The very first feathered signs of spring arriving have landed in my old home city. Along with the daffodils, the godwits have landed in Christchurch (New Zealand) – arriving from the Alaskan Arctic Tundra where they raise their young.
Christchurch (and a few other places in New Zealand) is where they escape the Alaskan winter and have a summer holiday while feeding up large, building up their weight and strength before heading north again to reproduce.
So, in a few months, this annual, epic journey by some 80-thousand Eastern Bar-tailed godwits will migrate back to their breeding grounds.
Their journey – of 11,500 kilometres – usually takes about six days! Its nonstop when they head south while heading north they have a few stopovers in Asia
Christchurch locals farewell them from our shores and when they return the bells peal out to welcome them back to their summer feeding grounds here on the Ihutai/Avon-Heathcote estuary such a short distance the centre of our city.
Happy anniversary to New Zealand – and tomorrow morning (19th Sept) I’m attending a breakfast at Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) to celebrate, and commemorate the women who fought for the right to vote – and look to the future too no doubt.
It’s 123 years since the woman of New Zealand, our wonderful suffragists, our early feminists, won us the ability to vote in our general Parliamentary elections. Some, but certainly not all, women had been able to vote in various non-Parliamentary elections.
Female ratepayers, that is landowners, had been voting in local body elections from 1875; two years later they could stand for school committees, then in 1893, after years of campaigning, New Zealand women, whether landowners or not, became able to vote in the national Parliamentary elections.
Our suffragists certainly led the way, with the USA, in the face of most states allowing it, granted the same right to their women in 1920 (19th amendment) then, in 1928 all women in Britain were able to vote: before that, from 1918 only female property owners over 30-yrs had been able to vote.
Given our history I get upset at the lack of knowledge by a wide swathe of New Zealand, including the media, using the term suffragette to refer to our suffragists.
That term was coined about 15 years after New Zealand women were voting therefore New Zealand women were not suffragettes. First used in a newspaper it was a derogatory term but eventually was captured by the women of the USA and UK but was and never should be used in relationship to Kate Shepherd and our women ancestors, including my maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Rowe: my grandmother, Mabel was born in 1893 so it has always been easy to remember both dates!
One of the great things about the 1893 Electoral Bill was that while Māori women were given the vote too not ‘just’ women with land, unfortunately, Chinese women, in fact all Chinese, did not get the vote until the early 1950s.
Suffrage day (19th November) is often also called White Camellia day, as women who supported enfranchisement wore a white camellia.
Don’t waste the courage and strength of our brave 19th century women by honouring them and making sure you always vote – it was a hard won battle, albeit very different to those in the UK in particular.
During the 2014 election Kate appears on Wellington pedestrian lights
detail of the newest Kate artwork
Two women proud their great grandmother & gt gt grandmother signed Kate’s petition
Kate Sheppards home in Christchurch . a private home now
Detail of Kate and others with the petition in the wheelbarrow
Kate Sheppard memorial behind the Council Chambers
Kate Sheppard memorial, Oxford Terrace Christchurch
As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is used to tell his story, said Christchurch Arts Centre CEO, André Lovatt. “We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.
The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – which adults will love as this was how the ‘den’ was until the quake shook Christchurch (2010) and many buildings have had to be strengthened. The Arts Centre has had major work done too. It was great to sit in the old lecture theatre just as I, and my kids, have done for years. Well, it’s the same . . . until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie commissioned by the Arts Centre. A great example of the saying ‘same same but different.’
Much of what Rutherford discovered all this years ago, in what was really an old cloakroom, led to the technology of today and now visitors can learn about the old with the new, in fun and exciting ways.
For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. See more about the Den here
Staying in this ever-changing, emerging city is, for me, best done by having accommodation in the city centre, so thought I’d tell you about the hotel I was hosted in earlier this year. Breakfree on Cashel (Street) impressed me as soon as I arrived as, the electric jug was easily able to be inserted under a tap for filling: why is this simple thing so rare around the world!
More and more is opening in post-quake-five-years-on Christchurch and I’m excited to be going down again in a couple of weeks – this time for the WORD Writers and Readers Festival in the newly opened The Piano Centre for Music and the Arts( official opening in Sept) at the end of New Regent St and directly behind The Isaac Theatre Royal
I thought I’d repost this piece so visitors to Christchurch know the Arts Centre needs to be on your bucket-list esp. as the Great Hall has reopened. I will be back in the city in a few weeks to check out many events at the WORD Readers & Writers festival and will absolutely be off to the Art Centre which is one of my favourite haunts.
