Local Heart, Global Soul

October 10, 2012

Cramner Courts: The Wrecking Ball Becomes a Hot Potato…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Wow, it seems that a series of posts I had lined up for this week are being posted by chance amid ongoing turmoil concerning them almost as we speak (or is that as I wrote, no  as you read? ).

I didn’t know too much about the Cramner Courts buildings  except it used to be called the “Normal School” (and I always wondered if that meant somehow that all other schools were abnormal) until I checked out the web pages of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust  (link below) and found the following explanation.

I’ve edited it a little for brevity so if you’d like to read the full account  please just click on the link provided.

“Today’s Cranmer Court was originally built to house Christchurch Normal School, which opened in 1876.

‘Normal’ or ‘model’ schools are schools that provide teacher trainees with the opportunity to observe teachers and classes in action in a normal school environment. Christchurch Normal School was the first of this type in Canterbury, opening just after one in Otago.

The Canterbury Board of Education held an architectural competition in 1873 for designs for Christchurch Normal School. Twelve entries were received and the one submitted by the architect Samuel C. Farr (1827-1918), was selected.  

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Farr’s Christchurch Normal School was built in stone from the Halswell quarry with Oamaru stone dressings. It was designed with two wings forming an ‘L’ shape, one for boys and one for girls, and a distinctive octagonal room at the corner of the ‘L’ with an intricate wooden vaulted ceiling.

The octagonal room was originally intended to house a book depot, but by the time the building was completed this idea had been abandoned.

When the normal school function was transferred to Elmwood School in 1954, this building became the centre for the Post-Primary Department of the Christchurch Teachers’ College.

In 1970 the teachers’ college moved to the suburb of Ilam and the building remained vacant until a developer bought it in 1981 and turned it into a group of luxury apartments and a restaurant. 

This building is significant as one of the earliest normal schools in New Zealand, and as a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture, which is a distinctive feature of Christchurch. Debates in 1969-1970 over the building’s fate show that it is held in high public esteem. It forms an important part of the townscape of Cranmer Square. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

1970-1981 – The building lay vacant and neglected.

A group of Christchurch citizens (lead by the Civic Trust) lobbied for the retention of the building and for its adaptive reuse arguing that it was more economically feasible to convert the existing building than to demolish and rebuild.

 1981- The building was purchased by a development company for conversion into 22 residential apartments with 15 new town houses to be built on vacant land to the north. Street facades and the roofline were preserved and the ventilators and one tower reinstated.

Interiors were stripped out and dormer windows added to the roof. The octagonal room, which formerly served as the headmaster’s office on the southwest corner, was converted to a restaurant. The complex was renamed Cranmer Courts.”

This building appears to have become a political football… or hot potato depending on how you look at it.

Although it’s privately owned everyone from almost A-Z appears to have their fingers in the decision making pie  on what should be done with it, how it can be saved (or not) but in true political style the issue of exactly where the cash is coming from in order to carry out these dreams and ideals is hazy, dare I say it, even so far non-existent in sums large enough to be serious. (although this situation could change yet again)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The saga so far: Australian investors were prepared to inject cash and save it,  they signed up to the contract of due diligence that would se the facade of the building saved.  Then they pulled then pulled out at the 11th hour, almost immediately, with no cash lined up on the doorstep it was deemed unsafe by CERA , or possibly the owners (depending on which of the many articles you read) and the bulldozers moved in almost before the  doomed contract hit the bottom of the rubbish bin. The contractors were then halted by emergency injunction as a local city counciler stepped whipping up a storm of debate bigger than the rubble dust that was being generated on site.

In yet another instance of opaque ” transparency” in the  life of a historic Christchurch building it’s hard to see what’s really going on here.

By all means, try and halt demolition whilst another investor is found to redeem it at great cost.

But haven’t the owners tried that already ? and didn’t they fail? Have all options already been exhausted ?

