Robbie the Road Cone

Recently, I sent out a request for others to share their memories of the Christchurch earthquakes that occurred five years ago. To my pleasant surprise, some have come forward with stories so moving that I felt it was important to share them with the world. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the stories sent to me about that day as well as sharing a few of my own. The February 2011 quake changed our lives forever, but has made the city of Christchurch a stronger community.

This delightful story is one that all children in Christchurch would adore.

Robbie the Road Cone
J.L. O’Rourke

Road cones were found everywhere throughout Christchurch, even down dark trenches. Photo:

Robbie the Road Cone was sad. Not a whole lot sad. Just a little bit sad.

Robbie liked living in the back of the shed. It was warm and cosy and he liked talking to his friends, Rake and Spade, but he wished he had something exciting to do. He had done exciting things when he was a young road cone and, even though he was getting old, he wished he could do exciting things again.

Every day the Old Man from the house would come and take Rake and Spade away. Every evening the Old Man would bring them back and they would tell Robbie about their busy day in the garden. They always had lots of stories about pulling out weeds and planting vegetables. Robbie wished he had an exciting story to tell.

Robbie had lots of stories but they were all old. He had told them lots of times and they made him a little sad remembering when he had been a young road cone with an important job. He remembered when he had ridden on the back of the Man's big truck, beside the tool box and behind the big, blue digger.

Every day the Man would drive to a piece of road that needed fixing. When they got there, the Man would lift Robbie off the back of the truck and put him on the road. Then Robbie would stand bravely in the middle of the road, making the cars change lanes and keeping the Man safe while he worked.

Robbie had lots of stories about cars that drove too fast or knocked him over. He had a very scary story about the day a bus ran right over the top of him. His top was still crooked and a bit squashed. Robbie wished he could do something exciting again so he could have some new stories to tell Rake and Spade.

One night, the shed was dark. Robbie, Rake and Spade were asleep. Only the mice were still awake, playing on the shed floor. It was the same as every other night in the shed. But then it wasn't.

There was a noise. A rumbling, grumbling, tumbling noise that got louder and louder. Robbie, Rake and Spade woke up. The mice ran away. The noise roared. Robbie thought a huge truck was going to come through the wall.

Then the shed began to shake. It shook up and down. It shook from side to side. Rake and Spade fell over. Robbie was tipped on his side. He was very scared. What was happening?

In the morning the Man opened the shed door. He picked up Robbie.

"Come on," he said. "I've got a very important job for you."

The man carried Robbie out to the street. Robbie looked up and down the road and was very surprised. The street wasn't all neat and tidy any more. It was lumpy and bumpy with big holes and cracks. Everywhere Robbie looked ugly, grey liquid was bubbling out of the ground.

Right outside the Man's house there was a huge hole big enough to fit a car inside.

"This hole is very dangerous," the Man said. "People could get hurt if they fall in it. You will have to guard it and keep everyone safe."

He put Robbie in front of the hole.

Post-quake Port-a-Loos in Avonside (Photo: )

Post-quake Port-a-Loos in Avonside. Photo:

Robbie felt very proud. During the day lots of people walked and drove down the street looking at what the earthquake had done. As they came to the big hole they saw Robbie and moved to the other side of the road, safely away from the danger. Robbie did his job well. Even when the earth shook again and the nasty grey stuff came really close, Robbie stayed where he was, guarding the hole.

Rake and Spade came outside to help clean up. Spade made a huge mountain of the sticky, smelly, grey stuff. Rake make a smaller pile right in front of the big hole so Robbie could sit on it. Now Robbie could see down the road. There were lots more holes and lots of the houses were tilted on funny angles. Robbie decided he didn't like earthquakes.

For the next few days, Robbie worked very hard. Every time someone came close to the hole Robbie kept them safe. People walking, people driving cars and even people riding bicycles saw Robbie guarding the hole, then saw how deep the hole was and smiled at Robbie for warning them before they fell in. Robbie warned the lady with the pram, the boy on his skateboard and the little old lady with the shopping trolley. They all saw Robbie standing in front of the big hole and crossed safely to the other side of the street.

The potholes on Christchurch roads come in all shapes and sizes. (Photo: )

The potholes on Christchurch roads come in all shapes and sizes. Photo:

One day men from the Council came in a big truck with lots of brand new road cones which they put in front of other holes up and down the street. Robbie was worried. What if they pushed him aside and put a younger road cone in his place? The new road cones were flasher than Robbie. They had fancy hi-viz stripes while Robbie was just plain orange. Old, faded orange. What would he do if they pushed him away? Robbie was scared.

When the Council men got to Robbie's hole they stopped, looked down into the big hole then looked at Robbie. Robbie held his breath. Then they smiled, patted Robbie on his crooked top and moved on. Robbie was so happy. They weren't going to replace him. He could keep on doing his important job.

Robbie guarded the big hole all through the summer. When the days started to get colder, Robbie started to wish he could be back in his nice warm shed. He missed his friends, Rake and Spade, and he wanted to tell them all his new, exciting stories.

One day, when the leaves were starting to fall off the trees, the Council men came back. They had a big truck and a digger, just like the Man drove when the Man and Robbie were young. They had come to fix the hole.

The men gently picked up Robbie and put him over the fence onto the Man's path. Robbie watched as they filled in the hole and made the road smooth again. The Man came out of his house and watched.

When they had finished, the Man picked up Robbie and took him back to his corner of the shed, placing him on the shelf beside his friends, Rake and Spade.

That night, while the mice played on the shed floor, Robbie began to tell his new stories. He had been an important road cone again, keeping people safe, and he was very proud. Robbie wasn't sad any more and he didn't think he would ever be sad again. Robbie felt very important.

About J. L. O'Rourke:

J. L. O’Rourke is the pen-name of Jenner Lichtwark. Jenner writes contemporary murder mysteries, urban fantasy, stories for children and rambling freeform poems. The Christchurch earthquakes have left a legacy of anxiety and panic attacks which saw her quit her regular job in 2012 to establish Millwheel Press Ltd, publishing her own works and offering editing advice and assistance to other writers. When not writing, Jenner enjoys being in a theatre, either onstage as a singer or backstage where she has been everything from floor crew to stage-manager. She lives in Christchurch with an assortment of hairless dogs, fluffy cats and grumpy guinea pigs.

The real Robbie with Rake and Spade (Photo provided by J. L. O'Rourke)

The real Robbie with Rake and Spade working together as they tend to the sunflowers. Photo provided by J. L. O'Rourke

If you have a story that you would like to share, I want to hear it. Visit here for more information on Project Share Your Stories.

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© Copyright, J.  L. O'Rourke 2016

Posted in Earthquakes, Personal Favourites, Remembrance and tagged , , , , .


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