International travel has become commonplace these days and as such it’s unusual to find people who have not travelled overseas. Kerrie was one of these rare individuals prior to 8:20am last Friday when we flew out of Brisbane bound for Christchurch.
She has farewelled many people over the years as they descended the stairway to the customs and immigration at Brisbane airport and has always dreamed of one day making that descent herself.
Today was her day and she was almost shaking with excitement as we waited for boarding time. I was fascinated as I watched that excitement blended with nervousness and anticipation.
After we boarded the plane she actually had tears in her eyes.
The flight was great, even with a screaming child directly in front of us and another directly behind, and I must say I shared some of Kerrie’s excitement as we watched the Southern Alps appear below us as we flew over the coast of New Zealand.
Landing in Christchurch was strange after my 35 year absence, and after picking up the rental car we made our way through the outskirts of the city toward the centre.
Everywhere we looked there was damage from the earthquakes. Roads were lumpy and uneven and in many places large holes were still awaiting attention. There were houses apparently untouched while the next door neighbour’s house was severely damaged. Fences had collapsed and many houses had boarded up windows.
The business centre of the city was still quite devastated. The old churches, of which there are many in Christchurch, seemed to be hit hard. These beautiful historic buildings suffered immense damage, especially the inner city ones. We later discovered that this was due to the steeples collapsing into the interior of the buildings.
We passed the magnificent AMI stadium which was built at a cost of $190,000,000 for the Rugby World Cup. We learned later that underneath the foundations of this newly completed stadium are huge caverns of empty space and the whole structure is condemned and will be
We arrived at Bealy Ave which gave us the opportunity to check out the house Vicki and I bought in North Avon Road about 40 years ago when I was about 20. It was a different colour but was identical to how we left it as were the surrounding houses and shops.
We decided to drive to Linwood and then to Aranui where I spent my early teenage years.
Despite the earthquake damage it was exciting to revisit the places of my youth and Kerrie was fascinated as I explained the significance of streets, buildings, parks, schools and the myriad of other sites that caused memories to come flooding back. I was surprised at how little these places had changed and in some cases it was like stepping into a time machine.
Linwood High School had changed little in 45 years since I walked through the grounds as a student and the magnificent Edmonds Park that adjoined our house in Aldwins road was still as I had left it as a child. The prize winning gardens that once surrounded the now demolished
Edmonds Baking Powder factory, (demolished years ago unrelated to the earthquake), were still there, and within the masses of beautiful roses and trees the bluestone grotto where my sister Rosalie was married 52 years ago still stands.
Childhood memories of endless hours at play with the neighbourhood kids flooded back and in my mind I was again flying kites, climbing walnut trees and enjoying crab apple fights that would see the small hard fruits fly at such speed from rubber shanghais that they could dent a corrugated iron fence from 50 yards away.
I believe I could even remember individual trees from whose branches I sat on or hung from for hours.
We moved on along oh so familiar streets, past easily recognisable houses and shops that were still the same then arrived at Aranui where the family moved to when I was about 11 or 12.
There was not the damage here that I expected and much of the area was still pretty much as I left it with the old house in Yarmouth Street untouched by the quake and looking smart and clean, better in fact than I can ever remember.
Even the primary school and the shops were pretty much the same as I remember from 35 years ago.
We moved on out to Brighton and the beach car park where many hours were spent as a teenager with our prized Ford V8s lined up overlooking the sea as we met and congregated with mates. Apart from the old wooden pier that used to poke out into the sea which is now replaced by a new concrete structure the area was largely unchanged from as I remember it.
We made our way back to the city to try and find a motel which proved to be difficult.
Prior to the earthquake Christchurch had a large oversupply of beds but now they are at a premium as so many motels and hotels in the CBD are damaged, condemned, destroyed or demolished.
It was after 8:00pm when we found a place and after unpacking we had the delicious meal of New Zealand fish and chips that we had so eagerly looked forward to.
We settled down to a good night’s sleep marred only by my own stupidity.
On waking about 1:00am I found the need to pay a visit to the bathroom.
I turned the tap on to wash my hands but could not find the soap.
I spotted our two neatly folded towels on the vanity with a sachet of soap unopened on each one.
I opened one of the sachets to find a brown coloured soap within – strange I thought!
Then it dawned on me, this wasn’t soap at all and even though I didn’t have my glasses on I could see they were two complimentary chocolate bars left by the motel. They were a strange brand named “Layettes”.
I eagerly devoured one and then, since Kerrie was asleep and she obviously didn’t want the little treat as she had left them unopened, I deduced that she wouldn’t mind if I scoffed hers as well.
As the last of the 12 little squares of chocolate slipped down the throat I suddenly noticed with horror that the name on the “chocolate” packet wasn’t “Layettes” at all it was “LAXETTES”.
Kerrie had them prescribed a few days previous and just one of these caused her to endure two days of diorreah! I’d just cleaned up 12!
Kerrie was half awake when I got back to the bed and I made the mistake of telling her in a worried voice what had happened. This of course caused her to fully awaken and begin to laugh uncontrollably, and of course this continued for the next two days.
The morning bought a rumbling in my stomach like a hundred goblins in a Gaelic dance session but that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst was feeling like a prize tosser and enduring Kerrie’s jokes for the next two days.