Akaroa – Celts in a caldera

Christchurch’s botanical gardens are beautifully kept, but after a day and a night, and another day of rain we nonetheless decided to go with the flow and head down to the coast:

Max n Nik admiring pitcher plants

more than enough rain to fill a pitcher

– where the rain stopped long enough for us to climb a couple of hills and explore Akaroa, a lovely old Anglo/Scottish/French town perched on the side of an ancient caldera.


Akaroa – looking more Scottish than Scotland and flying the French tricolor

There we met Ian Telfer, a local chap who for many years has been charming children and grown-ups alike. The former with the help of a Santa outfit made by his mother-in-law more that half a century ago, the latter with a twinkle in his eye.

Despite the losses that inevitably accompany long years, Ian exuded bonne homie, and vitality, which drew me to speak with him as he watched over the books on the shelves of the old “Literary and Scientific Institute” (as the town’s original library was known back in 1875).

Ian Telfer 800

Retired from BP for over a sixth of the intervening 143 years, and until recently still rowing the 3 miles across the bay to his home, I was curious to hear what he attributed his vitality to.

As a lifelong learner and bookworm, Ian watches over the old library’s collection of rare tomes and sells others donated by the community. Since retiring he’s taken to artistic, manual skills: wood carving, drawing, restoring the town’s model boats and downloading patterns from the Internet to make new paper ones.

And then there’s that twinkle. One of his ancestors, Etienne Le Taillefer (Telfer), goaded the English at the Battle of Hastings by riding up to their lines singing the Chanson de Roland. Though he paid for that with a grisly end, in similar style, Ian enjoys winding up trolls on Facebook and pulling the odd visitor leg.

So fitness, curiosity, learning, reading and playful mischief, along with a pinch of Xmas magic are the ingredients for a prosperous life and fulfilling Autumn –
hard to argue with.