Over the past five years, returning to the city of my birth, Christchurch, New Zealand, was often like returning to school – but the old three R’s rule of reading, writing and ’rithmetic had been replaced with different R’s – I often had to ask if it has been reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-to-rubble. Unfortunately, with something like 80% of the inner-city, my old stomping ground, demolished because of quake damage, many were reduced to rubble or relocated.
Of course many of my favourites have another R as they remained-open or have reopened after minor damage was repaired, while a few had to close temporarily while neighbouring buildings were ‘de-constructed’.
A few of my special city-centre places in the remained open (or just closed briefly) category are, The Classic Villa; Canterbury Museum; Botanic Gardens; and The Antigua Boat Sheds.
Two months before the September 2010 quakes, a mayoral candidate said…
As well as riding the rails recently, in Christchurch New Zealand, I also rode a caterpillar: no, not the turn-into-a-butterfly type caterpillar but an electric one in the city’s Botanic Gardens – this is Caterpillar Garden Tour is one of the attractions operated by Welcome Aboard
Known to Māori for hundreds of years, Christchurch was officially settled by the British in 1850. Plans for the Botanic Gardens began 13 years later in the area that at that stage were largely made up of wetlands and sand dunes, and in 1863 an English oak was planted to commemorate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest son Prince Albert – this is the same year that my maternal family arrived from Cornwall, followed in 1872 by my paternal Scottish ancestors. Like those early trees, our roots are deep in the plains and peninsula.
Nestled in a loop of the Avon River the gardens are a popular place for locals and visitors value that the area was ‘reserved for ever as a public park and to be open with the recreation and enjoyment of the public’ when Christchurch was in its infancy.
A magnetic observatory has stood here in the gardens since the beginning of the 20th century. This is not the original building but is on the very spot where explorers such as Scott and Shackleton calibrated their instruments before heading to the South Pole.
I used to think my mother was so brave when, holding my hand, she stepped out into the middle of Colombo street to board the tram. I was excited and scared at the same time. A few years ago I took my mother on a tram trip – in the restaurant car: she was delighted with the silver service and delicious meal.
Seems my family history with trams goes back even further as I have a tattered photo of my maternal grandfather laying, or repairing, tram tracks in the mid-1930s: a photo that had appeared in the Christchurch Press. It’s only a few years ago that I always had an annual pass for the tram as, living in the inner-city I rode the tracks frequently – especially if it was raining or I was carrying my groceries and vegetables.
Trams removed were from Christchurch’s streets in the mid-1950s, but returned in the mid-90s, mostly as a tourist attraction – back then, and during my travels on this trip, even as a local I enjoyed hearing the history of places we passed. Unlike many places around the world, taped commentary are played: here the drivers, or motormen as they are correctly called, speak freely about the city’s history and add their own personal touches. I hope this never changes as it makes these tours unique and personal. A travel writing friend of mine, Roy Sinclair, has been a tram driver here and provided historical context for the other drivers – he also tells me that the training is comprehensive.
It appears trams are simple vehicles, with a control to go, and a brake to stop, however, learning to drive them smoothly is not always easy, nevertheless it seems there are bonuses with the job. I recall one who used to recount his 15 minutes of fame when he co-starred with Kate Winslet in the 1990’s film Heavenly Creatures. As he said, ‘three days of work and I made it onto the film for about three and four seconds!
These motormen come from a range of backgrounds including; an economics professor, musicians, school principals, bank managers, and of course Roy Sinclair, an author.
On my most recent trip back to Christchurch (February 2016) I was a guest of Welcome Aboardwith a combo ticket to travel on the tram, gondola, punting and the delightful, and informative Caterpillar Tour in the Botanic Gardens – all of which will appear in another blog. Now, let these photos tell the story of our trams.
Motorman happy with his job
Tram 152 passes the Christchurch City Gallery
End of the line by the Strange’s building
Prams and pushchairs travel on the front
The workshop is pristine
Travellers ride the rails
Beautifully restored and maintained woodwork
Old and young enjoyed the workshop opened day
Plastic sheep seats block the way
Passing The Arts Centre
Larry Day (left) Ian Wilson and Roy Sinclair before
As part of my upcoming series of blogs about Christchurch let’s first talk about the elephant in the room. In other words, the earthquakes that shook my city in 2010 – 2011.
