Local Heart, Global Soul

February 18, 2012

A Skyscraper Unicycle and a Mullet: a Perfect Antidote to L’enfant Terrible…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Christchurch’s Cashel Street Container Mall  is busy  these few days before Christmas and Himself  leaves me in a queue to pay at Johnson’s  to go off to stand in a queue about 20 people deep to order food.

I can see our kids seated at a table directly outside Johnson’s shop, Himself can also see them from his spot in the queue and the kids are sharing a large table with two older ladies who already have been served their lunch.

I take another five minutes to pay for my purchases and as I leave the shop Kiwi Daughter rushes over to me… in those minutes Little Mr. has been really naughty, so much so that the ladies sharing our table have just given him a telling off.

I’m motified at his behaviour and apologse to the two ladies for his misconduct… I also thank them for having a word with him, and then make it known to him in no uncertain terms that his behaviour is seriously unacceptable.

For some strange reason when it comes to disapline Little Mr never appears to take me seriously if I speak English, but he gets his listening ears on when I switch to Dutch. Apparently I amused a few passers by as they looked at the kid ovbiously getting a stern rebuke.

Himself had seen Little Mr. misbehaving from his place in the queue, but since the line was so long and he was eventually closer to the front than the back, he decided that getting in our lunch order and quelling stomach rumbles was more of a priority.. he also saw that I was closer to dealing with Little Mr. so left it to me to take care of.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Needless to say I wasn’t in the mood to take foodie photos of our lunch today, which turned out to be a pity because The sandwiches, toasted sandwiches and my roasted veggies was rather delicious.

Due to the queue and crowd around us I didn’t even catch the name of the place or get a business card. Boo to delinquent kids some days.

I found myself apologising twice more to the ladies before they left our table and finially once Little Mr had food in his tummy he started acting more like a little boy and less like a little monster.

Luckily distraction was at hand… a busker was setting up right in front of us, and a crowd quickly formed to watch the show unfold.

MulletMan is a guy who has a ready banter that is full of jokes and double entendre and appeals to both adults and kids.

He’s a dab hand at the juggling and had the crowd grinning and laughing in no time. I won’t give his routine away but it was well worth watching.

At the end he pulled out the tallest unicycle I’ve ever seen, and with help from some volunteer muscle pulled out of the crowd, got on it and juggled a knife, spanner/wrench thingy and a flaming torch that were thrown up to him by a female volunteer from the crowd. Actually she didn’t volunteer, the female friend she was with did, but baled at the last moment and she found herself pushed forward to take her place instead. (I wonder if they are still friends?)

Our kids watched enthralled and everyone in the crowd had a great time  too judging by the applause and the contributions going into the hat  afterwards. I did get his business card and took a photo of it later, but stupidly can’t find which photo folder I stashed it in, so I’ll keep searching and post it as soon as I find it.

… Getting on to a very tall unicycle takes some precision…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Luckily the guy at the back is I think I heard,  a Swiss tourist who’s at least 2 meter’s tall (6’7″ ?) and can keep the pole steady nearer the top…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now the helpers get instructions to keep their hands on the pole  but get their feet away, and then on a count of three, all step several steps back as fast as they can… 1,2,3….!!!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Volunteered lady throws up the spanner/wrench thingy, the knife and the flaming torch…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So how is he going to get down from there?…( very quickly with one big jump backwards)…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 17, 2012

The Discovery of a Black Bicycle and a White Apron Makes my Heart Sing…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes you see something out of the blue when you least expect it, and it makes your heart sing.

I had one such moment when I looked around the new Cashel Street Container Mall and saw a familiar name: Johnsons.

When I left home for the very first time, I moved into an old wooden villa (a ‘flat” that I shared with two other girls, “flatmates”) on Salisbury Street, just around the corner of Colombo Street.

Whilst flatting  there I worked in two places in town and would walk to work and back every day.

My walks naturally took me down this section of Colombo and past a variety of old established shops here, but prized amongst them was one that was especially special.

This was Johnsons the Grocer, and it consisted of they type of grocery that you could have imagined has been commonplace in the 1940’s.

Indeed, since it was actually founded in 1949, was probably just done in the style of the times and never changed.

There was an old fashioned black bicycle with a basket on the front, out the front of the shop whenever they were open and I remember cool tiles underfoot, high ceilings and a dimly-lit shop seemingly bursting at the seams with treasures.

The biggest feature of the shop was that there were essentially no isles, the shop was long and narrow and the walls were floor to ceiling shelves, long continuous ones, in wood. Stacked tightly to utilise every available millimetre were the goods for sale, exotic jars and packets of delectables from all around the world.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s entirely possible that the very first seeds of becoming a future “foodie” were planted and nurtured by my discovery and patronage of this very shop.

I adored going in and looking up at the wall of goodies on display, the serving counter was also thin and long, but piled with various items pertaining to the season and I would marvel at the long thin ladder that enabled the Johnson brother’s to reach anything above arms length (i.e. most of the stock).