It’s a really tough one, and I really don’t know all the facts so I’ll play devil’s advocate a little: On one hand the building has been standing with substantial damage for over two years now, so just how long should the owners be expected to wait ?… the building is like a patient on life support, either operate to fix it or let it die, but this catatonic limbo can’t be expected to go on forever.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

But are the owners really trying hard enough to find investors will are prepared to undertake the extensive surgery the building needs?  or is CERA perhaps guilty of using their steamroller tactics again?

As for the City councillor  Is this really a serious 11th hour reprieve or just political point harvesting  to be used at the next election? can you really have a say when you don’t have the funds to put your money where your mouth is?

Making demands when other people are picking up the bill is easy… putting your hand into your own pocket is not… if the building is so important, the question that begs asking is “has the Council been busy fundraising for the last two years so that they can step in?”

The answer is probably a mixture of all of this… a pinch of every argument that now makes a rather explosive mix that’s hit the headlines in a dramatic fashion. Of course I’d like to see this building saved,  but hey reality is that my piggy-bank isn’t even coming within light-years of  covering this account so who am I to judge?

Whilst I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a favourably outcome for Cramner Courts I’ll readily admit it’s a sticky situation, apparently getting messier by the minute… the bulldozer engines are still warm and the very real dust hasn’t settled by a long shot… it will be interesting to see which way the wrecking ball ends up swinging on this one.

…and a post script: I think this white building opposite Cramner Courts is called Chateau Blanc from the Clarion Collection Hotel chain and it took some damage too… which I think is being repaired.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=1872

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/7781487/New-bids-to-save-Cranmer-Courts

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/christchurch-earthquake/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502981&objectid=10838514

(photograph © Thanks to Google Street View)

(photograph © Thanks to Google Street View)

(photograph © Thanks to Google Street View)

(photograph © Thanks to Google Street View)

(photograph © Thanks to Google Street View)

(photograph © Thanks to Google Street View)

October 7, 2012

Crown Plaza: One Chapter Closes, Another Begins…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One interesting  thing about the internet and the modern age,  is that it’s now possible for me to look at some of the goings-on in Christchurch, New Zealand  and the earthquake recovery via web-cams whilst sitting at home in the evenings in the Netherlands.

The Christchurch Casino (housed in what used to be the old bus depot building) has one such webcam on the side of the building and at the beginning of this year I first logged on to see the hotel in the initial stages , not of demolition but of preparation of demolition.

This preparation involved stripping the interior of the building of as many of the chattels as possible and then removal of  any recyclable material: glass windows were stripped out, pipework, electrics etc.

Since a good deal of this work took place inside the building,  I saw little progress from the outside at first, but in March when the windows started disappearing from the  five top floors  (Lead photo) it was clear that things were going to hot up on the web-cam images.  I started making screen-shots from the casino’s web cam, and the following photos are the result.

I took the screen-shots mostly in the Dutch evenings so with the 12 hour time difference it was  already early the next morning in New Zealand, but on occasion I was up early enough on a Dutch morning to catch a shots of the building on a New Zealand late summer evening.

Window removal intensifies…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Almost no glass remaining… Photo taken on 7th April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I stupidly thought that I wouldn’t need to look at the web-cam every day, I mean how fast would it go? Needless to say I got a shock when I logged on just five days later and saw this photo… these demo guys don’t hang around. Photo taken 12th April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 13th April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 14th April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 15th April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 16th April 2012. Other central city buildings behind the Crown Plaza (also being demolished) come into view.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 20th April 2012. In the centre background I can see the blue-grey hues of the Bank of New Zealand building on the south side of Cathedral Square, which featured at the end of  a previous blog post here:

https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/new-608/#comment-7460

I think the taller building to the left of the BNZ  might be the Christchurch Millenium Hotel, but it’s hard to tell from looking at it in it’s stripped out state because it now looks like a tall grey ice-cube container … it was previously white in colour I think.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 22nd April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 23rd April 2012. The tallest building in the background at right is the Clarendon Towers, featured in a previous post here:  https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/?s=clarendon

