Friday 18 March 2011

Kia kaha, Christchurch

Huge numbers gathered in Hagley Park in the sunshine this afternoon - 30,000 or 100,000, depending on whether it was sober radio or excitable TV you were tuned to - for the National Memorial Service. Prince William was there, quoting his grandmother quoting, after 9/11, Rabbi Earl Grollman, that grief is the price we pay for love ("Did the Queen say that?" someone asked breathlessly) but doing a good enough job. Shame no-one coached him on Kia kaha, though: putting the emphasis on the -ha made it sound more like an exclamation than an exhortation.

The speeches were ok, and remembered Japan too, which was good. There was a hiccup over the lighting of what it seemed they had decided to call a brazier, which felt slightly barbie-inappropriate. There was singing - Dave Dobbyn fitted in well, Dame Malvina was a bit over the top, our Hayley was perfect - and a whole lot of religion. Well, I suppose it was a service, after all, and they did at least let the Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and co have a say - but the Anglicans ran the show and though the archdeacon claimed her sermon wasn't 'an altar-call' (how significant that they have their own jargon for that), it sounded that way to me, as I played Sudoku in defiance and wished they'd also let the athiests in on the act.

It was moving, though: and the best bit for me by far was the montage at the end to the Crusaders' theme tune (Conquest of Paradise: Vangelis) of the collapsed buildings, USAR teams from all over the world, rescue dogs, diggers mechanical and human, portaloos, collection buckets and bravely raised thumbs. Poor Christchurch. As well as remembering the lost, the service was largely about standing strong and building better, but there's such a long way to go, to a city that will be very different from our old friend.

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