Ollie’s work function was last night. It was at the Christchurch Casino, which is somewhere we’ve been maybe twice in our lives before last night. It was very different to any other of his Christmas parties I’ve been too.
The last one was several years ago and I had to be taken home early. Here’s a piece of advice you’re likely to hear from many people: don’t mix your drinks. It’s really not pretty.
I was a little nervous about this year’s one to be honest. And when we arrived, it was a strange feeling. I looked around and barely knew anyone. It held the same sort of surreal quality as everything that I associate with the earthquakes does. We have been to ten years worth of Christmas functions and I spent some time working there when they needed 839574895 files organised. I knew those people really well, and I cared about a lot of them.
Only one of those faces was there last night. One woman and her husband. A couple I have always adored. We sat down for dinner and Ollie said “so how many faces do you recognise?” I took a look around and remembered about five. It was like being at someone else’s Christmas function.
I still don’t really think of those ten others who won’t ever celebrate a Christmas party with either their workmates or their families as being dead. So young, many just new parents with small children. The group that we would often sit with at those functions and laugh with. All of them gone. As I looked around at the new faces who replaced the ones that I had known and laughed with for so many years, nostalgia hit me, and I realised how good it will be to move on.
I’m starting to feel a little sad about leaving Christchurch with it’s 31 degrees one day, it’s 12 the next, and the torrential downpour that we’ve had today along with strong winds. “You can never be sure what the weather will do in Christchurch” people say. It’s true. You can never be sure. You can never be sure what mother nature will do either. She has been unkind to my city. It will take a long, long time before Christchurch is anything like it once was.
We both enjoyed ourselves last night though. I left lipstick on people’s cheeks. I drank a wine and a half too many and ate beautiful food. I laughed a lot and was really glad to get to sit with the couple we were with, and also to talk with a few new faces. It was nice to talk about moving on and to be given best wishes, and it was nice to leave it behind too.
We wandered into one of the casino gaming rooms afterwards. Ollie thought he might like to try his hand at gambling. But we walked in, and the tables were full of serious faces, and numbered tables and little plastic chips and walking through them felt like walking through some kind of human zoo. People looked up from their games like animals in cages, it felt invasive and private – like we’d just walked into their living room and were watching them live their lives for an evening.
“Do you want to try one?” I asked my husband and he shook his head. “It looks really confusing.” He said, and we walked out again, past the old ladies playing the slot machines and out into the cool for summer night. The streets were quiet and there’s still so much empty space. It’s a strange city these days.