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 24th April 2012.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 26th April 2012. The 17 story  blue / grey building third from left in the background is the Forsyth Barr Building,  an investment bank.  In spite of extensive damage and having some of it’s staircase collapse, engineers have said it’s repairable so it will probably be one of the only high-rise buildings left in Christchurch once the demolitions around it have finished.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following Photo taken 21st June 2012. By now most of the rubble has been cleared and the view from the web-cam has reverted back to be more like the views as it was in the early 1980’s before the Parkroyal / Crown Plaza went up.

At the left of the photo is a clearer view of the main auditorium , part of the Christchurch Town Hall… it’s fate is as yet undecided whilst the extensive damage is being assessed.  It was announced that none of the complex would be open in 2012. What’s next, who knows.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

… finally a shot of the casino where the web-cam was mounted…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After this date the web-cam was switched off, probably because there wasn’t anything left to see with regards to the Crown Plaza Hotel. For me that’s rather a shame  because I could have now watched the ongoing work on the other buildings in the background.

The Crown Plaza has met it’s end… the city is literally picking up the pieces and starting again.  In future trips to Christchurch I will document the rise of buildings in the place of all these vanishing landmarks… or will they just be left as open spaces? Time will tell.

Like it or not this is a little snippet of Christchurch’s history. Life goes on. One chapter closes, another begins.

October 1, 2012

The Dark Side of the Aftermath of an Earthquake…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You are looking at another page of my New Zealand travel diary, detailing events of January 2012.

Opposite the Old Sydenham Post  Office building of yesterday’s post, also on the corners of Colombo and Brougham  Streets there used to stand a beautiful church.

It was called the Sydenham Methodist Church, a beautiful stone building in Gothic style that dated back to 1877 making it one of the oldest churches in the city.

When the local area made a transition from residential to mainly commercial properties and the population fell below what was feasible for the Church’s survival it went though a series of owners until it passed into the care of the Sydenham Heritage Trust in 2001  after locals saved it from demolition by a developer.

Then came the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011… the building was severely damaged and sat awaiting a decision on whether if might be saved or not.  Then suddenly the unthinkable happened…

I read the newspaper articles on-line at the time, just after the 22 February 2011 earthquake, and was stunned… there’s an entry in Wikipedia that outlines the shocking travesty that took place:

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The building was purchased in 2001 by the newly formed Sydenham Heritage Trust with the help of a Christchurch City Council interest free loan.

Restoration and earthquake strengthening was an ongoing activity of the trust.

The building was damaged in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

It was subsequently demolished by a demolition company without the knowledge or consent of the owners, and without authorisation from the Historic Places Trust, the council archaeologist (who approves demolition applications) or the National Civil Defence Controller (who oversees earthquake responses).

A police complaint has been lodged, and an enquiry into the unauthorised demolition is likely.

I read this with my mouth hanging open in disbelief… the demolition company said that they carried out the work on the express instruction of the City Council …   but responsibility of which appear to be now strenuously denied.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Whoever authorised it committed a travesty … that the buildings owners were not even informed until after the deed had been done is appalling.

Some 11 months later,  stand taking photos of the rubble behind the fences… it’s clear that little or no effort was made to even reclaim any of the materials because the rubble is littered with glass fragments from the windows.

This is the dark side of the Christchurch earthquake aftermath, there have been more instances like this,  and also of building owners denied  any access to their building whilst demolition contractors either dump or “recycle” valuable materials and chattels from them.

I can only hope that whoever is responsible for these decisions and deceptions is bought to justice.

The buildings they have destroyed can not be bought back of course, but hopefully a severe  penalty might serve to deter other power-happy bureaucrats from ever repeating the travesty that has taken place here.

