My Favourite Window

November 3, 2011


Time to take a deep breath; time to step back, through the terror, and into the future. Time to remember a year ago this week: driving with Elwin into the City to deliver Bryony and her friends to their Masquerade Ball. Elwin taught Tess how to knot her tie before we left home (she was dressed as a guy).  We dropped them off at
the foot of
the Hotel Grand Chancellor, (tallest teetering building in this photo),watched them walk to school - long-legged beauties - in the shivering Easterly, that wind of definitition, along with the Nor' Wester, of what it is to belong to Canterbury.
After we had dropped the girls off, Elwin said to me "Show me the City."  He'd not been, and seen the aftermath of 4th September.  No one had died then.  So we looked - like voyeurs - at cracked paving and crumbling facades, at the dis-sembling of Manchester Courts and
the novelty of terra-not-so-firma.

In the photo above I see ten years of Bryony's schooling: Northern Tower - the high building to the left, built specifically to suit Unlimited secondary school's requirements; Southern Star House - the roofless facade centre right; and Discovery 1, the primary school housed on the upper levels of the white foreground building.

The last time I was here in the City, was February 16th. I came to finalise matters of Elwin's Estate with the Public Trust and made a final appointment for February 23rd.  I was not here on that dreadful afternoon of February 22nd, when the City killed and maimed so many people.  But still I have felt that it would be difficult to return.  At every withdrawing of the cordon, the realisation of loss of place has cut deep into strong memories reaching back into early childhood.

So: that breath taken, that fear reduced, that step forward and I find that there is plenty of parking!  There are more parking lots than there are buildings now. In my Holiday's End post you can see one of the buildings that once stood on this site. The long building to the right of this photo is a multi-storey parking building: unsafe, closed.
But in the ReStart Christchurch village (opened on October 29th 2011) visited, with my sister on October 31st, all is fresh and bright and hopeful.  It is only slightly disconcerting that the false floors laid in these tres chic shipping containers maintain a constant tremor!  

There is a spirit of experience shared. Shoppers, staff, workmen: we all banter, marvel, relate our stories.
We were still welding 30 minutes before opening, confesses a brisk barista and there are still no locks on the doors. Who needs locks when the cordon will go up again at closing time.
It was like a TV makeover show, says Maureen. They were digging the plants into the garden beds the day before opening. Ahem, I had noticed the new plantings weren't quite up to scratch.

If anyone I met today embodies moving forward it is Maureen with her new business Hapa She was trapped here in Cashel Mall on February 22, yet returns with dedication to her work and a belief in the City.

And surely the flag ship of this advance flotilla of shipping containers must be Ballantynes.  Risen once from the City's earlier tragedy - the Ballantynes Fire of 1947, when 41 people died - this luxury department store's post-fire building has also withstood the earthquakes remarkably well and is now open for business and is being re-furbished and strengthened. 

On a warm balmy day, the vibe here was urbane, funky and relaxed.  It was intriguing to find long-standing institutions from different parts of the City gathered together: Johnsons the Grocer, Scorpio Books, Cosmic Corner.  There was also a subtle thread of awareness, often expressed with humour, of the people we have become together over the last fourteen months.

For a taste of this humour read Wellyjewell's account of the barley wine that brewed itself in the Red Zone. 
And visit ReStart Christchurch if you can.


John Gray said...

those flower baskets are quite something.. love those

Jeneane said...

Are you sure it's just the flower baskets..? That builder was quite a hunk ;-)

Steve said...

Each step is a step forwards... from the smallest to the biggest.

Simone Mullan said...

The children and I attended the opening of the Restart. It was interesting to watch people mill and wander. Many people taking photos, us included. I couldn't help thinking that it felt like the heart of our city had started beating again, especially with everything outside this wee, colourful centre, still grey, dusty and lifeless. Talking to a shop worker, and listening to the energy, hard work and excitement that has gone into making this happen, it is a truly positive thing.

Jeneane said...

Steve: Absolutlely! So how are those immigration plans going? ;-)

Simone: If everyone feels the way you and I feel, then that beating heart should pump Desire back into the City. I can't wait to go back.

The Sagittarian said...

I haven't been back in yet...can't quite bring myself to it altho' I guess the teenagers will want to drag me there soon enough. Good for you on going tho' and it was such a beautiful day that day!

Jeneane said...

Saj, if I wasn't going away soon I'd offer to go with you. I do understand that resistance to going in, and for some people I think it will continue to be a no-go area for a long time.