Monthly Archives: October 2011

Christchurch Resurgent [3].

Monday 31st October 2011.

The question in my mind was: were the Sunday crowds an aberration or were they an index of a real trend? What would the traffic be like on a working day? I soon found out, and things go on like this there is going to be an urgent need for more parking space.

Where once was a mirror-glass building: car park on the corner of Cashel Mall and Oxford Terrace.

I drove in at about 1000am, not because I wanted to, but because at the moment I could never walk that far. I hope in time to be able to recover sufficiently to walk into town, but that is going to be quite a while yet. Ergo, I drive. The City Council has a car park in Litchfield Street besides the

new Bus Exchange, but that was full and is likely to remain permanently full. The Wilson’s carpark on the site of the Zetland Hotel is a better bet; it can be accessed along the driveway that runs down the side of the Druid’s Hall in Litchfield Street. The other Wilson’s carpark, on the other side of the Mall on the site – more or less – of the Trocadero lunch bar and with access from Hereford Street, also had spaces, but you have to dodge the metal monsters that are ripping up the old buildings at a great pace.

The Mall was well populated, all the shops doing a steady trade. Quite a number of tourists were wandering around, and hopefully buying stuff as well, but seemed disappointed that they could get no further than the fence at Colombo Street. The fence itself is a matter of interest, as well. People like to look at what is going on, and there are few things more frustrating that having to stand in front of a solid fence listening to the loud and enigmatic noises that emanate from behind it. Why have CERA put up a fence through which people cannot see? Do they have something to hide? We may never know, as opacity is now a standard policy default, it would seem.

The shopping complex, on the other hand, is highly visible. It is a brilliant little village of especially

Cashel Village on the site of the former Guthrey Centre.

adapted shipping containers arranged on empty ground on which used to stand the Guthrie Centre and adjacent shops as far as Plymouth Lane on the South side, and a second area across the way where once there was the Weekly News and the elegant Whitcoulls buildings. The containers are

configured into a series of lanes and walkways, with little open spaces here and there, a very human-friendly place. Someone appreciates the fact that people like to stroll and explore, looking around corners and down alleys. This is very different from the canyon-esque Cashel Mall of old. Cashel Street by 1860 had become fully built-up, the first such stretch of street in the City to achieve that distinction, and remained unaltered in any important sense for a hundred and fifty years. That configuration seemed to suit the orderly Victorian mind, but tastes change along with the times, and perhaps now we need something a little different, something a bit more chaotic. This could well be the shape of things to come, and, if the numbers pressing in today are any indicator of current needs and tastes, this is what people want.

The only criticism that I have at this point is that the shops lacked variety. The venerable Johnson’s Grocery has a presence with an astonishing array of imported delicacies, Simply New Zealand has a shop housing its excellent range of souvenirs, there is a computer shop and a couple of cafés, but everything else seems to be high fashion. This needs to be examined; we should not cheapen the place with a lot of junk shops, but by the same token there are a lot of people who neither want nor can afford designer labels. A little more diversity of both product range and price range would bring in even more throngs.

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Christchurch Resurgent [2]

Sunday 30th October 2011.

It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.

It was not what I had expected, nor am I sure what it was that I did expect, but Cashel Mall has certainly come alive. Ruth dropped me off by the Museum and I walked slowly down Worcester Boulevard. The Arts Centre is completely off limits, completely surrounded by interlocking fencing, even those areas that would be perfectly safe to approach. The market square, for instance, was completely cut off but could easily have been cleared of its resident containers and made into a market square again, but no. It remained unused, forcing stall holders to start their own little market, which is growing well from small beginnings, just across the road.

Where once was the entrance to the Shades Arcade

There was quite considerable foot traffic up and down Worcester Boulevard, which was most encouraging, coming from or going toward the city centre. I walked slowly across to the Worcester Street bridge, which was closed off by fencing, to have a look down towards the shell of the Cathedral, the first time that I had seen it since February. The trees and gardens on the west bank along Cambridge Terrace looked almost normal, but on the other side of the river, along Oxford Terrace, they were rank and overgrown. The plinth of Scott’s statue was obscured by greenery, but Our City, the old City Council building, was still there, shored up by a forest of steel girders. The demolition people must be gnashing their teeth with anger, unable to smash it down and pillage it. There were a few ducks, but nowhere near as many as there was before the quake. Nobody has been feeding them, I suppose, so they have gone in search of a more bounteous food supply.