I don’t have a photograph of the building in it’s former state, but the first Wikipedia link shows both the Church and the Old Sydenham Post Office in their  glory days.  (it’s a stunning photograph) The other two links detail the history of the building and it’s unauthorised demise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sydenham,_nz.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydenham_Heritage_Church

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4729950/Unauthorised-church-wreckers-face-prosecution

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

On a lighter  note, I discover that someone has tried to brighten up a now exposed wall behind the building next door that has also been demolished…  I “love” it too…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 30, 2012

Attending the Funeral of a Building I loved…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My New Zealand Driving Licence is about to expire so  we came to Sydenham to the Automobile Association to renew it.

Unfortunately I need a copy of our city council rate payments, or bank statement etc as proof that I am still eligible for my licence and since we own property in Christchurch providing the required documents aren’t a problem, if only we had remembered to bring said documentation with us.

On the first occasion we didn’t have time to go back to the north side of the city to retrieve the paperwork because we  had a lunch appointment to go to in Hoon Hay,  but I noticed the Old Sydenham Post Office in a very sorry state and quickly snapped a few photographs as we went by.

I’m devastated to see it so broken and damaged, and  hope that the bracing I’m seeing means that a repair might be possible,but when I look at the photographs on the computer that evening, I notice that the roof tiles have all been removed… and get an ominous feeling that that’s not a good sign.

The Old Sydenham Post Office is a  well known and loved landmark,  a beautiful historic building from about 1911 that was turned into a restaurant in 1993. I do know that at the very beginning of the building’s life that there was a clock tower on the Colombo & Brougham Street corner of the building but that was removed I think in the 1940’s.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Later, whilst running errands we pass the building again and the awful feeling I had is confirmed, it’s in the process of being demolished.

After our visit to the Sydenham Bakery just down the road I get Himself to pull over so that I can take photos of the demolition process. It’s a sad moment, but unlike many of the heritage buildings in the city I at least get the chance to catch a glimpse of the building’s former glory and say a quiet goodbye.

When I’m next in Christchurch again so many of these beautiful historical remnants will already be long gone, replaced with new builds or still just gaps in the urban landscape, with only the ghostly images of their existence  imprinted in the memories of those who knew them well.

I can only liken this experience to attending a funeral… gone is the moment when the individual can be saved, all you can do now is to morn the passing,  remember the beauty and the good times and say the necessary goodbyes in your heart.

I picked up a small piece of rubble that was within finger’s reach inside the wire safety fence and put it in my pocket. It’s now residing in a little jar at home in the Netherlands … a little non-descript  lump to most, but with a strange sentimental value to me, a tiny connection to the past I once knew.

I’m lucky to be here today, it’s clear from the speed of the work that everything will be gone very soon and I almost missed it. There are quite a lot of photos, but this is a once chance photographic opportunity only,  the place is quite literally disappearing by the minute.

The building might be soon gone but I can only hope that the memory will live on and that a new heritage might be built that later generations can also fall in love with and treasure.  Old Sydenham Post Office… R.I.P.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 23, 2012

The Pain of Just Doing What Needs to Be Done…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes the discovery of a change is a shock that your were totally unprepared for.

Such is the case when we went a little further down Papanui Road and Rugby Street Church came into view.

I have been part of this church family and part of the youth group in years gone by.

Even more disturbing than the obvious damage to the Church was the almost complete absence of the church hall that once stood to the rear of it.

I was shocked to see that of the entire structure, only a remnant of the foundations remain. This was once a beautiful brick building, full of character, with very wide steps and heavy double wooden doors.

I have fond memories of meetings here, the musical we put on, parties and dances.  One such dance was a fancy dress ball, it was an eventful evening fron the start, with a flat tyre in the midst of Papanui Road weekend evening traffic, myself in costume standing on the pavement holding tools, whilst my friend tried to get the spare tyre  installed on the traffic side without getting his costume fouled up.

Passing cars tooted and passer-bys on the footpath made humourous comments so clearly we provided some laughs.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Later, at the end of the evening there was a strange tooting noise and in response we opened the double doors onto the wide steps to find headlights on full beam facing us just centimetres away.

