Christchurch-born Sally Arnold, Director of Creating Encores and an award-winning international author and executive coach, reflects upon her upbringing in New Zealand and how she coped learning of the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes and now, last week’s terrorist mass shootings in the city she grew up in. Sally lives across the Ditch, in Melbourne.
Growing up in Christchurch
At the end of the 60s I left Christchurch to go to University in Adelaide. As a promising young Flautist there were no career opportunities in NZ. My life up till then had been as the eldest of five in an arty family in CHCH. Dad, Don Donnithorne MBE became one of NZ’s leading Architects. Our house in Upper Riccarton was always checked out daily as it was modern Scandinavian design with a sculpture of a nude woman sitting proudly at the front directly onto Yaldhurst Road. Something that Upper Riccarton had never seen before.
I always felt that I was living in the country with paddocks full of horses behind our superbly designed house. We would scale the fence and end up surrounded by valuable race horses. It was sort of like the musician who dreamed of living in Paris became a country gal when she walked through these paddocks which are now rows of homes.
I cycled every day winter and summer, freezing or with the ghastly hot North West wind to school, St Margaret’s Girls in Merivale. In my days it was a relic of British style with teachers and Headmistress to match. Gloves, hats, matching everything So super strict that after orchestra practice with Christs College we were banned from cycling off with the boys. Of course, they would wait on the corner of another street away from prying British-style, stern teachers.
Music was my life
I was one of only three girls who did Music for School certificate. We lived a lonely life with Miss Lewin in the so-called Music room which doubled as a sick bay and more. But my love and deep passion for Music kept me coming back for more. As girls from school tell me now. I was a quiet shy girl who they hardly knew. Opposite to the Creative Entrepreneurial worldly Sally of today.
My time in Christchurch and my memories are of Music, that was my “reason to be’. At the School of Instrumental Music in Cranmer Square Robert Perks had set up a Saturday Music school for all levels and all types of instruments. I loved going there and graduated from recorder quickly to Flute. My teacher Roger Buckton recognised my talent and suggested my parents get me a Flute that was OK rather than the beginner basic models available for rent.
I still remember our annual music concert in the Roller-Skating Rink at Canterbury Showground. For me it resembled the best of the best, a Broadway stage, Film set and more and yet imagine was a small corrugated iron building in real life. Our concerts were fabulous, and I will always remember the Karelia Suite of Sibelius for ever. All level of instrumental playing was adapted for this grand piece of work and when I played the Finale was in heaven.
Following the flute
I spent a short year doing Performance of music at Canterbury University and realised I was not going to be an academic and got accepted into the NZ Symphony training orchestra in Wellington. After 18 months I was aware that there was no opportunity of work in NZ, so it was suggested I go to Adelaide Uni and learn from one of the world’s great Flute teachers David Cubbin. I was accepted by him and, at the age of 19 left on my own for distant lands in Australia.
It was a tough time as a young girl but my love and passion for my Flute was all I needed. This led to a global career as a Flautist which ended abruptly when at the age of 26 my slight deafness made me aware I would never end up in one of the world’s great orchestras. This began a business focussed career using my creative, music entrepreneurial spirit. From opening up gourmet cookware shops, department store buying globally, arts management, psychotherapy training, living globally and settling back in Melbourne, via Byron Bay, many years ago.
Dealing with tragedy
I have lived in Melbourne most of my life plus the US and UK. And, I have always been proud of my NZ passport. My family are still in CHCH, my Dad passed away nearly 3 years ago, and Mum is going to make it to 92 in a month or so. My brothers and sister are in CHCH, another in London. I go back every few months to Christchurch to see them and especially Mum in this stage of her life. She has severe Dementia.
What a challenge CHCH has had; I remember the 2011 Earthquakes well from this side of the Tasman, Melbourne. My family have got through them surprisingly well. The Family home with its avante garde architecture survived the Earthquake and importantly the nude sculpture remained proudly intact. But the thing that will always stay in my mind is phoning the family when I heard the earthquake had hit. And Dad was the only person at home, Mum and my sister had gone out for lunch.
I spoke with Dad who was on his own in his late 80s, managing the best he could with the shudders of the quake. I stayed on the phone with him. He kept crying out here is another wave coming through the house, it sounded like heavy railway trucks. He was scared, so was I but all I could do was stay on the phone and be with him. I gather my sister and mother arrived home a few hours later, not being sure if the roads would hold up as they gingerly drove back to Yaldhurst Road.
