Thursday, May 12, 2011

Down Town

I don't think people who are not from Christchurch understand. Actually, I'm not sure people who are from Christchurch understand, but at least they have the beginnings of understanding just what has happened to us and our city. The photo above is of Colombo Street, the main street that runs through the CBD.

Michael Laws basically said on RadioLive yesterday that adults in Christchurch should get over themselves and harden up. I wouldn't expect much else from that priggish boor. The reality is most of us are hardening up. We're generally less spooked by the aftershocks. We've been to most of the funerals. We only get one or two 5+ earthquakes a month, now.

But it's not the aftershocks that are bothering many people. What bothers me is the saturation of despair and destruction. Even though my suburb and home is relatively unscathed, I cannot drive anywhere without being reminded that so much of our city is in ruins. And the closer you get to the Red Zone, the more stark the reminder.

This is how much of the inner city looks, and this after it's been tidied up. There are nice piles of brick and rubble everywhere, cleanly cut open spaces where shops and cafes used to be. The glass has been swept up and buildings on the verge of falling down have been propped up.

Petula Clark sung Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city... The dominant tunes in the Red Zone are jackhammers and rumbling diesel engines. There are few cars, except those driven by neon-vested officials or those still crushed in the rubble (although I did read somewhere that all of the cars had been removed from the inner city?).

There is lots of talk in Heritage circles of mourning cherished buildings. Probably it's not so much the buildings they are mourning but rather what the buildings mean to them.

We all have - had - special places down town that may no longer exist.

The Savoy Brown (directly under the tree above) had taken on a special status for me. It was a funky little place at the top (bottom?) end of High Street. At least the building is still standing, and in true Christchurch style there are moves afoot to keep at least the facades of these buildings.

Keep it or not, it will be a year before anybody can go near the place. I wonder if we'll ever get to sip latte there again. I've taken a few photos inside The Savoy Brown. I wish I'd taken more. In fact, I had planned to. It had a particular little room that I loved to be in. There was something romantic about it. It screamed PHOTOSHOOT! to me every time I lounged in the leather chairs and sucked in the tacky 70s decor. I'm glad I got the photos I did.

But alas, it's probably gone. Unless the Heritage people win a small victory. But it won't be the same. The owners may have moved on, gone bankrupt, sold up, or died. Who knows.

So, too, for much of the inner city. I have friends who own a cafe on Hereford Street. It will be October before they can even go back into the place. The chances of actually re-opening are pretty slim.

The Grand Chancellor leans over Cashel Street, mocking us all. Will it fall or won't it.

It probably won't. It'll be knocked down. Like Manchester Courts The Grand Chancellor will be a sticking point for months, maybe years, because even after it comes down it will generate controversy. Already the property developers, the lawyers, and the construction company executives are rubbing their hands together. It will be boom time for them in the coming years.

Meanwhile, I still have to find a new haunt to sip latte.

5 comments: said...

AS USUAL YOU SAY AND SHOW IT ALL...and a little bit more. I cant BELIEVE M.laws said that ...I'm seething...but then thats probably why he said that.

Carla said...

Your entry speaks of how many of us feel, Peter. I too have lost many special haunts, places I came to know intimately and would frequent when needs of solitude, energy or inspiration arose. Most of those places are gone. I grieve for the people we lost and, after all, buildings are just buildings, but what makes us human? Memories. Feelings. Places in my memory are gone. I will never visit them again. It is a grief.

Philippa said...

Peter, You have summed it up. Even though most of the time I can avoid the worst hit areas, this realty is always there in the back of my mind. Mostly we do all just keep going but sometimes I wonder if there will come a point where I just can't live in my once lovely, now broken city anymore.

Tirzah said...

It certainly can't be easy to leave your house under those circumstances. I knew there was devastation, but I wasn't sure of the magnitude of it all. I could sit here and tell you that it'll get better and people will rebuild, but I know in the end it doesn't matter. It hurts now and it affects you now. I wish things like this never happened.

peter said...

Blogger had some glitches and the comments on this post have disappeared. They keep saying they will be back, but Im not holding my breath.