Time to leave Christchurch for the capital

Jane Bowron
Jane Bowron

The garage sale has been and gone, the fridge has been defrosted, Benecio is installed in the cattery awaiting his flight plan, the movers are coming tomorrow and I'm leaving Shaky Town, Cone County, Christchurch, to move back to Wellington.

It's been over seven years since I first came down here to live with my ailing parents in Mt Pleasant.

They died before the September quake I experienced up there on the hill before coming down to live in the central city to experience the February devastation, where I lived under curfew and the cordon and was lucky enough to write columns about it that were turned into a book.

After the first few weeks I remember being taken aback when I heard about a billboard in Wellington relating to one of the columns headed "Why I'm not leaving Christchurch".

It made me nervous to think I might have inadvertently made some sort of rash pledge to live in Christchurch forever. Tearing myself away from here is hard.

I love the poplar trees that line Oxford Terrace, I adore the Avon River, I've seen the landscape around me change and keep changing so radically - the houses fall down, get torn down or slowly wither away.

I've become used to vast existential open spaces taken back by nature or temporarily groomed while the land waits to know its fate, whether it's going to be residential or if it becomes vital CBD real estate again.

The city council is running out of money, the developers are shy of going back into the troubled centre, a city has shot up donut style outside the old core and the rain and the floods have revealed all is not well under the now quiet earth.

The convention centre is going to be smaller, the arts precinct too is compromised because the Town Hall is being saved, and we wait to hear if the foolish notion of a grandiose stadium will go ahead.

The air used to ring with the noise of demolition but now there isn't much civic rebuild going on, save for the road works that frustrate commuters navigating their way like grumpy orienteers trying to work out the map du jour.

There's much frustration and the rebuild is far from the dream of a sharp contemporary city that would wow the rest of the world.

I won't dare mention the cathedral - that vexed issue that has so much fiscal and emotional investment in it lawyers' pockets could be lined from the fight for decades.

Whatever Christchurch is or isn't or will never be again, what it has been for the last three years is epic.

There's been terror, sadness, camaraderie, endurance, hilarity, dreariness, injustice, hope and most of all friendships formed across the board, bonds so tight you know whenever you meet up again there will always be that unspoken understanding of having been through something together way beyond any of our control.

If this was a corny film the tag line would be, "We'll always have Christchurch".

I guess the quakes really worked us over but we got through it, the Old Bucky seems to have gone away and for me it's time to go back, turn the page. I regret leaving my parents behind in their Linwood grave but they would be the first to say: "For God's sake get on with your life, go home," whatever that means anymore. Who would have thought somewhere so broken would work its way so deep into the heart.

Thanks for everything Christchurch. I feel homesick already.

The Press