hristchurch - Sumner
November 1, 2009 - January 10, 2010
When we were considering renting in Sumner we looked it up on Google Maps and found that it occupied a triangular valley with the base of the triangle being the beach at what we later learned was the Esplanade. Our arrival was at night and it was the next morning that we walked the 750 meters to the Esplanade and then had breakfast in central — downtown — Sumner.
We first learned about the house in Sumner from our good friend Craig's List. Every so often we troll the pages for places we'd like to go and see if anything interesting shows up. Imagine our pleasure therefore to find something affordable in exactly the place we wanted to be, i.e. the South Island of New Zealand. The only drawback was that the advertizers wanted a six month tenant and we wanted only the last three months. Susan, the advertizer, was friendly and upfront that she preferred a longer-term tenant, but agreed that if she found no-one else she would consider our offer of three months. Happily, she was as good as her word, and in August, when they had already moved from NZ to the US for their sabbatical, she confirmed the deal. That meant that we could run out and buy an airplane ticket and start to make real plans.
On arrival, that meant that we had to rely on neigbors to let us into the house. In the end, our late arrival because of crowds in Auckland airport, meant that we let ourselves in, with a key left in the mailbox. We were a bit aghast, but once we learned about Sumner, the risk seemed very small. The heart of Sumner is in the flat-bottomed valley that opens out to the sea. Once a fishing village, it grew into an outlying suburb of Christchurch. It is full of small wooden homes on small lots and is now evolving, slowly but surely, into a rather swish place. There are million-dollar homes on all of the surrounding hillsides, but Sumner proper, i.e. the valley bottom, will never be so expensive because the houses here don't have any seaview, but it has nonetheless become a desirable place to live and lots of homes are being refurbished and extended to suit more modern tastes and standards. It has remained a family-friendly place, however, with a couple of elementary schools, a good library, a post office a supermarket, and a handful of nice restaurants.
Perhaps it is time to describe the house we lived in. It is a white clapboard ranch house, or bungalow in British terminology. The floor plan is pretty much square. The center of the house consists of a hallway with six doors radiating off it in all directions, including the front door, which is accessed via a closed in porch. When you enter the front door, you turn left immediately to enter the front living room, which is a nice size squarish room decorated with wood panelling that goes from floor to about two-thirds height. The room has a fireplace, a built-in floor to ceiling cupboard for the hot water boiler, that also serves as an airing cupboard, and a big square bay window. When we arrived the centerpiece of the room was a child's play table and a toy box that overflowed with children's costumes. It also had two easy chairs. We have since moved the dining table into here, moved the two easy chairs into the bay window area, and moved all of the toys to one of the two children's bedrooms. The reason for the furniture moving is that beyond the front living room are two other rooms, one of which is the kitchen, the other a child's bedroom. The kitchen is small and is dominated by a wonderfully huge American-style fridge-freezer. What a pleasure after all of the small European fridges we have been living with for so long. Gerry uses the small bedroom as a place for quiet naps when the bedroom is otherwise occupied.
Coming back to the front hall, the second door on the left when you come in is the second child's bedroom. The wall of the front hall that faces you when you walk in has two doors. The leftmost is to the bathroom with the toilet beyond and the rightmost is a storage closet. Continuing around to the right wall. It also has two doors. The far one leads into the back living room, another very spacious square room with a fireplace, a TV and, most important, a comfortable couch to watch it on. One wall is taken up with sliding glass doors that lead to a small patio and a very narrow strip of garden that is bounded by the property's right-side fence. The patio is protected by wind screens and has a couple of light outdoor chairs. When we arrived the back living room also had the dining table. After only one meal eaten here, we decided it made much more sense to have the front living room serve as the dining room, hence the furniture moving, to avoid carrying food and stuff all across the house and back for every meal.
And last but not least, the last door of the front hall leads to the master bedroom, another nice-size room with a standard double bed (oh for an American king-size!), chests of drawers, and a wall of fitted wardrobes. The main window looks out onto the right-side garden which is planted with lemon and orange trees. We have already sampled the lemons which we use to flavor our drinking water. And there it is. The largest bit of garden is in the front of the house. When we arrived, it was full of sprint flowers, bisected by the path to the front porch and bound by a white picket fence to match the white clapboards of the house. Left of the house is a short driveway to the garage, to which we have no access. Behind the garage is the left-side garden, which in fact is a yard rather than a garden and serves to hold the clothes line and store the trash bins. There is no back garden to speak of, just a pathway that links left and right gardens via a garden tool shed.
Within a few days of our arrival in Sumner, we became members of the local library and spent many hours sitting in our favorite reading places, reading some great books like "Hiding in Plain Sight" by Betty Lauer, and "Peeling the Onion", by Guenther Grass.