Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: One

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  • Sacha, in reply to Alice Ronald,

    that second picture is doing my head in too. Cashel Mall, now a gravel parking lot.

    +1

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Urquhart, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    this picture is seriously doing my head in.

    I don't see the full gallery linked here yet – Facespy
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.171263566282748.40926.132340030175102

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2009 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    I didn't want to be a "disaster tourist". That felt very wrong to me.

    That's a tricky one. It has a nasty ring to it as a phrase, but honestly, I don't think too many of the tourists are going to be anything but profoundly sympathetic and will take back a piece of that with them to wherever they go. If they spend some money down there, that will help too, but really, people taking personalized disaster snaps of Christchurch and meeting locals on the way is all part of bringing the disaster to the world (and the country - most tourists would probably be locals). I doubt it would be as venal as the phrase "disaster tourism" makes it sound.

    But feel free, anyone and everyone, to shoot this down. It's not my town, so I don't have quite the same feel.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    After September, Someone was running bus tours through Avonside. That's disgusting. And in residential areas, having people drive really slowly through your streets rubber-necking at your house? Is horrible. Lots of streets had signs up saying things like "If you don't live here, go home."

    The central city, though, is completely different. That belonged to all of us, and it's not intruding on anyone's privacy.

    And yeah, Sacha, that photo Jolisa linked to is what it's like, except for most of the CBD, there's nothing like the Bridge of Remembrance, the landmarks that let you work out where you are. Our city is being removed from our mental maps.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman,

    After the September earthquake, I rather lost hope for Christchurch. I like heritage buildings as much as the next Cantabrian, but the discussion at every public forum seemed to move inexorably to the topic of nineteenth century mortar. The only future we had on offer was a titanic struggle between heroic tweedy heritage architects and evil postmodernists driving bulldozers through lovely churches. Eventually the architects would win, and we could all settle back into our traditional pastime of debating what colour tiles should next be installed in our desolate city square.

    For all its devastation, the February earthquake gave me a lot more hope for the longer-term future. Whatever happens, staying the same is no longer an option for Christchurch.

    When there's been a big disruptive event, we naturally want to know when things will be "back to normal". When the event is even bigger and more destructive, we want to know when the "new normal" will be established. But there's no before and after for normal. There'll never be a time when we can look back and identify the point at which normal started again. Change accumulates, and I'd rather live in a city that knows it.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 133 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3587 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And in residential areas, having people drive really slowly through your streets rubber-necking at your house? Is horrible.

    Extremely tempting, though. Has anyone at all in Christchurch not been guilty of this behavior?

    Lots of streets had signs up saying things like "If you don't live here, go home."

    I can understand the feeling, but I guess I'm asking whether it's actually a counterproductive attitude, however understandable. People might follow that message, and go home. Or even just not come in the first place. Is that actually better or worse for the place? Isn't the tourist economy of Christchurch of value? Isn't disaster tourism one of the only possible good outcomes, keeping all the peripheral business cranking?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Isn’t disaster tourism one of the only possible good outcomes, keeping all the peripheral business cranking?

    Which doesn't account for the feelings of the people who live there. I was very careful about photographs around people's homes, or even just staring too hard. No one wants to feel like an exhibit.

    OTOH, it was noticeable that around the south end of the CBD red zone, almost all the foot traffic was rubberneckers -- either inbound tourists who had nothing else to do, or locals who also wanted to see the CBD.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    but I guess I’m asking whether it’s actually a counterproductive attitude, however understandable. People might follow that message, and go home. Or even just not come in the first place. Is that actually better or worse for the place?

    Ben, I'm talking about people living in quiet residential streets tucked away in the worst-hit areas, having cars driving past shaking their houses, kicking up liquifaction silt, and being stared at by total strangers - other people who also live in Christchurch. And you know what? I think those people are qualified to assess the cost-benefit of their own situation, thanks.

    And yes, there are people in the West who haven't driven over, who haven't seen it, who haven't taken on board the reality. But all you need to do to understand both the scope and the uneven distribution of the damage is drive from the airport, down Fendalton-Bealey-Fitzgerald and if you still don't get it, Linwood Ave and out to Sumner or Ferrymead. A friend of mine is planning to come down soon, and we will go pick her up, because I do not want her doing that drive by herself. You can "get" Avonside by driving down Fitzgerald Ave, you don't have to crawl around River Rd pointing.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    Extremely tempting, though. Has anyone at all in Christchurch not been guilty of this behavior?

    Seeing as you ask, yes. While I appreciate that your assumption's based on some kind of attempted empathy, rather than any stereotype about the behaviour of southern crackers, such things are a hell of a lot more complex than most of us have yet got to grips with.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3587 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    rather than any stereotype about the behaviour of southern crackers

    Hell, no. It's what I'd do, if it happened here. And I fully understand both Emma's and Russell's points about respect for privacy. It's a very Kiwi thing, that we don't think it's OK to look at people in trouble or misery, that it takes something from them, their pride or dignity. We've got a whole set of cultural expectations about where people are allowed to point their eyes, even in public places. So we have to do it all out of the corners of our eyes, or when the other person is not looking. To have foreigners who don't get this at all doing it is affronting.

    All I'm asking is whether it's actually a wise aspect of our culture. It's a hard thing to talk about, and I should probably do so in a less fraught context. Stopping now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Chchch less than its cracked up to be...

    rubberneckers

    apparently the term-du-jour is rubble-neckers
    (heard on the radio at the weekend)

    I think someone posted these videos elsewhere in PAS - but worth a view - a drive around the central city (linked from The Press site)

    News in the paper today that large amounts of innercity soils/land not great for rebuilding on...

