Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: One

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  • Lilith __,

    For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the Ministry of Health has a factsheet about post-earthquake stress which is interesting. Chch folk are well aware of “quake brain”: difficulties with memory and concentration that most of us have had. But there are stranger symptoms, including fears and nightmares which seem unrelated to the quakes. Personally, I had a lot of nightmares following Feb 22, and none of them were about quakes. I had my first quake dream a couple of weeks ago! Brains: complicated things. And always nice to know your response isn't actually crazy.

    ETA: I spent a long time yesterday trying to convince my 80-year-old Mum that it was OK to be anxious and sad, after 3 major disasters in one year. That things are not anywhere near normal.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3468 posts Report Reply

  • Jordan Carter,

    Thank you Emma.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    We’d seen the photos and the film, but until you stand there and you look and you realise that you loved Knox Church, that you’re never going to drink in the Dux again, it just isn’t real.

    Is that really the final word on the Dux? I hadn’t heard. God.

    If you suspect you might give even the tiniest fuck, come and see. Before it’s all erased.

    I pretty much knew when we left last year that I wouldn’t be back for a couple of years at least. I can’t say I regret going, but if I’d known…I don’t know. I am terrified that it’ll all be gone by the time we make it back, and I won’t even be able to remember what was there.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I can’t even remember September any more, not without going back and reading what we wrote: Jolisa, Russell, David and I. There for all to see forever, and just as bloody well, because memory is a tricky bugger.

    I'm glad I wrote that post -- I'd forgotten enough of it that it was interesting to read. As you say, it is good to transcribe these things.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Wood,

    "...that you’re never going to drink in the Dux again" - it's that sort of thing, isn't it, that really gets you.

    Now back in Aucktown • Since Dec 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Is that really the final word on the Dux? I hadn’t heard. God.

    I wouldn't take a "final word" on anything that hasn't had a bulldozer driven through it already, frankly. We got a report from the kids' school the other day:

    Vicki Buck reported that the Grand Chancellor is expected to be demolished by April. The school may be able to move back to its buildings in the CBD in August 2012. However, the fate of the Southern Star building is still unclear.

    This was damage from February. They're looking at being able to assess Southern Star in April next year.

    “…that you’re never going to drink in the Dux again” – it’s that sort of thing, isn’t it, that really gets you.

    It is. We shifted our "visitors from out of town" drinking spot to No. 4 in Merivale, but we've never again had one of those conversations that we used to have at the Dux. There was just something about that building. Or at least, sitting outside that building and making beer runs.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald, in reply to Emma Hart,

    For me, the thing about the Dux was the different people it attracted. I could pop in there on a Friday or Saturday evening & be pretty much guaranteed that there would be 2-3 groups of friends & acquaintances there. There'd be workmates & social groups & families, and even the most vehement meat-eaters would be tucking into vege nachos & pizza, washed down with pitchers of good beer.

    Saying goodbye to the main block at AGHS was pretty heart-wrenching. To know that the iconic image of the school is going to be pulled down & replaced with prefabs for the forseeable future, it just brought home so many memories.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 48 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    Long comment is long. And rambling. Sorry.

    September.....how was I feeling in September? Shocked, running on adrenaline and sunlight and digging. Reassured that this was apparently as bad as it was going to get. Pleased, proud even, of how well this city had stood up. Relieved that no one had died as a direct result. Sorry for those bereaved by the plane crash on the West Coast, who were quickly forgotten after 4.35am. Had I known that six months later it would be so much worse.....I would never have had the guts to stay here.

    After September 4 I moved out all the boxes under my bed and put them in the middle of the floor. I slept under my bed most of that first night, stocked up the space with a box of chocolates, a torch, a bottle of water and a good book. If you're prepared for the ceiling to fall in, it won't happen, right? Now the chocolates are gone, the water bottle cleaned out, the torch batteries dead. But the books are still there and the boxes are still in the middle of the floor. I'm not sure why, being so conditioned to aftershocks it is doubtful that I'd make a dive for that space again. But now there's always a question of Another Big One. If you're prepared for another one, it won't happen, right?

    I remember the noise, huddling as far as I could under my bed, the incredible darkness outside, the rushing water, my feet sinking into what we thought was sewage (which we now know as liquefaction mixed with water from a broken pipe). I still remember one of the people across the road from us hammering on our next door neighbour's door yelling her name. And the brilliant sunshine the next day, impervious.

    That is September as I remember it. In reverse order, because that is the way I remember it. Starting with the general, rolling back to those moments in time.