I left Christchurch some eight weeks after the September 2010 quake, not because of the 7.3 quake or its many aftershocks, but a decision that had been made in May that year. Since then, I have returned to Christchurch on dozens of occasions so, although I have not lived through the many but normal aftershocks, I have closely seen the devastation wrought on my city.
My roots are deep in this wonderful city: my Cornish maternal roots arrived here in 1862, while my Scottish paternal roots arrived in 1873 – and there they remained, planted and flourishing on the stony plains and peninsula ever since. During this series of blogs, I will be talking about Christchurch as it is post-quake, as well as linking it to my past.
My frequent trips down from Wellington, and usually staying in the city centre, means I’ve watched the continuing journey as a new city emerges. Let’s not pull any punches, Christchurch will never be the old Christchurch again. While I mourn this loss I also celebrate the new – as it is emerging. Those seismic shocks have and are certainly changing the face of the city.
An air of creativity and innovation flows through the city but unfortunately it seems many locals are not aware of this, and say they don’t come into the city as there is nothing to do. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Tourists, and those working in the city centre, are well aware of many things to do. Some of it involves quake tourism of course, for others it’s checking out the huge artworks around the CBD, taking their kids to the magnificent Margaret Mahy playground, promenading, dining and shopping along New Regent Street, which I believe, is now Christchurch’s oldest retail area.
One thing I became very aware of during my last visit (February 2016) is how many tourists still find the devastation hard to handle and often only stay a night or two. One of the difficulties for them seems to be they are unsure what is actual ‘quake damage’ and what has been demolished ‘because of’ the quake. (NOTE: I again suggest the council or some other such body create a historic plaque to state “This building is a quake survivor’ for building owners to use).
It also seems that many find the city-wide building sites noisy and annoying, whereas I see them as a sign of vitality of the city and positive growth. Unfortunately, it seems travellers many arrive at the airport grab their campervan or rental car and take off, heading south or west. Many I spoke to said they’d been told by people in other parts of New Zealand ‘there is nothing to see down there.’ Most said they were thrilled they had ignored the ill informed advice.
To learn about the quake, I can absolutely recommend Quake City, a Canterbury Museum project, on Cashel Mall. Our city centre lost 80% of its buildings, not because they fell down, but because they had to be demolished as being unsafe, this means Christchurch has had much of its history erased.
The sad deaths, from the February 2011 6.3 quake, occurred mostly in two relatively modern buildings which did collapse. The artwork of white chairs as a memorial to them is on the site of my old church: St Paul’s Trinity Pacific, which growing up as a city kid, was the church I attended, and married in, and in those days was just called St Paul’s: it too was a quake casualty.
So, whether you live in Christchurch, or are visiting for a few days, make sure you see the real city centre and learn our history, not just the oft-repeated, lazy writing about Christchurch, as being conservative, just like England, or other such nonsense, this is a new city, developing new roots, and growing on top of our old foundations.
As well is reading some of the many books, stories, and poems that have sprung up post-quake you can also follow my blogs about Christchurch, so I can introduce you to the new as well is the old. Don’t forget many of our buildings (20% remember) survived, albeit most needing repairs, some major, some minor, but we still have many of our wonderful Gothic buildings in use.
So yes the ‘elephant in the room’, our seismic shakes, have jolted us, have left many traumatised, homes and businesses are gone, but a new, hopefully greener, city is emerging, and despite, or because of, my deep roots in Christchurch I celebrate that new city and feel excited every time something old reopens, or something new opens. Of course I am sad that much of my personal history is gone, however, looking over my shoulder at something no longer there is wasting time and energy that I prefer to use positively.
Despite now living in Wellington, I’m a Cantabrian through and through, one-eyed, wearing red and black, and cheering on our sports teams, and the rebuild! However, this does not mean I wear pink coloured glasses when writing about the city. At times I have been and will be critical, especially at locals who voice many opinions about the inner city, despite not having visited the CBD for months, or even years; a heavy-handed government making decisions they have no right to make, or delay; and the Anglican church for the damage their wrecking ball inflicted on the cathedral, and the continuing damage they are allowing by not closing the building to the elements. I believe they caused more damage than the quakes did.