    We just found out last week that our house will have to be raised and new foundations laid, (no mention of any work on the land itself) not to mention every room in the house having to be relined and painted etc - not looking forward to that shift out and upheaval -which in all likelihood will be years away (time to buy one of those hydraulic house-lifting trucks - there is gonna be lotsa work for them in the future, not so much for old school graphic designers, sigh)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    rubble-neckers

    Word o Year contender

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    rubble-neckers

    I’m surprised there aren’t more crashes in Chch caused by people distracted by earthquake damage. Sometimes rubbernecking can be almost involuntary…you’re going on past and you have one of those “Holy crap! Look at that!” moments. Everything keeps changing. Every time we have a large aftershock, damage gets worse. Some buildings have been demolished virtually overnight, leaving disorienting gaps. It’s no wonder we’ve all got concentration and memory problems, when our environment keeps changing all the time.

    I agree with Emma and Russell that until you actually stand in front of the devastated CBD you can’t grasp the scale of what’s happened. Photos and video footage don’t convey the scariness of being there and seeing the size of the wrecked buildings and listening to the silence.

    When my sister and brother-in-law came up from Dunedin to fetch me a week after the February earthquake, they’d watched all the TV coverage but were completely unprepared for what it was actually like. The things you can’t see in a picture: the sticky, slippery mud, the constant thudding of helicopters, the stink everywhere of sewerage. And driving around the East, how the devastation went on and on and on: every neighbourhood, every street. We went to check on Mum in Sumner and had to detour up Canon Hill because the main road was closed, and I’ve never seen my sister’s face so white; the damage up there was even worse. And when we got to Sumner the sight of our Mum, frail and disabled, without power, water, sewerage, gas or reliable road access, still bravely smiling and saying she would be fine, refusing to leave her home. These aren’t things you forget.

    Things aren’t so dramatic now, but if you visit Chch I don’t think you’ll forget the experience.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    You can “get” Avonside by driving down Fitzgerald Ave, you don’t have to crawl around River Rd pointing.

    And yet, riding along River Road on a bike was part of my experience, and without experiencing the creepy hush of Avonside -- it actually felt awkward when I occasionally encountered people -- I wouldn't have understood it.

    So I suppose there are degrees, and a difference between a Sunday sightseeing drive and quiet observation on the way a place in the middle of the zone.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    It’s a very Kiwi thing, that we don’t think it’s OK to look at people in trouble or misery, that it takes something from them, their pride or dignity. We’ve got a whole set of cultural expectations about where people are allowed to point their eyes, even in public places.

    Nah. I don’t think anyone in the world likes being reminded of their grief by becoming an involuntary spectacle.

    And yet, I was startled to realise on the Sunday trip to the Red Zone I did with Emma and Karl that many of the people peering through the fences were Christchurch people, who may have been seeing the destruction for the first time. People do have to see. I think Emma has it right – the CBD is everyone’s, but don’t go crawling around suburbs looking for sadness.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Also I think it's different on a bike. You're out in the environment with everyone else, not shut away and anonymised in a car. If you ogle people, they'll ogle you right back. You can also stop anytime and talk to people. It's interactive.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Attachment

    My first proper trip to the CBD was in late July. One of the most striking things I saw was a little thing: a copy of Feb 22nd’s Press sitting on the bar by the window of a closed-up cafe. The pages were dusty and yellowed. I peered though the glass trying to see what we’d thought was important on that morning. It seemed impossibly far away and long ago.

    ETA: don’t know if it’s OK to put the photo here. If not, I quite understand.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lilith __,

    Also I think it’s different on a bike.

    This. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there is a qualitative difference between being on a bike or on foot, and being in a car.

    ETA: don’t know if it’s OK to put the photo here. If not, I quite understand.

    It's a lovely photo. The reflection of the portaloo in the window is a nice touch.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Your column, Emma, made me think of something that happened on Saturday. A friend and I went into a little shop called Starfish, on Ponsonby Rd. Turns out they had relocated from Christchurch, the Cashel Mall to be exact. The two women in the shop had relocated too. We got chatting and I could tell how very fragile they were. We shared hugs, and laughter and a couple of tears, as they talked about how they felt, the people they had lost, what they had been through. We also talked about how we hated the word "closure". How very inappropriate it is, and how when bad stuff happens to you, instead of it or it's effects ending, it becomes part of you. It felt hard to leave them, and step back into our "customer" personae.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Enter the Turdis...

    The reflection of the portaloo in the window is a nice touch.

    I am surprised no one has come up with a time travelling portaloo, it would be a great disguise for future disaster tourists heading back to view the city in the aftermath and before Bob Parker became ruler of the Earth (but that's another story/dimension)...
    Every time I pass those mostly blue portaloos I always hear this in my head...
    and yes, I agree, great photo!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Re the disaster tourism thing, Ben, I would agree with Emma and Russell. I still felt a little awkward taking photos from the car, in town, but I would never have wanted to take photos of peoples' houses. Actually, when I came home Ian asked to look at the photos I had taken and there were just 12, and all taken in and around the CBD. My very favourite - well, all the rest are shit, frankly, taken from behind the front windscreen, and moving - is of shelves and desks sitting on an empty lot, all covered with fluoro painted words and hearts, messages of hope and optimism.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    We also talked about how we hated the word “closure”.

    Now that the Big Rugby Festival is almost upon us can I say how much I dislike the phrase "Going forward", everyone knows Sid was a halfback!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Yes. Going forward ( I did get it, very clever!), moving on. All completely not useful.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Time Undoes Real Disasters In Sequence?

    OK I tried. ;-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

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