Absence makes heart stronger

A guest who left Christchurch after the earthquakes arrived back in town last week and went for a blat round the central-city red zone.

On his return he expressed astonishment at the progress in the demolition of buildings conducted in his absence.

I guess you don't notice it so much living amongst it day in, day out. As Madge, from an old TV advertisement for dish-washing liquid used to say, "You're soaking in it", but I must admit the opening up of Gloucester St right through still managed to shock these jaded eyes.

Chancery Arcade looks particularly miserable and dilapidated, a far cry from its heyday in the 70s when self-conscious bohemians beat a path for the gloomy and groovy interior of the Number 17 coffee lounge, or queued at one of the city's first fast-food joints that sold chicken and the popular crinkle cut chip.

You don't hear so much chatter about the rebuild any more. It is referred to as "the recovery" as the demolition workers in the CBD toil on relentlessly like cruel dentists on a mission to clear the mouth of rotten teeth at murder house central.

We have been programmed, psychologically prepared to think that the future will be a long time in the coming, so when there are reports that plans have been drawn up and completed of a giant workers' village that will house thousands of men, it all sounds rather far-fetched.

What the workers are going to actually be building is the question, with the word on the street that it will be the CD with the B taken out of it, with the capital flight of so many businesses and government departments to long leases on the outskirts of town.

I hope those who have planned the workers' village have made provision for knocking shop facilities with robust plumbing and soundproof boudoirs so that the prostitutes can go about their business with brisk and hygienic efficiency, without creating a public nuisance.

With every second tin-pot job and occupation having had some unnecessary job qualification or requirement or course attendance attached to it, it's a wonder the oldest profession in the world hasn't been herded into a profession.

A service industry certificate could be issued to sex workers to show that they have been taught the basics, but as someone pointed out to me recently, there's a market for dirty, low-down sex. Taking a cake of soap to it and removing it from the back seat of a car could take all the fun out of it for some.

It is hard to think of this deserted shaky town bustling with a gold-rush mentality, especially now in the middle of winter when the town seems deserted.

The only regular traffic down these streets is the walk of the unhinged as they complete their aimless circuits, some eyes glued to the footpath looking out for a coin or a butt, the rest staring off into the mid-distance.

In a culture of anxiety it is the tiny irritations that can set you off. Roads you thought you could depend on are suddenly closed for maintenance or the laying of pipes and you find yourself driving a long way in a different direction, irrationally furious at the inconvenience.

Because of what has happened in Christchurch, private heritage buildings are under threat all over the country as property owners, forced to get them up to code, may find it cheaper to demolish the old and build something modern that won't need to be continually strengthened over the years.

Thank heavens the commitment has been made to keep the Arts Centre, and hopefully restore former glory to the Provincial Council Chambers.

The weather over the last couple of days has been unusually warm, the extreme cold of late turning you into the dumbest, coldest of beasts, huddled into a coat always braced and shrinking from the cold.

So this is what sun feels like, the vitamin D-deprived body says as you venture out without the usual layers on and spare a thought for those living in cars, taking roughing it to new extremes.

The Press