I’ve never liked January in Christchurch – or February for that matter. The city is drained of colour and looks even flatter than usual. The fresh green of Spring has long gone, bleached and dried by the November nor-westers and rising summer temperatures. The hills and plains turn dry-gold; suburban lawns likewise, except where someone waters assiduously in which case the startling emerald green seems violently out of place in an otherwise desiccated landscape. It is a month to be out of the city, in a bach, at the beach, building sandcastles, going to bed sun-swept, windswept, gently encrusted with sea-salt and sand.
But this is a January of memory. For two things have happened. The spectre of skin cancer has altered our relationship with the sun. Our childhood summer days, spent largely in the sea without the protection of hats, cover-up clothes or sunscreen, are long gone. At the same time and paradoxically, global warming seems to be robbing us of our dry, holiday Januarys. This year we continued mowing our lawns, the Port Hills retained their tinge of green, the tomatoes and courgettes languished and everyone, everywhere complained about the rain, the cold, the unseasonal weather.
I can’t see much point in complaining about the weather. It has the upper hand and we have little choice other than to adapt our activities to its dictates. It puzzles me that, in traditionally parched summer Christchurch, we don’t welcome ‘unseasonal’ rain. But, whatever the weather, I am selfishly grateful that I experience its vagaries in a part of the world which I find constantly captivating. Governors Bay, at the head of Whangaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour) on Banks Peninsula, is only just ‘over the hill’ from Christchurch, but it feels like another country. Living in Governors Bay I identify with the Peninsula rather than the city. My points of reference include the port of Lyttelton, Otamahua (Quail Island), Mts Evans, Sinclair, Herbert and Bradley. I check frequently to see what the tide is doing and to watch the fickle Canterbury wind changes reflected in the waters of the upper harbour. I look at the views from my house and feel a deep sense of belonging to this landscape. It is my turangawaewae, the place that gives me strength, feeds my soul and that I love.