Let’s take a walk: A poignant pop-up book about Christchurch

It’s hard to believe but C1 Espresso first opened 20 years ago. In that time they’ve treated patrons to more than just coffee and fancy teas – C1 is known as the kind of place where unexpected things happen. An old sewing machine dispenses drinking water, a sliding bookcase acts as an automatic door, curly-fries are delivered by pneumatic tube and so on, and so on.

C1 Book launch
Artwork from Let’s take a walk

Still, I was surprised to hear they had published a book, even more surprised to hear that the book in question, Let’s take a walk, is their second effort (the first being about growing coffee in the pacific).

I spoke to C1’s Sam Crofskey about Let’s take a walk, in part to try and understand why a café would put together a kids’ pop-up book about the Christchurch earthquakes. It’s an unusual fit.

The motivation comes from a very real place, one that a lot of Christchurch people can relate to, of wanting to move on. And like a lot of things in the genre of earthquake recovery, it didn’t happen overnight.

“We’ve taken four years to do this from a desire to get it right – partly because we’re putting our names to it, partly because of the subject matter,” says Crofskey.

Crofskey and C1 were early returners to the Central City, post-quake. They reopened in 2012 and have been much praised as “heroes of the rebuild” but Crofskey admits that this hasn’t always sit comfortably with him as it seemed to imply that everything was okay with them, as he explains, “our home was in the central city – we couldn’t move on”.

An idea was, if you’ll forgive the coffee-related pun, percolating.

Initially Crofskey enlisted artist friend Hannah Beehre to update the C1 menus with artwork of earthquake damaged city buildings. What she made, drawings of before and after, hacked up and rearranged as collage, were great but there was a problem.

“They were too sad and full-on to have them in the café”, says Crofskey.

So Beehre “softened” the images with the addition of brightly coloured diggers and other demolition vehicles. They added words too. A story grew of “someone who is just trying to explain it (the earthquake) to their kids”.

Crofskey has a young family himself and he even refers to the book as “… an ode to my long-suffering wife and two children”.

Getting the tone of the book right was, he admits, a challenge but he’s happy that “it’s fundamentally a kids’ book”, but one that has things to say that only the adults reading will understand. Poignancy. Loss. Cynicism.

For example, the ending is upbeat, looking towards a shining future… but grown-ups may read it in a different, more cynical way.

“The view of the future is really great – it’s the only picture that’s in full colour – a kind of Wizard of Oz sort of thing. But that’s kind of me taking the piss out of the blue-print and stuff like that.”

Even the choices of which buildings to include in the book aren’t without subtext.

“The Cathedral’s not in it – that’s not a mistake”, says Crofskey making reference to the broken ChristChurch Cathedral as a symbol of a lack of earthquake recovery – an inappropriate choice for a book in which the overriding message is one of moving on and looking forward to the future.

“But kids don’t pick up on that stuff,” says Crofskey drawing parallels with family-friendly films, “it’s like a Pixar movie, is what it is”.

C1 Book Launch 1
Artwork from Let’s take a walk

And get ready to feel things when you open Let’s take a walk, as Crofskey claims “we haven’t had an adult who hasn’t been really upset by it”.

Gosh.

Curious to know more? The Let’s take a walk book launch is on tomorrow, Wednesday, 24 August 6pm and is a free WORD Christchurch event. All welcome.

Sam Crofskey will also be appearing in How Are We Doing, Christchurch?, Fri 26 Aug, 11.15am

More WORD Christchurch

Remember, and share

1959900_221230958066863_701586199_nIt is three years today since the devastating 22 February 2011 earthquake. The Civic Memorial Service takes place on the Archery Lawn, Botanic Gardens at noon today. “Three years on we remember the community’s kindness and resilience in the time since the earthquake and we are proud to call Christchurch our home.”

However you do your remembering today it is good to share. Perhaps you will be with the friends, family and neighbours who have helped you or whom you have helped since the quakes.

One way many people cope is by recounting experiences. Here are some ways you can do that:

You can explore our resources:

A river runs through it (Part 2)

Avonside memorial message photo

A year and a bit ago I blogged “Having spent most of my Christchurch life living east of the Square and close to the Avon River, I’m pretty passionate about the delights of those riverside suburbs like Richmond, Avonside, Dallington and out to New Brighton. The river has always been a source of beauty, fun, exercise and general place defining for my family.” I was writing about a Spring Festival of activities along the river.

This time I’m writing about the February 22 remembrances. There is an official civic service in the Botanic Gardens which many may want to attend. For many others the simple gestures of taking flowers from the garden and decorating road cones or launching them into your nearest river may be how you remember our city’s losses and think about the future.

I’ll be going the Avon River which runs at the end of my street. I went there in 2012, in 2013 I went with workmates to the Avon near the Bridge of Remembrance. Both times it felt really nice. Rivers are soothing and interesting places. I’d encourage people to take a moment during the day to think about what has happened to our city and what the future might hold. And I’d say “take it to the river”.

