Your story: the meat and three veg of our heritage

Lyttelton LibraryI’m working at Lyttelton library today, on London Street. It’s a street that looks totally different than last time I worked here.

At one end, the Empire Hotel looks like it has broken its jaw. Its badly busted top teeth are fenced off by a mesh mouthguard, and wired shut with industrial strength beams. The Harbourlight Theatre’s domed shoulders are intact, but there’s a massive crack in one wall. It too, has been braced and supported.

The whole city’s a bit like an architectural hospital – it seems half the buildings are in traction, or in danger of dying in the night. Corner dairies and fish and chippers, lawnmower repair shops – like the one on Ferry Road near Aldwins Road – the older shops seem to be fast disappearing.

And if we don’t act soon, we’ll start forgetting they were there. One by one, brick and mortar places will become slippery memories – double meat and bacon burgers with half a scoop; TT2s and Toffee Milks; blue rinses and perms. These are not glamorous or flash places, they are the bread and butter, or the meat and three veg, of our suburbs and neighbourhoods.

Please donate your story, photograph or other earthquake memories to the library. At least that way there’ll be a chance to collect and curate – to capture not only photographs and documents, but memories and experiences of ordinary people and the lives they led during this landmark event.

Lamborghini alfredo espresso – win Italian Film Festival tickets

CoverHaving spent much of my life assuming that any European country I visited would be FRANCE, and educating myself accordingly, I now find myself somewhat disconcertingly drawn to a different European destination (still vicariously, you understand, what with teenagers and earthquakes and life in general being so vraiment expensive).

All those years of Bonjour, and Ca va? and Ouvre la fenetre, s’il vous plait! are now being called into question, after several long conversations with well-travelled friends and relations.  Italy, not France apparently, is the place to go.  They have art there, and music, and history, and culture, and food, and coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

Quelle horreur! What to do? I must start all over again, learn a NEW language, find friends who speak Italian, immerse myself in a different culture, and all while staying home in Christchurch.

What luck, then, to arrive at the library and find our wee city is hosting the 15th Italian film festival. Starting on 20 October, the Rialto cinema will be showcasing 17 of the best and brightest Italian movies of recent years, thus enabling me to move past phrases like spaghetti bolognese, and on to the real Italy that awaits.  There’s even a grand opening night, with Italian beverages on offer, and the chance to show off your own language talents.

And even better, we’ve got two double passes to any of the film festival movies to give away.  All you need to do is … comment below by Friday 15 October, and tell us your favourite Italiano movie, poem or book (the competition is only open to Christchurch and Canterbury residents, and not to Christchurch City Council employees).

And for those who can’t wait, check out the library’s selection of Italian movies, Italian fiction, Italian language books, and Italian travel guides.

“Never never never give up”

Winston Churchill said it, and Michael Marquet applied it after leaving school at the age of 15 unable to spell his own name. By the time he was 25 he had completed a horticulture apprenticeship, won a scholarship, travelled to Paris to receive the UNESCO Literacy Award and was the published author of Michael’s Challenge: Overcoming Illiteracy.

This first book told the story of Michael’s long struggle to learn to read and write and is one of the few personal accounts of how it feels to be on learning side of the illiteracy barrier.

“Many books have beeen written on illiteracy, but there was nothing from a student’s point of view”, says Michael. “It was then I decided to write a book about my own experiences.”

Two years later Michael wrote Literacy My Prize, a fuller account of his achievement of literacy in the Christchurch Adult Reading Scheme,  including the story of his trip to Paris to receive the UNESCO Literacy Award for 1988.

Now he has written a third book, describing how, as a young man, he built up a small property portfolio on low gardener’s wages. Michael says of his latest “the essence of the story is about perseverance with life struggles to achieve my goals and dreams, by telling a good yarn in my own quirky style, as I reminsce about the challenges I have overcome and the people who have touched me.”

The name of his latest book will be revealed when it is launched by the Honourable Anne Tolley, Minister of Education, at the Central Library on Wednesday 13th October at 6.30 pm.

The Secret Life of Librarians


Forget fuddy-duddy shushing type librarians, these guys are LOUD!


For the first time, Library Staff from nine different Libraries in Christchurch are showcasing their paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery, and even unique upcycled furniture.

The Bookish Artists Exhibition is currently up and running at the New Brighton Library until the 31 October.

Come and have a stroll by the sea, you will certainly enjoy the art and the view at this incomparable venue!

The flavour of the month

Top this if you can – on exactly the same day that I first heard tell of David Gillespie’s books on the demon sugar, an almost perfect stranger gave me a box of chocolates. I ate the chocolates whilst reading the book. And if David Gillespie has his way, that will be the last sugar I will eat, ever again, in my life.

Gillespie has written two books  on sugar –  Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat and The Sweet Poison Quit Plan. As if it isn’t enough to be sleepless from aftershocks,  Christchurch citizens – who have taken to Gillespie in a big way – are now both exhausted and dangerously sugar free.  For be warned, following the plan will not be without its little sugar-free highs and lows.

Here’s how it might shape up:

  • The first week you will be very busy trying to work out what you can eat and there are thousands of  shocks to be had here. If you’ve been feeling virtuous tucking into your lunch of yoghurt, a fruit juice and some dried fruit, think again. They are fructose full. They are bad.
  • After about 5 days you could hit a profound sugar low. You could be grumpy, tired, prone to volatile outbursts and have to be restrained from committing library rage whilst pushing a trolley.
  • This is followed by a bad phase where you drink more caffeine and wine than ever before and  seriously consider taking up smoking, segueing  from one addiction (and make no mistake sugar is an addiction) to the next in one smooth action.

But you make it to the end of the first month of the rest of your life. Your complexion is beautiful, your hair shines, you have a waistline and surely your heart is in much better shape. But where is your partner and why are your children hardly speaking to you any more?

So far I have only read the books. They are scary enough to make me want to give up sugar immediately. I’d really like to hear from those of you who have already turned your backs on cupcakes. Forever. Is life still “sweet as”?