After twenty months of travel, we’ve made it back to New Zealand… though not, it must be said, home. After a week at my sister’s farm near Melbourne, we’re now spending time with Craig’s dad and stepmum in Christchurch.

Monday 11/11: I’d never have thought DIY was my thing, but the flat that Anna and Mat are installing in the basement of their farmhouse is nearly finished. I spent most of the day down there varnishing, masking up cornices, and vacuuming, in an attempt to speed along the process so it would be all done before we left.

Anna and Mat both had to work in the evening, so they left us with the kids. I might be biased, being their aunt, but I have to say that these kids are awesome. Henry (who’s three) is polite and self-sufficient, happy to play with his trains for hours on end. He’ll rope you in to play with him if you pass by, but if not, he’ll amuse himself. He even ate all the food we gave him and sat quietly at the dinner table! Madness. And three-month-old Leo is the happiest baby in the whole world. The look of joy he gave me every time I went to check on him in his bouncer was heart-melting.

Pure joy.
Pure joy.

Tuesday 12/11: Since we’d got the varnishing done the day before, the flat was ready for carpet! The workers spent most of the day installing it, and Craig and I pulled off masking tape for an hour or so while Mat cooked a delicious dinner.

Wednesday 13/11: Although Mat had been enjoying the rain (“it fills the tanks!”) the rest of us weren’t too enamoured with it, not least because it stopped us from furnishing the flat. Luckily we had a couple of hours’ respite in the late morning, which allowed us to bring some of the furniture over from the shed, and Craig and I assembled beds and did some touch-up painting while Mat hung cupboard railings. Anna was overjoyed when she came home from work in the afternoon, and suggested that we have a sleepover in the flat that night. So we did. She pulled out a bottle of champagne that she’d had since we were all in Epernay together five years ago, as well as some Czech mead; a weird Hungarian spirit; and a couple of other delicious drinks: we celebrated in style.

Henry.
Henry.

Thursday 14/11: None of us really wanted to leave the flat, so we spent the morning down there, eating breakfast and entertaining some guests who dropped by. Eventually, though, we had to move upstairs: Craig and I had to pack our bags in preparation for our flight to Christchurch.

Anna and Henry kindly took us to the airport, where Henry shared his bowl of chips with us and Anna told us about the Virgin in-flight entertainment app. It’s a great idea: you can use your smartphone to access free entertainment over their in-flight wifi, saving them the cost of seatback screens and keeping prices low.

Goodbye, farm!
Goodbye, farm!

Friday 15/11: It was Canterbury Anniversary Day and Norrie and Anne (Craig’s dad and stepmum) had the day off work — so we went to the races. I’d never been before, or at least had never bet, but this first foray was a success: we won over $100! After a small win on the first race and a reasonable return on the second, we noticed a horse called Sunny Kash in the third race. Since we have a mate called Kash, we decided to bet two dollars on it. The odds were so strongly against poor Sunny Kash, that when it came in first (by at least two lengths) we got $134 out of it. Awesome. Needless to say, we now owe Kash a beer.

A day at the races is even better if you win!
A day at the races is even better if you win!

Saturday 16/11: Norrie and Anne had organised a party in honour of our return to the Shaky Isles (i.e. New Zealand), so we spent most of the day preparing for it. The sun was shining so brightly when everyone arrived that spots in the shade were highly sought after; we moved inside a bit later on when the wind picked up. It was a lovely evening with great food and good people.

Sunday 17/11: The last time we were in Christchurch, most of the city centre was off-limits. Now, many of the earthquake-damaged buildings have been pulled down and it’s safe to stroll through the Red Zone, which we did in the early afternoon. It’s sad to see so many flattened lots where iconic buildings used to be, and a lot of the city still sits behind fences, but everything’s looking a lot better than it did two years ago.

The city's looking a lot better these days.
The city’s looking a lot better these days.

I was pleased to see that the Cashel St pop-up mall Re:Start was still going strong. Apparently it’s going to be taken down when more of Christchurch is rebuilt, but I really hope city planners leave it standing — it’s an iconic symbol of a city rebuilding itself after disaster.

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