Farewell Old Lyttelton

Demoralition: the experience of watching all the beautiful buildings in your town being torn down crudely by demolition gangs.


It’s the Little Things…

I remember the small stuff.

It’s funny what sticks in your mind after something like this.  Things in my office that I’ll never see again.  None of it is important really but it’s strange, I know exactly where it’s probably sitting (lying) in that room that I’ve spent a large part of my life for the past 3 years.  A room which will no longer exist in a matter of days or weeks when the wrecking ball comes.

The view from our 4th floor office to the east was amazing.  Madras St was the final strip of ‘skyscrapers’ in the central city east.  Beyond our building was just houses and suburbs to the sea.  Our shared kitchen and staff room was the scene of many great debates, conversations and delicious lunches.  Head-shaking over letters to the editor, discussions about the ‘correct’ way to load the dishwasher, backyard permaculture, recycling and generally putting the world to rights.

So many people lost so much more in buildings just a block away.  So many people didn’t get to walk out into the drizzle of a dreary Tuesday lunchtime and count themselves lucky.

I walked over papers, furniture, broken glass, out into the rest of my life.

But I remember the little things – an umbrella, a rain jacket, two photos of Seraphine, a box of chocolates I was saving for my colleagues, birthday cards, some books of poetry, a phone charger, my diary, a notebook from Bulgaria.

All so clear in my mind, lying there like lost toy soldiers in the garden.

What to give the planet for Christmas?

Saw this on one of our favourite websites World Sweet World.  It’s the precis for an article on building your own bike trailer – something we had our own feature on this year…

While around a quarter of all the energy we use in New Zealand is for transport, two thirds of the trips we actually make are less than six kilometres. If you calculate the embedded energy used to get your food on your table (how much energy is used for the farmer to fertilise the field, to run the tractor, package it, transport it to market, etc.), you are likely to double that amount by driving to the supermarket to do the shopping. It’s relatively easy to make big energy savings here and you’ll be better off health- and wallet-wise in the process.

–          World Sweet World – Steven Muir, Issue #9

So, what to give the planet for Christmas?

How about a break?

But what about the internet?

Family watching television, c. 1958

Family watching television, c. 1958

This little morsel was posted on Eat Smart Age Smart: (not a recommended website BTW)

Researchers found that how much time New Zealand children spend watching television is a better predictor of obesity than what they eat or how much they exercise. The study found that 41 percent of the children who were overweight by age 26 were those who had watched the most TV.

Well we’ve already been TV-free for more than 7 years.  But that was easy to give up…

Shake n’ Bake

Everyone quite rattled today.  A big aftershock centred in the harbour knocked power out this morning.  Back on now but people really starting to want this all to end.  Pretty tough on the nerves.

I went for my first trip into the city today to drop a friend off.  Sad to see the damage to the beautiful older buildings and even just the ramshackle brick ones that no-one would claim are remarkable examples of architecture but nevertheless add to the character of the city.  It’s those ones that make me saddest – easy to mourn the churches and the heritage-listed ones but all those old factories and workshops, warehouses and back alleys – they’re the ones that really make a difference in your day to day city experience.

My brother coined the term ‘Shake n’ Bake Buildings’ for those horrible tilt-slab concrete developments that over the past 15 or so years have infested Christchurch.

Property developers love the technology.  Huge concrete slabs are prefabricated on or off-site and then ’tilted’ up into position and braced by large scaffolding like steel tubes while the building is somehow ‘stitched’ together, probably by chewing gum or something.  It’s super fast, cheap and manages to lend an air of strip-mall sameness to any development.  Just brilliant.

I always wondered about the wisdom of these buildings (let alone the asthetic value).  I mean, concrete has a finite lifespan (which I can’t be bothered to look up on t’interweb) but I’ll wager that it’s considerably longer than the veneer of ‘nice, clean newness’ takes to fade and taint as rain run-off stains the sides like tide marks on a sweaty middle-aged squash playing property developer’s armpits.  But I always wondered how they would stack up in an earthquake.

