Wellington and Christchurch (21st April and 22nd April)

Friday, 22nd April, 2005

Christchurch Crowne Plaza Hotel. Their system says I have stayed here before. For the life of me, I just cannot remember every being in this hotel. Airtravel and Hotels are an occupational hazard. Someone has to invent a word for the feeling of not knowning where you are upon waking up in a hotel in a strange city.

Nick’s rules for staying in Hotels:

  1. Write the room number you are staying in on your hand
  2. Steal the spare soap to take home
  3. If there is chocolate on the pillow, store it for family gifts when you get home

The first meeting in the morning passes, with a recommendation to visit Victoria Lookout. Obviously, all these places were named in the Queen Victoria era where people fawned over royalty.

My life and Allan’s are in his hands as we wind our way up to above 332 meters above Christchurch and look down on the city-on-the-Cantebury plain.

Allan, the Christchurch’s number 78 taxi driver, is an interesting codger. Secondly, he’s 78 years old. He’d rather be out driving a taxi than sitting at home. He’s been a car mechanic and insurance assessor; and one gets the opinion he’s had some sad turns of events in his life.

After the last meeting of the week, Allan and I head out to the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum. Allan, in his younger days wanted to be a pilot. These earlier days coincided with World War 2; and his mum didn’t want to sign the papers permitting him to join.

Probably that’s why Allan is with us today. At the museum, it commemorates the 4149 New Zealand air force crew who lost their life in World War 2. Like the museum in Duxford, the names overwealm you – like Canada and to a lesser extent Australia – aircrews were trained overseas and faught for the Home Country and sadly died in their droves.

A Douglas Dakota, in RNZAF livery for the 1953 Queen Elizabeth Tour of New Zealand, is in the middle of the hanger surrounded by a Spitfire, donated RAAF Canberra, Avro Anson and other older and later model aircraft.

We wander down through the “Danger: Military Area” gate (chain-link fence gate, not locked!) to the other hangers to see aircraft restoration: an aluminium P40 and wooden Airspeed Oxford — the latter representing one of 299 of these used by the NZ air force and eventually sold to farmers as chicken sheds in the 1950s for 10 pounds.

In the main museum there is a Spitfire (Mark V?) from late in the war – in fact too late to see action – apart from staring in Reach For the Sky. Originally, this expensive and rare Spitfire was mounted in the open on just near the Christchurch airport entrance until the mid 1980s. The mounted Spitfire is now a cheaper fibreglass replica.

Time to leave Allan, and Christchurch. A special afternoon for us both. I wonder if Allan did take the rest of the day off. I hope he did.

Thursday, 21st April, 2005

I think I hear rain outside the window of my hotel room. Rain in Wellington defies all Newtonian physics by raining sidewides.

As the umbrella decides to have structural failure on the way to the first meeting, I an soaked when I arrive.

This job has its distinct downsides. A major downside is missing birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. This trip is Avril’s Birthday I miss. Thankfully, the present arrives on time, underbudget at home this morning.

The afternoon clears, and I have finished my last meeting early. There is no early flight to Christchurch via Qantas – so I decide to go to Mount Victoria and take some photos.

Sam, the taxi driver, shares stories from the Wellington side from my last attempt at visiting this city. In February, I and some of my fellow Adobe team members flew to within 50m of Wellington, turned around, and landed back in Auckland. In Wellington, the city was full of people not going anywhere. Sam also says that on the full-tide, with no wind, the harbour becomes becalmed – and the sea is enchanting. I’d love to see that.

From Mount Victoria lookout, there is a chinook (helicopter) lifting building supplies to a hillside behind the city; and planes fly underneath where we are standing to land at the ultra-exposed airport. Its such a bright, cloudless day that belies the true windy and changeable weather of this city.

To the airport; sleep on the short flight to Christchurch, leave my book on the plane as I am absolutely knackered after a very full week.