Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rock and Roll

Can you imagine the pressure? It's been four months since I asked you how often you'd like to hear from me. You said weekly, and I said yeah okay but since then there's been nothing much to write about. Well, nothing that hasn't already been beamed around the world.

My home town has been devastated by a series of earthquakes that killed more than 180 people, and left the city with major infrastructure challenges; 10,000 homes need to be demolished, over 100,000 need major repairs, schools are closed, roads blocked and hundreds of families have been evacuated. The ground beneath still rocks and rolls with disconcerting irregularity. The unpredictability is what tips you up. I'd take a 4.5 everyday at 4.30pm rather than days of unsettling calm which precede a 5.3 on a Saturday evening. If the numbers mean nothing to you it's because you're not from around these parts. Christchurch folk are now geological experts and even the most linguistically challenged 5 year old can say evacuation, liquefaction, Richter, and tsunami.

We sent our kids to school in Auckland and stuck it out here making daily trips to a community tanker for water and romantic nightly trips to the pair of portaloos perched on opposite corners of our block. We went all French in our approach to showering and made a weekly visit avec our amies pour une douche.

While our circumstances now are very different, everything is essentially the same. I get up, go to the coffee shop, chat with friends, come home and change out of my dressing gown. I play squash, I lose. The drive to work takes a little longer but when I get there the banter is the same. We debated at length how soon was too soon for earthquake humour. The answer seemed to depend on how many people you knew were tragically killed and whether or not you had running water and somewhere to live.

On the day of the quake we fled to Hanmer. Two frightend children, one heroic dad who'd walked for miles (the metric is not so dramatic - try it - one heroic dad who'd walked for kilometres - not the same is it?)to reach us, and me. I didn't feel guilty that we were leaving, I know I need power to be of any use to anyone. As soon as we arrived I plugged in and powered up, and felt useful once more. But fleeing was only an option for the cash rich. We had enough money to buy petrol, food, accomodation, passes for the Hanmer pools, and room service. While others were sleeping in tents on school grounds and living a terrifying night of wave after wave of aftershocks, we were watching the horror unfold on television from the comfort of our hotel room. And it wasn't only us.

The pools were teeming with Christchurch folk, all slightly sheepish about being at a thermal resort but doing the very best they could for their children. I have no guilt about being there, we were back at the coal face shovelling silt soon enough, but I was angry that some of our poorest, least resourceful suburbs had been hit the hardest. For many families this winter will be long and cruel. Sumner received more than its fair share of portaloos in the weeks after the initial quake. Why? Because its residents are better connected, better communicators, better advocates of their own needs than those in suburbs whose needs were much greater than our own.

The National Party say 'pull yourself out by your bootstraps'. Labour say 'you don't even have boots, let's take some from these people who have a spare pair and give them to you' and every other political party offers a variation of the above except for the Greens who don't like boots only sustainable moccasins.

I meet John Key two weeks ago. Delivered him a cup of tea, milk, no sugar, no thank you to home baking. He had a formidable security presence but no one sipped his tea before he took his first swig. I don't want him to die. I'm a fan. He was relaxed, confident, fabulous one on one with five year olds and fourty-four year olds alike. But if you did fancy knocking him off, a cup of tea with milk and spoonful of Gay Oakes magic potion might just do the trick.

I've met lots of famous people, well at least people well known in New Zealand. It's because there's so few of us. Everyone knows someone who knows someone famous and they're all just people like us who have milk in their tea and rum with their coke.

Christchurch people are less rock and roll than ever before. We prepare for the next big quake in bizarre ways. Some no longer sleep naked, some never let their petrol tank get lower than half full. We're a bit less 'whatever' and bit more boy scout.

There's a new appreciation of the community ties that bind us together and commonality of human fraility when facing massive natural forces but we still hate the morons who drive slowly on our roads just because the sign says 30, and our tolerance for those who hold up the ever lenthening queues at the few supermarkets that are open so they can get rid of their coins...well, who cares about the end of that way too long sentence. You hear me.

I'll be two years clear of cancer in July and despite the protestations of my mother about lack of warm clothing and vegetables, for me and my children, I'm feeling great.

All the important things remain. Glee on 3, Offspring on TV1. Theatre group, book club, tennis on Fridays against ladies who lunch, extended family, workmates, faithful friends and of course my very own tight five: The husband, the boys, and the girl.

That's about as rock and roll as I get these days. And it's enough.

1 comment:

Kyla said...

The block was smashed indeed! Yay you! xx (Remember Dr. Colin always saying 'indeed'?) xx