Friday, February 23


When we lived in the Southern City, I spent a lot of time in the actual city.

When BFJ & I first 'met' the city, we had hitchhiked down for Easter Weekend.
We were then Apple Picking up in the Nelson region, (which I have previously blogged about) & it was quite a long way down the South Island to Christchurch.

BFJ & I set off confidantly, quite sure we would travel safely to & from our destinations. As it happened we didnt have too much trouble getting down to the city.
A lot of our friends we had met Apple Picking had done the same, & the weekend was a beautiful one, with perfect weather which doesnt always happen at Easter time in Christchurch. We had a wonderful weekend, & though the journey back was somewhat fraught, that is another story, for another blog.

We had decided we liked this Southern City, so after we came to the end of the Apple Picking season, we moved on down to the City. And duly found jobs, some of which have been previously blogged about.

Time passed, a lot of water flowed under the bridges of the city, a lot of 'life' happened to us, & we were both married with children, & still living in that Southern city.

The City had great 'Characters'. There is a huge Cathedral in the Centre of the city, & a huge Square, where many of the Eccentric Characters would congregate. All buses led to the Square, so when BFJ & I would arrange to meet up for a day shopping, we would always get the bus to the Square. And all the buses in those days were red. I believe they have changed now.

It was fun to stand & listen to the Wizard rant & rave, dressed in his full Wizard gear, with long black robes, & tall black Wizard hat. Tourists would stand in awe, & he would pose for photographs. He claimed to be a REAL Wizard, & was very witty, & always fun to listen to. People loved to heckle him, & soon he had a strange little 'companion Character'. And he LOATHED her!

She was called Reenee(sp?) & she brought along a ladder, as she was a very short small woman, with curious orange, wispy, short hair, & she claimed to represent the 'Christians'. I think she felt the Wizard was a 'dark' side.

Unfortunately, Reenee felt she could sing. She had a very non musical voice, & an old violin, which she could not play! So she would get up onto her ladder, & screech & wheeze out noises, which she claimed were Christian songs, to drown out the evils of the Wizard! What a cacophony!

And the Wizard would rant even louder, & call her dreadfully disrespectful names, & watchers on the sidelines would howl with laughter.

Once though, the Wizard leapt upon Reenee, & snatched her terrible old tuneless violin & smashed it! He yelled out that he could no longer stand the noise of the DEVIL, coming from that 'Wicked Woman'!! He told her she was 'an abomination' and to leave his domain NOW.

I cant remember but I think that was considered one step too far, & he got reprimanded over that incident, & had to replace her violin. Much to his disgust & horror.

So, the Square was always good for free entertainment & laughs aplenty.

And quite close to the main Square, there was another park, with a huge statue of Queen Victoria in the centre, & the birds used to use if for perching rights, & consequently old 'Vicky' would be constantly covered in bird droppings.

And once the students from the University cemented a toilet on her pedestal "to give her ease". They also cemented another on the steps of the Cathedral, but I think that was before the Wizard came to dwell in the Southern City.

And there was another old eccentric who used to sit in that park, on a wooden bench with his head covered in a knotted hankerchief, and wearing an old raincoat.

He would feed the birds, a lot of which were seagulls, & pigeons. They sat all over him, & he would sit there streaming with bird poo, & laughing insanely at the birds. And tourists would photograph him. I always wondered who washed his clothes, & I wondered why he didnt fall ill from some terrible disease.

I dont know what happened to him, but perhaps the men in white coats came.
Or perhaps he did fall ill.

I am not sure what became of Reenee, but she was there for many years, & she used to speak on radio in the evenings, & our young son, SB used to listen to her, & become enraged at what she said.

We were not very fond of Reenee, because she used to accost us & preach at us, & was generally a pest, if you couldnt 'shake her off.'

As to the Wizard, I dont know what became of him, either. He flouted all the laws, & said he could, because he was a Wizard. He never voted, & used to refuse to fill in the census form. He would get in a boat & go outside the legal waters, so claimed he didnt have to fill the forms.

From memory, he had skirmishes in court from time to time, over things he did & said, but of course it all made him so much more colourful, & mostly he was enjoyed as part of the city, and part of it's personality & character.

I was trying to find a picture to post of the Cathedral in the Square. It has seen many changes over the years, & many odd happenings. If only buildings could tell their stories!

You could climb the stairs inside, & go right up into the top, & stand & view the city. Once, our employer's son, C, who sang in the chior for the Christs College, who used to sing in the Cathedral, was standing in a group, singing, on the lawn under the spire.

A poor woman threw herself to her death, over the railing, up on the Spire & almost landed on C. It traumatised him for years, he was only about 10 at the time.

A higher fence was erected but still suicides happened & in the end they stopped people from climbing so high. I never felt tempted to climb- being frightened of heights & all.

The most beautiful gardens, & the lovely river, made the city very beautiful in Spring & Autumn. It has all changed now, but the Botanic Gardens are still very beautiful, and the river is still an attraction.


smilnsigh said...

Thank you so much for saying/commenting that my pics are pretty.

I love this entry, about your city eccentrics. Every city has some, but you certainly had very interesting ones. They make quite the story, to think back on them. Thanks for sharing.


nutmeg said...

What a "great" lot of eccentrics! That term has really died out lately - but there are still some (of us ha ha!) around. Unfortunately (or fortunately in some cases), many of them are "moved on" by the police these days.

Aunty Evil said...

Hi Meggie,

I remember visiting Christchurch when I was about 18 and doing a tour of NZ with on a coach.

I also remember hiring a tandem bike and cycling through that city, what fun!

I just opened up my photo album of that trip, and found some photos of the impressive cathedral you talk about, as well as views taken from the tower and of the inside, including the marble tomb of the first Bishop of Christchurch. Happy to scan them for you if you want copies!

Molly said...

It's true, every place has it's eccentrics. One of ours, when I was going to school, was "Mad Mary". In Dublin , in the Stephen's Green area, there was a fellow known as "Johnny Fortycoats," because of the number of coats he wore, all of them lined with newspaper, rumor had it, to insulate himself from the horrible Irish damp. Characters like these add local color, but I would love to know their stories as they would tell them themselves.

Jeanette said...

Hi Meggie. I have to agree all cities and towns have there eccentrics, when I used to go to the Melbourne market there were a few there some preaching standing on a fruit crate some would preach politics some the bible, and if one moved to close to the other there would be a few blows and word let loose,and too this day im sure it was staged just to draw the crowd, soon as there was a good crowd they start preaching again. please u like my Kookaburra

meggie said...

Yes, I would love to know the stories behind the eccentrics, & why they became the way they were/are.
Thank you Aunty for the offer of pics! I actually Googled the Wizard, & was surprised to find a lot about him, & his history, & the fact that he is still alive, & has semi retired!
There seemed to be no mention of Reenee though, or the bird man. DJ says she can remember the birdman, & how horrified she felt to see all the bird droppings on him.