Up Front by Emma Hart


Twenty-Two Two, Two

There is some kind of slow slide, between the first anniversary of something and the tenth, where it gradually loses significance. It becomes less fraught, impinges on your consciousness less. This is particularly striking for me because every anniversary of the February Earthquake is preceded by the same anniversary of the death of my mother a month earlier. 

This year's trip to Timaru to visit her grave* was much less painful than last year, although someone had left her plastic flowers. She would have appreciated the thought. And then thrown out your horrible tat. Soz. 

The second anniversary of the earthquake? I forgot about it. It wasn't until a couple of days that I realised it was on Friday. I'd booked us a Stress Relief trip away, and accommodation, without realising there was any significance to the 22nd. 

Don't get me wrong, I knew it was soon. And it's not like we're not still living Quake-Life. Every February, just before the Quakeversary, I get to write the cheque for the house insurance. Two years ago it was for $440. Last year, $650. This year, it's a chirpy $1140. I mean, why not? I live in Christchurch: it's not like I can change insurance company. 

There's been change in the last year. Some of it is even progress. We've had repairs done on our house. We've had repairs done on the repairs on our house. And if all the paint just fell straight back off our back doorstep, at least my bedroom is now the pretty purple I've always wanted. That's the luck of our draw, though. Friends of ours are still waiting. Two years on, they're still waiting for fairly straight-forward house repairs. 

We've been lucky, too, that the mergers of both my children's schools have been voluntary and make a certain amount of sense. Every school in our neighbourhood, however, was up for merger or closure. (This will tell you the kind of area I live in.) The merger of two – Woolston and Philipstown – will go ahead. The merger of another two – Bromley and Linwood Ave – won't. Why? Who knows. None of this has ever made any fucking sense. Any personal relief is muted by the knowledge that someone else's kids are getting screwed over. Those whose schools have been saved can reflect on six months of unnecessary anxiety. Those whose schools are closing (only in the most technical sense is Philipstown not "closing") can watch Amy Adams celebrating the saving of the schools in her electorate. She's so happy. Isn't it great? 

The timing of the announcement, also, was a stroke of genius. I have to assume the Ministry of Education had also forgotten the date of the anniversary. 

A year ago, I said I wanted a city that was more like Wellington, not one that was more like Auckland. What we've got heading into Year Three is a chronic housing shortage and appalling traffic. There was a headline in The Press the other day proclaiming that Christchurch's traffic disruption was about to get worse, and my gut reaction was, "HOW? I DON'T EVEN HOW IS THAT FUCKING JESUS CHRIST!" And I don't even drive. 

Two years. At this point, anniversaries still force you to pause and reflect. There've been good things. There's actual progress. Epic. Alice's. C1 Espresso. C1 might actually be the best metaphor for how it feels, for me. It's great having it back, and just across the road from where it was. The sewing-machine water-dispenser is old. The secret sliding bookcase door is new. The big round ball-lights from the Town Hall are "borrowed". 

And when you walk out the front door, and look through the chain-link fence and across the wasteland, you can see the old Twisted Hop. The outdoor seating is still there, and that tree sculpture. It makes me feel blue. 

Christchurch people may wish to note that C1 will have its rooftop garden open on the 22nd. You could have that sobering view across the blasted heath of the CBD with a beer. We'd be there, but we'll be driving to Hanmer, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We will take the time before we leave, though, to put some flowers in some traffic cones. There are still plenty to go around.


*Actually her plaque in the crematorium, but that doesn't have the same ring to it.

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