Goodbye, Christchurch

I can’t get a handle on Christchurch. There are old-time trams on freshly laid tracks. It looks like a minor Swedish commercial hub expanded to fit the grid pattern of a city in Kansas. It’s as flat as a pancake with hills at its back so it appears as if some spilled batter is slowly oozing out to sea. This makes sense considering how many earthquakes it has suffered. They’ve rebuilt the cathedral spire so many times they may as well make the current one out of memory foam. There is enough surviving early 20th century quaintness to maintain continuity and much of the recent stuff is pretty decent looking. But there are big gaps all over the centre. If Auckland is Oceania’s Sly and the Family Stone, Christchurch is Keane. But the small Sunday night crowd in the pleasant James Hay Theatre get on their feet and, well…dance. They dance to US. It’s a glorious act of defiance.

Before we leave the following afternoon I have green stuff in a health shack on the gallery terrace of an attractive new shopping arcade. They’re playing Teenage Fanclub. The weather is what can only be described as clement and everyone looks middle class. It’s as if the architects’ digital pedestrians have come to life. Even the construction workers on their lunch break look like models from a brochure. It reminds me dimly of Fort William with all the awkward ugliness sucked out. People are wandering about in a blissful trance between tremors and atrocities. They look happy. If the earth isn’t trembling enjoy the sunshine. Perhaps it’s the future.

A sparrow hops onto my table looking for crumbs. Nothing doing. All that remains is a frothy green sludge in the old jam jar in which my smoothie was served. It looks like a miniature paradise encased in thick glass. Goodbye, Smoothieville. A green and pleasant glade rising from liquified earth.