On most mornings the Rossell household is awakened by an alarm clock radio that broadcasts “The Today Programme”. Some of it is interesting. Most of it now comprises shrieking harridan female presenters bickering with their interviewees. Anyway it comes on at 7 am and begins with a news bulletin. That is David’s prompt to get up, make tea and bring it, and an awakening kiss, to his lovely wife. The news bulletin ranges from the grand and significant, e.g. “Putin invades Crimea” to the banal and insignificant e.g. “Doctors discover a link between old age and death”. I would dearly love to hear a voice proclaim “This is the 7 o’clock news with John Humphreys and Sara Harridan. There is no news today”. I would leap for joy.
All this is a preamble to our journey of March 4th. This is the first time we have retraced our steps with an hour’s drive (nothing, absolutely nothing, dear reader) back to Greymouth. Here we mark time for the best part of a day. We shall hand in our faithful Toyota hire-car tomorrow and board the “TranzAlpine” train which goes over the Southern Alps from Greymouth to Christchurch, The end point of our tour.
Greymouth is a mining town. It is the biggest town on the sparsely populated west coast of NZ. Set at the mouth of the Grey River, it was originally a gold-rush town, but subsequently the miners found coal, and digging that out keeps swathes of people busy to this day.
It has also killed a lot of them. There is a rather grand monument on the harbour-side dedicated to the men who “gave their lives” (how do you do that?) to the mining industry i.e. they got squashed due to inadequate pit-props or blown up by seeping methane being inadvertently ignited. The monument has four facets each of which is covered in neatly chiselled names, akin to a war memorial. Rough game this mining stuff.
That’s it. There is no news today.