I have another blog half written about the virtues of home but this one will be easier so it gets posted first.
Part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration has been a tour of the Commonwealth by various family members. We were assigned Charles and Camilla, much to the disappointment of many who are more attracted by the young and glamorous than the older couple who are, nevertheless, the closer link to the heritage they represent.But in the end the visit was a great success and attracted crowds not seen for many years.
Their itinerary (organised by our government) brought them to the South Island for six hours in a six-day tour. That six hours was spent in Christchurch, which means that the rest of the island, including the city of Dunedin, was left out altogether. The party in power is proving less popular than they would like; the SI tends to vote for the
opposition; a greater proportion of the voting population lives in the North Island - I leave you to draw your own conclusions, Dear Reader, but there is something in elections known as the Feel Good Factor.
Friday was Show Day here and a public holiday. There were four public events organised for the royals: a Ngai Tahu welcome at the civic offices, a visit to the damaged Queen
Victoria Jubilee memorial (1837-1897), a walk around the pop-up area of the City Mall, and time at the Show. Preferring not to encounter crowds if possible my friend and I
agreed to meet at the Jubilee Memorial. I'm interested in the historical significance of the visit (and in catching sight of the Duchess of Cornwall, whom I've always admired
for her interest in the less flashy causes such as literacy and osteoporosis) so this suited me fine.The tower was badly damaged, especially around the base, in the February
2011 earthquake but the City Council has committed to its repair.
This is good news but it is a pity that so many of our other heritage buildings have fallen to demolition balls.
It took a while to get to my destination as so many roads and footpaths were closed where buildings are unsafe or being pulled down.This is one of the areas I had to detour
because I was unable to take the direct route: the 17 storey Clarendon Towers is coming down, helped by the largest crane in the southern hemisphere, while one of our heritage
buildings, is propped up on the other side of the road.
So I got in a good walk en route. Near to my goal there was a road sign saying EVENT! Normally these signs say, ROAD CLOSED, DETOUR, NO ACCESS. Nothing like a bit of variety
for cheering the spirits. Further on and many yards of cyclone fencing later I was there. My friend and I waited, and waited and waited .... then there was an announcement that the visitors would be late. Prince Charles and his wife had two private events scheduled and these were taking more time than anticipated. First there was a meeting with
some badly injured survivors of the earthquakes, and then there was a tour of the demolition/rebuilding sites and the Prince, especially with his interest in architecture, was
spending more time talking to people than planned for.
But the wait was not a hardship. The weather was fine and there was plenty to observe. Lots of security people chewing (I hate it!) and talking into phones - we were an "orderly crowd" we heard, although at first someone nearby was asking, "What's so ordinary about us?". And there were the people, including "Show Pony Bob" the mayor all done up in his gilt chain, trying to keep the papers on the nearby table in order despite the wind's efforts. Some of our fellow royal-watchers were interesting too: Christchurch's wizard arrived in his regalia: here he is speaking in front of the cathedral before it collapsed.
This is the cathedral now:
Eventually, amidst yet more security and surrounded by cars galore (who would want to live lke that? I couldn't bear the continual scrutiny), they arrived. Despite our orderly nature, and hardly overwhelming numbers, a line of police took up positions facing us just in case any of us were to manifest republican sympathies.
These days I'm always surprised at how famous people look the same in the flesh as they do in press pictures! Technology has certainly stripped away some of the mystique of
royalty. But I enjoyed seeing a couple for whom I've always had some sympathy. Can all the privilege make up for the lack of privacy, being unable to participate in civil life, such as voting or expressing an opinion in any normal way, having to watch every word spoken, being aware that even private conversations might be monitored, every action being scrutinised, being unable to freely choose a marriage partner or career path? I don't think so. Those who spoke to the couple commented in a complimentary way on how they were "normal" people like us but there is nothing normal about the life they are saddled with.
I managed to take a couple of photographs as the couple got out of their car which only stood out from the rest because it was flying a tiny royal standard on the wing. As you
can see, the Duchess was on our side which pleased us. Then a short walk to the makeshift table, a letter from the Prince on the earthquake put in a time capsule, the video "When a city falls" given to him in exchange, a quick walkabout and they were off to the next engagements.
Was it worth it? I think so. People throughout the country commented on how happy and relaxed Prince Charles now seems to be compared with earlier visits. There was a lot of
fun when he celebrated his 64th birthday in Wellington. He invited 64 people who shared the birthday to a party where there was a giant cake in 64 squares, decorated with "kiwiana" and every piece edible!
The couple certainly raised a lot of people's spirits in their six days here. Personally, on their one day in Christchurch, I enjoyed seeing a little bit of history.