Just over a week ago I was in my garden at Wanaka, savouring the simple pleasures of zucchini and sweetcorn picked fresh at the end of a New Zealand summer. Then within hours I was kersmack in the heart of a London winter, rugged up in my winter woollies to dig parsnips (the cold makes them exceptionally sweet) from the almost frozen ground of my friend Bridgey’s garden near Banbury (remember the nursery rhyme ‘Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross’?). Everything – the air, the soil and the water – was so cold that was hard to believe that back home there were sun-ripened tomatoes for the picking in my Wanaka garden. And also quite surreal that in London everything felt normal, and yet back home lives were being turned upside down by the horrors of last Tuesday’s earthquake in Christchurch. Everyone I met in the UK really felt for the people of Christchurch – when they saw it on the news it looked so much like an English city, with people just like them. Life can be so random.
It seemed to me that many people outside of New Zealand think the entire country is physically affected by the earthquake. It would be an even bigger tragedy if overseas visitors decided not to come to New Zealand because of the scenes they've seen on the internet and on television, so I hope Tourism New Zealand can quickly get the message out that it is only the immediate Christchurch area that has been devastated – everywhere else is untouched. For example, the distance between Christchurch and Queenstown, which is the nearest international airport to my little cabin on the shores of Lake Wanaka (where my TV series Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook is filmed), is the same as the distance between London and Paris - about 340km. I have no doubt that my tomato plants will still be standing when I get back.
Our hearts go out to our Cantabrian cousins, but other than donating to the relief effort, the best way we can help them rebuild their city and their lives is to go on doing what we do in what is going to be a big year for New Zealand as we host the Rugby World Cup in September and October. We are waiting to hear about plans for the rugby matches that were scheduled to be held in Christchurch, which was going to host the English team for much of the tournament. The government is thinking of putting cruise liners at the Christchurch port (Lyttleton) to accommodate the Barmy Army and other spectators so the show can go on. Fingers crossed - the people of Christchurch certainly need something to look forward to.