I remember leaving Christchurch. It was the start of summer back in 2008, I packed my Honda Civic to the roof, left my hose key under the back doormat for the landlord and drove down St Asaph Street with a heavy heart knowing that I was leaving a place I loved. As I neared the outskirts of the city and my radio prematurely began to lose reception that horrendous Fedde Le Grand song, ‘Put your hands up for Detroit’ came on. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it but on this occasion I sang along, alone in the car, pumping my fist singing my own version: PUT YOUR HANDS UP FOR CHRISTCHURCH! I LOVE THIS CITY!
Last weekend I flew back to Christchurch, New Zealand for a cousins wedding. Although New Zealand is home, it’s not really a place I like to spend too much time in. Firstly because I spent 24 years of my life living there and there is so many other places in the world I would rather use my valuable leave on. Secondly, as I am approaching 30 everyone is deciding to settle down and get married which means that I will be making at least four trips a year back to Aotearoa over the next few years.
It’s always a bit weird going back to Christchurch on account of the destruction caused by the huge earthquake that struck back in February 2011. People that have never lived in Christchurch have little idea of how bad the damage to the city was and the fact it is far from being rebuilt. On Sunday morning I met a friend for Brunch at C1 in the heart of the CBD. I used to visit this place frequently when it was located in the now destroyed high end of High Street. After having the best coffee I have had the pleasure of drinking in about three years we took a stroll around the city, both trying to figure out what used to be where. The rubble on High street which leads up to where I used to study at the New Zealand Broadcasting School was the beacon we used as a starting point to attempt to reminisce about the city we both grew up in.
After turning the corner into Madras, we were just surround by empty spaces (cheap places to park your vehicle). This is when it became increasingly difficult to remember exactly how the city used to be set out. We found the 185 white chairs next to the newly erected cardboard cathedral, one for each victim of the natural disaster. Unfortunately the only building that is a clear backdrop to this sobering scene is Christchurch’s tacky strip club Calendar Girls. As we walked down to the Square we passed New Regent Street, which was exactly as I remembered it, the only difference is that at the end of the street there is now a clearing in the space of where one of the cities taller office buildings used to stand.
I feel that due to the fact I didn’t live in the city when the quake actually hit, I cannot speak too much about the state of the Christchurch. Not matter how sad I felt seeing all of my favourite places still in rubble, there’s no way that that can actually compare with having to go through everything those Cantabrians have gone through these past four years.
I take my hat off to the people that have made it their mission to help rebuild the Garden City and getting its residents excited about what the future holds. There are new bars, cafes, restaurants and shopping centres opening all the time. I spent a night on Strangers Lane which is in the place of the old Sol Square, it gives off a remarkably similar vibe that everyone was buzzing about pre the opening of Poplar Lane way back in the day.
Christchurch to me now is like an old friend that I really don’t stay in touch with. They have changed quite a bit since we used to be close. I feel I have to look hard to remember why I used to love the city. I know in about ten years I will probably love this place once more.