Another grey day, another narrow time window.
I decided to put on the wide-angle lens, to leave the long lens at home and see what eventuated. I confined myself to the area around the library, the Riddiford Gardens, and St James’ Anglican church. This is one block of Lower Hutt City and an unusually narrow field for me. My opening shot is in the cemetery behind St James and the Library. I have taken pictures there before, but the viewpoint with the wide lens was a little different.
In the other direction, across the carpark is one of my favourite trees. This golden elm is absolutely magical in its spring colours, and now at the height of summer (ha!), it offers the most beautiful spreading sunshade. All we need is the sun.
Around the front of the Memorial Library complex, the wonderful civic gardens have been reduced to mere lawns. Nevertheless there is a good view of part of the library and the Little Theatre. These buildings and the neighbouring St James church were the early poster children for a 1950s reinforced-concrete architectural fad of clean spare design. They have aged reasonably well.
Behind the library are the Riddiford gardens and a children’s playground. It was deserted when I passed through so I took the opportunity to grab a shot. In comparison with my own childhood, the children of today are cushioned against bumps and knocks as witness the rubberized squares on the ground. We climbed and fell, and learned to avoid things the hard way. Only the old Fordson tractor can still administer a solid knock. After that, I went home thinking my photographic day to be over.
We were watching the Australian Open Tennis on TV and were about to switch to a detective show when Mary looked out the window. Billowing smoke was rising from the site of the old Hutt Memorial College (formerly Petone Technical College). It has been empty for almost 15 years and its decay has been hastened by vandalism, graffiti, squatters and a series of arson attacks. There is not a single pane of unbroken glass anywhere in the once busy school. I hung my camera from an upstairs window with the strap round my neck and caught this shot of the early stages.
Then Anthony called and said there was a spectacular view of events from his house, so I abandoned the detective show and went round to Maungaraki. He was right, and by now the fire had really taken hold. Sirens were coming from all directions and police, ambulance and fire appliances were converging on the site. Already the local aerial appliance was in action, and the larger one from Wellington city was arriving and getting ready to join the battle. There is a lot of asbestos in those buildings so the firefighters were mindful of the need for protective equipment.
My last shot (I took dozens) zooms in on the “spectator gallery” … people used the pedestrian overbridge at Ava railway station as a grandstand. Others wandered up the railway line to get a view. Normally this would be very dangerous, but since we had experienced a very solid earthquake (6.3) earlier in the day, the trains were all cancelled pending track inspection. I have the suspicion that the miserable specimen of humanity who set the fire was in the crowd watching. The fire was eventually suppressed though the smoke persisted for a long time.
And so the day came to an unexpected end.