Meet Lucy, Richard & Ella-Rose
Lucy Ragg, Richard Coulter & Ella-Rose
Where are you from?
Lucy: Originally, I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and I lived there until I was about five. I’ve got an older sister and a younger brother but it was the start of the Troubles there and my sister got very frightened by the sounds she could hear like the sound of bombs going off in the city. Seeing my dad drive off into the city every day, she got very anxious around that. So we decided to move to south England. And that’s where I lived until my mid-twenties.
In my mid-twenties, I made the decision to go travelling with a friend - mainly because I had actually had a really bad car accident and that made me reappraise my life really. We just hopped on a plane, had a one-way ticket and we did two years of travelling. We enjoyed the sites that we saw and the people that we met - and in fact it was someone we met while we were travelling that said “You’ve just got to go to New Zealand.” So we went with the flow, arrived in New Zealand, an opportunity presented itself and I decided that this was where I wanted to put down my roots. I’ve been here for about the last twenty-odd years - I’ve lost count but somewhere around then. I’ve lived all that time in either Methven at the base of Mt Hutt, or ChCh.
Richard: I grew up in mid-Canterbury, not too far down the road from ChCh. My parents both came from farming families in Geraldine. When I was old enough, I also put on my backpack and went travelling. I spent three years abroad. One of the favourite spots for me was Turkey - I spent six months there and began to pick up a bit of the language. I think Istanbul is one of most fabulous cities in the world - I really enjoyed it. It’s a fabulous place.
My mother was a historian and, as it turned out, my great-grandfather landed in Lyttelton as an orphan. And he was raised in the orphanage in Lyttelton not too far away from where Collett’s Corner is. Knowing that, it fascinated me when I walked around the streets of the village in Lyttelton and the views of the harbour and wondered how that little boy coming off that boat at eight years old would have felt arriving there and growing up there. So there’s been some sort of connection to Lyttelton from that past. And he came from a seafaring past - his father was a seafarer and so forth. There’s something there in my DNA that’s drawn me there.
When did your paths cross?
Lucy: When I arrived in NZ, my friend and I travelled around the country and we answered an advert to help run a backpackers in Methven so that’s how we ended up in that random spot. And it just so happened that the guy who ran that backpackers also had an adventure experience company, Rock & Ice. We ended up working for that company as well, doing backcountry outdoor adventures all through the Canterbury high country. I got to know lots of people hence I loved Methven but when the company moved to ChCh I very reluctantly had to move here, too.
I then went off in another totally different direction - I’d always enjoyed healthcare and I did the sciences at school - and I decided to become an acupuncturist. I studied Chinese medicine for four years full-time and it was during that time, when I was a student that, on a random night out with flatmates, i met Richard. And it went from there really. And he became a willing guinea pig, too
Richard: A pin-cushion, so to speak!
When Lucy and I first got together in ChCh, we looked at where we were going to live and where we were going to buy a property and we both really quite enjoyed Lyttelton at that time. We searched for a long time but couldn’t find anything that suited us.
How do you spend your days?
Richard: I’m involved in electrical engineering. I’m a part of our commercial sales team and business development so I do a lot of travel in my role.
Lucy: Did, past tense.
Richard: Yeah pre-covid. And a lot of problem-solving as well, which I really enjoy. Meeting a lot of different people as well. The component of my business that I’m involved in is essentially environment-related so I’m very passionate about the environment. It’s to do with the treatment of water and anything to do with water really - from it’s extraction to its use and restoration back into the environment and treatment. That’s what keeps me busy during the week anyway.
Lucy: I work part-time for Early Start, a charitable trust that does early intervention work with vulnerable children and their families. The part that I play is that we run a positive parenting programme called Incredible Years, to give the parents an opportunity to connect with others, to re-learn how to parent in a more positive way, and to grow healthy relationships, which really forms the foundation of the course itself - it’s all about child-led play and building positive relationships with their children.