    It was the next day, I think, maybe the Monday. I was digging liquefaction with the SVA at the next door neighbour's place. One of my fellow shovelers had a tattoo on her wrist. It read 'Always find a reason to smile.' I hope we do.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Thanks for the continuing updates. I'm struggling to find the right way to engage in this conversation from outside, without the benefit of being there. I was due to get on a plane to a conference on the day of the quake last September, but it was cancelled that day. A couple of my colleagues were already there, and we had some interesting phone calls.

    Apart from that, it seems that we really do need to get our arses down there to appreciate the extent of what you have all been through, and are going through.

    On a positive note, I was alerted to the fact that the Australian Accommodation Industry raised $60,000 NZD for Christchurch last week at there awards ceremony. That seemed kind of nice.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to recordari,

    Apart from that, it seems that we really do need to get our arses down there to appreciate the extent of what you have all been through, and are going through.

    As I've noted previously, my last visit, and that bike ride around the CBD red zone, was bloody sobering. At that point, I think, I got it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to recordari,

    I was saying on Megan's blog that I find I don't really know how to engage in this conversation, because I cannot speak for anyone else's experience. For people who live here, it's ranged from minor inconvenience to total devastation and everything in between. One thing I loved about the PAS threads in September and February was that people who weren't here were still okay with talking about how it had affected them.

    And it's not even what actually happened where you were, but how you reacted emotionally. All my boxes are still under my bed. But in June, when I came in from the garden covered in grass and mud and bits of lemon and faced the simple prospect of picking my house up off the floor again? I gave up. If not for my daughter I'd have just sat on the floor and cried. I'm probably coping less well now than I was in May.

    But the mere "still giving a fuck" is kind of nice.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    When I came down earlier in the year, Kath drove me round some of the more devastated areas, and we had to drive down past Knox Church to get to her new job. She kept asking if I wanted to get out of the car, and take photos, but I took them surreptitiously as we were driving by. I didn't want to be a "disaster tourist". That felt very wrong to me. But I did want to capture for myself some of the devastation. Mostly because out where Kath lives is this pocket of relatively non affectedness, and I think I wanted to understand what she, and all of you, had gone through, to some extent. We drove past piles of rubble, or cleared lots and she would say "such and such used to be there". We drove past the cordon, and I could just glimpse at what had happened to the inner city, which was a place I had known somewhat in the 70's, when our family used to stay at Noah's for a few days at a time. To be honest, I found it surreal. That so much shit had happened to this city, that I have always professed not to like all that much, and it made my heart stop. Because that devastation could happen to any of us. And of course, the big stuff never happens in isolation, or in a vacuum. People, like you Emma, would have had other things going on for them which the earthquakes have compounded. It is , after all, not one thing that happens that brings us to our knees, but everything in our life happening all at once, that sees us crumble. I hope that someday in the near future people in Christchurch find a new normal - one that isn't too compromised. In the meantime, I join the rest of this community in embracing you, and supporting you all in whatever way possible until you find your footing,

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Greg Wood,

    I was slightly disturbed at how much I thought about the Dux. But, on reflection, that bar _was_ Christchurch to me. It, and le cafe, hold many of my favorite memories.

    Plus, it's one of the few places Emma and I have never been kicked out of.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I was saying on Megan’s blog ...

    I had the same response as Megan: I was shocked how bleak things were. Not from you guys, or David and Jen -- you're all far too polite to be bleak in front of visitors -- but from actually spending that time at ground level, and realising how the city has been reshaped, and how that that must be for some people. Not for ever, but for some time yet.

    It's been strange for me, because I got quite estranged from the place, then re-engaged thanks to a group of new friends like you. And even then, the northwestern 'burbs where I grew up look untouched, which is confusing.

    One thing I thought was that Christchurch has always had its share of marginal characters, and I thought about how much harder things must be for those people now. All those things that don't show up on TV, like not having your local shops now. You can get quite sad riding a bike, you know.

    But in happier news about sad things, NZ On Screen has licensed Blair's 'Chimney Book' video, and has a high-quality copy to encode. I'll send the editor there some resources for accompanying text, so feel free to kick in a quote.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    All those things that don’t show up on TV, like not having your local shops now.

    We got a supermarket back three weeks ago, and about the same time, a Mad Butcher and accompanying greengrocer replaced our Raewood Fresh. Which is a bit of a downgrade, but meant we didn’t have to go to Moorhouse Ave for food, which was a help. But that’s how long it took. Even for us, having proper transport, it was a PITA.

    After I got back from the Great Blend, my purple dress needed dry-cleaning. Know how many dry cleaners are left in the eastern suburbs? I’ll give you a clue. It’s less than one.