They kind of did the job of an earthquake themselves seeing that they served to wipe out large chunks of Christchurch’s dwindling heritage and other funky old buildings, replacing them with cheap, tacky little commercial developments that seem to spend half their time empty and for lease.  The other thing Christchurch seemed hell-bent on replacing it’s character buildings with were car yards.  But that’s a story for another day…

I always wondered if the people who thought these shake n’ bake buildings were a good idea had ever seen any Buster Keaton movies.  Or been to a movie studio and seen the great building facades which worked on the same principle but were never designed to be permanent.  They’re not real.

But they’re awfully convenient.

Well wouldn’t you know it.  The day has finally dawned where we got to test out how robust these houses of cards really are. 7.1 magnitude of Earth’s complete disregard for humanity’s baubles.

And at first glance it looks like: Shake n’ Bake 1, Lovely Old Character Buildings nil.

Yes, it’s a property developers wet dream cum true.  A lot less of those pesky old dames cluttering up the city with their character and their quiet dignity.  A lot more space for regurgitated tacky concrete.  (And why do they always have to be that washed out khaki colour?).  And a city desperate to get itself tarted up for an overpriced sporting event next year.  There’s already talk of central government contributing to the rebuild.  I can hear the rubbing of hands from here.

One friend quipped “Christchurch is going to look like even more of a Bunnings Warehouse than it already does.”

Maybe we’ll seize the opportunity to make something beautiful out of disaster, to build a city we can be proud of and live in.  To save the old buildings, to build stronger, beautiful new ones.  To realise that people love character more than they love convenience…

But just think about all the extra parking we can build in!

Now that’s convenient.

Disposable Society

So why not fix her up?

The car I mean.  Peej.  Afterall, this blog is supposedly about getting to the core of something rotten – our addiction to convenience.  The cheap, disposable, lifestyle that doesn’t take the true cost of consumerism into account.

OK, it’s about learning how to cope without a car.  But really, the pains of not having one are surely about the convenience or lack thereof, of being able to, at any time of the day or night, jump into our car and head down to the shop to buy a bottle of milk.  Or take the Bobbin to visit Grilly on the weekends (she’s two buses away).  Or those oft-talked about but not so frequently undertaken, road trips out on the Peninsula.

What about this notion of ‘Freedom’ (with a capital F)?  Or the commonly used ‘Independence’ – given to us at an early age with our first bicycle.  I’ve even heard people talk about their ‘Identity’ being integral to their car ownership.  Ford vs. Holden?  How deep does this go?

So in a society where we buy $5 electric kettles from the House of W (home to all things cheap, imported and nasty); designer coffees in un-recycled paper cups and you can’t find for neither love nor money a little repair shop to fix your electric shaver, let alone tackle it ourselves – why not set an example and keep our cheap, efficient little car on the road?

I mean what kind of car could we expect to get for around a grand anyway?  Probably nothing much more than an excellent opportunity to commit hitherto undreamt of amounts of money into keeping another old machine road-worthy.

Apart from the fact that spending possibly in excess of $1000 right now on repairs just to get the car legal is enough to make me balk at the idea, the mechanic confirms the logic that perhaps sinking $1000 into a 1983 model car, however charming and low ‘mileaged’, might be tying ourselves into a relationship of diminishing returns.  The logic continues that we should cut our losses, save that money and put it towards a new car.  And what do we mean by ‘efficient’ in the first instance?  In relation to what?  Just how ‘efficient’ is a petrol-fired internal combustion engine anyway?  There’s a topic for another post…

So, at the risk of repeating ourselves, this was the rationale behind our current situation – we are consigning the Peej to the great carpark in the sky.  Or perhaps Trademe (overseas readers insert eBay here).  Anyone want an un-warranted 1983 1600cc automatic Toyota Sprinter?