Outside of that, for the last 11 years, a lot of my time has been devoted to bringing up my daughter, Ella-Rose. I also run the household and I do all the accounts and the financial side of things and we are often engaged in renovation projects as well, so that takes up quite a bit of time, too. It doesn’t feel like I actually ever have the chance to relax and sit down but everyday is different so that’s good.
What’s important to you?
Richard: I’m certainly, as I mentioned before, passionate about the environment. And making a difference is really important. Getting out of bed in the morning knowing that you can affect some change or be part of that, even if it’s a small bit - that’s something that keeps me really passionate in what I do.
I’m very passionate about sailing, yeah. And that’s the other attraction with Lyttelton as well having the marina just a few steps away from Collectt’s Corner. I just love the water and love sailing. I had the very lucky experience, not so long ago, to sail on the HMS Bark Endeavour replica when it came to New Zealand. I did twelve days at sea on the Endeavour. It was fantastic. I’d never sailed on a tall ship before and I think also that family connection, to feel what it must have been like for my forefathers, you know, on the helm of this huge ship. I really enjoyed it - one of those things that you’ll always remember. I was lucky enough to be drawn out of the ballot. And my eldest son, Max, put his name down for the Spirit of Adventure and he got drawn out of that ballot so we both travelled side-by-side - him on the Spirit and me on the Endeavour - from the Bay of Islands to Picton.
We had some rough times at sea as well. It gave me a big appreciation for our ancestors who spent three months at sea in those big boats on that journey from the UK and Ireland to New Zealand and arriving in that port at Lyttelton.
Lucy: What’s really important to me is my family and the happiness of my daughter. I’d say that that’s a pretty strong driving force for me in my current chapter of life. But also, it’s really about people. My friends are really important to me. Having that close social connection. Just getting together and sharing each other’s stories and having a laugh. And I really enjoy dancing - I did a lot of dancing as a child and I don’t do nearly as much now but I love having the opportunity to really let my hair down and have a good aul' boogey. And I love watching dance too - if I get the opportunity to go and watch dance, I really enjoy that.
Whilst I enjoy time to myself and I get recharged by having time on my own, I also really enjoy the hum of a township or a city and just being in amongst people. I quite like crowded places too - busy marketplaces, cities and night venues. I like being in the throng of people. In a way, that’s why Collett’s Corner does appeal to me because it sits in the heart of a very special community and you literally are in the beating heart of Lyttelton on London Street there where you have so much activity and different events taking place - I really like the idea of being right in the centre of that.
What attracted you to Collett’s Corner?
Lucy: I really liked that it was out-of the box. When I first heard about it four years ago, I thought “Ooh, Richard will like this.” There was something about it’s originality, it’s entrepreneurship, just the fact that it was a community-minded and community-spirited venture - so that idea of bringing people together as a collective and sharing and supporting each other. I really love that idea. Ironically, I think it was our past - well, I’m thinking of England and Ireland, terraced houses with your aunt next door and your grandad over the road, you know that sort of idea of growing up with people around you who are important to you and who you know and you support one another through thick and thin really. With technology and travel, as a human species, we’ve moved away from that to a large amount. But I think what’s fundamental to our happiness and survival is connection and having a social community. I think in a way the future needs to be moving back to the past, if you like. Coming back into community and knowing your neighbours and sharing resources, it has to become a more important part of future living.
Richard: And reducing your footprint and your impact, whilst having the ability to be closer together as a community.
Lucy: So all those sorts of things, when I first heard about it I just thought it was really exciting. And as I’ve got to know Camia more as well, she blows me away. I take my hat off to her. She’s just done such an incredible job and she’s just had such energy and commitment and forward-thinking to bring this concept even to the point it is now.
Richard: And it’s really exciting, isn’t it, to be part of that journey
Lucy: So we talk to anyone and everyone we can about it. We’ve got one lot of people on board!
Richard: Yeah, I think I’ve helped sell one. And I think there’s another one coming!
