Saturday, October 29, 2011

Postcards From Memory - Christchurch As it Used to Be

Every one is talking about the opening of Re-Start in Christchurch's Cashel Mall today. I haven't been in. Crowds were expected and as silly as it still seems, I didn't fancy being stuck in Cashell Mall with thousands of others. Not there's much to fear there in an earthquake now, because so many of the mall's buildings have been demolished. So instead of checking out 27 shops in containers that I never visited when they were in conventional 'shops,' here I am, wistfully perusing my photo files, remembering central Christchurch the way it used to be, before it was shattered by earthquakes. I suspect there'll be quite a few people doing that today, as they stand looking at a series of coloured shipping containers that have been erected in record time to - theoretically at least - give us heart, to encourage us to think things are improving here in Christchurch.  I'm sure I'll like the shipping container shops once I actually see them.....from behind my camera.... but it will take more than 27 shops to make me feel like solid progress is being made.
In the meantime, here's a few shots from inner city Christchurch the way it used to be, before September 4, 2010. Most of the buildings shown here, have since been demolished, or unrecognisably damaged and may yet come up against the wreckers' ball.
It's as sunny today as it was then and my head is filled with memories of busy streets with pedestrians pushing their way across intersections and cars tooting. I think of the hassles of trying to find a car park on the city streets - now I just wish I had the chance to try. I remember Japanese brides being photographed in the square and tourists posing proudly in front of the cathedral for that image to send home to a faraway mantlepiece. I think of Neil Dawson's Chalice sending a tapestry of shadows across the Square and the crazy Wizard standing on his ladder berating all before him. I have images of city workers sprawled out in the sun on the banks of the Avon during their lunch break and full tables at restaurants and bars along The Strip. I remember the secondhand bookshops I loved to squander time in - sometimes seeking a treasure for a particular collection, other times just nosing my way through battered and bruised books harbouring few clues to their earlier lives.
These are all passing shards from another time now.
Moving on is inevitable and necessary - but I'm not ready to do it today.
Not for 27 painted shipping containers at least.

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