah look - the dates of birth don't match.  And indeed they didn't.  The visa had a different month to the one on his passport.  Fortunately, a quick call to the Australian Immigration people sorted it out and Jim was allowed to board.

He's come into Australia on that visa multiple times since last August and up until then no one had noticed the discrepancy, not even the Australians!!

I wonder if the Frankston Gnome has come over to Christchurch on holiday!
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