Lucy: You know that Collett’s Corner will appeal to a certain type of person. So whilst we’ve both got lots of friends and colleagues, there’s only certain ones you know that it’s really worth exploring the idea with. I don’t know if I could put my finger on what it is.
Richard: I think it’s quite a step change in thinking to the traditional model that most New Zealanders have grown up with. And the model that we have grown up with is not a model for the future. We need to at some point pave the way for that change and I think that this is a really good example of what that model could look like.
(Speaking of the future...their daughter, Ella-Rose joins us.)
What is it that you like doing most at school?
Ella: I enjoy cooking and I enjoy handwork. I’ve made a pencil case before - I crocheted it. And a hat. I’ve learned to knit and crochet. And cross-stitch - I’ve made a pin-cushion. And I’m making a doll right now.
(Ella whispers to Richard: “get the bowl”)
Lucy: Richard’s just passing her all sorts of her creations that she’s made over the years. With Steiner school, the first seven years of life are about learning through our physical bodies - hence they don’t begin their academic learning until their seventh year - and so the rest of the time is all about play. In the second seven years it’s about learning through your emotional self, understanding yourself and your connection with their world. And the following seven years - from 14 to 21 - is about developing the cognitive self, so they do more of their structured academic development side of things. The Steiner schools teach the core curriculum but they’re given special permission from the Government to lace it with their extra subjects - handwork and gardening, they learn about Greek mythology, the Romans, astrology. They get a really broad academic education but with the emphasis on hands-on.
Richard: Learning from the head, the heart and the hand.
(Ella begins showing us her creations - a wooden spoon and bowl)
Ella: Yeah, this was in woodwork. I made this spoon.
Lucy: (With real pride) That’s hand-carved and not using any machines.
Ella: I used a chisel and then I grated it all with this grater-thing. Then our teacher sands it on the machine and then we sand it by hand. And you have to chisel the whole handle here to make it round.
Then I also made this bowl.
Lucy: That was hand-chiselled as well.
Richard: Isn’t it lovely.
Lucy: And then there’s all sorts of bits of knitting everywhere. She loves knitting. She’s run off to get more stuff now.
I think that’s why she loves school. The emphasis isn’t on the academic learning and the ABCs. It’s a much more creative way of learning. There is still a lot of play as well. Ella just loves being at school with her friends.
(Ella arrives back with more beautiful creations - a woolen hat and a crocheted drink-bottle holder)
Ella: I also made and handworked this hat
Lucy: That’s knitted with four needles at once
Ella: And I crocheted this water bottle holder
Making the hat was probably the most challenging because the patterns on some parts of the hat were quite confusing
Lucy: They actually had to design their own pattern and work out the mathematical patterning of it. They don’t even have technology in the lower school. The teachers still write on blackboards.
What do you enjoy doing outside of school, Ella?
Richard: Ella does circus.
Ella: I just did a performance this month in a theatre that went pretty well. I think I started circus when I was about 7. I’m in the performance troupe. Not every group does performances in front of a crowd. There’s other kids groups who don’t need to perform. But the performance troupe performs all the time because they’re called the performance troupe!
Lucy: They do 3 or 4 shows a year, so one each term. They actually get to pretty much decide which moves they’re going to do and what music they’re going to do it to and which costumes you’re going to wear.
She did gym when she was very little but what I didn’t like about gym, as a parent, is that the focus is all on competition. And it’s all about competing against someone else and very repetitive learning whereas circus is about having fun and learning together. It’s about coming together, creating something and supporting each other and then doing a show. As a parent, I thought that was a far better way for Ella to do something that was active and enjoyable without the early pressure to perform and do well. Mim, their teacher is an amazing circus performer and she drills them quite hard actually.
Richard: There’s a lot of effort and energy that goes into it.
Lucy: Some pretty hardcore training because you have to be pretty strong to do the aerial arts
How does it feel when you’re performing?
Ella: You do feel quite nervous but when you actually start you feel fine. I enjoy it.
Lucy: And she does it with her best friend, too, which helps. They often do a duo.
