Sunday, August 9, 2009

You can never go home again

At my sister's house last night, we were reminiscing about Saturday afternoons with Dad at the ice rink, wearing clunky brown leather boots and whizzing (or not) round in that cold, damp, cavernous space before driving home ALL the way across Christchurch (about 12kms) for tea and Robin Hood on TV ("Feared by the bad, Loved by the good, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood..." - they knew how to write theme songs in those days).

I was in Christchurch a couple of months ago on a car review assignment, and after I'd picked up the sporty little Mazda3 ("Here are the keys. There's the car," said the guy at the yard. No ID, no licence, nothing) I went for a spin around the old haunts. Except they weren't there any more - in Cathedral Square I had to hop out of the way of an unexpected tram, the old University's been gentrified, the hill in the Botanical Gardens where I ate my lunch has been shrunk to a mound - and out in the suburbs, the shopping centre a couple of blocks from my old home is unrecognisable. My intermediate school and the Methodist church opposite still look the same, but where the corner dairy stood, and the butcher and giftshop and sweetshop and haberdashery (haberdashery!) used to be is now a fancy big mall with bars and cafes.

I was past my old driveway before I knew it, and there was so much traffic I couldn't turn around. The horse paddocks I practically lived in, climbing trees and playing long pretend games, are gone under houses; the old church I used to go to, where I developed a love for the words of the 1662 service, and Hymns Ancient and Modern, that has outlasted any religious belief, is just an outline on the ground in the middle of the graveyard alongside some soulless (ha) modern building; and at the end of the road lined by houses all the way, at New Brighton, there was a long new concrete pier.

An old guy fishing off the end saw me with my camera and asked "Are you a tourist?" and I had to say, "Yes, I suppose I am."

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