Tuesday Poem – Keep Your Receipts – In memory 22.02.2011 Christchurch

Date 21st February 2011
Time: 10-1.30pm
Art class in Manchester Street.
Windows boarded up from 2010 quake.
Splashing paint on paper.
Poured one red round splotch
‘That looks fun,’ said the tutor.
‘I thought you were wasting paint,’ said another.
We could have wasted all the paint if we’d known.
Received: artistic freedom.

Time: 1.40pm
Place: Cnr Cashel and Manchester, Christchurch CBD
me on a wide wooden seat
the happy lunchtime bustle
of a city returning to normality…not
Received, sunshine on my back.

Time: 2.26pm
Place: Christchurch Cathedral Bookshop.
Receipt Header: Christchurch Cathedral, the most visited church in NZ
Item purchased, one snow dome of the above, encircled with trams
Footer reads,
Have you been up the tower? It collapsed the next day

Time 2.30pm
Place: Cathedral Café
Receipt for one pineapple cheese toastie
plus one pot English breakfast tea
with trim milk and extra hot water.Time 3ish.
Place: cnr Cashel and Colombo
adjacent to bus terminal.
Received: strains of exquisite music
drifting through the mall.

Date: Tuesday 22nd Feb
Time: 12.51pm
Place: Central Christchurch
Received: one 6.3 earthquake
five kms deep, ten kms from epicentre south – east of city
The cathedral tower topples…
My snow dome is intact.
Receipt: permanently recorded on personal hard drive.


Not sure if this is a poem…it always feels a bit raw. Call it notes on an unforgettable experience inspired by reading my receipts a few days later.

The day before the 22.02.11 earthquake I was in the city. Christchurch was in recovery phase. It was a glorious summer day.. I  picked my way through the mess of rebuilding (post the 2010 earthquake five months before) in Manchester Street and climbed the stairs to my art class, in a building where many of the windows were still boarded up.

That morning I was very liberal with the paint, even daring to pour it on the paper, to the dismay of at least one fellow student. I’ve often thought we could have used up all the paint and decorated the walls if we’d known that this was our last class.
Filled with the creative spirit and reluctant to leave the city on such a glorious day, I wandered round Cashel Mall and rested under the shade of The Hotel Grand Chancellor, also soon to be demolished. Up the road I walked through the cathedral to the bookshop and was filled with authorly pleasure to see my ‘Grandma’ books on a stand up front, as I entered.

My Snow Dome of Christchurch

My Snow Dome of Christchurch

Maybe it was that relaxed holiday mood which caused me to buy a snow dome of the cathedral, an unusual purchase for me. I concluded with lunch at the cathedral cafe and wandered back to catch my bus home, delayed yet again by the angelic music coming from Cashel Mall. The city that day seemed to be full of optimism. Life was returning to normal.
I no longer live in Christchurch, but I still keep my snow dome in a prominent place to remind me of happy times and good friends and to acknowledge the stoicism of Christchurch, a place which gave me opportunities in abundance. I am so grateful to have that memory, a truly lovely day in a beautiful city…the day before the earthquake of 22.02.11 changed so many lives forever.

For other Tuesday Poems please see the Tuesday Poem Blog and archive.

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