Christchurch


I nearly had an accident the other day in Christchurch. I drove by a billboard and saw Zsa Zsa. I didn’t know my little girl had a modelling career on the side!

IMG_7920It’s a billboard ad for selling sections (what New Zealanders call a block of land) in an estate community. At first glance, I thought wow, that looks just like Zsa Zsa. Great to see English Pointers being used in advertising.

Now, wonder how I can get Zeph into dog modelling haha

I facilitated a workshop in Christchurch this week. Finally, getting some consulting work in New Zealand. To tell you the truth though, I’ve been more than happy to work overseas in Italy and Bhutan. Why? Because for YEARS I was locked into full-time jobs and could never take up the opportunity to work for a short time in another country. In the late 1990s, I was offered a great job in the United States and would have lived in my fav American city, Boston. At the time, I was enjoying a great job in Australia and my mother was living on her own – so I turned the job down. Have often regretted that decision I must say but the timing just wasn’t right.

As much as I love working overseas, I have to admit I get tired of airports, airport security and the long hours stuck on a plane. Not to mention, I miss Zeph and Zsa Zsa terribly and my horses. So when this local consulting opportunity was offered, I snapped it up.

I facilitated a workshop attended by engineers, architects, developers and some local residents. The project discussed was a mixed-development area along the lines of an Italian piazza or city square. It was a great day but what I really enjoyed was the venue – Ilam Homestead. Talk about a gracious old building in a majestic setting of azalea and rhododendron gardens!

Ilam Homestead was originally built in the 1860s but burnt down in 1911. Local identity, Edgar Stead, established the wonderful azalea and rhododendron gardens. When he sold Ilam to Canterbury College, he requested that the gardens be maintained in perpetuity. The University Staff Club (University of Canterbury) occupies the premises as well. There’s a huge fireplace downstairs and wood was crackling away as I left the homestead around 5.00pm. Such atmosphere! In 1994, Ilam Homestead was used for Peter Jackson’s film, Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet.

I had to get to the venue pretty early so the photo below shows you the homestead on approach. I can just imagine how grand it would have been to live in such a stately home, which I’m told was built in the English Domestic Revival architectural style.

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I wanted to show you some earrings I bought recently. They’re from Cloud Nine Creative, which is a design company in the North Canterbury region (I think they’re based in Ohoka). I often look at the fabulous stuff on the website and spotted a couple of contemporary designs I really liked.

One pair of earrings is from the Love Christchurch range and I LOVE the funky red colour and the white heart image. These earrings are described as reflecting “all of the lives that have been forever changed and how the heart of the city can never be destroyed”. I also like the antique bronze bezel setting and the short length.

Just as I was about to hit the Add To Cart button, I spotted another gorgeous pair of earrings called Cream and Green and with a floral pattern. I’m not usually into jewellery in the shape of flowers or with a floral pattern but these earrings are contemporary and stylish. So I added them to the cart; couldn’t resist.

Grand total of NZ74.00 plus postage, which I think was $4.50. Pretty good price for two lovely NZ designed and handmade earrings. I also liked how they arrived – nestled in a white box tied with purple ribbon and thank you card. Attention to detail and great customer service – I ordered the earrings online on a Monday and they arrived two days later on Wednesday.

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The earrings arrived in a little box securely tied.

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Lovely personalised Thank You message.

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The Love Christchurch earrings on the left; with the Cream and Green on the right.

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Aren’t these gorgeous?

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The Cream and Green earrings really add some colour.

Two totally unrelated things to bring you today. I was telling you that Christchurch still shows very obvious signs of damage wrought by the powerful earthquake of 2011. There are pockets of rebuild; some new flashy buildings; or scaffolding around old buildings, presumably an attempt to restore.

I stopped at a traffic light – I think on Tuam Street – and spotted a lovely vintage advertisement on the side of some old building. A sign on the fence surrounding this building and the vacant lot next to it says Portobello Antiques. I think I vaguely remember going into this Antique shop when first arriving in Christchurch. If I’m right, we went in to discuss how my grandmother’s 1880-something chair could be restored after basically being destroyed by the international removalists. Actually, I found some photos of the Portobello Antiques shop after the earthquake wreaked havoc – I do recognise the facade so I think it is the place we visited.

Anyway. I really love the fabulous vintage advertisement for Polson’s Decorators and Signwriters that (I presume) has been exposed since the quake. Pity it was a cloudy day as the pinky red colouring is brighter than it appears in the photo below. I know that there is some sort of photographic project going on that has been documenting all the stuff revealed by earthquake damage. I’m hoping that this great wall advertisement has been recorded as I’d say the building it’s attached to is earmarked for demolition.

