Running a rule over ringleaders
Given the deep and complex problems facing our city, the need for wise, compassionate and canny leadership becomes all the more important.
If the leadership comes with a touch of the supernatural, all the better.
So when Gandalf - OK, Sir Ian McKellen, but let's not quibble over details - came to Christchurch last weekend I was keen to bend his ear with our city's problems and get his advice.
On a tour of the city, I asked him first what we should do with the Town Hall, for which Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee has no affection, but which the Christchurch City Council wants to restore and improve.
Gandalf said: "Ah, the great hall of Warren, the bushy- eyed. Yes it is well that you ask me for I have a foreboding about this room of the living. I sense the insatiable lust for destruction of Gerryman the Obliterator. You must be swift as the Bull of Dozer works surpassingly quick. The walls of this hall look steadfast to me and I see no defect in its foundations. I know not what peril Gerryman divines but he is less interested in the satisfaction of repair than in the pleasure of destruction. Haste is needed for Gerryman summons the clouds of ruin. I fear the people do not love this hall enough to send them away."
From the Town Hall we shuffled along to Christ Church Cathedral where I asked Gandalf if we should return the church to its former glory or build a new one.
Gandalf said: "I possess the learning on an ancient lore-master but I have no understanding of this strange and newfound faith that builds towers fit for the lords of Gondor. I have heard of the great protector Matthews of Victoria, who speaks to gods unknown to the wise men of my time. My powers, such as they are, are no match for this new sorcery. I am not acquainted with their runes and verses. But these stones talk to me like those in the mines of Moria. Their bare edges cry out to me for restoration.
"To think they will end their days as landscaping supplies sends a chill through my heart. Stones hewn from the earth's crust have grown into their new purpose and need shelter from the mysterious spells of Matthews of Victoria. It matters not how much milrith is needed for the task. Some know the price but not the value."
Gandalf and I then settled in for a coffee in Worcester Boulevard and I asked him how he would negotiate the increasingly difficult relationship between Cera and the council over the future of Christchurch.
"Gerryman has become large of belly and his reach is long. The desires of his people have no hold on his mind. Robert the White also seeks the prize but the only measure he knows is adulation. Only one hand at a time can wield the one. It may be beyond even the wise to choose the rightful bearer. In this matter it would be well to trust in no-one and, with suspicious eyes, keep watch.
"Their battle with each other may bring the innocent within its sphere and the city will know no peace until fate decides who will be paramount. There will be no peace in the flat lands until the struggle is decided.
"My heart tells me both have a part to play before the end. The one can wreak great evil in the wrong hands but we must pray Gerryman and Robert the White will rise above themselves to withstand its corruption. I fear it may already be too late and great perils lie ahead."
Righto, Gandalf, I said, draining my flat white, and noticing he had hardly touched his.
What about Lianne Dalziel entering the mayoral race then?
"I know her as Lianne of Zeal, daughter of Labor. I see she comes from the East lands where her people are poor and downtrodden. If she seeks the one with pity and mercy in her heart she may reap little hurt and much gain. She has swum in treacherous waters long before she sought the one. Those not taken in such seas have either learned lessons by necessity or made a secret pact with the enemy. Let time deliver the answer. Gerry the Obliterator and Robert the White may set aside their differences and seek to crush her, I fear. She has prevailed before and may prevail again."
Well thanks for your time Gandalf. Will you stay and help us then?
"Your plight brings to my mind the twin disasters of Isengard and Mordor. But no, I must say farewell, Martin. My work is finished and my time is gone.
"The burden must lie upon you and your kindred. I must fly."