My friend had driven the car  up the steps as far as it could go and we then proceeded to cram as many of us into the car as possible so that we could all be dropped off home.

It was an alchol free dance but we still had fun and we almost literally danced our feet off that night.

As was the usual routine, everyone bought a plate of food to share for supper and the evening was full of so much laughter that we were exhausted at the end of it.

We had a dinner there once that also had a little drama. Everything had been beautifully set out on trestle tables, there were flowers and candles… the  food was served and then one of the girls hair caught fire when she leaned over a little too close to a candle,  first there was an awful smell of burning hair for a few seconds  and  as we looked to see what was burning, we saw a bluish flame completely cover one side of her head …

…luckily the guy next to her reached out and ran his hand quickly over the flame and amazingly put it out in one swipe before she even realised that it was her hair that was burning.

He said later it was just an automatic raction that he didn’t even think about doing, he just instinctively did what needed to be done.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The girl however,  did freak out somewhat in the ladies loo’s later when she saw the singed damage but was very very thankful it wasn’t far worse.

Just doing what needs to be done seems to be the new theme for Christchurch citizen’s and their city… clearly the old hall was beyond repair and needed urgent demolition so it’s been done and it’s gone.

Murphy’s Law  struck and it appears that the Google Street View vehicle did of course make it’s way down the very busy thoroughfare of Papanui Road, but didn’t make it down the quieter Rugby Street from where there would have been a far better view of the old hall.

Oh well… just seeing a glimpse of it in the background has appropriate parallels to just seeing what’s left of the foundations now I suppose.

The church sits in it’s broken state with the spire braced on the ground in the front yard… a not too unfamiliar sight in Christchurch these days.

Oddly enough if Iook at the foundations of the old hall and then close my eyes, I can still see the building in all it’s glory in my mind’s eye. It’s as solid in my memory as it is absent in real life.

Writing about it helps with letting go, it lets me jot down the memories so that they don’t get lost in the jumble of all the other stuff that you have to cram into our brain on a daily basis. If one day my memory fails, at least the echo of what was before will remain.

(sigh) Ghosts of buildings and echo’s of memories past… sadly there will be all too many of those in Christchurch from now on.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The spire being on the ground gives me the  change to take in some of the detail I’d never noticed before…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Thank You Google Street View)

February 1, 2012

A House That Will Almost Literally be Here Today and Gone Tomorrow…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family KiwiDutch are visiting family in Christchurch New Zealand and my Aunt and Uncle are talking about their experiences during and after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

It’s amazing the things that happened (or didn’t happen) in the September, December, February and June quakes: each  quake was a unique experience with unique consequences because they came from different faults and directions.

Damage varied from massive in the September quake to minimal in the later ones or in come cases visa versa.

We talk about that “zones” that houses have been labelled and what the colours mean.

A “Red zone” house or business means that either the land or the building or both are beyond repair, and the Government has descided for areas deemed Red, that trying to fix severely broken infrastructure such as water and sewerage and power over, over and over again is no longer a viable option.

Subsequently, if you are Red, the government will pay out the value of your land as per the registered valuation of 2007, your insurer should then pay for the for building and you have to take this option within two years and go and live elsewhere.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Red Zoned properties will be bulldozed and at the moment the thinking of the people of most people is that Red zoned areas will be allowed to revert back to nature… back to their undeveloped state. However, since the government has spent so much money buying out so much land, some fear that maybe five or ten years down the track, the government may be tempted to invest in wholesale land strengthening of the red zones and bring them back to a state suitable for development.

This however is a much more long term idea and one that doesn’t sit easily with any the friends and relatives I’ve spoken with. They would far rather that it be turned into a permanent nature reserve or recreational areas of some sort.

So, what caused some areas to become Red? There are a many possible answers to this question but there are several main causes.