And now, to have this shocking barbaric shooting tragedy in Christchurch is like a gigantic punch to this quiet beautiful town. I visit family every few months and my brother and his wife live close to Hagley Park. I walk around the park every morning. It is one of the joys of my life. I pass the Mosque which has always seemed a quiet place of worship. To accompany me I have a great Flat White coffee in my hand from one of the many excellent cafes in Christchurch. And everything is well in my world. until last Friday. I was in Noosa with a friend and when I heard the news just could not believe that CHCH was again hit by a shocking tragedy. It just seemed surreal and not at all possible. CHCH to me is a sleepy quiet town.
Feelings of anger
I can’t believe how my inner self feels shattered and angry. I haven’t lived in CHCH since the late 60s. But to see a beautiful town where the daffodils in Hagley Park blossom profusely in Spring, I feel angry that this shooting occurred. Innocent people mown down by an evil creature. Is it because CHCH is the place of my birth and has held a sense of small city tranquillity? Barbaric actions at this level, I thought reserved for other parts of the world. This shocking act has made me question so many parts of my life, like “don’t sweat the small stuff”, “just do it”, “take a trip overseas” and importantly do not let an experience like this stop you moving forward even more determined to live the best life you can.
I have many coaching clients in NZ, and it means a great deal to me. To be able to connect with fellow Kiwis. We speak the same language and for many they are treading a path that I trod years ago as a young girl leaving Christchurch to follow my passion and dream, Music which has morphed into more. I have had tragedy and loss in my life, losing my husband to Prostate Cancer over 10 years ago. And what I can say is that yes there are many days when I wish Tony was here to put his arm around me and calm down the business woman I am. Tell me to have a glass of wine get in the bath and relax.
I believe it is important after shocking events to find the support of fabulous friends and professionals. I did and know that with the events In Christchurch we all react differently, and it is OK to do this. Trust me as I am also a Psychotherapist as well as a Business coach. I would like to suggest to not keep talking about the terrorist, do not give him time. Find some peace inside of yourself and get in touch with the Kiwi there in whatever form that is depending upon your country of birth. And send love to the victims and yourself.
Work can be your support
As a Business Coach I suggest to clients that work many times can be our greatest support. When Tony was going through his cancer, I headed up The Australian Ballet business team and this supportive wonderful organisation was like a family to me. Be open about your feelings too. I now speak on Mental Health as it is an area that finally is being acknowledged in both the business, and arts world. Thank goodness, as it is about time. Another suggestion is to take your time, do what you need to do and don’t feel bound by others expectations of yourself. Importantly stay away from morphing into Victim mode. I found that somehow when Tony was in the final stages of cancer, I was able thanks to a great psychologist to be there quietly be there for him and me. Meditation saved me and I still do it as often as I can.
I imagine that the next few weeks feelings will be raw and challenging. Especially as many of us including myself would never ever have thought that terrorism of this magnitude would happen in little Christchurch. A city that in the past years I have grown a new connection as it emerges literally from the ashes. Be kind to yourself in the next weeks, take time for your work and life. Cancel events if you feel like some “Me” time. I have done that this today. Cancelled half of my appointments. In a few minutes I am going to take Sienna my Jack Russel for a walk to a beautiful park here in Melbourne. Fawkner Park. Tony and I lived close by and it is a small version of Hagley Park. Tears are forming and this is good. Thank you for reading these words from a fellow Kiwi and girl from Christchurch. Go well, Sally.
If you would like to contact me, please find my details below. I welcome your thoughts, words and connection.
Sally Arnold enables clients to unlock their creative mindset to facilitate effective problem solving and career reinvigoration. She guides businesses, women and teams out of areas of challenge towards resolution and success. Sally is an award winning author, speaker and business coach who specialises in moving individuals and organisations out of “stuckness”. She is able to turn around challenges towards resolution and success through her innovative business Creating Encores. Sally began her professional life as a flautist in New Zealand. And worked globally. She settled back in Melbourne and launched her own successful gourmet cookware shop, and was then headhunted by a Melbourne store to reinvigorate their home wares department. Combining this business experience with her passion for the performing arts, she sought and won the coveted role of Head of Business Development at The Australian Ballet. Fascinated by the successful mindset techniques of high-performing artists, she became aware of how well they could be translated into the business world to bring creative solutions to business challenges. She has also trained as a psychotherapist. Sally’s personal journey through enormous highs and challenging lows has been woven into the structure and learning in her book “Creating Encores”, published in 2013. Today, Sally’s innovative and robust methodology underpins her coaching programs. She integrates her passion for performance excellence with her skills as a facilitator to unlock greater productivity and fast track success. Sally’s audiences and clients walk away feeling empowered, reinvigorated and inspired. Contact Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter