My grandfather’s place on the outskirts of Christchurch was an exotic locale in the mind of an eight year old boy. The house was always immaculate. The yard was pristine, the lawn mown smoother than a bowling green. The goldfish under the wire in a pond wrapped around a fountain was about the most outlandish thing I could imagine. Around the pond smooth flagstones warmed in the sun were carefully matched and aligned in a path that went around the side of the house. I can still smell and feel the heat coming off those stones. The house was located well back from a quiet road. Push through a hedge at the back of the house and be taken into a collection of sheds among trees and explore to your hearts content.
So it would have stayed if I had not fancied that somehow thirty years later it would all still be just so, in reality as it is in my minds eye. Now a gas station hides the old house from the road. The bowling green lawns are a jungle. The house is a mess with peeling paint and awkward handyman extensions of shade cloth. The sheds behind the house and the forever fields are now being turned into a housing estate. In fact the kindest thing I could do to honour the memory of that place and of the people who lived there was to not take a photo at all. Rather, to take a view from the back fence from where I used to gaze in anticipation of wild roaming, “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians”. What used to be a blank sheet for the imagination of a boy and his brothers is now housing estate. Here is the view, looking towards the foothills of Banks Peninsular. Of all the things I have seen and done in my travels this visit is one thing I now regret doing. I regretted it then and I regret it now.