Fraser's Aug. 2008 Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "All the very best for your birthday next month. 57. I can't believe how fast time flies. Soon we'll both be 60+ (plus). You wrote of Luke buying tympani equipment. Please draw a sketch, I've forgotten. Cymbals I know about. He is very musical at 17. "Woza Mark" seems to keep you at the desk for a long time, [yep] with a small home computer, with access to w.w. websites.
I appreciate the bird guide book. Many thanks for this gift, I'll look after the book. I think it would take six months to get skilled with biltong making. [Yep]. The diagram helps a great deal, plus the numbered photographs and explanations.
Where do you get the wood to chop for Jake? [Old pallets from business warehouses]. How does he burn in a flat? Must be semi-detached flat. [Yep]. Does Luke play piano still? & drums? Im afraid I'm not good at keeping a diary, only scrape by with letters. I play a lot of pool, not snooker. We used to have a snooker table, but it was not that good having 2 tables (different). Luke's band will have finished well, after the final round. What position of 80 Chch bands would they have achieved? One day soon ill phone ... [my number], surely ill have to phone a preceding number?
< 2008 Luke Esslemont wearing his Galaxy Stampede band costume, before our nectarine tree, Heath Street backyard, Christchurch
Off Mesopotamia Station road, we found a tiny Anglican Church of the Holy Innocents, amongst sheep and old conifers and a yew hedge. I sat on a wooden bench, besides settlers' graves, viewing Rangitata River and Mount Peel. On the bench, pilot-poet words were carved: "For I have slipped the sullen bonds of earth, and touched the face of God." There were children's graves and two grass-filled toy trucks, left by a child, helping his father mow lawns.
As the church was never locked, Leah sat on a pew, admiring stain-glass windows, memorial brasses, and the wooden ceiling. Leah thought of Durban South family ghosts, and as a former Saint Martins choirboy, I thought of Durban North plainchant in cassocks, and lighting and snuffing altar candles. Luke foot-bellowed secular tunes on the harmonium, never having played a harmonium before. Leah and I sensed mana in the air, which we'd sometimes felt in Christchurch Cathedral - a glimpse of eternity we'd seen in the grotto of the Church of the Holy Nativity, Bethlehem.
In Peel forest, we wandered amongst ferns and Gondwana Ghosts - shaggy totaras, the biggest Luke tried to climb, its bole two metres wide. The totara was old when Maori came from the North, hunting moa amongst its gnarled roots; when Abel Tasman Farewelled his Spit; and when Captain Cook sailed round the South Island. Those podocarps reminded us of the Big Tree in Tsitsikamma Forest, and the yellowwood avenue near our first house we'd bought in Yellowwood Park, Durban.
From Mount Somers we drove to Mount Potts, searching for "Lord of the Rings" Edoras site on Mount Sunday in Rangitata basin. I heard anthem words, "Yihla Moya... Come Spirit..." while looking towards Mount Sunday. The movie set was gone, and all that was left were the Alps, braided Rangitata, barbed-wire farm-fencing, and cow dung pong on the rutted road to Erehwon.
On its potholed Nowhere Road, SA's post apartheid Olympic standards had dropped: SA's huge 2008 Olympics team won 1 silver medal at the Beijing Olympics. NZ won 3 gold, 1 silver, 5 bronze medals.
Personal safety and hospitality standards had also dropped: Leah's brother Gee lived in Port Elizabeth, and when Gee holidayed in Durban's Hotel Edward, management told Gee, "Don't walk along Marine Parade! It's too dangerous!"
Hotel Edward was 5 star in my youth, and Leah and I had safely danced at whitey Dorians disco. I'd surfed at whitey North Beach when Durban beachfront was safe from thieving Afs. Gee's Hotel Edward bedroom kettle didn't work, and there was no hot water in his bathroom. And a big cleanup was needed in streets behind 4 star Hotel Edward.
Later when Gee stayed at a South Coast hotel, he could only walk along the beach if security personnel swept away harassing Afs. Gee was a tough local, and I wondered how safe foreign soccer supporters would be during SA's 2010 World Cup?
In 2008, NZ's wobbly economy caused mom and pop investors to lose millions of dollars when over 20 NZ financial houses went into receivership, due to the housing market slump. Our Chinese neighbour still battled to sell his overpriced, 3 bedroom, old state house, after it was 9 months on the market. Christchurch City Council scandalized ratepayers by paying millions of ratepayers' dollars to buy several old CBD properties from struggling property developer Henderson, with Henderson having first option to repurchase. Foreign Minister Winston Peters was investigated by the Serious Fraud Squad for inexplicable donation money received by his New Zealand First party. Peter's alleged graft in NZ was no different from Zuma's alleged graft in SA - backhanders from businessmen.
10/10/08. The Serious Fraud Squad ruled that Winston Peters would not face charges for serious fraud, but other laws may have been broken in secret channeling of donations to a trust. (The Press 11/10/08).
Coda: 1. The Church of the Holy Innocents was badly damaged in the 05.09.10 quake. When we revisited in 2014, the church was empty with cracked walls awaiting donations & restoration.
2. 2017. Leah was appointed Resource Teacher Literacy, South Canterbury, based at Timaru. One of the many schools she advised was Carew Peel Forest School.
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.