Floral road cones a quiet tribute

I took a walk with my camera around my neighbourhood this afternoon. Normally it is very quiet at this time of day. If you listen carefully, you can hear the local children playing at one of the schools in the area. A dog or two might bark and a few cars go by. Wheelie bins line the streets like a guard of honour and road cones keep us out of the pot holes.

PhotoIt is a huge contrast with last year. Last year the neighbourhood was awash with water and silt as a result of the soil liquefaction. Road cones and wheelie bins were used to mark the sink holes. Neighbours called out to each other to see if they needed help and cars were abandoned in the street.

Today, most of  the silt has gone, the roads and houses are pretty battered and the road cones are serving a dual purpose. The road crews put the cones where the road works and potholes are. The locals have put flowers in them as a tribute to those who died last year as a result of the February earthquake. They are not fancy, florist shop flowers. They are flowers from our gardens –  in a cone near some vacant land, I even saw dandelions and yarrow being used.

For me these road cone vases are a quiet tribute not only to those who died, but also to those who were injured and to those who rescued others in need.

See photos of  road cones and flowers on our Flickr page.

This one’s for Christchurch

This one's for ChristchurchI was a little nervous prior to attending  The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival session (kindly hosted by the2011 Auckland Writers And Readers Festival) – was I wearing waterproof mascara? Would I sit there, squirming uncomfortably, while listening but not wanting to listen to horrific earthquake stories? Did I really want to be reminded of what is an enduring reality back home?

This session came about because last year’s The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival was cancelled due to the September quake. Then this year’s one because of the big kahuna in February. They’re now aiming to have a Festival in September 2012 – as long as a big enough venue can be found (a rather scarce commodity post-quake). I applaud their tenacity, and well done Morrin Rout and Ruth Todd (Christchurch festival organisers) for perservering to bring us a well-needed cultural diversion.

Fiona Farrell spoke of writing a poem ‘The Horse’ (to help her animal mad sister understand what was happening). She gave the quake a horse persona, and it quivered and stamped as tiny flies (aftershocks) bit it, and we, lying  “on the back of a huge beast”, hang on for dear life. This was followed by ‘The Tarp’. The chimney in her Christchurch flat fell through the roof and “when the rain falls, it scribbles decay on the ceiling”. A young man placed a tarpaulin over the damaged roof and a poem was born. Last was ‘Julia At Tai Tapu’ and is about the strange beauty of liquifaction volcanoes in the night – “and Julia glides about her park, a sweet vibration in the dark”.

Tusiata Avia read a poem about driving to find her young daughter in the CBD – “everyone is leaving for their home in the sky”. She spoke about coming back later to search for the memories of buildings and read ‘St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Church’, which had the repetitive phrase “no evidence of” , referring to events that have happened in the past at the church, but now “we all fade into the archaeology”. Last was a poem about the CTV building, that had its lift shaft left standing, long after the rest of the building was removed – “the inner workings of The Rapture, sheared open for all of us to see”.

Charlotte Randall is a novelist, and  as “I usually write 80,000 words, so that would have taken too long to read out” she instead discussed the exciting idea, that she is thinking of continuing Halfie’s story (new novel Hokitika Town, set in 1865 goldrush Hokitika), setting him as an adult in San Francisco during the 1905 earthquake. She then went on to talk about the benefits of natural disasters – that neighbours get to know one another, go out to dinner together, all sorts of ‘social cocooning’ going on.

Carl Nixon was only on stage briefly, and appeared to be quite upset to be talking about ‘his’ Christchurch, the one of the past, where he has set the majority of his work. He appeared at a loss as to how to incorporate the ‘new’ Christchurch into his imaginings. He read part of a short story ‘The Last Good Day Of Autumn’ because it was set near buildings that now no longer exist or are badly damaged (Antiqua Boatsheds, Museum, Arts Centre).

Joanna Preston is a poet who spends a lot of time in Australia, but had arrived back in Christchurch 24 hours before the September shake. She told of hearing car alarms ‘screaming like children’ afterwards, and the beautiful Spring day that followed – “it felt like walking in the Underworld, everything was so quiet and unreal”. She read ‘Aftershock’ written by Shaun Joyce (one of her students), ‘The Fault’ – how that word now has so many meanings, and lastly ‘The City And The City’ which had the haunting line “a bright shop front translated into a coffin lid”.

Berlin resident Sarah Quigley has written a column for The Press for the last 13 years and was due to email one through, when she heard about the February quake from a friend. Whilst frantically trying to establish whether her family and friends were alright, she wondered whether or not there would indeed be a paper published in the next while. She was amazed to find that yes, The Press would be printed, under very difficult circumstances, and her column featured on 26 February. She read out that column, (I remember sitting on my couch at home, reading that same column, marvelling at the speed with which she had written it and made it into print) and it was heartrending to imagine someone sitting on the other side of the world, unable to help, not knowing the fate of her loved ones.

Morrin Rout led a round of applause for The Press, saying that she too had been amazed to find a copy on her doorstep the morning after the February quake, and spoke of how reassuring it was to hold it in her hand and be able to read the news of the disaster, rather than just listening on the radio or following it on TV. Ruth Todd concurred heartily, as she’d been without power at the time.

