Parting Shot: What I learned from Scoop’s family tragedy


A couple of weeks ago I found myself on what is, essentially, a private island.

For five days the only noises around me - with the exception of an occasional boat motor humming in the distance - were, literally, the birds and bees.

It was bizarre.

It made me feel a bit edgy because, for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t go anywhere and there was absolutely nothing I had to do.

So when I saw a bee (which I dubbed Bertram) that could barely move, let alone fly, I decided to busy myself by nursing it back to health.

I put a drop of honey in front of Bertram and watched for almost three hours as it chowed down on the syrupy goodness and slowly but surely gathered strength. Then I fell asleep before it took flight.

Good deed for the day: done. The edgy feeling I had soon disappeared and I began to really, properly, relax. It was bliss.

The thing is, as much as I love living in Queenstown, sometimes I just need to get out of it for a minute.

When I first moved here, there were a few weeks a year when this town had to put up the proverbial “full” sign.

Now it feels like we’re constantly at capacity.

When I got a bit stressed out at work I’d just go for a wee walk - there was something incredibly relaxing about being surrounded by people who were on holiday.

Lately they’ve annoyed the bejeesus out of me because I have places to get to, things that need to be done and deadlines to meet.

There’s a hyped-up energy here that I used to love - an inescapable and infectious excitement.

But sometimes it feels like that energy has taken on a manic edge that causes my heart to start racing in a bad way.

Driving to and from work was something I looked forward to and every day.

Now I sometimes avoid driving because it scares me and then when I am behind the wheel I’ve found myself struggling to contain a sudden onset of vehicular Tourette’s.

So, getting the rare chance to spend a week in a place where there was no-one else, and no cell phone signal, felt like pushing “reset” in my brain.

I came back rested, relaxed, happy, appreciative and ready to go.

Less than 24 hours later it felt like that private paradise was all a dream and I wondered if Bertram really did fly away, or if one of the cheeky wekas got to him first.

There were people everywhere. It was too hot. I couldn’t find a park. Our office moved while I was away so before I could do any thing else I had to try and work out where to put the contents of the 15 boxes I’d carefully packed before I left.

I had a headache that wouldn’t quit and to access the aisle in the supermarket holding the painkillers I so desperately needed necessitated an interminable game of dodgem with what felt like 10 bus loads of stationary tourists with trolleys and overflowing baskets.

I was completely overwhelmed. But last Thursday something happened to a member of our Scene family that immediately put all of it into perspective.

In the office that morning we’d read about the tragic death of a cyclist hit by a train in Christchurch.

He was an avid traveller who had visited 81 countries, an accomplished and highly respected musician - the associate principal bassoon player in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, a passionate music teacher and an extraordinary photographer.

His name was Richard Chandler. He was Scoop’s brother.

It was, to say the least, absolutely devastating.

In no time at all, people here rallied - the support shown for our Scoopy and his family since has been something to behold.

I’ve seen it time and time again when tragedy strikes here - the support for one of our own goes beyond friendship.

We live in an incredibly diverse community and yet there’s one thing most of us have in common.

Our families aren’t here, so the friends we make become our family away from home.

And, like our kin, that family rallies en masse when we need them the most.

As I sat with Scoop on Thursday night trying to find the right words, and failing miserably, I realised none of the things that I’d been letting wind me up really matter.

Maybe we’re all a bit guilty of losing sight of the things that do. At the top of that list are our people: the families we were born into, and the families we’ve chosen, and telling them we love them.

And making the most and the best of everything we’re lucky enough to have.

Life can change in the blink of an eye and tomorrow isn’t promised for any of us.

As he nursed a pinot noir on Thursday night after a toast to Richard, four words came from Scoop’s mouth that are now printed out and stuck to my computer as a daily reminder to help me keep things in perspective.

“Value life. Value everything.”