Returning from a journey to the north with the remarkable news: Christchurch is still there.
Personal events led to a visit at short notice to the city of the plains, coinciding with the Highlanders versus Crusaders clash – which meant every motel, hedge and hutch were filled by out of towners travelling in for the game. Observation: large numbers of jowly, 30+ males on the loose. Of course – the only people who can afford ticket prices to the national game. The result? Who knows. But rugby was the winner on the day.
Just as rugby is a game of two halves, so is Christchurch. A strange city, the hub of the South Island, of which I have visited and considered on many occasions.
It’s mid-grade suburbs are a lego land of stop signs, shopping centres, and concentric anonymity. Likewise the most polarized class structure in New Zealand. Bars, hotels and restaurants filled with a smoothly bland mix, ladies with bobs and gold jewellery, men in chinos with a implacable vibe of eighties nostalgia echoing in the air. In the streets, blank eyed teenagers shamble towards their own personal disasters or destinations.
We have to shell out for a fourth floor room at a hotel after driving in circles looking for a place to stay. Beneath the soft beige surfaces the sounds of the street drift upwards, screams and cackling, the obscene riproar of a supercharged engine, sirens and in moments of lull the sucking vacumn of traffic noise throughout the night skies. I can’t sleep and dream of zombie movies, of the breakdown of society, of being trapped far above the streets in this sealed room while chaos reigns below.
In the morning the streets are again clear and empty, as if the noise of the night before had been just another dream. At the cafe, a bedlam as the aspirational classes shovel down their Sunday morning brunch. A man with a radio announcers voice at the next table is blarping on about “Bob Jones new book – it really is funny.”
“He goes on about PD. No, PR. What do you call it? PC.”
Just another morning in Blandrovia. White, right and quite . . . frozen. As if time itself was in the grip of a certainty long gone. Blandrovia faces inwards, builds its polished staircase of social graces and ticks away like a well-oiled clock. Outside the city is once again in the grasp of 3/4 pants, four wheel drives and service with a smile.
I think of other times and other sights in this place. The simmering air of subterranean violence that drifts in the inner city air late on Saturday night. The beaten down fields of suburbs rolling out to the south.
Blandrovia: city of the plains, we leave you behind and accelerate towards the South.