2011 – Year of the Rabbit. According to Chinese tradition:
“A rabbit year is quiet, giving respite after the year of the tiger. The Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves.”
We got stuck into 2011 and like many in this world we were quietly optimistic it would be better than 2010. Christchurch would stop shaking, damaged properties and homes would soon be repaired, the world’s leaden financial markets would waft effortlessly higher and life would again resemble a fleet of fluffy ducks paddling prodigiously on the perfect pond of perpetuity.
Right, let’s get the first of those myths out of the way. In 2011 Christchurch wobbled its way down the league of NZ cities to third place, losing its second city status to Wellington as the depopulation effect started to bite and people moved somewhere else for a bite. After the February earthquake (you may recall my jottings about that little event), it took some months for my bottom to stop chewing my underpants. We wandered around the parts of the city that were still accessible and along with much of the local population our frozen faces and glazed eyes reflected the shock and grim reality of a city laid to waste in 20 seconds. At the time I found myself singing (just inside my head you understand), Paul Simon’s lyrics from American Tune:
I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
Don’t have a friend who feels at ease
Don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to it’s knees.
Humour me – it just seemed to sum up the situation at a time when my own words wouldn’t work wonders.
At the risk of invoking compassion fatigue, here’s a few pics from that period. Some are mine and some were taken by people who know how to use a camera.
B is for bricks and why they’re not a good idea in an earthquake area:
C is for Collapsing Business District
H is for humour
R is for roads – reminiscent of Romania
Z is for Zeitgeist
And this? It’s just a house in France:
The chromagraphic Christchurch catastrophe slowly produced a plan for the rebuild. We all contributed ideas and I voted to open floating gin palaces on the Avon, give all the residents $1 million to spend on hallucinatory substances and free foreign holidays for the over 60’s. Unfortunately my voting paper seems to have been different to everyone else’s and it seems we’ll end up with a modern low-rise city with a preponderance of parks, green gaps, amenities for Africa and techie trams trundling to town and taverns. A ban on floating gin palaces and draconian restrictions on the use of hallucinatory substances outside of Council offices now seems likely.
The current phase of work is demolition and site clearance. There are 1,200 buildings in the Central Business District to deconstruct (half of the total) and by the time that job is done, Christchurch will be left with about 2 hotels and a couple of high-rise office buildings and pretty much nothing else of note.
In the interim we are getting temporary pop-up malls made from shipping containers which will work as shops and entertainment venues in the centre and in some of the suburbs. To give you an idea of how this looks, here’s a view of Cashel Street Mall in the CBD in winter 2010 – before the February 2011 earthquake:
You can just see the bridge of remembrance in the background (RHS).
In Merivale you may remember this picture of our local shopping street:
Right that’s it for my travel pictures of Haiti.
When we get to the point where the city has been demolished, Bob the Builder can move in and hopefully Christchurch can transition from Annus Horribillis to Builder’s Bumibillis. Aside from building a new city – pretty much from scratch, there are 100,000 homes in Christchurch that need replacing or repairing. Before any of that can happen seismic activity has to drop a bit lower. You may have heard that on the 23rd December the little tectonic terrors decided to practice Christmas Shopping Interruptis and delivered us 65 aftershocks in a 24 hour period – 28 of which were between 4.0 and 6.0 on the Wrecked ‘er Scale.
It’s been an interesting year on the global stage. In Euroland the financial crisis lurched forward and back and the headache-inducing problems forced them to change their Facebook status from Single to It’s Complicated. Remarkably, after 535 days without a proper leader, (breaking the modern-day world record for failing to form a government and in the process making war-torn Iraq look like amateurs), Belgium surmounted the linguistic and cultural stand-off that threatened to wipe it from the map, and agreed to form a coalition in the name of sorting out its finances.
Sarkozy and Merkel’s on-going financial Tom and Jerry show has alternated in the headlines with the Agatha Christie-style plays; The Death of a Despot, Murder on the Baghdad Express, The Death of Another Despot and the new hit: Beloved Leader or, My Name’s Kim Yong, but my Doctor calls me ill.
For those of us mad enough to try and eke out a living by investing in shares or trading commodities, it has been a long year filled alternatively with despair and deeper despair. In summary, shipping companies stayed on an even keel, Coca-Cola ended flat, nappies remained unchanged whilst paper tissues touched new bottoms. There was a significant Jobs loss at Apple, Caterpillar inched up, the market for raisins dried up and pencils lost a few points. Even knives were down sharply.
