Dame Ngaio Marsh – New Zealand’s Queen of Crime

One of the worlds queens of crime, Dame Ngaio Marsh  was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and a while ago I wondered if her house had survived the quake: I’d assumed ‘yes’ given it’s wooden and is in a relatively unscathed part of my old city.

The “Ngaio Marsh house” suffered only minor damage during the  2010 /2011 quakes that rocked the city.  Sited on the lower Cashmere Hills meant the damage to the area was less than other places the city and Canterbury – a chimney had been demolished and the sewerage pipe was broken but repairs have been made to both.

Their website said “The house was well shaken, creating a considerable mess with small items and books widely distributed over the floor. However, nothing of special significance was lost apart from a few pieces from Ngaio’s glass collection.”

So, the house remains basically as it was and is still open to visitors – as are most things in Christchurch.  See what Wiki says about our beloved Christchurch treasure –  Dame Ngaio Marsh

I took these photos during my last visit to the house in May 2010 – my first visit was for a fairly wild party in the early ’80s – not long after her death!

Just some of her books .. how many have you read?

Third 6.3 quake anniversary for Christchurch

Happy anniversary Christchurch – you’re doing well!

Pop some flowers in an orange cone or go and play with these –

cnr High and Tuam Street – opposite the fabulous C1 Cafe




Christchurch Bike Tours in quake re-build zone

Now is the time  to visit post-quake Christchurch, New Zealand,  and take a Christchurch Bike Tour in the Rebuild Zone,  This  two-hour, personalised tour of the cordoned-off Rebuild Zone allows you to see the Christchurch CBD rebuild in a safe, personalised and interactive way. It is the first opportunity the public have had to go into the Rebuild Zone on bikes.

You  will enjoy a sensory experience within the cordon as Christchurch Bike Tours guides’ offer information on the new city vision, including the new precincts, community projects and local business stories incorporating the strength and resilience of the people from Christchurch.
Christchurch Bike Tours owner Stephanie Fitts says the tour is designed to give locals and visitors the opportunity to understand the changed nature of the Christchurch CBD and the future of Christchurch as a 21st century city.
Tours are  limited to six people to allow for a personalised and safe experience and you will be required to stay on the bikes throughout the tour and wear closed-in footwear. Of course the route may vary depending on safety conditions.
Tour departures are at 10am and 2pm. Tours are two-hours long, and cost $40 per person, which includes the bike, helmet, hi-visibility safety vest and a local guide.
Bookings are essential by phoning 0800 733 257 or online at www.chchbiketours.co.nz
Christchurch Bike Tours was awarded the contract by CERA to run the tours in the Christchurch Rebuild Zone.

Note: this is New Zealand’s only guided city bike tour.

web bikes mona vale

Has it reopened, relocated, been renovated, or reduced-to-rubble?

???????????????????????????????Returning to the city of my birth, Christchurch, New Zealand, is rather like returning to school as three R’s rule. Not the old reading, writing and ’rithmetic but a new set of R’s dominate my thoughts.

Searching for favourite places I have to ask if it has been reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-torubble. Unfortunately, with something like 80% of the inner-city, my old stomping ground, demolished because of quake damage, most have been reduced to rubble or relocated.

Punting beside the 1880s Queen Anne building, the city’s first council office.

Of course there are many of my favourites which have another R – remained-open over the past two years, or have reopened after minor damage was repaired.  Some places and activities had to close temporarily while neighbouring buildings were ‘deconstructed’ – for instance punting in the city centre and Victoria Square are now accessible.

A few of my special city-centre places in the ‘remained open’ (or closed briefly) category are, The Classic Villa; Canterbury Museum; Botanic Gardens; Coffee House; Tiffany’s;  The Antigua Boat Sheds. Check them out!

Up to C1 cafe’s rooftop
360 degree views of the rubble and emerging new city from C1
360 degree views of the rubble and emerging new city from C1

Two places that have been reduced to rubble and relocated are Strawberry Fare, (Bealey Ave) and C1 Café. Interestingly, Sam has just moved his café right across from his original High Street spot – into what was my Post Office when I was a child and living in the Central Fire Station. On the corner of High and Tuam, as well as the cafe he now has a roof-top garden (complete with grapes and bees!) with the best views of the city and its rebuild. Get a coffee, go up in the ancient lift, climb the circular stairway then out through the little doorway then spend time up there checking out the changed, and changing, view.

