19th May 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

A brief addendum to my previous entry:

  1. I have now been in New Zealand two years (the anniversary was actually earlier this week, but I forgot).
  2. I’ve applied for – and been granted – a permanent residency visa. This means that I can freely travel to and from the country as a resident. The next stage will be citizenship, which will become available in three years time.

Hope all well / stay safe.

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14th May 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

The video of Shigeru Ban’s recent talk about his work and the cardboard cathedral is finally available to Net punters here and is well worth a viewing. The projects he has been involved with are hugely impressive and the way he says the phrase “paper tube” is delightful.

Winter approacheth New Zealand; the top of the Port Hills may get a wee dusting of snow over the next couple of days. I semi-hibernate during this period so updates via this medium may not be all that frequent, dependent upon what happens over here (you never know). I’m just trying to plough on as usual.

Hope all well / stay safe.

29th April 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

This is my 100th blog post, apparently.

I have got back into the swing of things after returning from the UK but have been suffering from both jet-lag and a bad cold (presumably picked up from the journey back), resulting in a lack of sleep and a day off of work respectively.

There’s not a huge amount to report, to be honest; I’m pretty much just ploughing on as usual. I’ve already felt my first aftershock since returning so am already feeling like I have never been away!

The weather this Autumn whilst I have been back has been reasonably good after a generally mediocre summer. I am starting to use the lights on the bike whilst commuting as the nights draw in – we’ve had some chilly evenings already.

Last weekend, I went to a couple of very interesting talks which had an architectural bent, organised by the Art Gallery here in Christchurch. The first was by Mark Burry, Executive Architect and at the stupendous Sagrada Família in Barcelona, where he detailed some of the design and construction techniques used upon the building. The second was by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has designed the transitional (“cardboard”) cathedral for the city, the construction of which is about to start.  Mr Ban detailed some of his commercial designs and the work he has done in areas of the world affected by natural disasters before talking more about his ingenious cathedral design. I went to the talk with an open mind but by the end was completely won over by the man and his designs – I feel we should be honoured to have his work grace our city.

His talk was recorded and will be put up on the Art Gallery’s website soon; when it is, I’ll put a link up on here.

Deconstruction has started on the cathedral with no lessening in the level of cries of protest at the loss of the building by various organisations and members of the public. A big hotel in town – the Crowne Plaza – has just been demolished and I got some pictures and footage a few days ago:


In other news, a band that I am a member of is currently recording a cover version of this tune:

We could do with some backing vocals. If you have the ways and means to record yourself digitally and would like to do so, please send a recording of you singing/shouting/whispering/talking the phrase “Hit The North!” and we will include your vocals within the song. Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Hope all well / stay safe.

15th April 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

Apologies for the length of time between the last update and this. You see, I’ve been back to the UK.

As soon as I bought my house in December of last year, I’d thought about going back to Blighty in order to sort my possessions out that were still over there. As you may remember, they were held in a storage unit because when I left for NZ, I didn’t know whether I was going to stay there or ultimately return. Once I had decided to stay, I wanted to get my stuff shipped over to NZ as soon as possible. The unit wasn’t cheap and the furnishing in my house here in Christchurch is currently pretty minimalist at best.

I flew back at the end of March, primarily to avoid having to negociate Heathrow airport in full Olympics mode in the summer. As the amount of time I had off from work wasn’t very much, I did the trip in one go: Christchurch to Singapore and Singapore to London. It’s a long way and I had forgotten quite how far it was. The journey from door to door (staying with my parents in Somerset) took a total of approximately 36 hours, of which I slept about 3.

The first week was spent suffering jetlag and sorting out my storage unit stuff: giving away some of the furniture and possessions that I no longer needed and preparing the rest for shipping. This primarily involved thoroughly cleaning the bikes that were going to be sent as NZ has quite strict bio-security rules about the state of cleanliness of items being imported.

I had arranged with a Kiwi company for my stuff to be sent from Blighty to New Zealand. They in turn contacted a UK company to pack the stuff up and put it into a container to be shipped via boat. The lorry arrived at the storage unit at the start of my second week:

The two blokes who arrived completely repacked everything – they took all the items I wanted shipped out of the boxes I had put them (rather haphazardly) into and repacked them in their own boxes. Here’s some of the stuff in the unit boxed and ready to go:

Here’s the stuff in the lorry:

The packing blokes did a great job and everything was loaded within a couple of hours or so. I shall next see everything in a couple of months, when I also find out whether NZ customs deemed that any items needed fumigating as part of the bio-security regulations. They charge you for the privilege if they do this!