I had to laugh at the other curious thing I saw recently in a supermarket in Christchurch. The fruit section proudly displayed a sign saying Kiwifruit – Product of Italy. Kiwifruit is (in New Zealander’s eyes) synonymous with New Zealand despite not being native to this country. Seeds were brought from China to NZ in the early 1900s by a school principal but what I didn’t know until arriving in New Zealand was that Italy is the largest kiwifruit producing country. Coming from Australia, you tend to think of kiwifruit as being a New Zealand product.

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I was in Christchurch the other day and, nearly three years after the devastating earthquake, you can still see obvious signs of damage. But a lot of buildings and rubble have been cleared away; new construction has popped up on the landscape; and you can sense renewed energy and excitement.

We were visiting the Epic Innovation centre, which aims to create an environment for innovation-based companies in the Canterbury area. It’s a wonderful open plan building with central break-out areas. Dotted around Christchurch now are some fabulous cafes too, so it’s just a matter of time before the new Christchurch reveals itself. Can’t wait!

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Just before the CRAP weather and snow hit us, El Hubs and I had a Big Day Out in Christchurch. We dropped Zeph and Zsa Zsa off at puppy day care (despite them no longer being puppies) and off we headed. It was raining but that didn’t deter us. First stop was Ballantynes – the well-loved department store that survived the 2011 quake.

El Hubs was off to a business meeting so that left me with a couple of hours to enjoy my fav carrot cake and have a good old browse. I bought a cute little coin purse from Briarwood, an NZ brand, which I’ll show you in my next post. I was also this close to buying an ice-cream scoop server with a brightly coloured handle.

I checked out the Re:START mall as it’s known. There are over 50 retailers set up in brightly-coloured shipping containers with Ballantynes serving as the focal point. What I really like is the coffee shops set up in funky containers and also the landscaping in the mall.

Driving towards Ballantynes, we both had a hard time recalling what building used to stand on a particular street corner or where we were actually located. The cityscape has changed so much because quake-ravaged buildings have been raised to the ground, rubble has been cleared and new buildings have popped up. El Hubs attended a meeting in an entirely new building – the EPIC Centre, which is a centre for innovation-based companies in Canterbury. It opened in October 2012 and we have been busy trying to remember what on earth stood on this spot before the quake.

There’s a flurry of building activity going on and 58 international entries were received to design a new city space for Christchurch. The City Council has also been busy repairing or restoring around 30 community facilities. After not having been in Christchurch for quite some time, it was amazing to see how the city has changed. Sadly, many of the historic buildings didn’t survive and I wonder how the new buildings, which are more contemporary, will alter the city that I chose to live in. Well, I live about 40 minutes out of Christchurch but we both adored the pre-quake Garden City with its quaint, historic appeal.

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First stop – Ballantynes’ JB’s cafe and my fav carrot cake. Yummo!

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Cute penguin display outside in the Re:START mall.

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Some of the retailers in colourful shipping containers.

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Part of the Re:START mall.

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Really wanted the ice-cream scoop server on the right.

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Saw this book on display in Ballantynes – loved the title!

I was getting a bit worried about the cherry blossom. It wasn’t wakening from its winter slumber. Since I arrived back from Sweden in early September, the cherry blossoms have been out and about in Christchurch and the Oxford district. Christchurch city and suburbs are bursting with pastel colours.

But my cherry blossom? Nope. No signs of anything happening until late last week when I spotted tiny buds. And then literally, overnight, the cherry blossom gracefully unfolded its delicate pink and white flowers as if to say see, it was worth the wait. And indeed it was worth the wait. The blossoms are a creamy pearl colour interspersed with dusky pink. But already the petals are floating to the ground. So I won’t be able to enjoy its beauty for too much longer I suspect.

Every day, I stand underneath its branches and feel like I’m enfolded in a pastel pink and white umbrella. The tree is next to the weeping willow, which is also cascading its fronds in full glory along with the daffodils waving their cheery heads.

This is my favourite time of year in New Zealand. Just before the heat of summer. Yep, it can get hot here. Not as hot as Oz but the days are warm enough to break out a sweat. Right now, the evenings and mornings are a bit cool and daytime isn’t T-shirt weather just yet. But evidence of the approaching warm weather is everywhere.

The grass is growing faster than we can mow it. Spring lambs are jumping up and down on the sheep property next to us. Baby rabbits are scooting across the paddocks. Birds are happily chirping and the sun is (usually) shining on blue sky days.

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