Christchurch

I’m going to Christchurch again soon.  I was there in May this year and I will be there again at the end of this month.  Then I will go back in late Nov.

I was thinking about Christchurch a lot today.  I don’t know why.  This evening I heard on the radio and TV news that today is the anniversary of the first quake in 2010.

It seems  longer than two years ago…  I remember I rang my girlfriend at 7.40 am on a Saturday morning to tell her Christchurch had been really shaken.  She and I had been down there the year before and I had taken her to the Art Gallery.  Cathedral Square was just a short walk from the gallery and and she wanted to see the cathedral – I told her we didn’t have time … we’d see it next time. The next time we went to Christchurch the cathedral was in ‘the red zone’ , a pile of rubble.

It’s amazing how much I take for granted… as far as ‘permanence’ goes.  I just reckon buildings will be standing in the same place year after year.  I don’t take that stuff for granted anymore though.

When my friend and I stopped in Christchurch this year, we had a really incredible time just talking to people.  They were so willing to share their stories.  We talked first to a woman in Lytellton who told us a few amazing things.  She said when the second big quake struck, her big dog flung himself out the front door to defend the family from the earthquake.  He was normally placid but he flew into a rage, snapping at people passing, snarling at the shaking.  They had to lock him in a room.  Her little dog buried herself under a pile of washing and didn’t stop quivering for days.  The woman had to carry her around like a joey…she made a little pouch in her shirt so the dog could feel the warmth of human skin next to hers.  Animals must really suffer from the fright of it all.

We met other people who were living in only one part of their houses because the rest was damaged and they were  on a waiting list of a year for repair work to be completed.  We met a bloke whose house was destroyed  by one quake …so he moved into his campervan.  His campervan was parked at the house  when another quake hit…and the campervan  was partly damaged. He had moved to North Canterbury since then.

We talked to so many people who were just passing by. We learnt a lot about their courage and their  humour.  I know I can never understand what they’ve been through.

On our last night in Christchurch this May, we wanted to go to a bar.  I never go to bars but I wanted to hear some live music.  I don’t really know what I wanted – but it was something to do with finding out  how people, even in earthquake ravaged Christchurch,  come together to have some fun..

The first place we went to was awful.  The worst live band I have ever heard.  So we ran out of there.  We jumped in the campervan and drove up the road to get petrol.  I said to the guy at the petrol station…where do people hang in this town?  He said, you’re in luck, a bar has just opened a block up the road.

So we went to this open air venue called Smash Palace.  It was basically a vacant lot (where I guess a building had been) with a plastic wrapping around it.  The ceiling was made of sky and a lot of the walls were made of fresh air too.  It was blooooody cold!!

My friend went to get herself a drink.  She said “I brought you something.”  I said, “I don’t want anything to drink”.  She said, “you don’t drink it, you cuddle it.”  She handed me a hot water bottle.  And then I saw hot water bottles being handed out at tables, along with drinks.  There were a few people  standing next to drums that had warming fires inside. The women were decked out gorgeous flimsy ‘inside’ clothes, the blokes had short sleeves.  The place was full, the clientele was very chic.  The Stones rumbled one of their blues numbers through the crowd. This was Saturday night Christchurch style….under a black sky, amid cold air. Very cool.

On the way back to the van we walked past a poster.  It was a call to the people of Christchurch to come on a march the next day.  They were rallying to save the cathedral.  That’s the one I said  that had been reduced to rubble.  They wanted their landmark church back.

I thought…. out of the ashes a phoenix rises.  A phoenix is something new, sparkling with new life.  Why rebuild the exact same thing that had been there before….just because it was known as a ‘Christchurch icon.’

Fantastically, fabulously, a magnificent cardboard cathedral is going to be up in Christchurch by Christmas.  If you have to have a cathedral….make it out of cardboard I reckon.  And I love the idea of it being in  cardboard, it’s not permanent.

Thank you to the Japanese architect who dreamed it up.  Dreaming the future.