The first is due to liquafaction. When the subterranian soils are mostly sandy and an earthquake strikes, the land literarally turns to liquid as the soil vibrates. Small fissures and tiny volcano like structures appear  along with large and small cracks and the water table is forced upwards shooting out tons of silt and water through all of these new openings .  Often, since the sewerage network is broken at the same moment, sewerage is mixed into the liquafaction as well.

Liquafaction can irritae skin, chokes plant growth, is a heavy soupy sludgy mass when wet and once it dries out it makes a fine corrosive dust that is easily windblown. For every centimeter of liquifaction that makes it’s way to the surface, the land benieth it will have sunk by the same amount.

Liquafaction also causes the land to settle back unevenly once the land becomes solid again, causing houses to warp, twist or break away. The second event that turned many areas Red, was Lateral Spread.

During an earthquake you have a large underground wave surging upwards towards the earths surface and it will come faster to the surface in places where ground surface resistence is lower. Riverbeds and the water above them offer very little resistance so the riverbed is quickly pushed upwards.

This causes the sides of the river to be pushed outwards and severely distorts the surrounding land as the push effect is in turn transferred onwards.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In areas around both of Christchurch’s rivers (the Avon and the Heathcote) where the soil beneith was also predominantly sandy then the combination of Lateral Spread and liquifaction caused land to sink in some neighbourhoods as much as 1.5 meters (almost 5 feet).

For many areas close to Christchurch’s Avon River, the new lower ground level meant that homes were no longer a satisfactury distance above the water table either, so flooding become an issue after every heavy rainfall and with every rainfall and the continuing aftershocks (almost 10.000 to date since Sept 2010)  more liquification continued, further sinking the land.

In areas like Avonside which already had historical problems with semi-regular floods from the river during high spring and winter tides the land is now lower than the river at normal flow and libal to continue sinking.

As land damage was assessed, areas were catagorised into zones. “Red” means that land repair would be prolonged and uneconomic, ‘Orange” means that further assment is required, “Green”means that repairs or rebuilding can begin and “White” means that more mapping and assessment is needed or is still underway (broadly speaking many of the white zone areas are on or around the Port Hills, where subsidence of retaining walls and the threat of rockfalls are the perdominant factor in their zoning).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So… that’s your lesson in geotechnical engineering for the day… But what does it have to do with my photographs?

Well, our discussion about the various zones led us to the plight of the house where my grandparents lived for many many years.

It’s the house where they spent almost all of their later lives, the house with the front bedroom with the big double bed that my sister and I shared whenever we stayed overnight.

It’s here in the “best” living room next door to that bedroom where my mother and her three brother’s fessed up to all their childhood misdemeanour’s after a long day celebrating my Grandparents 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Among other things, they confessed: close shaves with dynamite, a wire bobby-trap over a bridge that claimed the local constable as it’s victim instead of the school bully who was late that day and a certain West Coast hill fire that a certain Uncle (in his childhood) lit accidently when a matches and secret cigarette combination went horribly wrong.

It might not have been so bad had Granddad not been in the local Volunteer Fire Brigade at the time.

My grandparents, my cousins, sister and I listened agast as the revelations poured out from my mother and her brothers and for every gasp of near disaster there were also tears of laughter at all the funny bits, and in the end we laughed so much it hurt.

It’s here in my Grandmother’s kitchen that I have many a fond memory of my earliest baking efforts, and in their back, less formal living room, many an hour playing card games on folding tray tables tucked up snuggly to well padded armchairs.

The fireplace was in a deco style, with creamy yellow tiles and a thick glass window in the log burner benieth and a poker that I liked pushing embers around with.
The steps by the front door that were painted a shade of blueish grey, that when I was small seemed huge and mountainous, but amazingly they got smaller in later years. The steps out the back by the kitchen lead to my Grandfathers extensive and highly productive and  prized vegetable garden, with the garage at the end of the drive and the glasshouse on the other end of the garage.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s also a house that is now in the Red Zone that will shortly be no more.

