Catholics decide fate of their cathedral in peace

20:24, Apr 15 2012

People have always waxed lyrical about the big skies of Canterbury and now we can see the breadth of that big sky in central Christchurch as the skyline disappears with the escalation of the demolition.

We should enjoy it while it lasts, before it's blotted again with the new towers of the future, hopefully low-rise so we will never feel dwarfed or chilled by concrete canyons again.

Was it the bigger sky that made the full Moon over Easter seem so large it would have done Mr Moon, aka Ken Ring's head in? And Tuesday morning's golden dawn sunrise, set in a nor'wester sky with a blaze of red off to the east would break any achy breaky heart.

One of the benefits of learning another language is to discover new words that can't be found in your native language.

When you enter in, or go around the vacant space of the red zone and struggle to comprehend the giant nothingness of it all, you find yourself groping for a new word, an expression to describe what you see or can no longer see, other than the much used - eerie, desolate, wasteland, or war zone.

But if you learned all the languages in the world I still don't think you could find one to describe the overwhelming emptiness that abounds as you drive along roads and miss turnoffs because yet another landmark of a building on a corner has vanished.


I hope I never end up in the belly of a whale but if I did I imagine the experience would feel akin to the cavernous interior of the CBD. I guess space doesn't have a name - it just is. Perhaps an astronaut could help us out with the vocabulary.

After the sunniest, warmest Easter weather I can remember, Bob Dylan's hard rain fell on Wednesday morning, swelling the already swollen river banks and thrilling the paddling stars of the river, the canada geese. Would it be OK to eat a canada goose?

If food prices keep rising, they might become vulnerable, but I don't know if it would feel right eating a nursery rhyme, as in goosey goosey gander.

Earlier in the week, I was walking back to the car and noticed a parked white Subaru bearing the poignant number plate 12.51pm. That's really wearing your heart on your sleeve.

During a drive through Avonside in a street of houses mostly barricaded up and deserted, a former inhabitant had touchingly written on the outside of their house in text speak: "Tks 4 the memories."

Waiting for a friend to arrive at the train station, I passed the time glancing through the postcard rack and after coming across postcards of the Christ Church Cathedral thought that if I was in the save-the-cathedral camp I'd be buying them up large and writing along the back, "Wish you were here" and posting them off as a form of protest.

There is so little debate and discussion going on about the demolition/rebuild of the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament - the Basilica - the white flanks of which are now startlingly revealed after the teardown of surrounding brick buildings.

Yes, the Basilica is located in Barbadoes St and not in the Square, so the public doesn't have the same emotional investment or civic purchase on it, but the comparative lack of angst over the future of the Basilica, in my opinion a far finer building than the Anglican cathedral, reminds me of the old religious divides of Canterbury when Catholics rarely mixed with Protestants, the single-sex church schools never intermingled for end-of-year dances, and Catholics were openly referred to as Micks or Doolans, or in family lingo referred to as MickyDoos for Catholics and MickyDon'ts for Anglicans.

Getting away to the big smoke of Wellington and being able to freely mix with Catholics who were wonderfully gabby and opinionated, and as my grandfather would say "drank like Irishmen", was a breath of fresh air.

I was discussing this with a friend the other day who well remembers going to a Catholic school in Sumner where it was the tradition that the best fighter in the school and his appointed deputy had to fight the Protestant equivalent whenever they bumped into each other in the street.

In due course it fell to him to be that fighter, and after winning a few bouts was secretly relieved to be approached by the deputy of the vanquished Anglican camp who said his top dog wanted peace, offering a cake of chocolate as a sign of good faith for the ceasefire.

My point is, why the relative silence over the future of the Basilica for the Catholics who are allowed to get on with their decision- making processes in relative peace, while the Anglicans have to fight it out in the streets and letters to the editor pages of The Press?

I suspect there remains in Christchurch the notion of old that the Catholics are still regarded as peripheral, parked over on the edge of town in an area back in the day that was next to the gas works that turned the cathedral a nicotine yellow.

Now the distance from the heart of the city seems to have at last paid off as the Basilica's counterpart in the Square can't get out of the ring.

The Press