City of Light

Living in Christchurch means getting used to moving around in an ever changing landscape. Every time you turn a corner something is different. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've sort of grown to expect to be surprised by my surroundings.

Sometimes it's a building that's disappeared, sometimes it's having a different vantage point to view a building that still stands. The side walls that haven't seen daylight for 80 years, or old advertising that's revealed when a roof is no longer blocking it from view. It may not necessarily be beautiful, but it certainly does stir your interest.

But on Saturday night I got a whole different view of the city again as all manner of light installations, big and small, turned the inner city into a luminous carnival. As the sun sank below the roof line of the few tall buildings that remain, the Silver Fox and I wandered about marvelling at the strangely transformative power of glowsticks and fairy lights, and yet without a light-up Santa in sight. This was Luxcity, a one-night-only festival of slightly artsy-fartsy lights combined with food and drink, live performance and a market. I loved it.

There were a few issues though. First, footwear. Walking along the paved streets was fine, but venturing on to what are usually vacant sites to view the installations was less so. After about 15 years* standing in the queue for the Thai takeaway van on a surface not dissimilar to a dry riverbed, my tummy was grumbling almost as ferociously as my dogs were barking. Ballet flats are not good on rocky terrain. Even ones that are gold and sparkly.

Also, the number of people attending was something of a surprise. When we'd first made our way toward the Gloucester St block where most of the activity was centred, I'd remarked to the Silver Fox at how lovely it was to see people. In town. Remember when that wasn't abnormal at all? It's a weird thing to realise that you are experiencing delight at the novelty of seeing other people walking into your city's centre. You feel happy but kind of saddened at the prosaic nature of the cause of the happiness.

And then by the end of the night I was wishing they'd all just piss off because there were too many of them and I couldn't wait to get free from the crush of the crowd. So I'm just another contrary human who is impossible to please. "Oh yes," I exclaim, "my fellow citizens. How I have missed you!" Before cursing every single one of them who'd got into the Thai takeaway queue before me. "Order more quickly, you fiends!" and "why didn't you eat before you came out?"

And that's not even the least dignified part of the evening, which is a tie between me falling off a piece of inflatable art on to my nono or the part when we accidentally trespassed into the red zone.

The Silver Fox was kind enough to take a picture of the former. Yes, that would be me sliding off a giant white beachball onto the ground while people all around me manage not to make dicks of themselves.

As for breaching the cordon, I'm still not really clear how that happened. One minute we were at the night market, the next we'd followed a fenceline into an out-of-bounds area and my friend Maurz, who we'd just bumped into, was pointing out that we were all on the wrong side of the fence.

Sure enough, the majority of the crowd was milling about on the other side of the fencing and there was nothing separating us from the scooped out innards of some shops. Should we have wished to tapdance down the middle of New Regent Street (which appears very much to be held together by scaffolding) then we could have. We weren't really sure what to do, so refrained from tapdancing and had a wee catch-up with Maurz and her beau instead. 

And then someone a small distance along managed to create a break in the fence and allowed us to "escape". I'm sure this would have made a better story if we'd both got arrested for trespassing (or tapdancing) but we managed to get away with it scot free! You'll never take us alive, coppers!

Actually, funnily enough it wasn't until after this accidental red zone incursion that I started to see police among the crowd. We kept our heads down and tried not to look too guilty.

So all in all we had a good time, but the best part of the evening came a couple of days later when I realised that for the entire evening I'd not once remarked at the state of a building mid-deconstruction, or wondered which business used to inhabit the bare patch of ground I was standing on. For one night Christchurch became a place to marvel at things that were made of light rather than broken concrete. For the first time in a long time I, and a lot of other people (far too many of whom were in the queue for Thai takeaways), got to take a night off from looking about in despair, by looking about in delight instead. 

In this case maybe a change is as good as a holiday?

How are you in crowds? Have you ever accidentally trespassed? Does anyone else have trouble staying seated on a swiss ball (I hear "core muscles" are involved. I don't think I have those).

*It may not technically have been as long as this, but it certainly felt like it.

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