We drove there and I spoke to the neighbour to ask if she thought it would be ok if I took photos, (and explained why), she said Yes, she thinks it’s fine: she knows the disabled man living there at the moment but he’s due to move out very soon, his stuff is being packed up into boxes and stacked in the backroom (That used to be the sunroom that Grandad slept in).

She doesn’t think he would mind, he’s out at work at the moment.

I learn from the neighbour that there are only six people left living in the street, the rest have moved away and the land is slowly getting worse with every decent aftershock.

Liquifaction seeps out over everything every time it rains, subsidence is random in depth but everywhere, she advises to drive down the centre of the roads because a few of the puddles in the neighbourhood are hiding really deep sinkholes.

Since the street is almost empty and some of the few who are left are due to move sooner than later, the City Council won’t be repairing the streets any more… the streets will just slowly continue their process of disintigration as the aftershocks of various sizes continue and nature takes back it’s own.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

She tells me that because all the houses in the street are due for demolition soon, that the City Council paid contractors who used to keep the garden neat next door for the disabled neighbour haven’t been there since sometime just after last February’s quake, …so apologies that it’s looking so much more run down that it would in normal circumstances.

I make my way gingerly down the drive.

It’s a short but very emotional journey… the steps out the front are still painted that same shade of blueish gray, the front lawn that had once been my Grandmother’s prize flower garden is now overgrown and derelict, there are deep cracks in the driveway and there is black silty liquefaction over and between the plants all down the side of the drive.

Looking closely there are cracks and chips all over the brickwork of the house, the back steps are now covered up with a ramp for the tenant currently living here, but I remember being daring and jumping off the very top step.

The glass house is gone from behind the garage, there is a small one planted on the other side of the garden where Grandad’s compost heap used to be, but the garage is full of cracks and the garden at the back is as overgrown as the one at the front. Soon, the bulldozers will come, and not just this house, but the whole street and neighbourhood will be razed.

Next time I am in New Zealand this area might be so without landmarks and so overgrown that I may have difficulty finding this spot again.

I wipe away a few tears, say my goodbyes and head slowly back down this familiar driveway of former hopscotch and running races one last time.

I won’t be here to see the bulldozer snuff out the physical life of the place, but that doesn’t matter, it lives on in many happy memories and that’s the way whole neighbourhoods will be for many Christchurch residents now anyway.
We shed a tear for the past but we must always be hopefull that a bright eyed future beckens.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Room on right: I remember it as the sun-room that was also Granddad’s bedroom, to the left of it is the kitchen, and on the other side of the back steps, the laundry.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Cracks continue up the drive and literally cut the garage in half… both through the floor and the brickwork.(I’m pretty sure my father , and ex-carpenter, built this workbench for Granddad, it’s a replica design of one he built in his own garage and still stands today).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Granddad’s glasshouse used to be here, behind the garage.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The room on the left was the guest bedroom, the double bed my sister and I shared had the headboard under the window that faced the drive. The room on the right was Gran’s “best” living room, the one with the china cabinet in it, and where the revelations came to light when the family met together after a day out celebrating  my Grandparents 50th… that night will be remembered fondly for the rest of my days.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Granddad’s sunroom on the corner and the less formal, cosy little living room with the window onto the driveway next to it. I’ll miss the yellow Deco fireplace and stacking things up in the airing cupboard to the left to it…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Already, even in the cracks of the driveway, nature fights to return…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The guest bedroom, the headboard was under this window, my sister and I got to listen to the children’s stories on the radio on Sunday mornings whilst having toast on a tray in bed..

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Back steps, (obscured by the ramp) with Grandma’s kitchen: by her own admission, she wasn’t a great cook, but her sponge cakes  were mind bogglingly tall and light, her slices (bars) and biscuits (cookies) could have revelled any bakery any day of the week and the metal cake tins were always full.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Liquefaction just piles up…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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