Mostly I bypass the CBD on my regular cross-city missions. On Saturday I detoured down Gloucester Street as far as the new Press House. The street surprisingly had “road closed” signs. I understood Gloucester Street had re-opened. But that was not stopping me, or anyone else. Anywhere seriously inside the cordon had security blockades. I could peer into barricaded New Regent Street, looking incredibly shabby but remarkably intact. Former Moko café stood astride the corner. I recalled the attractive Chinese owner, Susan, I waved to when I worked on the trams. She had been an electrical engineer working on Chinese power projects, she had told me. She was followed by hilarious Chinese owner Joe, always generous when us Trammies called for coffee. When Joe and his wife became parents of a bonny baby boy, he proudly brought him on the tram. And typical of all new fathers, Joe gave the impression it had been all his own effort. Some things re-assuredly remain constant across cultures.
I parked my bicycle where the stylish old Press, my workplace for 15 years, had stood. Saturday was a busy working day with the scraping, clanging, sounds of huge, busy, machinery everywhere. Spindly tall cranes criss-crossed the blue sky. Across what used to be proud Cathedral Square, the Anthony Harper building, former Welcome Aboard office location, looked a sorry state indeed, as did the munted Anglican Cathedral, beyond redemption? Seemed anything still standing was being dismantled. Was I on the strange set of a horror movie? Had Weta Workshop done all this for fun and will soon restore it as it was? Like waking from a bad dream? Sadly, I knew all too well this was reality. I could have cried. The fine sunny afternoon after a week of miserable cold, wet, weather was the only plus. People were out and about soaking up the winter sun shine. I retraced my route back towards the river. An entire block was in ruins with brave business signage, crumbling amongst the ruins – a one-time coffee house, florist, specialist ethnic restaurant, and lively pub. I struggled to put names to crumbling towers once familiar on the city tram route. Even the river looked grubby, no doubt the reluctant recipient of demolition run-off. How the city and our people have been clobbered. Yet there is a brave will to re-start businesses, including tourism. All is not helped by the Aussie government officially putting Christchurch on a no go recommendation along some of the world’s worst trouble spots. How unfair. And out- of- character for our traditionally supportive trans-Tasman neighbours. As far as I know, there has not been a recent trans-Tasman rugby fixture. Back at Rolleston Ave I thankfully continued my journey, the cycle path across Hagley Park representing my recent normality. Here, people running and cycling had reason to smile.