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February 15, 2016

Shake A Leg

The Valentine's Day earthquake has put a new twist on this review of the annual New Zealand Morris Tour. Two year's ago I put my hand up to organise the 2016 gathering of Morris dancers. I was particularly keen to draw on the post- earthquake recovery vibe around Canterbury as my theme, before the Rebuild was complete and the creative energy had been replaced by a new steel and glass Christchurch.

A month ago, two years of planning and five days of tripping around Christchurch and the Waimakariri district came to a satisifying end. 

Visitors from around the country as well as from overseas, especially those who hadn't visited the area since the February 2011 earthquake, felt moved at seeing close-up, some of the sites - and sights - which played over and over again on news footage following that disaster five years ago. 

Some also expressed awe and dismay at the magnitude of land clearance, observing that they could only understand it once they were standing amongst it all.

But yesterday's 5.7 magnitude quake brings the safety fences, the barriers of shipping containers, and the fear back into sharp relief. These when will they be gone, features proved their worth yesterday, particularly around Sumner where cliffs and rock faces crumbled spectacularly.

A reminder of our frailty; a reminder to love well, to enjoy the life we lead; and not place too much value on tangible possessions.

Back to the Tour then!

Kitty made me proud - and  wistful because Elwin wasn't here  - to see her play melodeon for the Morris for the first time in public.

When she could get a break from work Bryony joined us

 - as a groupie - delighted to see old friends from our years in Wellington.

We did indeed take an ex-London bus - for a night out at The Twisted Hop. The route the driver took from Kaiapoi to Woolston was an unexpected treat in itself. The sun was low and bathing the familiar countryside of pasture, market gardens, and Red Zoned riverside, with an evening glow. Even the sewerage ponds and estuary with all the water birds settling for the night looked beautiful with the back drop of the Port Hills sculpted by the light. I drive this route regularly but had never seen it from the top of double decker bus before! 

Earlier in the day the group danced in Rangiora, meeting the maker of our badges, Caroline Travella of Bizzart, in Good St.

I was a bit disappointed that our dance spots in Rangiora did not reflect the Rebuild. I'd watched Conway Lane being developed over the last eight months and thought it would be very celebratory to dance there. It is a new and well thought out collaboration between Council and business owners, but I couldn't get approval to perform there.  

Dancing in Victoria Park had very little to do with the Rebuild but everything to do with showing off a place dear to me. From my earliest childhood visits to the playground, through my time as a gardener learning my craft there and any number of fairs, markets and picnics, this park is part of my being. But showing visitors around always opens up new awareness. People commented on the huge size of the two oak trees, something I take for granted. We were certainly grateful for their shade.

On our day in Christchurch we managed to see and dance at some of the best known features, not all of them at Rebuild stage...

Cathedral Square 

Re:Start Mall

The Dance o Mat

The Margaret Mahy Family Playground

Along with the evening bus ride I think the morning tea hosted by the Pines and Kairaki Beach Association was one of my personal favourites on the Tour programme.

So much of these two beach settlements were made uninhabitable by the September 2010 earthquake, yet the residents maintain a strong and unified community. Members spoke to us about the Residents' Association history and also how lessons learned from the Canterbury quakes were used to inform Wellington's earthquake readiness. 

It seemed strange that with the land cleared and all the homely back gardens gone, the Pines Beach Hall actually had a lovely treed one to host us in. The hall itself is damaged and we could only venture in a few at a time to view the history display of the area.

Later that day we danced at the Brick Mill Cafe which is part of a larger historic twine mill at Waikuku. The building is an ongoing labour of love for its owners, Paul and Jeni Sanderson. They have managed to strengthen it using ingenuity and their own labour, running it as a cafe, gift shop, art gallery and antiques shopping destination.

For a sobering end to the week's outings we joined Joseph Hullen of Ngai Tahu for a fascinating tour of the local Kaiapoi Pa site. Joseph coloured his talk with, botany, archaeology, and New Zealand history, but tempered that with his own familial links to the site. Everyone agreed that his humble and non judgemental approach brought the site to life. 

Being in that place, where poor governance and betrayal lead to a horrific massacre, was also a reminder to me that no matter how distressing the Canterbury earthquakes have been, they are an act of Nature, not mankind against mankind. 

The seismologists tell us that there are still another 25 years or so of after shocks - like yesterday's - ahead of us. They will be part of the rest of my life. I hope that even though I feel my dancing days are over, Morris dancers will continue to be family of mine for the rest of my life. As 13 year old Myles said in his television interview "Everyone's nice". 

9 year old Ewan had this to say about his dancing holiday: Tour this year was AMAZING!!! The best parts were riding on the double decker bus, having lots of fun at the Ale and playing at the Margaret Mahy playground. I absolutely loved dancing and riding on the tram. The food was delicious, I had pizza, Chinese and Indian. The trip to Sumner was AWESOME, especially climbing the rocks. Thank you to the organisers and I’m looking forward to next Tour.

The youngsters attending this tour showed that a new generation is moving up, with Myles, Kitty, 11 year old Hamish, and Ewan, all having grown up around Morris dancing. It's too early to tell whether 4 month old Rowan who was also on Tour is going to follow in his father's footsteps.