This old Post Office, built in 1932 in the Classical style, had in recent years morphed into Alice in Videoland and which is now an art-house theatre too – a valuable asset to the inner city. The Christchurch Art Gallery also has a temporary Art Gallery there, and now The Physics Room (project art space & residency) has return to its home in this building!

One of my favourites that are relocated from the city centre is the Dux de Lux – it’s sort of split into two a live music venue in Addington (Dux Live) and a restaurant on Riccarton Road (Dux Dine). Loved by locals and visitors, ‘the dux’, on the Arts Centre block, was famous for its vegetarian and seafood meals, live music, boutique beers, and casual dining.

I ate at Dux Dine a few weeks ago and can assure all this ‘new’ dux, offers the same excellent food and service. Although out of my beloved city centre, I have history here too! It’s in the old Riccarton railway station masters house where I have partied many years ago – and where the Ratana  Apotoro Rehita (minister) who officiated at my wedding, lived! (Seems the world has 6 degrees of separation but in NZ it’s about 1½)

It was good to go punting through Victoria Square then through part of the ‘red zone’. Yet again it’s sad (Seeing history demolished) while encouraging. (Seeing history being created). Enjoy these glimpses of Christchurch and come back later to see more in the reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-torubble story of this city.???????????????????????????????

Trinty Church ( now restaurant) is to be restored
Trinity Presbyterian Church, near square, (now a restaurant bar) is to be restored
Punt through Victoria Square (used to be Market Square)
Punt through Victoria Square (used to be Market Square)
Edmonds Rotunda has had the done taken off .. anyone know what's happening to it?
Edmonds Rotunda has had the done taken off .. anyone know what’s happening to it?
Strawberry Fare has produced great food for years!
Strawberry Fare has produced great food for years!


Quake anniversary today – 4th September 2010 – 2012

It’s been two years since I was shaken awake at 0435, 4th Sept 2010, to the 7.2 quake in my city: Christchurch. (see my quake photos from that first day – and do a search on this blog for ‘quake’ for more pics)

Here’s a little homage to ‘the square’, which was the centre of our city – these photos are pre-quake.


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Photographic trip around part of post-quake Christchurch

Here are some things that caught my eye as I travelled around Christchurch recently  – they are in order of being taken and even if you can’t see it they show Christchurch rising and are presented here with love to the city of my birth and where I lived for most of my life!

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Salute to heros in Christchurch – re-greening the city

Every time I return to Christchurch (which I left in November 2010, but not as a quake refugee – the moving decision had been made a few months before the Sept 4th, 7.2 quake) I’m in awe at the many ways people are supporting the re-growth of the South Islands largest city.

Just some of the heroes of Christchurch

In the south of the city, Sydenham, one of the oldest suburbs, I came across this area – where lovely old buildings once stood – a group of people are greening the area now that it’s been cleared of demolishing rubble  – see more here – regreening the rubble

It’s by  people like this (heroes to me) that the new Christchurch is being built: brick by brick, plant by plant – my hat comes off to you all! It’s people like this, people like all my forbears, who arrived here between 1860 – 1870 (from Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland) and helped build this city and county.

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The story of a grocer and an earthquake, Christchurch, New Zealand

Before the September 2010 quake, just around the corner from my place stood Johnson’s Grocery where locals loved to step back in time: and where I loved to buy freshly cut ham from Colin Johnson in his traditional white apron and delightful manners.

Opened in 1911 as Leigh and Co. it was bought by Colin’s father in 1949 and he has worked there since 1957: this is shopping as it used to be with lollies (sweets) in jars on the counter and cheese sliced from the block with a wire. What I love is how Colin always seems to know exactly where everything is and he climbs up and down a ladder to retrieve whatever it is I’ve asked for.

What do you want? Swiss chocolate; truffles from France; English biscuits or cheese; haggis from Scotland, this shop has them all. Colin doesn’t need to search for stock, people from around the world ask him to carry their special goods.

Colin also enjoys welcoming tourists into the shop telling me “They don’t have to buy anything. They are always welcome to take photographs.” It’s certainly photogenic – the old delivery bicycle on the footpath must feature in many photo albums, blogs and travel articles world-wide.

Then Christchurch was hit by a 7.1 quake at 4:35am. I clung to the bed in my 3rd floor apartment. I heard a few things fall but stayed in bed – thinking if the building collapsed I’d land on something soft, but also worried about being found in the state of my dress – or rather undress! Vanity rules.