I gave one of my UK bikes away but the other four are being shipped. Here they are prior to being packed, looking the cleanest they have for a long time:

The rest of my time in the UK was spent meeting up with various friends and included a big family get-together at my parents’ house on Easter Sunday. Here I experienced the possible highlight of my visit – South Petherton’s annual duck race:

It was great to see everyone again and I’d like to thank all those that I met up with, provided taxi services or helped in any other way. Also a big “thank you” to my Mum and Dad for putting me up and allowing me to pinch their car and drive around a lot of South-West England in order to see people.

Oh, and I ate lots of curry, too.

It was interesting to see that the subject of earthquakes was mentioned within pretty much every conversation I had with people and many enquired as to the current state of the city.

The return flights to Christchurch were similarly gruelling; I arrived home yesterday morning. I’m yet again in the depths of jetlag, having awoken at 3am this morning. I’m certainly not looking forward to the return to work tomorrow.

After three weeks of having nothing done to it, the garden resembles the depths of the Borneo jungle.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Christchurch had a few wobbles whilst I was away including a couple of magnitude 4 shakes.

Work on deconstructing the cathedral in the city centre has begun, even if some people think it shouldn’t have happened: link here.

The clocks went back whilst I was away, so it’s getting dark earlier and we’re about to plunge into another southern hemisphere winter. That said, the weather wasn’t too bad whilst I was away and it got to 20 degrees here in warm sunshine earlier today.

Hope all well / stay safe.

17th March 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

We’re now officially in Autumn here in New Zealand. The days are getting shorter and it’s now still dark when I haul myself out of bed first thing in the morning. It’s getting dark around 8pm and the clocks are due to change in a few weeks time.

The weather has been pretty average – some good days, some bad. We had one of the former today – clear blue skies, mid-twenties temperatures.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, earthquake-related stuff still takes a lot of the local headlines. The demolition work continues apace and even now, some buildings are closed off at short notice as they are found under inspection to not be compliant with building regulations in respect to earthquake standards. An example of this is my local shopping mall (aka “shopping centre” in UK money) where a total of fourteen shops have had to be closed whilst remedial structural improvements are made.

An announcement was made last week by the Anglican Bishop that the Cathedral is going to be deconstructed as the damage sustained by the February quake and subsequent aftershocks is too much to be economically fixed. It is proposed that the building is demolished to approximately two to three metres height. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has provoked a large amount of discussion within the city, the media and elsewhere in New Zealand. The earthquake recovery authority recently published a short YouTube video detailing the damage caused:

For the last couple of weekends, the cathedral square walkway has been reopened in light of the deconstruction announcement. This is so that people can go and see the cathedral for the last time before work begins. I went in a couple of times with friends and was rather shocked to see how badly damaged the building was:

I also went to the “Canterbury Earthquake” exhibition at the Canterbury Museum last weekend. This included various exhibits associated with the shakes we’ve had, including a moving film of people telling their stories of where they were and what happened to them. There’s also one of the cathedral bells (on loan from storage), the cross from the top of the cathedral spire:

… and the Godley statue, complete with dented head from when it fell from its plinth in Cathedral Square:

There has been no news regarding the “cardboard cathedral” for a while now – it’s gone a bit quiet on that front.

The Gap Filler organisation has been innovative in the way it uses spaces created by demolished buildings – it has recently opened a “Dance-O-Mat” facility in the city centre. Also, legendary Christchurch video retail outlet Alice In Videoland has recently reopened.

There have been some bands play on the Archery Lawn of the Botanic Gardens during Sunday afternoons for the Summer months and I went along to one of these events to see The Eastern play. They’re a band based in Lyttelton, just over the hill from Chch, who did a lot for people who had been badly affected by the quakes and are one of the main instigators of the Harbour Union project.

In more domestic matters, I’ve started doing a few bits and pieces on the house. The first was to get the carpet in the bathroom replaced (yuck!) and I have spent the last couple of weekends painting the kitchen. Previously there was “old person’s” wallpaper there (see here); now I have painted over it with a neutral yellowy-white, which is much better. A shame it took a total of five coats to do properly! (The lass in the paint shop said it’d only take two…)

We are still ringing at Papanui and recently rung a Quarter-Peal as a farewell to the Dean of the cathedral, who is leaving to become a city councillor.

Hope all well / stay safe.

19th February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

People who have lived in Christchurch for a while have been rueing over the fact that this summer has been pretty poor in terms of the weather – we had a few good days over the Christmas period but the last couple of week have been rubbish, frankly – mainly just overcast, sometimes a bit of rain, other times not. We’re in February, which is supposed to be the peak of the good weather but this year, it just hasn’t really happened. Yesterday, however, was glorious with clear blue skies and warm temperatures but that was the exception rather than the rule and we’re back to overcast skies again today. The forecast isn’t very hopeful either, with rain forecast for several days this week.

Autumn is fast approaching and it’s already obvious that the nights are drawing in earlier than last month and it’s also getting light later in the morning.