In many ways it was better to be in New Zealand in 2011. Far from the madding world, our national problems were fewer than in most other countries (natural disasters aside). We had a general election (nothing much to report there). We did have the slightly odd situation where an export order of Astrolabe Wines met their undoing when the “Rena” ran aground on Astrolabe Reef shortly after leaving Tauranga harbour. It is alleged the crew had been drinking at the time. I wonder if they were consuming Astrolabe wines?
And you may remember the large effort expended on saving an Emperor Penguin after he forgot everything his parents had taught him and thought he could eat sand. He became world famous for several weeks but may also have met a sticky end as he was transformed from Happy Feet the Pampered Penguin into Happy Meal at the Killer Whale Penguin Bar.
Demand for our Agricultural products reached new highs and we all looked forward to the exciting game of estimating important economic milestones such as; how many million racks of lamb were likely to be produced if the weather was good in Spring and how many gazillion kilos of prime beef would find its way onto foreign barbeques and restaurant tables. As the number of cows munching placidly on the forever-green-and-rolling pasture land, surpassed the human population for the first time (and in the process managed to produce a frothy 17billion litres of milk), sheep farmers suddenly recognised that their supreme spot for exports was being challenged and embarked on a new program to produce smarter sheep.
To be honest for most of the year I thought Christmas was going to end up looking like this:
But very slowly and tentatively things seem to be improving and even though Standard & Poor downgraded the USA’s credit rating from AAA to AA (and who knew they’d been using the wrong batteries all that time?), I have to question what did they expect from a ratings agency called Standard and Poor? Why on earth didn’t they choose one called Above Average and Stinking Rich?
Crouch, Touch, Pause… Engage:
There have of course been some good bits to this year. One of which was the introduction of Pippa Middleton’s bum to the world and the associated sideshow of a Royal Wedding.
We had the excitement of hosting a Rugby World Cup. Well many places in New Zealand did but here in Christchurch we were disenfranchised for being naughty and letting an earthquake ruin our expensively enlarged and refurbished stadium. We were punished by being made to stay home and watch the matches on the telly. But I have to confess, I watched all the matches and enjoyed it heaps, even when one South African commentator promised me I was in for “A good game of Rigby.”
There were controversies in the Rugby World Cup (of course), but amongst all the misdemeanours the one that stood out in my mind was that of the Samoan team manager Mathew Vaea. Caught drinking to excess during the tournament, leaders in his Samoan village ordered him to pay a fine of 100 sows for tarnishing his title. I wonder what the equivalent fine should have been for some of the England players?
The New Zealand All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw hails from the wee hamlet of Kurow. The good (lamb) burghers of Kurow idolise Richie – even more now we actually won the tournament and try pretty hard to promote their spot on the banks of the Waitaki river with innovate hay bale sculptures like this one:
But I think the local meat pie company had the better promotion and made the tastiest score of the competition by offering a mince n’ cheese pie bearing the following instructions: “Unwrap, Pause… Engage”.
Movin’ On To The End Bit:
Jane has been head-down at The University of Canterbury this year and is wedging in a couple more papers at Summer School towards her BA. The earthquakes have been just a little bit disruptive and for a while lectures were held in a tent, a pub, a cemetery and a Forestry Department disabled-toilet-for-male-only-trees. “Bye dear, off to University this morning?” “Nah can’t be arsed, think I’ll see who’s in the toilets, hang out at the pub then hit the cemetery.”
William, (when not wearing a flouro Warden’s jacket and shepherding people out of earthquake hit areas) is working for Ballantyne’s department store in the trendy “Contemporary Lounge”. He has lost lots of weight and because of easy access to nifty clothes, tends to replace his entire wardrobe every other pay day.
William pictured here with a strange looking fella, reports that Santa spilled the beans on many children’s wishes for Christmas. Right up there in the top choices list was; “No more earthquakes please.”
Forthcoming adventures? We are planning a little overseas jaunt for 2012. I won’t go into detail (as you are probably asleep by now), but here’s a couple of clues; I need to confront my phobia of German sausages, (as I fear the wurst) and, as part of my preparations I’ve just ordered a French Army knife – it’s like a Swiss Army knife but it has 6 corkscrews, 3 cheese knives and a little white flag.
Well that pretty much wraps up my view of the year we euphemistically called “2011”.
Jane tells me I’m now sounding like a news reader – more on that story later.