Mr Watson? Who Needs A Sidekick?


“Hi, do you have a book by Jack Richards?”

My sweeping generalisation radar was telling me the guy asking this question was more into Metallica than musing over a book, the only reason he would normally come near a library I thought would be to get one of those oily motor manuals you can smell a mile off in the library. There is a group of guys you only see come in for motor manuals… never a novel or even a DVD. Occasionally maybe Autocar Magazine.

But I digress.

“So, is that the author? Is it a story, or a factual book (I’ve learnt using the terms ‘fiction and non fiction’ isn’t always helpful)?”

“Um, dunno, it just had that on the cover eh”

“Ok,” I keep on asking questions as I lead him over to the computer. “Do you know what it’s called?”

“Nah, something about death maybe?”

Do a bit of searching, no Jack Richards.

“Maybe it was ‘Not Dying’ or something?” he ventured.

Light bulb lit…. Ah, Jack REACHER, Lee Child, “Worth Dying For”.

“Yeah, that’s it!”

But of course, after the detective work and success all round – we didn’t have it, or any of Lee Child’s novels on the shelf. I offered to get one over from another library, but he’d already lost interest.

So mixed results, but, as so often happens in this job, I felt like a detective on the case.

Solutions to problems, answers to questions, conundrums are deconundrum-ised (new word!) – ah the life of a librarian!




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Christmas 2011

It has been a truly trying year for us all, excepting for a few absolutely wonderful things!

Feb 22: The 6.5 earthquake hit around lunchtime. I was in the staff room having lunch, and after September and all the aftershocks, this was so much worse. 185 people killed, many injured and so many lost homes, businesses, family and friends.

We were so lucky in so many ways. Our house is ok, we have suffered only minor damage ($20,000), and we were so lucky to have not lost 2 of our children. My stepdaughter was standing with friends in front of the Cathedral (which collapsed) in The Square, and they had just decided not to go in. They ran for their lives while buildings fell around them. My son was walking along the street in the city on the way to Jazz School and luckily had the presence of mind to run into the street as facades above him fell, had he not, he would have been crushed.

We were lucky as we had no liquefaction either, but we had no water or sewerage for almost two weeks, never thought we’d be digging in our own garden to bury toilet waste and going down to the water tanker down the street to get water.

The city has been changed forever, our hometown is no longer what it was, and never will be.  We are now starting to rebuild, plan for a new city and new communities.  It is hard to explain how you feel when you drive through your city and whole blocks have gone, iconic buildings disappeared or crumbling, and every day you hear people talking of the stress and loss they are feeling.

The library closed for several months and I worked for a couple of weeks on the emergency call centre phones fielding calls from distressed and sad people desperate for help.

March – April : Of course, the plans we had made for our wedding in April the wedding unravelled somewhat, we had planned to get married in a gorgeous cave that had been set up as a venue, complete with candles, dance floor and sadly it was covered in car sized boulders that covered the cave entrance and the adjoining house.

The caterer, ring maker, dressmaker and celebrant’s premises or homes were all affected, but we found a new venue out of town and the wedding went beautifully well, just as we wanted it to. All the people we had hired to help went above and beyond and we couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day. We did a ukulele duet, and I sang instead of the more predictable first dance.

June 25 : Two over  5 aftershocks hit midday, an hour apart. I was cleaning up the library storeroom with a colleague.  The power went out, things were falling on us from shelves, and in the dark we couldn’t see what was around us to get out. It was very scary and gave me a glimpse of what it must have been like to be trapped in the buildings in town in February.

My work this year has been stressful, the library was closed many times, often for months, the city council staff moved in needing somewhere to work while putting the city back together.

I have been working all over the city at just about every library, which is hard, getting to know a new place, new people, customers are stressed and dealing with drama in their lives and often take it out on you, forgetting you are dealing with your own stresses. I am presently at Lyttelton library, a lovely port community severely hit by the Feb quake, with most of the main street gone and many homes destroyed. But it’s lovely there and I’ll be there while my library is repaired, and hopefully return there in February.

Post note: Dec23- A series of earthquakes hit again, within a couple of hours 3 in the 5’s and a 6.0, more liquefaction, more disruption and frayed nerves, but no loss of life, and not a lot of buildings down, I think mainly because they have already fallen!! Life here is so uncertain, just when things settle and we are all saying, “well, here’s to a quiet and peaceful Christmas” – this happens! Life seems never  to be constant, predictable, safe here and you just can’t feel as if things are plan-able!

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Christchurch after Feb 22 2011

I wrote this March 3rd, 2011
A hastily written sign on a big piece of cardboard that says “free water, bring your own container”, a huge pile of rubble where a shop used to be, with a couple of people calmly sitting on camp stools beside it chipping bricks and stacking them in a pile, face masks, a group of men carrying clipboards and wearing orange vests going door to door, dust blowing past houses on a very gusty day, piles of silt lining the streets bigger than cars: a drive down any street in Christchurch will yield images that you know are real, but yet so surreal, you just can’t process them.
If you catch someone’s eye, something passes between you. You give each other a small closed lip smile and often a raise of the eye brows.
Perfect strangers reaching out to each other and in that spilt second, you know what they are thinking –
“This is crazy, hope you are hanging in there, kia kaha (stay strong).”
I noticed this everywhere I went today and I also noticed the weariness. People look tired, their body language says it all, the tired look on their faces and a vacant look that tells you their minds are elsewhere.
As I write, my biggest saucepan is on the stove, boiling water that I just got from the tanker on the side of a local street. The guy said 70 people visited him yesterday, and today, at 9.30 15 had already been.
We have a black plastic bin liner in the toilet and a bag of dirt beside it. We’ll have to figure out where to dig a hole tomorrow, as our tiny garden has ground like concrete.
It took two earthquakes, but today, with time on my hands and as a distraction, I finally decided to collect up an emergency kit – dust masks, wet wipes, can opener, first aid kit, it’s all there now and I finally feel like I’m taking this new life seriously.
Christchurch is an earthquake city and that is our new reality.
Yesterday was a day that I hope I don’t have to go through again, but as the death toll nears 160, and only a few names have been released, I fear it may be just one of many.
My son’s close friend Jaime Gilbert was killed downtown outside The Iconic Bar, and my partner and I attended his funeral yesterday that 1000 other people attended. He was a wonderful, talented, selfless person, and as my son so eloquently said at the service,
“He was the kind of guy that had so many friends, but he always made you feel as if you were number one to him.” I was so proud of my son. He played guitar and sang a song at the funeral that he had written for Jaime and his strength and love for his friend was humbling.
There was so much sadness, yet so much love and so much strength in his family. Everyone there was just weary from grief and disbelief that a stunning young man such as Jaime, only 22 and with two children under 2 was now no longer with us.
So, today is a day of details, busying myself with small distractions, I feel as if I dwell on it all too much, it will be a pit I can’t climb out of.
I’m glad we can’t get into the centre of town, it would just do us all in I think if we really could see the extent of the damage in there. The little we see on television, on the net, in the neighbourhoods is numbing enough. How the people on the front line cope I do not know and I am so in awe of how they go on each day, despite their own lives often being filled with crisis and stress.
Christchurch won’t ever be the same, but that doesn’t mean we can’t move forward, be great again, a vibrant proud city that we all love to live in – not too big, not too small!
I wish all my Christchurch friends and family peace and calm, and to my overseas friends, think good thoughts, donate money to the numerous appeals if you are able and thank the earth below you for staying where it is!

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