A lot of my Copious Free Time is spent doing stuff associated with the house – I’m looking at painting the kitchen/dining area and am currently deciding upon a colour to use. The bathroom has had some vinyl flooring laid and I’ve also had a quote for adding insulation to the house – both up in the ceiling and under the floors. The NZ Government run a scheme where you get a 33% discount on the price if you upgrade to a minimum standard of insulation, so it’s well worth considering.

I spend a reasonable chunk of my weekends just keeping the garden in a tidy state and have taken some advice from a learned friend concerning plants to add to a couple of empty spaces in the borders adjacent to the driveway.

In terms of other social activities, I went to a gig last night with my friend Jo. We went to see a band called Minisnap, who are formed from three-quarters of legendary Kiwi band The Bats. The gig took place at a relatively new venue called “Dux Live“, run by the people who own a renowned local pub called the Dux De Lux. Unfortunately, the pub is still closed due to earthquake damage and arguments between the owners and Christchurch city council concerning what needs to be done in order to make the building safe, so the owners have opened the venue instead. It’s located just outside the city centre in the suburb of Addington. Prior to the gig, we had a bite to eat at an excellent Chinese vegetarian restaurant called the Welcome Cafe. The menu is immense and I hope to make my way through it over th ecoming months.

We’re rapidly approaching the first anniversary of the magnitude 6.3 aftershock which caused so much destruction and claimed so many lives. There are a number of events planned to take place on Wednesday, including a period of two minutes silence at 12.51pm, the time that the quake hit.

Building demolition continues apace. Even after a year’s worth of demolition, there are still plenty of buildings still standing that will need to be brought down. Someone posted a recent picture to Facebook which had a 180 degree panorama of the much-reduced city centre and indicated that there were still several buildings within the imediate city centre which needed to be demolished. We’re also expecting to hear an announcement soon from the cathedral authorities concerning the fate of the building.

Things are still happening in the city. An interesting project which happened recently was the cycle-powered cinema which took place in the city which showed films with a cycling theme. The Ellerslie flower show has just been and gone and we’ve also recently had the Chinese lantern festival.

<Insert standard “We’re still experiencing aftershocks” paragraph here>

Hope all well / stay safe.

6th February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2012 by New Fiend

Kia Ora,

It’s a public holiday here in New Zealand today – Waitangi Day. It commenorates the signing of the Treaty Of Waitangi in 1840 when Great Britain was effectively given sovereignty over New Zealand. Wikipedia says: “It is generally considered the founding document of New Zealand as a nation.”

It’s customary for the Prime Minister to go up to Waitangi (up in the Bay Of Islands at the top of the North Island) on this day and meet with Maori leaders. This year has seen protests as the ruling National Party is planning to allow the partial privatisation of “SOAs” (state-owned assets), such as power companies. The Maori Party, who is part of the government coalition, is against this legislation. The PM got drowned out when he tried to make a speech yesterday and was cut short.

Also in the news recently is lots of bickering and argument within Christchurch City Council. The Chief Executive was recently given a sizeable pay rise, to much public outcry. There was a large protest outside the council offices last week when over 1,000 people were estimated to have turned up. In the end, Tony Marryatt, the CEO in question, bowed to public pressure and turned down the larger salary but there are still rumblings of disquiet and claims that the council is “disfunctional”. The royal commission hearings continue, with stories of poor identification of unsafe buildings after September and calls for the whole process to allow demolition to be speeded up. In happier news, work has begun on the first multi-storey building to be constructed in the city centre since last February – the offices of an estate agent. The Chief Executive’s office will be located on the top (fourth) floor.

After having a few days of mediocre dull weather, the sun came out in time for the day off work. It’s currently 23 degrees outside – considerably warmer than back in the UK, as I understand it.

I had a bit of a social gathering a couple of days ago: a house-warming party. Having not done much “entertaining” previously, I was a bit nervous but all seemed to go well, with plenty of drinks & nibbles widely available throughout. About thirty or so people came and went during the afternoon, and I’d like to thank my self-appointed helpers who managed everything so well whilst I was socialising and playing the Gracious Host! I even got given a “Silty” – a wonderful present. It’s a brick made from the liquefaction which appeared in Hagley Park caused by the destructive earthquake of the 22nd of February 2011.

I haven’t been into Chch’s city centre for a while but apparently the demolition of the BNZ building, my ex-work place, has started. I’ll endeavour to get into town at some point and see whether there’s anything worth photographing.

Bellringing at Papanui continues apace and we’ve rung a couple of quarter-peals recently. One was for the induction of the new vicar and the other for a significant birthday (details here and here). The latter was followed by an excellent meal at an excellent Christchurch curry house.

And, of course, we’re still getting wobbles (not trying to sound like a stuck record here). We had a magnitude 3.5 at 6.30 this morning, for example, and are homing in towards the 10,000 aftershock total according to Canterbury Quake Live.

Hope all well / stay safe.