Plenty to raise a smile about in Chch

JOANNA NORRIS
Last updated 08:12 24/12/2012
Worcester St wildflowers
Stacy Squires

BLOOMING: Poppies and wildflowers grow on a vacant section on Worcester St near the Stanmore Rd corner.

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OPINION: Every day as I drive to work along Worcester St, I allow myself a secret little smile.

The source of this private moment is a vacant lot near the corner of Stanmore Rd.

In this inner-city neighbourhood blighted by damaged homes and twisted fences someone has thought of others.

Several months ago, that person scattered the seeds of wildflowers which in the last few weeks have blossomed, obscuring the detritus beneath. Poppies, cornflowers and daisies jostle on this otherwise forlorn corner site.

Nearby tilt-slab buildings stare on, their dark windows empty. Bungalows, neglected even before the quakes, sigh into the slumping land with a skin of peeling paint and cracked weatherboards. The blood-red poppies in this urban meadow have a special poignancy, representing, as they do in other contexts, something we have lost.

The wildflowers may be the work of the Greening the Rubble groups which sought to beautify our gap-toothed city. Or they may not; the flowers are not saying. Regardless, they are a reminder that it does not take much to bring moments of joy to others.

Having moved back to Christchurch in the past few months, I have realised just how important this is.

Many people in our community have suffered through almost two years of post-disaster stress; those not directly affected are still frustrated by a new normal which, let's be honest, is far from normal. But for every little frustration of living in Christchurch in 2012, there are many more moments of optimism created by hard-working people and businesses who have strived, like those who scattered the seeds, to bring joy to others.

It reminds me that this rebuild is not just about nuts and bolts and strong foundations, it's also about rebuilding creativity and inspiration. And just grabbing fun, as often as it comes along.

In the spirit of year-ender reviews, I have jotted down a list of some of the creations of others that have brought me joy while re-exploring this city with my husband and our young children.

Container commerce: The city has proven big-box retailing is not the only option. Fine examples of boutique shopping have sprung up in much smaller boxes. Notable mentions to Out of the Box, Sumner, Quinns in Merivale and, of course, Re:Start.

Food for thought: While many of our supermarkets lie in ruins they have been replaced with small-scale produce and farmers markets. Just a wee skip from my place is the charming McCormacks Bay Saturday Market where shoppers stuff (invariably calico) bags with cured meats, fresh baking and crisp herbs and veges. These have sprung up across the city and provide a community meeting place as well as good nosh.

Brewed to order: As a lover of good, strong coffee, I've enjoyed rediscovering some of the gutsy cafes in the city which have reinvented themselves when their buildings and business crumbled. Two personal favourites are Under the (New) Red Verandah in Worcester St and C1 in High St - both have captured the essence of their former lives and also introduced something sweet and new.

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The Cardboard Cathedral: The stone and mortar version of the Anglican cathedral has been characterised by acrimony and at times unnecessary personality clashes, but the cardboard version is inspired. I look forward to the day the vision of architect Shigeru Ban is complete and the cathedral once again provides a place for worship and quiet contemplation.

The Festival of Transitional Architecture (Festa): This celebration of good aesthetics was a glorious display of what is possible when clever minds come together. The LuxCity event in particular was spectacular and I hope the creativity evidenced when the CBD was lit up for that night in October can endure and be reflected in the rebuild.

The Christchurch City Mission: Our blithesome city missioner Michael Gorman is unfaltering in his ambition to help vulnerable people in our community. His vision for a modern facility for people in need was realised this year and, with architect Alun Wilkie, Gorman has created a special and inspirational space where people can get respite from, at times, very bleak lives.

Communal gardens: Popping up across the city are communal gardens aiming to put the "garden" back into garden city. Dr Matt Morris, a sustainability advocate at the University of Canterbury, goes as far as to call for the damaged eastern river corridor to be planted with fruit and veges. While this urban fruit bowl is ambitious, communal spaces bring people together and teach our young people produce does not start life in plastic wrap.

These are just a few of the very many positive things people have done in our communities to contribute to a rich and vibrant city that is a wonderful place to live. We have a great many challenges ahead of us (not the least of which is repairing fractured governance and political relationships) but there is also much to enjoy, thanks to people who have refused to be cowed by quakes, bureaucracy or pitted roads.

Here at The Press we will continue to cover the many good and creative things happening in our region. We will also tell the tough stories and demand excellence of this rebuild.

I have been fortunate to have met a great many people over the past few months and many more have written to me to express often frank and unambiguous views. I love getting your emails and letters. There are many, many more of you who read The Press every day in print or online. Thank you all for the support you have shown us over the past year.

We love bringing you news and information all day, every day and celebrating with you things that make you smile.

The Press wishes you all the very best over this Christmas and New Year.

We will be with you all the way.

- The Press

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