Monday, September 5, 2011

September 4th – a year on…

As I write this it is Saturday 3rd and I am sitting in the morning sun, listening to the chorus of laying hens below and the bellbirds calling liquidly to one another. I am crying.

Two things this morning. A letter to the Press recalling Vicki McKay’s calm assurance on National Radio in the early morning hours of 4th September 2010. In the dark, alone, with a house full of shattered belongings and no electricity, I was fortunate to have a transistor radio. I turned it on and listened to Vicki as she reported the breaking news of the earthquake. It wasn’t that I was frightened. The house was intact and there was nothing I could usefully do until daylight. But to be connected, through the radio to a wider community, to listen to Vicki talking of news coming in from other Christchurch residents – that was both informing and affirming.  So the tears are, in part, a mark of gratitude for the presence of that voice, that morning.

The second thing this morning – Kim Hill interviewing Andrew Holden, editor of The Press, about his experiences of the past year. The Press took up where Vicki McKay left off.  It has been there every morning, telling our stories. Even on the morning after the February quake, when The Press building was shattered, staff members were rescued from the collapsed top story and one employee died, The Press was lying at the top of my driveway. It has been such a collective lifeline for the city. And so the tears flowed again.

Late on Sunday 4th now and the weekend has had its pleasures as well as its sadness. I became (as HB put it) ‘part of the artwork'. As one of the SCAPE 2011 installations, Ahmet Öğüt's, "Waiting for a Bus" was sited right outside the just reopened Canterbury Museum. 

So while I waited on Saturday morning for HB and family, I took a seat and revolved at a pace which invited close contemplation of the immediate environment and the folk passing by. Together the four of us then worked our way along Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s stunning photographic exhibition Earth from Above. It was heartening to see people out and about in (almost) the central city, enjoying the photos and returning to the Museum. And I realized how unaccustomed we, in Christchurch, have become to doing just this and how the art fed my soul.

Finally, on the anniversary itself, Claire and I met up in Lyttelton and joined the group of locals in the space once occupied by Ground, now an open meeting place and petanque court. We made medals to give to earthquake ‘survivors’ (ie everyone!). People came by with their dogs and families, someone had baked a special anniversary cake and it just felt like a gentle, affirming way to mark the day. I came home and planted lettuces – a sure sign of spring and renewal. 

Locals stitching...
Claire stitching...
Little lad who joined us stitching...
4th September quake cake


  1. Blessings to all of you as you remember---and here's to getting your hands in the earth and planting lettuces! Lovely post, lovely ending.

  2. I vividly remember listening to an AM radio late one night as news reports rolled in of a skyway collapse in a neighboring city. There was an intimacy to that radio report that television would have lacked. I still feel that way about radio. It touches me in a way other media can't.

    Thanks so much for sharing the beauty of your country with us. Someday, if I'm lucky, I'll see it in person. I very much look forward to that.

  3. Thank you Joe and Debby. We have thought of you yesterday and today as 9/11 is commemorated.

    Yes Joe. There is an interesting debate happening here right now about the value of augmenting radio with pictures - ie radio becomes TV-lite! To me this is pointless and cuts entirely across the intent of radio which, at its best, is (as you say) intimate and lacks the obsession with visual 'image'.