Stone shines in the ruins
Buried among the smouldering ashes of their Port Underwood retreat, Ken Prain found the shining greenstone his wife Libby gave him on his 65th birthday.
Unfortunately, the precious stone was about all that survived the bush fire on Saturday. The Fairhall couple's holiday home was completely levelled in the blaze that swept through the area.
Mr Prain visited their Flagg Bay section on Sunday to inspect the damage. He knew roughly where to look for the greenstone and pointed out an area of embers where a shelf once stood.
A fireman raked the ground until something caught Mr Prain's eye.
"It shows you what real greenstone can take," he said.
Mrs Prain said everything around it was so dull. "This shining greenstone was there virtually undamaged."
Mrs Prain, who has just completed 16 weeks of chemotherapy, said the couple had been through a "fair amount" this year.
It all started in July when their "beloved Harry", the family jack russell, was put down because of old age.
"We wondered was this the year of the rat," Mrs Prain said. "I'll be glad to see the back of 2013."
Mr Prain said the year was going out with a bang. The couple had planned to spend Christmas at Port Underwood with two of their children and six grandchildren.
Mrs Prain wanted to recuperate in the Sounds for at least four weeks, she said.
"That was the plan over Christmas. Our daughter in Perth was over last year. She loved it so much she put it on Facebook and everybody wanted to know where this magical place was. It was a real retreat."
Mrs Prain visited the site of the fire for the first time yesterday morning.
"It's pretty devastating . . . that smell, I forgot about the smell, and the utter destruction. I couldn't work out where the deck was, then I got my bearings. The heat must have been so intense."
Antique furniture and artefacts from the couple's time living in West Papauwere among the items lost in the fire. "They are all gone and they were, of course, irreplaceable . . . beautiful old baskets, wood carvings, weavings and paintings. Really quite rare tribal art," Mrs Prain said.
Mr Prain bought a new kayak for his son's family in Christchurch and was supposed to take it to Port Underwood on Saturday. "We've still got that because I didn't take it out, I had too much to do."
Mrs Prain said Christmas was almost cancelled . . . but not quite.
The Marlborough Express