A chance conversation on Facebook had me pondering on the role of corner dairies in our younger lives. When I think of the Opawa shops of my childhood I think of the much anticipated Princess magazine that I used to buy weekly. And the big jars of sweeties (aniseed balls, gob stoppers, smokers...) over which we lingered. And the two-tier ice creams. And the much-longed-for fish and chips which I missed out on because I had to go home from school for a decidedly inferior, healthy lunch!
So I think of the destination and the purchases. But I also think of the route. Two options from our home in Richardson Terrace. I could follow the Heathcote River, passing under the railway bridge, to Opawa Road and round the corner past the Library and the Post Office. If I walked this way then I would always stop outside the house with the goldfish pond (which belonged to the local chemist) and count the number of plump orange fish.
Or I could walk a little way along the river and then cut up the track to the railway line crossing at the Opawa Station. To the right the tracks lead to the city. To the left they headed enticingly towards the Port Hills, the tunnel and the port of Lyttelton. Across the tracks and into Vincent Place I passed the early pioneer home known as The Hollies and a tiny building used for Russian Orthodox church services from where resonant singing could occasionally be heard.
The comfortable and pleasurable familiarity of these routes remains palpable.
And of course the corner dairy - the local shops - are potent symbols of our changing lifestyles. Where do we do our shopping now? How do we get there? And how much more do we consume as a result, seduced by overwhelming choice and crafty marketing. The Opawa shops serviced a community. Two dairies, a Four Square, chemist shop, fish shop, bicycle shop, library and Post Office. They made that community possible.
I hope that, in our post-quake world, we can re-value our little, local shops and all that they represent.