The brothers wore long white old fashioned aprons, always listed each price rapidly on paper that came from a long roll and totted everything up at the end in their heads and at a speed that would put most people today and even some with calculators to shame.

Service was amazing, always with a beaming smile and no question as to the identification or use of an item of something was ever received negatively.

I often went in looking for a “special something” for a birthday present, or special occasion and each time I would come away with a new discovery, exotic cookies or sweets (candy) that you couldn’t buy anywhere else at the time and all of it real quality.

Sometimes when I had cash to spare and fancied a treat for myself, I would drop in for some black ball lollies… these were small round black and white striped hard candies, with a mint flavour that seems to last forever.

When I heard the news that earthquakes had extracted large scale damage to Christchurch, my first thoughts went naturally enough to the safety of friends and family, but once I knew that they were all safe and well, there were two shops that I especially hoped were ok… Johnsons was one of them.

It was with relief that I heard that the brothers were ok, but with sadness that their shop was beyond repair and was due for swift demolition.

That’s it then”, I thought…  after all, these guys are no longer spring chickens, so surely this business has met the end of the road.

Imagine then my delight when I saw offset from Cashel street, a shipping container shop with a black bicycle in the front window and the name “Johnsons” above the door !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Not only were they back in business but one of the Johnson brothers was behind the till in his familiar white apron!

Naturally I couldn’t leave without buying something, and I quickly spied some pickles and chutneys that would be perfect to give to friends and family who have invited us to dinners in the next days and Lo and behold, my favourite black ball sweets were there too, so they went into my basket too.

I was served by a very busy Mr Johnson, and once the swift jotting down of numbers began, on an all familiar roll of white paper, I knew that they really were back to business as usual.

I told him I had been a former regular in the old shop before I moved to Europe to live and asked if they would ever rebuild in Colombo Street again… he smiled, “Probably not” he said, they had just settled in here and business was booming as people were delighted to see him and showing their support in their patronage.

You know, I think he’s right, Who would want to go back to a shop in a quiet more niche part of town when you have just established yourself in a spot with maximum foot traffic and people are flocking through your doors?

I would have loved to have taken photos inside the shop, but it was quite literally so packed full of customers that it wasn’t possible.

I know that loosing a shop, all that history and the mess of it all must have been beyond stressful, but kudos to Mr Johnson for starting again at all at his age… and he sincerely and absolutely deserves a spot in the new and popular Cashel Street Mall where new generations of Christchurch people can discover the gem he, and his shop really are.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This is one time when I can be forever grateful to Google Street View for access to old images. These ones for me are really personal, and I didn’t realise just how much until I put the little street view figure onto the right place on the map and burst into tears when the familiar image of the shop as I had known it came into view. So many fond memories here, and a chance to say a little goodbye to a place and part of town I knew  and loved well.

Here, I will take you on a little tour of the past… First, if you stood on the corner of Peterborough Street and Colombo (looking south)  then this is the city block you would have seen.  Johnson’s is the last white bit of the block on the right, almost dead centre.

(photograph © Thank You Google Street View)

Just as we head towards Johnson’s I’m reminded of another favourite piece of architecture,now also sadly lost.

(photograph © Thank You Google Street View)

and then Johnson’s shop itself:

(photograph © Thank You Google Street View)

(photograph © Thank You Google Street View)

A small aside… you know when you have strange associations of sounds with certain specific places? Well Johnson’s has  one of those for me too. It’s nothing directly related to the shop itself but to the immediate location.  The old Johnson’s was almost on the corner of Colombo and Kilmore Street’s, and just three buildings away on Kilmore, was the Caledonian Hall. The Scottish Pipe bands would often practice there so I frequently walked this block of buildings with the background notes of soulful  bagpipes in my ears. Haunting.  Now sadly, The Caledonian Hall  is also gone.

(photograph © Thank You Google Street View)

Newer buildings were also not spared… nothing is left of the grey building that once stood opposite the XYZ Restaurant… (corner of Peterborough Street and Colombo Streets, on the left hand side if you are looking south)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

and now the same view  from the same spot today if you stand on the corner of Peterborough Street and Colombo (looking south)  …this is the city block you see post quakes…  Johnson’s would have been in the empty space to the right of the vehicle in the centre.

Little of the block on either side is left…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Where the XYZ Restaurant once stood there is now a blank space … on the wall of the building next to it someone was painted a mural Banksy-style of a man comforting a woman… a poignant reminder that more people loved these spaces and the history that went with them too. I didn’t have a closer shot so zoomed in on this photo as best I could.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 16, 2012

Woolston Brass, Always Music to My Ears…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The nice thing about retrospective writing is that we now get to have a little bit of Christmas all over again!

People often ask me what have been the hardest adjustments to make coming to live in The Netherlands.

The density of living and lack of space have definiately been one of the hardest things to get used to, and the multitude of cultural differences, but one thing is just small (doesn’t actually annoy me)  just catches me unawares over and over again (and really shouldn’t by now) … and that is the fact that Chistmas is a cold weather seasonal celebration and not a warm one.

