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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