Eleven: Joy found in a road cone
This city. Sometimes I could chuck it on the naughty step until it's had time to properly think about what it's done. It can take a good hard look at itself in the mirror and come back and apologise.
But it never really does apologise. The best it does is let you feel a bit of hope now and again. Perhaps a cool new shop or bar will open. Or you'll see an architect's vision that lets you feel the future here might be exciting. For someone.
Lately, though, inspiration is lacking. All the things that seemed positive appear to have stopped.
There's doubt the central city performing arts precinct will go ahead, troubles with the innovation precinct over delays and overpriced land, a financial report warning the council of a funding shortfall to the tune of $534 million and general squabbles over what to get on with first. Not to mention the floods.
Living here means fundamentally changing what you believe "good news" to be. Like, good news is someone getting the answer EQC or their insurer should have given them three years ago, or having an election campaign so politicians can start making us promises again.
But every now and then a story comes along that warms the cockles of your cynical little heart. I found such a story last week.
I'd been out speaking to a Probus group in North Canterbury and they'd all laughed in the right places so the day started well. On the way back into the office, I was driving down Colombo St when I saw a person riding a bike with a road cone on their head.
"Bloody students," I thought. "Drunk in the day time."
Then, as I drove past, I realised it was a grey-haired woman and the road cone was made of wool.
Logic was telling me "a hat is not news" but my gut was firmly over-riding logic.
I drove a block past her and pulled over so that by the time she cycled past, I was leaning on my car with notebook in hand and a pen poised over it, ready to go.
The woman was Sandy Turner, a numeracy and literacy tutor with a sideline in crochet and a love for making beanie hats.
She'd seen those All Right campaigns designed to keep our chins up while the rebuild slowly goes ahead, or to remind us it's OK to drop our lips now and then too.
Anyway, Sandy told me she had seen a poster saying: "It's All Right to feel stoked."
"Well, I'm coping pretty well right now," she said. "But it hasn't always been like that.
"I had some energy and enthusiasm so I wanted to share it. I started wondering how to bring a bit of humour to people driving through those awful traffic jams."
So she got the crochet needle out and started creating a woolly road cone to be worn over her cycle helmet. Shove a pointy bit of polystyrene under it and there you have it, the latest in traffic- inspired millinery. You couldn't get a more Christchurch hat unless you knitted a portaloo.
To be fair, it wasn't the only road cone hat I'd seen before. In 2011, I judged the Wainoni Seniors annual hat parade for which one woman had fashioned a road cone hat out of cardboard.
The thing with road cone hats is that they take a while to catch on, I guess.
Sandy said cars tooted as she cycled through town and the sight of her elicited more than a few smiles, which was her sole intention.
And there you have it. What strange times we live in when an unexpected road closure can have you break down in tears while a stranger with a knitted road cone hat can bring tears of the other kind.
That's Christchurch's strange magnifying effect in action.