22 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 22 February 2011 in Diary |

Terrible news from New Zealand. An earthquake has struck Christchurch, in the South Island, killing anything up to 100 people with over 200 others buried in the rubble. I had no idea that New Zealand was on the earthquake belt but apparently they suffered a less serious earthquake in the same place a short while ago. It transpires that they are indeed on a fault line on a tectonic plate  and as a result suffer a significant number of minor earthquakes every year, usually without damage to property or persons.

I only have happy memories of Christchurch which I visited in 1956. I was living in Australia at the time when the Olympic Games were being staged there. With all the planes arriving in full in Australia I felt it was a sensible time to get one of the empty ones going back to New Zealand and so spent three happy weeks there. I did all the usual things starting off in the North Island at Rotorua, the site of the bubblimg mud pools and other tourist spots before crossing to the South Island where I visited all the major cities and went on the famous three day Milford Sound walk. My time in Christchurch was particularly memorable as it was in second place in the world where I had managed to water ski in the morning and snow ski in the afternoon. (The other being in Beirut where I recall I stayed at what was then, and may still be, the St Georges hotel.)

New Zealand is one of the most consistently beautiful countries I have ever been to. When asked to describe what it was like I used to suggest that if you took a model of Australia, tore out the entire centre,  like they dough from the middle of a loaf of bread (affectionately known by the Aussies as the Great Bugger All) and then twist and tear what was left into two pieces and threw them into the ocean, you would have New Zealand. The point being that all the population and most beautiful parts of Australia are on the edges which, reflectes,  in some ways, the same natural beauty spots in New Zealand.

I am sure that our thoughts are with all those poor people in New Zealand today who have suffered the loss of a dear one or are frantic to find one of their own buried in the rubble.

The I remember 1956 for another. Requests had been issued for volunteers to look after some of the minor Olympic teams and for some reason my boss volunteered that we ended up with the Ethiopian contingent. I don’t recall a great deal about it as I was away for three weeks of the period in which we were responsible for these athletes, however, I do recall that our gift from the Emperor Haile Selassie was a pair of purple drawers (akin to long shorts). I can’t remember whether we got the pair each or there was just one pair for my boss, but it did seem rather a strange gift at the time.

Moving to another trouble spot it seems that I was premature in suggesting that Col Gaddafi would be toppled imminently. He appeared on the local television at 2 p.m, bizarrely from the passenger seat of a car, assuring the population that he had not fled to Venezuela has had been rumoured. However, with Libyan diplomats all over the world deserting the present regime in protest to the hard line tactics of the police and armed forces and, in particular, the defection, to Malta, of two air force colonel’s complete with their Harrier jets, refusing to bomb the protesters, it seems likely that it will only be a matter of time before Gaddafi goes.

In the World Cricket Series the Dutch played magnificently against England, their  292 runs left England  having to score the third highest run rate ever in any World Series to win. They achieved it with a fine six over long off from Bopara with only eight balls to spare. England will certainly have to play better than this in the field, if they are to make the quarter-finals.

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