I'll be writing about our mini-tramp in my Illustrated Epistle. Meanwhile, click through the galleries to see more of the scenery.
Most buildings were damaged in the 2011 earthquake that was centred around Lyttelton, near Christchurch. Many of these buildings were beyond repair and were demolished (including the old part of London Street, which my other half had run as a restaurant only a year before the quake struck).
Unfortunately, the worst affected buildings were the old ones, with the most character. This included the cathedral. I've never been a huge fan of Christchurch Cathedral. I preferred some of the other religious buildings around the city (most of which were demolished). There was a lot of discussion about whether it should be saved and I was firmly in the camp of "let's move on". The earthquake was a chance for the city to reinvent itself as one that looked forward, not back. But there are a lot of people who don't want to let that English heritage go, so it looks like it is going to be rebuilt, at huge cost.
Having a Dog in New Zealand
When my partner, Duncan, and our Jack Russell, Billie, headed off on our extended cultural sabbatical 9 years ago, Billie was 5 years old and packed full of energy. He travelled everywhere with us and, at the age of 9, he walked nearly 200 miles on the UK’s Coast to Coast. When we left Spain last year, we said we were moving back to NZ to settle down and for Billie to enjoy his retirement. I think if Billie had had any say in the matter he would have chosen to retire in the Basque Country where he had snacks on tap - going out four or five nights a week to stroll around the pincho bars was his idea of heaven. But, after a 24 hour flight and the shock of 10 days of quarantine, Billie adjusted to being back here. When we left New Zealand it was very hard to go anywhere with a dog. Coming back we found that things had changed. The 2014 Food Act made it legal for bars and cafes to allow dogs on the premises, which was something that has always been the case in the UK and much of Europe (though not in Australia). Billie fitted back in faster than we did and soon learned where all the best snacks were to be had (Spooky Boogie, Civil & Naval and Fat Tony’s).
At 14, Bill hasn’t lost much of his energy. He still wants to chase the tennis ball up and down the hallway after dinner and he goes nuts when the three of us head out on a walk. So it was a real shock last week when he fell off the couch, stumbled about and started hyperventilating.
We thought he might be having a stroke or may have been poisoned.
We have a problem with trap-savvy rats and were going to poison them until a friend told us how rats can stash the poison to eat later and that stash can be found by your dog. Also, New Zealand is the only country I know of that still uses 1080 poison. Because NZ has few native mammals, 1080 is left in areas of native bush to control rodents and possums, but many dogs get caught in the crossfire.
We rushed Billie to the vet and she reassured us that he probably hadn’t been poisoned, nor was having a stroke. He was diagnosed as having geriatric vestibular disease. At 70 dog years old (x5 for small dogs) our Jack Russell is now officially old. His disorder is caused by build up of crystals in the inner ear. It can cause a range of problems including a loss of balance and, in his case, eyes flicking all over the place accompanied by general weirdness. It can resolve on its own in a couple of weeks so we have our fingers crossed.
This is an excerpt from my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). You can sign up at the bottom of this page, or here (and unsubscribe if you don’t like it, or even if you do, though that would be a bit daft, as how many emails do you get that you actually enjoy reading?):
I feel really lucky I was able to have a fairly free range childhood. I used to go out into the countryside and build dens with my friend when we were only 6 or 7 years old. As long as we came back for meals, it was okay. I rode my bike to the local shop without a helmet. And I climbed a lot of trees. As someone pointed out to me, the child hood mortality rate was a lot higher back then. Part of me thinks perhaps it was worth it.
I was lucky to go out today with a Brian and Helen, who know a lot about NZ native plants. We had permission to go onto Maori land to collect seed that will be grown up in Brian's nursery and then ultimately planted out on a local reserve.
Unlike in the UK, post isn't delivered through the letterbox in your door here. It is more like the American system of a mailbox on the street. Now my parents don't have a letterbox in the door and postman always used to leave the post under a rock in the porch.
Mum and Dad decided that a New Zealand plastic postbox would look great in front of the house. This is despite the fact they live in a thatched cottage in a beautiful valley in Dorset. But I guess there are a lot of plastic postboxes in beautiful places in New Zealand too.
I received the latest issue of Double Helix this week. It contains my constellation charts. I can't wait to try them out, though there is a lot of light pollution in Lyttelton because of the port activity (there is also a lot of noise pollution - when they are unloading scrap metal, I have to sleep with earplugs!).
NB: These charts are for the Southern Hemisphere