Royals raise smiles in rapid-fire visit
Prince Charles looked momentarily lost as he emerged from the silver Crown BMW outside Christchurch's civic offices.
Within seconds he was dishing out those famous energy-saving waves before being joined by his wife, Camilla, and together they worked the modest crowd.
Fans wanting a more intimate moment with the royal couple were best served in the earlier parts of the day. Things were more chaotic and harried by the time the pair arrived at the Canterbury A & P Show in the afternoon.
What must it feel like to get up in the morning knowing thousands of eyes will follow every move and that a single touch will leave the impression of a lifetime?
Twelve-year-old Max Pascoe was halfway to a conniption fit after shaking Prince Charles' hand.
"I got starstruck," he said.
"If you think about it, he has touched the Queen's hand, and I have felt his DNA. So . . . I feel odd," Max said before trailing off.
Elsewhere in the crowds debate raged over television versus reality. Was Camilla smaller in person? Was Charles' voice deeper than on TV?
Her hands were variously dubbed thin, soft and bony. His fingers were chubby and red.
Their perfectly round vowels resonated over the perfectly flat ones yelling belated birthday wishes and welcomes.
The party of royals, security men and politicians were delayed by 25 minutes about lunchtime- a vast blowout for a royal schedule - because Prince Charles made time for individual conversations with 14 seriously injured earthquake victims, asking where they had been hurt and how they were recovering.
He was deemed charming and genuinely empathetic.
Often separated from one another amid the constantly changing crowd, Charles and Camilla checked each other's whereabouts with darting glances.
Of course, there were a few "only in Christchurch" moments.
At the Re:Start Mall, where the crowd had swelled to thousands, fine dust blew in from the east. It was rubble. The mammoth crane residents know as Twinkle Toes was demolishing the Holiday Inn.
Cellphones and cameras waved high in the air. More hands were shaken, more people buzzed about their snaps and glimpses.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee drew unseasonably cheery calls from the sidelines and Prime Minister John Key was left in the wake of dwindling onlookers, as far from the centre of attention as he has been in Christchurch for some time.
With 80 locally-accredited media and 85 assigned policemen at various points, the tour ought to have been well organised but things began to fall apart by the time they reached the Show.
Plans were condensed and the walkabouts harried. The handshakes and chats were few and far between. The blue blood was failing and complexions grew red.
A couple of cops started unrolling yellow caution tape for people to hold, creating their own instant cordon.
Once again, Camilla looked for her partner. They reunited and picked up the pace for a whistlestop tour through the food and wine tent before departing.
The norwest continued to blow, dust continued to mist the air.
The royal couple flew to Darwin late last night. You might say, one had left the building.
Charles after showing a small group of people the New Zealand Wool label inside his suit: "It's a testament to how New Zealand wool can disguise a rapidly disintegrating body."
Charles on hearing a tourist say she came across the royal tour by chance: "I'm ever so sorry. I hope we didn't get in your way."
Charles to people gathered at the Canterbury A&P Show: "Everybody having a jolly good time, are we?"
Camilla to a woman who said she enjoyed making clothes for her grandchildren: "I'm interested in crafts too. I make things for my grandchildren."
Camilla to a woman wearing a coronation badge. "Thank you for wearing that."
- The Press