Not having arrived on the first four ships, or even on the first four thousand I can never become a true son of the Garden City though I may someday be allowed to trim it's hedges. But I am beginning to settle in and accept the theory they have round here that the earth is flat.
It's really a funny mixture of gleaming new buildings mostly occupied by the big accountancy houses and bomb sites which look as though they'll never be built on again surrounded by housing sprawl and trading estates. It's got the smallest Westfield Mall in the world which is also probably the biggest or only in the South Island (aka Middle Island for Otagoites). And these days it's empty apart from a few tourists desperately looking round for something to do.
The great NZ Exodus has taken place and the population has fled to the lakes, the mountains, the seaside and the campsites leaving us alone in our little white box. I used to have the theory that if any great power wanted to occupy NZ (don't worry, none did) they'd sail in immediately after Christmas, find the place deserted and occupy all the places of power. Today the Japanese appear to have followed my advice and they're not sure what to do with it.
A few basic shops like Dairies, fish and chip shops and New World are open but everything else is shut with the SALE signs screaming out of their windows (Sale signs must be the biggest selling item in NZ commerce) No newspapers for two days (no one notices) and the University closed until 11th January which could be a problem with my lectures beginning on 5 January.
We were saved by visitors, Carol Shand and her sister who's over from Holland and the entire Laval family from Fresno, on a grand splurge now that he's sold his business to Warren Buffett. He tells me the business is being wound down and mishandled and he and his daughter are paid but have nothing to do. The trip must have been pretty expensive with helicopter flights, bus hire and up market hotels. Indeed when we went to look for him the hotel whose name he'd given us denied all knowledge but eventually admitted to having taken over another posh hotel round the corner where they did eventually arrived after a long journey from Queenstown (which they loved) Too late for food they were sent to a restaurant along the road which turned out to be the most expensive in the world run by a German lady.
Next day we went out to Akaroa with them in their special bus to find that most of the population of Christchurch were living out there. They'd hired a boat to go swimming with the Dolphins but the Dolphins refused to show and the captain sailed us round and round muttering "This is very frustrating"looking for them. Being NZ Dolphins (billed as world class dolphins) they'd probably gone on holiday. So the women swam ,the men all dressed in wet suits found excuses not to, we chugged round for two hours and went back to the harbour where we were given a rebate for the no show dolphins.
For the rest we've been on our own in an empty world. New art gallery. Brilliant building, not much art on view, but a marvellous work by Grimsby painter Thomas Kennington "Relaxation" (1908) Kennington is responsible for the painting of Mayor George Doughty in Grimsby Town Hall and apparently several others I have never seen in the Doughty Collection. We google him when we get home and discover that he has become very fashionable lately and his paintings are worth many thousands of pounds. (Attention Rob Walsh)