So, no tears from me, though a few throat wobbles at times. At first it felt strange to be sitting in a large multi-layered building, with many, many other people in it, in a city that has skyscrapers and beautiful verandahed, brick-fronted heritage buildings, and know that it is light years away from Christchurch in every way. But, afterwards I left with a warm fuzzy feeling of comradeship, perserverance and hope. Thanks Auckland for letting a little bit of Christchurch shine.

“Truth is stranger than fiction …”

LogoSo says the first page of the 2011 Auckland Readers and Writers Festival brochure, and so say many of us in Christchurch today.  This time last year we were planning our trip to the 2010 Festival, and our heads were full of thoughts of books and writers and plane trips and the joy of  people-watching and just plain being in Auckland.

Last year I was looking forward to airplane snacks and pillow menus and meeting amazing writers and speakers.  This year I’m so looking forward to all of this, but I am also looking forward to reliably flushing toilets, buildings that don’t move around, and talking to people who can’t spell ‘liquefaction’, and who don’t know the geonet and crowe quake website addresses off by heart.

Last year I was frightened of interviewing famous people, wearing the wrong kind of black to events full of arty people, and being on TV for the filming of The Good Word Debate.  This year I am a little scared I will get weepy in some of the sessions, not be able to remember where I am supposed to be, or even remember how to write about things other than portaloos and potholes.

Poor old Christchurch has lost our own festival twice now – once in September and once in March, and so to be able to go and share in Auckland’s Festival is doubly precious.

Director Jill Rawnsley says the festival is “both a haven and a hive of activity, reconnecting us with friends, feelings and hope”. As we begin to prepare for what will be five days of manic booky excitement, I am also happy our library can share some of this with everyone here at home too, not just the full-on festival buzz, but also the feeling that we are all part of a wider family who supports each other, through the good times and the not-so-good.

Also, those packets of airplane peanuts …

From achy-breaky to arty-farty

A couple of ladies from Wellington made the headlines last week, by offering a free workshop to help Christchurch folk turn their smashed and broken china into jewellery.  It looked lovely, and hundreds of people took advantage of the offer.

If you didn’t get to the workshop, or if you fancy yourself a bit of an arty-farty person, here’s some other suggestions of things you could do with your earthquake ‘debris’:

(warning: highly technical craft language below)

  • build a mosaic thingummy for your house or garden, with all that broken dinnerware.  We have some truly outstanding books on mosaic-ing just about anything you can get to stand still for long enough.
  • make a hanging mobile or windchime, or other sculpture, by gathering up ‘found items’ and having at them with number 8 fencing wire and pliers (just make sure you’re only gathering your own stuff!).
  • bead a necklace or bracelet, using techniques in our wirecraft, beading and jewellery books, and incorporating (you guessed it) something precious to you.
  • take a wander through your neighbourhood and take some photos (of happy or sad things, it’s up to you).  Then get the photos printed and journal or scrapbook them.
  • host a knitting or quilting group – grab some friends, dig out those UFOs* that fell out of the wardrobe during the big shake, and sit down together with coffee and cake.
  • if your friends don’t craft, or you’d like some more professional help, check out our community information directory CINCH, for heaps of listings of local groups that offer all sorts of great opportunities to learn, make and do.
  • If all of this just sounds like too much work, or you are more realistic about your ability to finish (or even start) craft projects, why not take the opportunity to venture out and find some hidden treasures at your local craft shop or farmers’ market?  That way, you are supporting others’ addictive craft habits, and local business, and you get to meet new people and buy stuff all at the same time!

(*UFOs = unfinished objects.  Don’t tell me you don’t have them.  I know you do).

Little pieces of happy

ImageLast week I got my handbag back.  Retrieved from my library by brave team leaders, it contained a number of important things like my driver’s licence and wallet and cellphone.  But the thing that made me happiest was the unexpected rediscovery of a ring in one of the pockets.  It’s ridiculously huge, shaped like a star, and covered in rainbow diamantes.  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile.  And I figure that’s a pretty good deal right now.

Like standing in a busy library (even if it’s not my regular one), and watching people hang out and spend time with friends and family, borrow books and music and movies, and have coffee together.

Like hearing librarians say they are finally beginning to enjoy reading again, and discussing their books choices (Barbara Trapido’s Sex and Stravinsky – mostly great but with a less-than-average ending; Rachael King’s Magpie Hall – a great read; F G Cottam’s The Waiting Room – beautifully written ghost story).

Like unpacking boxes of shiny new books and sending them off to people who have been waiting for them.

Like reading on a national news website that the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book is being re-released.

Like … well, what’s made you happy recently?

Pledging your support for rebuilding Christchurch

Child in diggerHave you signed The Pledge? It’s not a declaration to give up the demon drink or cigarettes but rather signing your commitment to Christchurch and the rebuild of the city.
Pledge sheets have been distributed in supermarkets, businesses, Post Shops and other locations.

If you live in the Eastern suburbs or you are out there visiting – you can now sign The Pledge at New Brighton and Parklands libraries.

You can also check on The Pledge’s Facebook page to see the latest updates on where you can sign, messages of support and other information.