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Monday, 28 February 2011

The earthquake


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New Zealand has suffered one of its worst earthquakes in living memory; Mel and I are currently living a few hundred kms from the city of Christchurch, which has been hit hardest. I hope all those who are affected by the quake can take some comfort from the fact that the world stands with them. Something that has been made abundantly clear by the media coverage is that New Zealand has stepped up to the plate and has already begun to help in any way they can. Some of my new colleagues at Sound Stage have been talking of their friends who live there and also of the impact of loosing so many beautiful old buildings, so many of which have collapsed or are completely unstable. It’s not the first time Mel and I have been so close to such a disaster. If nothing else, it gives us greater perspective and resolve to continue on our adventure, as none of us know what the future holds.

The earthquake came at a time when almost everything has been going very well for us here in Nelson. We have enjoyed house-sits, I have started new jobs and we have both been enjoying working on ‘Brassed Off’.

We finished house-sitting at Sue and John’s towards the end of last week and we moved to a hostel called ‘Shortbread Cottage’ which is on Trafalgar Street, opposite the Nelson sports arena which will house a few of the Rugby World Cup matches this year. We have been cleaning there in exchange for free accommodation, in this instance, a campervan parked at the front of the building. It has been ok. Mel has had to brave the hairy shower plug holes and endless washing far more often than I have, as I have been combining my Sound Stage teaching with supply teaching at a secondary school in nearby Richmond, called Waimea College. So between us we have been really busy – lots of cleaning, teaching, rehearsing and still the constant search for jobs and long term accommodation of the WWOOF variety have kept us completely occupied. I’m starting to feel as jaded as I did before we left the UK.

We have found time for one or two pleasures during the last week or so. We went and had dinner with Hugh and Judith Neil, directors of ‘Theatre Alive’, last Friday. Judith had cooked up a magnificent meal which included our favourite – Thai Green Curry. Mel and I made some plum and apple crumble which we all enjoyed for dessert, topped with coconut cream. And to finish it all off, a large tot of single malt whiskey. Needless to say; we slept all the better after that.

Life cleaning at the hostel was to end rather more quickly than we had perhaps had anticipated. During our search for longer term residency, we came across Fairfield House. A superb Victorian property, quite close to Tom and Ngaire’s place which is now used for all sorts of corporate functions and community events. Catherine Brosnehan is in sole charge of the day to day running of the place, which sits on a few acres. She has the help of her daughter Shannon and also other WWOOFers. We touched base with her and she invited us up to meet her on the Saturday following dinner at Hugh and Judith’s. A chance to meet us and rope us in to helping to set up for the Brazilian night being held there that evening. We duly obliged, and although we didn’t get to see all that much of Catherine, we were treated to great music and good company. Mel met a lady named Zoe, who offered to let us stay at her place out at Cable Bay, in exchange for a few hours labour a day. As you know, we love Cable Bay, so within the next few days we had seen the property, a 3 bedroomed, timber structure with extensive views of the surrounding bay and mountains. Zoe explained which trees needed felling, which weeds needed whacking and here we are.

It is now Sunday evening, the 27th February 2011, 7:15pm. Mel is in the kitchen cooking scones and a Moroccan tagine on the wood burning stove whilst I sit, typing away on my first proper blog in around 3 weeks. I have been very busy though! The sun has started to lower behind the house, which is set into the side of a hill, just of the only road in and out of the bay. I can see sheep across the water on the other side of the inlet, scampering to catch the last warmth of the sun before setting down to sleep under the clear skies on what looks to be another picture perfect night to come. The view is somewhat less impeded than it was since we severely chopped back a particularly vociferous Jacaranda tree which had been threatening to engulf the entire house until we took to it with a chain saw.

I can smell the spices of the tagine, sweet and aromatic, and I can feel the squeaky clean wooden floor boards against my bare feet, a reassuring feeling of a job well done – I scrubbed the floor just an hour ago. Opposite me on the table is a glass with rosemary, thyme and pink rose buds, all freshly cut from the garden that steeply slops away from the house, down to my left where it joins the rising waters of a near high tide.

We went kayaking a couple of hours ago. Zoe has a small boat shed which houses a few seaworthy vessels, and a 2 seater kayak among the score. It was windy, but we both still enjoyed it.


Mel loves Kayaking, almost as much as sitting in the sun, so to be able to do the both together must equate to Norwich City winning the FA Cup to me. She is tired now, having been working so hard in the kitchen since we stowed away our boat and made our way up the winding path to the house. I better go. I think dinner will be ready soon. I’ll write again very soon.

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