My heart has been filled with much sadness at pictures of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch. I think it was the picture of the collapsed spire of Christ Church Cathedral and the metal conical structure. “Oh no, they are going to have to rebuild the spire.” At first, I thought it was the only building, but as I read on, I realised it was far more extensive than that, and the scale of it had difficulty sinking in. To be honest, I’m not sure why I thought it was only one building. Maybe it was hope that it’s only one building and not more than that.

As I’m reading this on the internet miles and miles away, I simply cannot imagine how those in Christchurch are processing it. How does one process that your world has just collapsed around you?

I think that we can be so conditioned to disasters and suffering happening in the world that we don’t pause (much) to think about it. I suppose if it’s a place that we’ve been to or a place where we know people living there, or have some connection with, that makes it ‘closer’ and more real. I’ve been to Christchurch twice, know people who live in Christchurch, know lots of people who have travelled to Christchurch for both leisure and work, and come from a country that neighbours New Zealand, albeit separated by a vast sea.

It didn’t initially occur to me that there would be anyone in the cathedral. It seems like such a silly thought and rather illogical now. And then I read that there were people sightseeing in the church and up the spire. Of course, there would be. And the realisation that people are buried starts to sink in. And it starts to sink in for me that there would be many places in Christchurch where this has happened. And whether a person lived or died was a matter of luck of where they stood. What shock, sadness, fear, and worry the people of Christchurch must be going through.

I keep looking at the modern sculpture of the cone, and the rubble of the cathedral next to it. It wasn’t so long ago when I was last in Christchurch – January 2008 in fact. I remember looking at the sculpture and thinking that they’ve added this since my previous visit – December 2001. These were not long visits, but they visits of a family on holiday, and therefore it’s a fond memory. And now, a memory of Christchurch that is now no longer.

Christchurch was the first and last stop of our caravan tour of New Zealand in December 2001.We stayed there about 2 nights after our RV/caravan tour of South Island. It’s interesting the little things I remember.

It was a warm weekend, certainly compared to the 1st day we arrived when it was 12 or 13 degrees. (When you are in summer cotton T-shirt wear, it is fer-reezing!) We stayed in a 2 storey serviced apartment. The little one had a favourite pillow case and was so excited that the bed sheets of this hotel had the exact same sheets. It was heaven for him. He was 3 at the time.

I remember going out to the river with a big loaf of bread and guiltily feeding the ducks bread. I’d been told bread was bad for birds, something about making them fat and reliant on humans for their food. We sat by the water with the little one who was feeding them, whilst afraid of them at the same time. I remember the willows draping itself into the water. It was quite a peaceful day.

We also walked into Christchurch’s chinatown area and stopped off to eat in a Cambodian restaurant. The buildings were relatively flat roofed and I kept thinking that it reminded me a little of Perth, only the streetscape appeared much flatter, with mountains in the distance. The 2 or 3 storey shops seemed to go on forever. It seemed like such a nice place to live. We didn’t go into the cathedral during this visit. The little one was too tired and bored by then.

The second time we visited was in January 2008. We were doing a 2 week cruise with Princess around New Zealand. The ship had pulled into the Port of Lyttleton, which is a small town, and we went into the main tourist precinct and spent most of our time around the area where the church was. They had done a lot in refurbishing this part of town. I remember the conical sculpture just outside the church. It was such a lovely contrast to the cathedral and now it looks so lonely next to the ruined church.

We did a tour of the cathedral, which was quite lovely. I had been reading Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth on the cruise and I especially wanted to see a cathedral to get a sense of what he might have been talking about. Of course, the church was built only 107 years ago, so it was built with pretty modern techniques, but still it gave some visual structure to the story I was reading. I hadn’t visited Europe at the time, and this, in New Zealand was the closest experience I could get to. I did enjoy my visit. I remember spending time reading all about the various archbishops of the church and looking at a tombstone of a knight.

Of course, hubby and the little one were quite bored by then. Inspired by the conical sculpture outside, we went to get an ice cream. We also wandered across the square to the ANZ ATM to get some money, stopped off at the camera shop to buy a Canon camera charger (coz we forgot to bring it with us) and visited a Vom Fass shop and bought some liquers and balsamic vinegar. The guy in the camera shop was so nice and friendly, and we had a ball in the Vom Fass shop tasting every liquer imaginable. The shop owners were so patient with us as we wandered from glass container to glass container tasting what was on offer.  I am sure the Vom Fass shop is gone.

I wonder about the people we met. I hope they are safe.

We drank our liquers on the cruise, but we never did finish the balsamic vinegar. We had to chuck it out when all our stuff got packed for the UK. I’m still looking at that bottle in my mind’s eye. And I’m looking at the spare Canon camera charger sitting in my pile of stuff to sell on eBay, and thinking about where I was when I bought it. And actually that’s why I don’t have pictures of Christchurch to post as the camera was out of charge when we pulled into Christchurch.

It was said to us on the cruise that Christchurch was built to resemble Oxford, with its punting on the Avon. I haven’t yet been to Oxford, but I shall make an extra effort to get out there this year.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Christchurch, and to everyone still recovering from earthquakes, floods and natural disasters, though it seems so inadequate against the scale of feeling from individuals going through this experience. When Christchurch rebuilds, as I’m sure it will, we’ll visit the city again, to spend our tourism dollar and show our support.