I used to go there every second week. At fourteen I fell in love with the place from 30,000 feet up. Through cloud cover. At night.
I didn’t fall in love with Christchurch because it was pretty or interesting -it is neither. But it is neither in the way the shy girl in accounting is neither; there is something about her that you just won’t understand.
She has a secret. She likes it this way. It’s probably your loss. This is why she smiles.
Christchurch has my love because they make the best beer in New Zealand but none of the locals think it’s any good.
Christchurch has my love because it is a place where millionaires like my old boss grow corn in their front yard beside their SUV just to see if they can. (They can. But his turnips were more of a success.)
Christchurch has my love because literally everyone shops at indy bookshops and it apparently has the highest number of library cards per capita out of any city in the world. (There is a joke that NZ has the highest number of per capita statistics per capita out of any country in the world. It’s funny cos it’s true. You should see their version of the medal table during the Olympics. You need a calculator to work out who is actually winning.)
Christchurch has my love because you can never get anybody on the phone after lunch on a sunny day in winter -they have all gone up the mountain to ski.
This is why this earthquake business is upsetting.
Doubly so because it is personal. My partner’s aunt is missing.
Looking for silver linings, she is the “good” kind of missing. Her colleagues piled her into an ambulance after a suspected heart attack from the first quake and nobody knows where that ambulance went.
As you can probably imagine there are triage sites in parks all over town, the hospitals are spilling into their carparks and so on. So whilst nobody can locate her, at least she is not missing the way most of those on Google’s people finder are missing.
You never feel the distance of being a double-migrant more than when something bad happens. Because there is obviously so little you can do.
This occurred to me on Saturday as we explored the Santa Maria del Mar cathedral in Barcelona. With a name like that, I expected it to have quite a lwa vibe. It didn’t. It was much more of an Isis vibe. (More about this is in a later post.)
It was Isis in her wifely role -first wondering what became of her husband- and then, grief stricken, travelling up and down the land collecting the pieces of his corpse.
How many wives, down through the centuries, would come to Santa Maria del Mar as storms rolled off the Mediterranean while their husbands were still out fishing? How many daughters have passed the night in prayer as the rain lashed the stained glass windows with a hiss like a giant sea serpent? This was very much a woman’s space… A family space.
It was a space you would go when you realised there was nothing else you could do.
Kia Kaha Christchurch.