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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Caught short at Tristan's with cask wine and the third Topp Twin

Caught short at Tristan's with cask wine and the third Topp Twin

Last updated 10:45 11/04/2011
OPINION: In the olden days I was in the habit of strolling down to the Bohemian Cafe located opposite the Avon and a majestic avenue of poplars to indulge in a bagel and a coffee served by the charming Sue.

I had been fretting about that cafe and its owners so when I saw a regular patron wandering along the road leading a brace of miniature schnauzers I stopped him to see if he knew of their fate.

The Bohemian is jake but the two office buildings next to it aren't. Sue is going back nursing and her husband is trying to get a job driving trucks to tide them over.

Apparently, when Sue was herding the patrons out of the shaking Bohemian, a customer had the audacity to bail her up mid-quake to ask for a receipt to which she replied: "Come back and I'll fill one out for you - probably about June."

I am on to my second courtesy car as the insurers rang to say they were going to put Mr Swift back together again. The replacement parts for the Suzuki took a month to arrive from poor old Japan so hopefully the mechanics won't get radiated as they toil away putting on a new roof and windscreen and smoothing out all the bumps.

I went to the letterbox one morning and was absolutely stunned to pull out a letter addressed to "Benecio Bowron" my cat who, always embarrassed by the limitation of his paws, got me to open it revealing a postcard of a very handsome feline and a message from Gilly with fifty bucks enclosed and no return address.

Benecio was overwhelmed by such a kind act but says he feels compelled to donate it to animal welfare because there are so many other pussies worse off than him. He gets better with each passing day, the scar over his left eye making him look terribly butch, the fur growing back on his hind-quarter so I won't be able to call him "poodle leg" any more.

People are so nice. The magic letterbox has yielded tailormade CDs, a calendar of elegant ladies in hats, a T-shirt with a dog on it, a sick bag with a picture of Wills and Kate on the front and the instruction, "Keep this handy for the Royal Wedding on April 29th" underneath it, and an acid yellow tea towel advising: "When life hands you lemons - make a gin and tonic."

I went for a walk with a cobber and ended up in Stanmore Rd where they have been tearing down the main block of shops all week. Outside, where Wicks fish shop used to be and where two people died so tragically, there are bunches of sad flowers hanging from the mesh.

My friend was caught short and with no portaloos in sight we nervously went into Tristan's, famed to be the roughest bar in town. It would have been churlish to use the loo and leave so we decided to buy a drink and I asked the bar lady what kind of wine they had, to which she replied: "There's not much call for wine from our customers but we've got a cask." That'll do, I said and climbed on the bar stool to hear how Tristan's had become a meeting point for the traumatised community, as the bulldozer continued to attack and flatten.

TRISTAN'S owner Colleen, who looks like the third Topp Twin, arrived and related her quake story, how she had been in the car and got knocked off the Sydenham bridge and watched with horror as the building with the Kiwi on top of it fell down in front of her. The early-opening pub is one of the few buildings left and she is resolved to stay but will not be signing any ghastly pledge. I quite agree, loathing The Pledge with its overtones of McCarthyism and the pledge American evangelicals make to keep their virginity till marriage. I feel like starting a counter movement just to be perverse inspired by The Animals line: "We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do" movement.

I have been driving Miriam to and from work as she has been relocated to one of the new business parks in Addington. It takes two buses to get there and a long stretch to the bus stop at night in semi-industrial unlit streets that are scary for a woman to walk alone in. She thinks it's only a matter of time before someone gets mugged and then there'll be all hell to pay.

I go and visit Paddy the computer guy in the east and they're heartily sick of the trucks coming daily to blow the silt out of the drains.

"We're all of a mind for the council to cut off the water for a week and just fix it once and for all," he says wearily.

I drive over to Riccarton to go to Briscoes and every man and his dog is there with carts piled high replacing what they've lost in the quake.

Everyone has lists and there is no enjoyment to this kind of shopping as they trudge the lanes.

I'm moving to the front flat next week which will be sunnier and bigger and the padre brother will be staying with me for Holy Week before leaving for England for study leave. I tell him he's like the canary in the tunnel in reverse because every time he leaves Christchurch, Old Bucky comes back to town.

Last weekend I went to Auckland for work and what a surreal experience it was too, all expensive cars, hot weather and hordes of people. I felt quite the hick and realised I kept looking for something that wasn't there. It was the piles of rubble. Over and out from Betty Rubble.

- The Dominion Post

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