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.

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