Hereford Street was open as far as Shand’s Emporium, which, wonder of wonder, was still standing. It even seemed to be relatively intact, which demonstrates once more the advantages of old and flexible wooden buildings over modern and rigid concrete ones. The lovely old Olympus building was good, as was the Monkey Bar. Around the corner, the old buildings of the strip from the Bangalore Polo Club to Coyote’s were gone, heaps of rubble. Great excavators sat atop the piles of rubble like huge antediluvian beasts who, having destroyed their prey, now sit upon the rotting corpses to devour them at their leisure. Along the road a little way, things were rather different.

In some ways, nothing has changed: the banks of the Avon opposite The Strip.

So much had gone – the old Zetland Hotel, Fail’s Café [more recently the Vault], the buildings that housed the Bog and the Trocadero, the Whitcoulls building, Shades Arcades, Guthrie’s Arcade – but at least things had been tidied up. And the containers of the pop-up shops are truly amazing. The Mall was thronged with people, the shops were buzzing with activity. I have not seen so many people in Cashel Mall for years! A completely different shopping precinct has grown up, cobbled together out of old containers and bits and pieces. Whoever put it together deserves to be promoted to Admiral and given a pint of Guinness at the very least. Unlike their monolithic predecessor, the little shops are set out in a series of lanes , alleys and small open spaces that form an intricate an interesting complex that people can explore. And people love exploring.

Or perhaps not; metal monsters devour the old Bangalore Polo Club.

Christchurch Resurgent [1].

Saturday 29th October 2011.

The City Mall re-opens today.

Or, perhaps more accurately, the stretch of road from the Bridge of Remembrance to Colombo Street that once we knew as City Mall is now accessible by the citizenry of Christchurch, having been off-limits since the February earthquake. It has been tidied up, almost all the buildings along its extent razed, and a whole series of especially modified containers and temporary structures thrown up to house shops and cafés. This is the first part of what was the Central Business District, and the Bailiwick of the Town Crier, that has become available to foot traffic once more.

Accordingly, the City of Christchurch Town Crier has been recalled from limbo to resume duty.

Tomorrow morning, therefore, I shall don my red jacket and tricorne hat and sally forth to – what? I have no idea really. From what I have been able to glimpse through the fences and barricades there is precious little that remains of the City that I walked this time last year, and we still cannot get to Cathedral Square. Access can be had from Montreal Street along the river, down Hereford Street and along Worcester Boulevard. The Hereford Street Bridge is open and from there we can get to Oxford Terrace and Cashel Mall and Litchfield Street, but where else we can go I have yet to discover.

I have considerable misgivings about returning to what, for want of a better word, I shall call the City. It is not what I understand the City to be, and certainly not what I remember it to be, but that aside I am deeply concerned about what I am going to see. Everything that I identified with in the City of Christchurch – the Cathedral, the Provincial Council Chambers, Our City, the Arts Centre, Warners Hotel – are open spaces, piles of rubble, or are still fenced off. If these are not part of my experience any more, am I still experiencing the City of Christchurch?

Further, I am now in a different reality to the one that I occupied on the morning of 22nd February last. The whole world changed then. All the infrastructures, routines and realities disappeared. Over the last eight months I have spent most of my time at home here in our little cottage in the Avon Loop, and I have just begun to adjust to this strange new reality that has been imposed upon us. I have been able to do that because the centre of this new reality has been, for me, our little oasis of familiarity. Our cottage emerged almost unscathed from the shaking that has brought devastation all about us, and having this core of normality, with Ruth beside me and our friend Bentley somewhere underfoot, has enabled me to reach outwards to accept and accommodate this new existence. And now I must cast that aside for yet another new reality, a reality that is different again and which may be subject to change at a second’s notice. I find this deeply disturbing, but I shall venture forth tomorrow and see what is out there. Only then will I discover if I am able to live there.

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