I grew up having a down-under Christmas that represents everything Summer, so have instant memories of fresh strawberries, new potatoes, salad in the garden and sitting podding fresh picked peas to go with Christmas lunch or dinner.

…Of BBQ meals and end of year “do’s” held on someone’s back lawn, sunnies and sunscreen on the tables next to people’s glasses, and “bring-a-plate” get togethers talking place on warm balmy nights, and enjoying  afternoon music outdoors in Parks or  on warm evenings  in the Cathedral with Woolston Brass.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Nothing says “Summer”and “Christmas”and “Christchurch” to me more than seeing Woolston Brass Band in action in their various summer concerts, so I was delighted to see them setting up in the Cashel Street Mall and starting to play Christmas carols.

I always knew that this band has been around for ‘decades” but found out from their website that the Woolston Brass has actually been going strong since 1891, and a quick scroll through the central panel on their home page tells you that this is a group of people who have always been totally committed and active in their local community.

How they have managed to keep going during the upheaval that the earthquakes have presented, is nothing short of amazing, but they have been providing musical cheer and support all year as well as winning compititions locally and nationally.

I can’t boast a single jot of muscial talent whatsoever, but I can say that all through my years of living in Christchurch I’ve been one of the crowd who has thorougherly enjoyed all the music that the Woolston Brass has played to me and today is no exception.

I sat happily listening to the Carols until Himself and the kids dragged me away because they said they were starving hungry and wanted to find something to eat.

Thank-you Woolston Brass for keeping up my spirits, enlivening my days and sending me on my way with a smile on my face when-ever I have heard you play…  long may your musical traditions continue.

http://www.woolstonbrass.org/index.html

4sAovIk3eRs

February 15, 2012

Your Ship Comes In, but You Never Dreamed it Would Look Like This…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As you know, I’m taking you on a retro tour of our trip to New Zealand.

“Retro” in this case means retroactive in a very recent sense of the word though, since we were in New Zealand during December 2011-Janurary 2012.

In the last week you’ve seen some rather sad and bare photos of the city centre… they are signs of the times and ones  you can’t deny since the devistation of multipule shallow earthquakes that hit at almost point-blank range has taken it’s physical toll on the city.

That said, they are only part of the bigger picture since there are also resilient people who have resolutely promised that they are here for the long haul and will rebuild, and they were making plans and taking steps almost even before the dust had settled from downed buildings.

The section of Cashel Street that made up the City (pedestrian) Mall had been particularly hard hit, since many of the buildings were of the old established variety, some dating from around 1900.

Since the Feburary earthquake may actaully have been a series of three or four quakes in rapid succession, it’s not surprising that there were fatalities here… it seems that some people inside shops paniced at the start of the quake and when there were a few calm(er) seconds they rushed outside believing that they would be safer in the street outside.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Horrifically the other shocks in the sequence hit nano-seconds later , and they lost their lives stepping out as  falling front wall masonary plummeted onto the footpaths in front of the shops.

If they city wanted to rebuild in this spot they would need to allay the serious safety fears that most people now had about this area.

The City Council set up a “share an idea” website and the ideas poured in by the thousands.

People wanted to feel safe in the city centre, they didn’t want heavy masonry fronts, or buildings of tilt-slab construction.

They wanted a wider “clear zone” pedestrian area in front of shops where they knew  they would be safe and they wanted more of a Eureopean cafe-culture feel to the city centre than had been there before.

Christchurch citizens no longer felt safe in buildings over four stories, “low-rise” is “in’ and “high rise” is severely out of fashion.

Naturally not every business is ready to rebuild yet, the aftershocks continue, many of the plans and insurance and reconstruction issues are long term ones, but nor did they want the entire central city to be red-zoned and under heavy cordon for too long either.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Since there was substantial damage in the Cashel Street City Mall between Colombo and Oxford streets, demolition started there with a vengance after the February quakes and by the end of the year they unveilled a radical solution to the problem of needing something tempory until things get sorted out long term and yet tough enough to stand up to ongoing quakes and addressing people’s fears about returning to the central city.

What would provide a solution to all of this?

Answer: Shipping Containers.

So… this is how Kiwidutch ends up taking you on a tour of the world’s first (converted) Shipping Container Mall.

It’s supposed to be tempory but who knows?  Everyone we spoke to loves it, many would love to see it become permanent.

People are flocking to see it,  it’s a low-rise solution that was quick-ish to put in place and the shipping containers are a tough as they come, so people feel safe.

Five days after we were here, the city rocked and rolled to the double whammy 5.8 and 6.0 magnitude quakes in amongst a cluster of some 36 other quakes on December 23rd and this area held up brilliantly.  The humble shipping container has never looked so good…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

…The Bank!…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Not a container, but the Ballantynes Department store that’s another Christchurch institution (corner  Cashel and Colombo sts)  and back in business…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Bridge of Remembrance stood up well… (there are cracks though the lions buttocks though… and nooo I don’t mean “that” crack)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s rather strange though, to be parking your car (behind wooden fences on right) where rows of shops once stood…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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