Tuesday 7 December 2010


After a day in the car, I was a little bit dazed and confused when I reached Christchurch. So much so that it took a little while for my brain to process the significance of all the barriers, ‘No Entry’ signs and evidence of construction. My first thought was ‘oh, they must be doing some major roadworks.’ And then I remembered … ‘oh yes, because they had that huge earthquake.’ That’s right.

I will say though (and this was particularly on my mind because I saw footage of Haiti on the news last night) that – and not to belittle the suffering the Cantabrians (for that is what the locals are called) have unquestionably endured – that Christchurch and Haiti are an object lesson in the different effects of natural disasters in the developed and developing world. Yes, several roads in the cty centre are closed to traffic and many buildings have scaffolding around them. But for all that, the city remains a charming place to walk around on a summer’s evening.

Before I went, someone told me that Christchurch reminds them of Cambridge (the one in England). Yes, there’s something to this, given that the local university appears to have been modelled on Oxbridge and punting is a popular pasttime. For me, though, it was more like the city founders had taken their favourite elements of England, dropped them in a blender and announced that the result would be known as Christchurch.

At the centre of the city is the Anglican cathedral and I happened to be passing by as the bells were ringing for evensong. And, you know, going to evensong was just exactly what I felt like doing at that moment so I went in. The choir was good (men and boys) and they sang some lovely Byrd and also an anthem by someone called Adrian Batten, a Jacobean composer. I love evensong because its form seems so perfectly fitted to its function: its all about closing the day, asking for rest and peace. And while the last week has been stimulating and interesting, I can’t say it’s been particularly restful. So I did ask for peace and felt very rested afterwards.

(The clergy at the cathedral were headsets/microphones a la Britney Spears. I found this somewhat disconcerting.)

After the service I walked to the river Avon and hoped fervently to see some punters but alas there were none.

I did see Captain Cook, though, and Queen Victoria who stands with her back turned firmly to him.

And that’s about all I had time for. Lovely way to spend a Sunday evening, though.

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