Friday 24 August 2012


Five years I spent in this building, being educated, interested, bored, amused, stimulated and stultified, learning so much stuff I still use and possibly even more that I don't (pretty much the whole of maths, PE and art), having fun, passing notes, eating my sandwiches, writing lines, having chalk thrown at me, being told once that I was good at whatever I chose to do (thanks, Miss Cree, and sorry about that dig about maths) and also by my School Cert English teacher that, despite my getting 95% in the national exams, she hoped I didn't think I was some sort of genius (yeah, and thanks for that, Mrs Hardy). Five years in that solid building with the grand staircase and high windows and funny-shaped corner rooms where the wings branched off, allowing Miss Oliver once to fill each of the five corners with a miscreant. And now there's nothing there. Nothing! Just a view across neatly-trimmed grass to the Hall, which you could never have seen from this point while I was at Avonside Girls' High.
I'm back in Christchurch for the weekend, my first visit since the February 22 earthquake last year, and the others that followed it. The last time I was here was a couple of months after the September one in 2010, when everyone thought that they'd dodged a bullet, and the city was shaken and a bit cracked but generally ok. Nobody died. Who knew the big one was still to come?

The city's full of empty spaces that have similar meaning for other people - buildings that were part of their lives and which now are gone, nothing remaining. Tomorrow I'm doing a set of tours for a story, inside the Red Zone that's still fenced off, and around the confusing jumble of closed roads hemmed in with cyclone fencing and orange cones, past stacks of shipping containers holding up tottering walls, piles of rubble with diggers on top, huge cranes swivelling around, some constructing but most of them still demolishing, bit by bit, the personal histories of so many Christchurch people.

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