When I first came to Lyttelton, it was December 2011. I came because I was in New Zealand for two and a half months without much of a plan, and the opportunity had arisen to pet sit here over Christmas. I’d Skyped with the homeowner from Istanbul, right before I made my way to New Zealand via Georgia, Armenia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. I wasn’t especially excited about Lyttelton – it’s next to Christchurch, which I didn’t think much of – but at least it would be good to have a base for the best part of a month.
But I found that I felt at peace here. And after that, I came back to Lyttelton to pet sit every Christmas. I also looked after the next-door neighbour’s four cats for the whole of April 2013, and in mid-2014, reeling from the worst break-up I’d ever had, I came back again for lack of any other ideas. I rented my friend’s room for six weeks, cried a lot, and tried to piece myself back together.
When I explain Lyttelton to people I tell them that it’s a port town – a village, really – surrounded by hills, and that many of its inhabitants are writers and artists and musicians. It’s a chill, friendly kind of place. It has a farmers’ market every Saturday morning and I look forward to the whitebait fritters all year. It was the epicentre of the big 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and even today some sites are vacant where buildings used to be, and others are fenced off. For a while, there was no supermarket, and the bank was a van that showed up once a week. The Port Hole bar was reborn in a shipping container. Gradually, art seeps in to brighten things up; the latest, in recognition of the Antarctic expeditions that stop by Lyttelton, is a sled dog on the corner of London Street, recently unveiled by sculptor Mark White. (“Have you any idea how hard it is to make a sculpture look fluffy?” he said to me.)
Things I have done over the years while staying in Lyttelton: Continue reading