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The Kiwiana backyard soundtrack to summer is, for the most part, a welcome reminder that sunny freedom is finally here: sweet chirpings of both birds and bugs, sizzling of sausages and steak on the barbie (and of skin beneath the sun), lazy buzzing of fat blowflies ...
Oh, and the splashing and screaming of kids in pools.
Without doubt, the latter is my least favourite of summer sounds.
Dreadful, raucous, clanging high-pitched squeals. The inconsiderate shouts and occasional swears from some particularly poorly brought-up scamp. The slapping, dashing, running, yelling, rowdy, rowdy, terrible children. I just want to read my book in peace.
How is it possible for so much potential for nuisance to be stuffed into people so small?
I don't pause to wonder but slam my book and head out of the house. Coffee is calling.
Compared to the busyness and the compactness of Dunedin, Christchurch is an expanse of quiet emptiness. For the first time since February, everything ... has ... stopped. Can you hear the tumbleweed blow?
No deadlines or tests or classes or meetings or interviews or catch ups or ... anything to do at all, really.
Bliss? Boredom, more likely.
Desperate for attention I replied instantly to a text message suggesting coffee.
Now? I asked. Does it suit you to meet right now?
Unfortunately not, so I took myself out, alone, regardless.
Since then, I have dedicated a fairly large amount of time to a self-delegated mission of divulging the best cafes that Christchurch has to offer.
Whereas in Dunedin literally tens of coffee sources were within walking distance, Christchurch automatically loses points for requiring transport and essentially obsoleting the term "local".
After filling the tank (to the quarter line), I set out, day after day, discovering the best destination for satisfying a cafe craving (and there's so much more to it than just caffeine).
I hasten to admit that this task isn't as strenuous as it may sound. Indeed, during a recent job interview I'm fairly sure that I mentioned cafes as one of my main "hobbies". Almost embarrassingly, the first thing I'll do in a new city is scope out a cafe; a refuel stop, a safe place, a comfort base.
A place to meet friends and make new friends. A source of community information and, at the very least, of pamphlets and posters about upcoming ...
stuff. A space to pause, relax, indulge, observe, work, think, read the paper, read my book (in peace).
So, have I discovered Christchurch's Cafe de la Rotonde?
Hardly. But then, I've still got a few more days before beginning work, and a few more dollars in the bank. It'd probably be wise to cut back on the caffeine at some stage, especially now that all-nighters are a thing of the past ...
(Although as I look at the clock now, it's almost 2am; some habits die hard).
P.S. Are you familiar with (post-quake) Christchurch?
If so, feel free to refine my search with suggestions ...
- Katie Kenny graduates from the University of Otago next month.