    I was shocked how bleak things were.

    I find the sense of bleakness increasing with the demolitions. In some way, the bare concrete is worse than the broken buildings. From the building where my partner used to work, there are about three buildings still standing on the entire block. It’s a wasteland.

    Plus, it’s one of the few places Emma and I have never been kicked out of.

    QFT. Though we are much better at getting chucked out in Wellington than in Christchurch. I blame Megan myself.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yep, Emma et al rekindled how I feel about the place too.

    When I talked to my Dad about going in, I tried to convey that you really had to see it to believe it. I sobbed driving down barbadoes st, at the catholic cathedral. I cried walking up tuam st, into the back of the high st buildings. And when I interviewed a bunch of people from CTV,
    I got in my car, drove round the corner and broke down.

    And I think Emma's right. If you care, you have to see it. You have to drive on the bumpy roads, that used to be flat, you have to see the rubble, look at the holes. And at the very least, you should hug your friends. They probably need it.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    I blame Megan myself.

    I thought we agreed we'd blame Russell

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Awaiting the group hug, Chch botanics gardens, Sunday Sep 4.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3559 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    From the building where my partner used to work, there are about three buildings still standing on the entire block.

    See, I'm struggling to imagine that now.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16771 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Beautifully put, Emma. On Twitter you billed this piece as "a bit wrist-slashy", but personally I found it inspiringly bomb-throwy (if that's not a too, er, incendiary turn of phrase) on behalf of the people of Chch.

    And to take everything this last couple of years has thrown at you, your family, your place, and still be standing, however wobbly-kneed? Staunch (she said, carefully avoiding the R word).

    I'm still stupidly annoyed that the Feb 22 quake took away the chance to unleash some Great Blend love on the place, as well as an opportunity to check in with the city. But I'm looking forward to soon being within a grabaseat of being able to visit beloved friends, and to bear witness to the broken places, before it's too late.

    Meantime, this modest reconstruction made me smile, but this picture is seriously doing my head in.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1411 posts Report Reply

  • Gee,

    Thanks for this Emma. It's so strange to hear people dismiss it, now that it's been a year/6 months. There's definitely a feeling outside of NZ that we should be 'over it' by now, and that 'insurance will cover everything' that isn't loss of life. But so many people are still dealing with the day-to-day coping.

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Gee,

    There’s definitely a feeling outside of NZ that we should be ‘over it’ by now, and that ‘insurance will cover everything’ that isn’t loss of life. But so many people are still dealing with the day-to-day coping.

    Christchurch has really profoundly changed my attitude to natural disasters, in that before I used to think "Oh, that's terrible, but at least it'll be back to normal soon" and now I look at things like the flooding in Vermont and think of the years and years it will take to restore communities to something like their former selves, how some just won't recover.

    It's taught me to think of even the physical structures of places in terms of human effort - the effort to build them and the effort to make the money to do so, and in those terms, damage is exponentially larger. Speaking of millions and billions of dollars to repair Christchurch is easy, because we hear those numbers thrown around so often; now think of the hours and the number of nails and planks and plans and kilometres of sewerage lines and litres of paint...if nothing else, it makes me so much angrier at the way insurance companies are behaving. When they screw people like they're screwing red zone homeowners, they're not just stealing the past payments made to them in good faith, they're stealing Christchurch's future. All that effort, turned inward to rebuilding things lost, just to get back to where we were. It's sickening.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    .if nothing else, it makes me so much angrier at the way insurance companies are behaving. When they screw people like they're screwing red zone homeowners, they're not just stealing the past payments made to them in good faith, they're stealing Christchurch's future. All that effort, turned inward to rebuilding things lost, just to get back to where we were. It's sickening.

    Exactly.

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I've never been to Christchurch, neither Christchurch-That-Was nor Christchurch-Now, so my understanding of the impact of the earthquake is horrifically abstract. But I'm reminded daily of the scope of what happened through work-hearing, for example, that we can't send a technician in to an area for at least another year on instructions from the council (from today), or speaking to business owners who have only just found new premises to move in to, or coming across now quite matter-of-fact comments like "We can't reach that part of the network, it's on a street that no longer exists."

    It's clear that this is something that isn't just going to go away, and I'm constantly surprised and amazed at how people like yourselves, Emma and Lucy and co, have managed to find a new normal inside a situation I can't even hope to imagine.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    Christchurch-That-Was

    I like it.

    @Jolisa, that second picture is doing my head in too. Cashel Mall, now a gravel parking lot. And after all that recent work to do it up.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 48 posts Report Reply

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