Thursday, February 21, 2013

EARTHQUAKES: TWO YEARS ON ...


... and we wonder what we talked about before the earthquakes. Today is the second anniversary of the quake that changed the lives of those who call themselves Cantabrians. And you know what? We are in great heart, charging onwards and upwards. We have heard about desperate tragedy and stupendous heroism. We have re-discovered neighbourliness, on both a small and a grand scale. We have new ways of looking at things and, as the saying goes, have learned not to sweat the small stuff.

When life came down to the basics – shelter, food and water – we soon worked out what really mattered and what to do about it. Coffee table conversation inclined to toilet arrangements and the merits of buckets over holes in the ground instead of gossip, whining and trivia. We celebrated being able to turn on a tap. We played Scrabble by candlelight. The R, U, O and K buttons on our mobile phones were worn down.

We bestowed blessings on the Student Volunteer Army which gave us new hope for the next generation, and we forgave them all their trespasses. We cheered the Farmy Army when they trundled into town with tractors and diggers, with wheelbarrows and shovels, towing tanks of water which they left in strategic places with notices on them: "Clean water. When empty ring Kevin at …."

The word "munted" (= ruined) became part of our language. We became all-too familiar with liquefaction and our arms grew long through barrowing the horrible messes down to the roadside. Phrases have acquired new meanings. Tree-hugging is no longer a Greenie caprice but what we did if outside when another quake roared in. Lateral spread has nothing to do with expanding waistlines but refers to land that has sunk and oozed towards river or estuary. Guilty flush was when you weren't supposed to flush the loo but couldn't face going out to the bucket in the garage.

Now we have stopped dressing like hobos and gumboots are no longer the footwear du jour. Two years on we still drive on the wrong side of the road some of the time but no one assumes that we are drunk or insane – the roads are broken or under repair and on-board navigation systems can't keep up with the changing landscape. Nearly a thousand buildings have gone from the central city.

But after the biggest natural disaster in New Zealand history Christchurch is now on the verge of the biggest boom. There is a zing in the air - and we're having a long hot summer to celebrate.


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