Friday, November 18, 2011


It's interesting that at the end of Christchurch's newest shopping mall, the modified containers the whole world is talking about - well, arguing about - there is a fence, a kind of wall. It separates the new from the old. 

This side of the fence is new and  frivolous. Shoppers go about their business, happy to be able to shop in the CBD again. Just why the malls are inadequate I don't know, but for a certain set, shopping in the CBD seems to be more real, more honest.

On the other side of the fence is the old and somber, the dead and dying, the former Christchurch, characterised poignantly by the slow, but very visible (and loud, as one German tourist pointed out), deconstruction of the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

While shoppers, lunching workers and tourists happily go about their business in the containers slash boutiques and on the mall, many if not all (at some point) stand at the fence and look respectfully into the old Christchurch and take a moment.

It's kind of shrine like. I'd like to know what's in the minds of the worshippers. It's our own Wailing Wall. It's a stark reminder that, while the new and exciting slowly evolves behind us, there still exists the old world, the Christchurch that used to be, and that there is an impenetrable wall, physically and emotionally, between the two.

I've heard many people say that they grew up in Christchurch and down town represents for them their childhood. It's where they hung out as teenagers, it's where their parents (pre-mall) dragged them to buy shoes or to have family lunches.

I guess I might feel the same about Rotorua, even though with all due respect it wouldn't bother me if the entire city of Rotorua got swallowed by the volcano it's supposed to be sitting on. But that's another story. Good or (mostly) bad, I have memories of the city in which I grew up. I can still remember the streets and the shops, and if I dig deep enough I can probably recall the smells (not only the rotten-egg-sulphur smell) and the sounds unique to that city and my childhood. I remember the BNZ where my dad sometimes took me, and the Railway Station where he worked had very distinctive smells. Like the smell of jam sandwiches in a leather school bag, it's a smell that stays with you for a lifetime.

I guess it's the same for people who grew up in Christchurch. To see many of the buildings in the CBD crumbling must be touching something deep inside them.

Anyway, I think this Wailing Wall will attract more people, and many, like me, for whatever morbid or macabre reason will return to it many times and take a moment. Especially as the Grand Chancellor comes down floor by floor over the next twelve months or so.

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