Soon up and with warm clothes on, I’d checked out the window and apart from a little concrete block fence that had fallen over, all seemed well in my inner city street despite the aftershocks. I texted this to the National Radio station which was broadcasting reports of this major event in the city of my birth and coffee in hand was also tweeting and posting on Facebook.

By 7am, as the day lightened, I went out exploring my neighbourhood. (See some pics from that walk here)

I take a photo of Johnsons shop window – it doesn’t look too bad

Thirty minutes later I’m going past again – the door is open and a man I hadn’t seen before was standing there.

“Do you have permission to be in there’ I challenge him. It seems Colin is inside and he’s his son-in-law.

"Who are you? Are allowed to be here' I ask
Lots on the floor, but many items still perfectly stacked!
The buildings, including Johnsons, are demolished: ChCh Town Hall. Kilmore St, is in background

And now, Johnsons Grocery has reopened, (November 2011) and is busier than ever. The temporary shop is now in the new container shopping precinct, all bright colours with Colin still in his apron and pencil behind his ear. I visit the day before he re-opens in Cashel Mall re-start  project the shelves are half-full – and put my foot in the wet concrete as I enter! Workmen quickly repair the damage. (See photos from that day here)


Shelves wait to be stocked .. the bike no longer delivers!

I visited a month later and the shop is buzzing, Colin and his wife are busy and happy, and although the shelves are no longer bowed, they are still stocked with goodies from many parts of the world, so, next time you are in Christchurch make sure this grocery shop is on your must-visit list.

This is the first of my Christchurch earthquake heroes’ award blogs: a shout-out to all business who have re-opened (or stayed open) in my city – sometimes under extremely difficult conditions.

See more heroes here

Quake-damaged Christchurch re-starts its heart

Considered almost-dead by many, the heart of quake-damaged Christchurch has had defibrillator paddles attached to the City Mall ( Cashel St) to ReStart its heart.  These paddles are in the form of brightly coloured, used shipping containers in which some of our Christchurch retail hero’s are breathing life back into the inner city – despite being on the border of the red zone where demolition is still underway after the February 2011 quake.

Locals will love to see Colin Johnson, with apron, back behind the counter at his grocery store again – continuing a family tradition of supplying Cantabrians and visitors alike with goodies from around the world. And, in this city of book-lovers, it will be wonderful to have Scorpio back in our heart (the dogs Coco and Patch will stay at the new Riccarton Rd shop)

I was fortunate to be shown around the new shopping precinct by Anton Tritt the project architect, who incidentally, like me is another succesful  ex-pupil of Linwood College.

We met at the Bridge of Remembrance and with a hard-hat and high-visibility vest on; I’m signed into the Oxford Terrace end of Cashel /City Mall to look at this temporary shopping area which is using the containers (metal sides removed and large sheets of glass installed for shop fronts) as ‘instant’ temporary, shops, filling spaces left by demolished buildings.

It was a hive of activity, some 150 workers are busy with welding, painting, planting gardens, and delivering goods for the shops.

Two groups of shops cluster around a café, perfect for us coffee lovers, and one, Hummingbird Café has proudly installed a piece of sculpture in the front of its new two-storied cafe. Bizarrely, Ballantyne’s looks just the same on the Colombo Street corner, but I believe it too has had a refit, and at the western end of the shop, is their “Contemporary Lounge’ has a row of containers, each shop featuring a prestigious fashion label.

This is a different Cashel Street yet it is also the same.  The tram lines are still there – waiting for our trams to return; the mature trees are still growing, the seating still waiting for workers to return to the city and sit in the sun while having their lunch, and the Bridge of Remembrance still spans the Avon River. There are also a few older buildings there to anchor the new. It’s also different: the primary colours of the new shops are signs of a new, different, and revitalised Christchurch – a heart that’s beating again. It wont be up to full strength for a while, but our city is on the mend.  These retailers deserve our support – they are just some of our inner-city heroes.

I try to leave my mark in the wet concrete out-side Johnson Grocery

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Free bike tours in Christchurch NZ

Great to see yet another quake-affected business is up and running again. Congratulations!

To celebrate the start of their summer season Christchurch Bike Tours are running FREE two-hour guided bicycle tours!

Saturday 16th October 2011

Dress Code – You must be wearing your best RWC supporters outfit.

Tours depart from outside the Antigua Boat Sheds

NOTE: Bookings are essential.

Call 0800 733 257 to reserve a space  (ONLY  from New Zealand of course)

these people would not qualify .. no rugby gear!

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