Was there anything that you had to think long and hard about before making your decision to live at Collett’s Corner?
Richard: Where I’m going to put all my stuff! It’s the opportunity to choose the things that you really need and perhaps the things that you’ve acquired along the way that don’t need to come on that journey with you
Lucy: I suppose you could say I’m quite sentimental and my parents have always collected antiques that kinda tell a story really. They’ve sent me bits and pieces over which I have here with me now and I wouldn’t want to give them up because I feel they’re my connection with my parents and my grandmother as well. So that’s a big thing. It’s very much about the space - it is a very small space at Collett’s Corner that you’re going to live in so it’s like “yeah, where am I going to put all this stuff?”
Richard: And I think that’s the challenge if you are pioneering something reasonably new, you’ve got to walk the walk and make that journey. And it will be a journey.
Lucy: (With a laugh) Not even a garage to chuck all our junk in!
Richard: I like adventure motorbiking as well, so I have to find somewhere where I can put the motorbike.
(With a suggestion of making it one of the 5 shared vehicles for the carpark downstairs) That’s right, maybe!
Lucy: We spoke to someone and we mentioned Collett’s Corner and she said “oh yeah, we did think of that” but she was close to retiring and so was her husband and her comment was “I mentioned it to my husband, but he just loves his shed and loves tinkering away in his shed so it’s not going to work for him.” I think you either have to embrace it and decide to let go of all that extra stuff, or you have to find a way to somehow have both. You have to be creative in your own imagination of replacing perhaps what you have that’s just all yours whilst still looking at the essence of what’s important to you and finding a way to meet that need within this new way of living.
What does community mean to you?
Lucy: For me, it means connection, support and friendship. I think community is also about being able to be yourself and find your own little niche within that community as well. I think in any community you’re not going to hit it off with every person but you’ll find the people that you resonate with the most.
I think actually where this first came from for you and me, Rich, I remember we were talking about retirement and about my parents in the UK - my mum has dementia and they’re both in their mid-80s. I started thinking about how our society actually treats the elderly which is generally just stuffing them into an old people’s home and forgetting about them. It’s quite a lonely thought. So we both started thinking about, well actually, we want to feel that we’re part of something and not shunted out into the wilderness and isolated.
Richard: Yeah, and having children as well who are on the four corners of the Earth - them being able to come and stay as well. Hence the reason why we bought two, so we can let them come stay and, you know, we’re all sort of together but further enough away. You have inlaws or people to stay, it’s nice to have them there but also have their own space as well. That was really quite appealing
Lucy: Yeah so when I think of community it feels comforting. I sort of feel held.
Richard: A sense of caring and belonging, sharing, supporting and contributing. I think in this world, when you have got skills that you can contribute, it’s nice being able to share those. You take it for granted that everybody has the same ability and skills but, of course, we all have our own unique skills and people are not often aware of those. And to be able to share those as a community I think is really quite nice.
Any last thoughts?
Lucy: I guess ultimately we had to consider whether it was a sound financial decision. I really like the way that Camia had given that thought - obviously, with the concept of co-living you need to have core element of people who are there permanently, allowing that the top level is open to long-term rent or more permanent living, whereas the first level, which allows the short-term, still allows people that flexibility of opportunity, so if you want to rent your place out short-term, then that’s still an option as well.
When we first got the one-bedroom one - Camia had the one on level two anyway so that was already gone - I thought at least on that first level there is the opportunity for us to rent it out and have that as a potential income stream. It’s all very well talking about the fluffy idea of it but it’s also got to make financial sense and whilst the apartments are quite a bit more expensive than the apartments in the city, I think what they offer in terms of their location and this unique concept of co-living, it has that X-Factor, that uniqueness about it that makes it stand out from the crowd of other apartments that you could otherwise go and buy.
Even as an investment, they make good financial sense. And with the new government rules, they’ve become more attractive than buying an old house. Which I hope will actually bring even more people on board, seeing it as an opportunity that’s worth pursuing.