Our Big Day Out – To Christchurch

My cousin’s husband had died suddenly earlier in the week. This was awful news at an awful time of the year. Somehow I’d had enough of sudden deaths for 2009 –two was two too many. Julian was a lovely man who had a way of saying what he thought needed to be said without worrying about what people thought. In the dark days of my separation I went to visit Julian and Beth in Christchurch for what I hoped was a weekend of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. I got the rejuvenation, but not how I expected. They both gave me a hard time, in the nicest way, and Julian always laughingly referred to it thereafter as Boot Camp. Helping someone turn their life around is a rare gift – and not one you ever forget. Plus Julian was a blogger when I didn’t know what a blogger was. Plus he liked a good Port. Plus he thought global warming wasn’t all it is cracked up to be. I was always looking forward to one day having that discussion with him but now I never will. Such is life …. and death.

His funeral service was to be in Christchurch on Saturday 2nd January. We were going to get there somehow and my sister from Cromwell could only get the one day off so it was going to be a return trip. We were up early and on the road by 6.40am. It was a lovely morning for a zoom through to Cromwell where we met Alaine and Murray and headed off in their car. Murray was happy to drive for a start and in the end drove all the way there and back. We stopped for breakfast at Omarama and carried on across the Mackenzie country. We had a quick stop at Geraldine to visit the Barkers outlet shop – that’s Barkers the makers of fine things like sun dried tomato chutney. Then we stayed inland to Mayfield where Alaine was keen to visit the second-hand shop which was a wonderful genuine country-style second hand shop of huge proportions. From there we followed some straight sealed back roads to Rakaia and the main drag north.

Plan A had been to lunch at the old store at Dunsandel but it was closed. It is hard to understand why small businesses that rely on passing traffic close on holidays when the roads are clogged with passing traffic. They must be doing very well to not want new business. We headed on to Christchurch. I wanted to visit a Noel Leemings store to pick up a flash drive I’d got with Fly Buys points – there not being any store nearer to Alexandra than Queenstown. So we stopped off at the Westfield mall in Riccarton for flash drives and lunch. We then found our way across town to the funeral near Woolston with a few minutes to spare before 2pm. It was a lovely place for a funeral, mostly a wedding venue in a big old two-story mansion in a garden setting. The room was set out with circular tables with seating around – which set the tone for a wonderful funeral. Some funerals are celebrations of a life in a funeral setting. This was a celebration of a life in a celebration setting. The ‘celebrant’ was more like an MC. There were no ‘eulogies’, there were ‘speakers’. Someone started to clap at the conclusion of one of the early speakers and the MC picked up on that and said if we wanted to clap we could clap. So speakers were applauded. And jokes were greeted with laughter. I don’t recall laughing so much for a long time – one of Julian’s sons ‘speech’ was the funniest thing I’ve heard for a long time. So there were tears and laughter and it was a lovely send off. In the end his sons carried him down to his whitebaiting van and away he went. Farewell Julian – a life well lived and over much too soon.

We stayed on for drinks and nibbles and a catch-up with the cousins. Then it was back in the car and south. We did the turn-off at Rakaia again and headed inland. It was a misty sort of evening, maybe we’d had the best of the day. Tea was fish and chips in Geraldine at about 7.30pm. Once over Burkes Pass we broke out of the cloud and mist into a gorgeous summer evening. We were rewarded with great views of Mt Cook and took the detour via the canal to Lake Pukaki to make the most of the view. We were back over the Lindis Pass in the last of the daylight and soon back at Cromwell and our car. It was 11pm by the time we got back to the orchard and Suzi – 16 hours, 950 kms and one funeral later.

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