‘Normal’ Coveted In Christchurch

Is it too much to ask for these signs to be on my front gate?  These Occupational Health and Safety signs indicating a construction area are popping up all around my city of Christchurch, and so they should.  Every house, getting repaired following the earthquake damage, gets them and I’m thinking they are becoming a sort of badge of honour.  Well, perhaps not honour but at least a badge of knowledge that things are actually finally underway.

Let me be clear.  I don’t have such signs on my gate.  I wish.

One of these would also not go amiss:

This isn’t meant to be free advertising. It’s just hard to escape.

Ah, what I could do with one of these on my front lawn? I could clear the pile of damaged roof iron ( from the emergency repairs done after the chimney collapsed and bounced its way to the ground) from my back lawn.  That would tidy things up but even more so the appearance of a skip (is that what they’re called in the rest of the world?) would again, be signs of things to come.  Out with the old and damaged, and in with the freshly replaced.  Aesthetically, it might not look much as an addition to a front lawn, but it would mean everything to me.  I’d much rather have one of these than a goldfish pond.

But again, let me be clear.  I don’t have one of these either, and nor do I have any sign of having either the skip or the signs any time soon.

From memory, there are around 180,000 house repairs to be completed in Christchurch and we have been told that 80 per cent of them will be completed by the end of 2014.  I’m guessing that I’m going to be in the other 20 percent, and interestingly no timeline has been given for those.

One of the best kept secrets in this city, is in what order the repairs are being done.  The only reason I can think of for the government authorities and insurance companies to keep this little bit of information from the public is public backlash.  That’s because it seems pretty obvious that the approach taken is to do the easy jobs first.  Maybe it makes sense if you’re a bureaucrat, after all it makes the statistics of repairs completed climb quicker.  It might look good on the books but it’s not fair on the people having to live with the damage to their homes.  Easy repairs generally don’t affect one’s living standard.  More complicated and severe repairs do, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

I haven’t heard from anyone about my repairs (which rate as severe) for 11 months now, and that is pretty standard.  Actually it’s not quite true.  About a month ago my insurance company asked me (yes, me) to tell them what the repairs would be worth (so they could estimate their level of liability across the whole region).  That’s in spite of an assessor being here 11 months ago, they still don’t know what the amount of the claim will be.  When an insurance company wants me to tell them the cost, that’s scary.  How would I know?  In the end I gave them a rather large figure, after a stab in the dark (along with asking my ‘slightly, but not much, more knowledgeable’ brother to also have a guess) but I still have no idea what their thinking is, let alone whether they have the resources to meet their liability.  But I’m not going to go there.  Some things are better left un-thought-about.  The company has actually now fled the country completely, although they say, if they can, they will honour the existing claims.  That’s reassuring, isn’t it?

As The Spice Girls, many years ago sung, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

What I want is to know.  All I know is that at some stage I will be required to move out of my house (and live who knows where!) for about three to four months while repairs are completed.  I don’t really care if that is still five years away (although please no one tell Roger Sutton or Gerry Brownlee that!). I’ll cope.  But I like to know what is happening and when.  At this stage I don’t know if I will be told tomorrow that I have two weeks to find somewhere to live (in a city with a major housing crisis).  Someone must know how far down the list I am, presuming that they have planned sufficiently that there is a plan.  Actually I suspect my house is on the too-hard list, if anywhere, so I’m sure it will be a while yet before it rises anywhere near the top.  But don’t worry about me.  My dear brother has kindly ‘offered’ me a very delapidated, draughty shed complete with holes in floor, walls and roof on his farm.  So kind.

The thing is that while I (and many other people) don’t know, it is so hard to move on.  Everywhere in my house there is evidence of the damage.  I can live with it now that doors open again, although my windows don’t; but it is affecting me physically and mentally.  Everywhere I look there is a reminder of the fear I felt during the quakes, and the loss I experienced as a result.  It’s very difficult to move on when I still don’t know when my life can return to normal.

But that word ‘normal’.  Actually it’s pretty hard to gauge just what ‘normal’ is now.  Perhaps, normal is post-quake living with the damaged homes, businesses and roads and sounds of demolition in the air.  My area (eastern Christchurch) doesn’t seem to have got far on the signs and sounds of construction yet, but it is obvious if I drive around the city.

I used to like my home.  It felt safe and friendly.  It has become just a roof over my head.  I don’t like living here now, and I see all the negatives of the place.  I really would love to just pack up and move on, but that is impossible.  It would be impossible to sell or even rent out, in its current state.  So I, like many thousands of other people here, just have to put up with it.  I can’t even get insurance for it now.  No company offers insurance in Christchurch anymore.  We are stuck.

“There is no comfort anywhere for anyone who dreads to go home.” 
―    Laura Ingalls Wilder,    Little Town on the Prairie

17 thoughts on “‘Normal’ Coveted In Christchurch

  1. Cate,
    It is impossible to “like” this post. Skip = dumpster. You have mentioned that you don’t know how I deal with what I deal with. I now reverse that statement. While the majority of my life has been spent in clutter, chaos, and debris, it has been that of my own making which can be resolved with perseverance and personal determination. Your situation would be untenable for me. You struck a good tone in talking about this, only mild bitterness and cynicism came through. 😀 I hope you get your answers soon, or some relief presents you with a miraculous resolution.

    Be well,

    1. HI Kina. Yes, it’s just mild bitterness and cynicism but I admit that fluctuates at times. I don’t expact answers soon but I’m going to find a place in my mind where I can be at peace with it. Then I’ll be ok with it. Thanks for the dumpster word. I knew there was a work but my mind was blank. I have to be so careful with what words I use so that readers actually know what I’m on about. I guess the pic helped this time. 🙂

      1. The pic definitely helped. 😀 I have heard you can put a picture in google search and do an image search.

        Tag yourself in my game of tag and tell us about your peaceful place to just be, if you like.

  2. Dorothy

    I imagine that it must be frightening wondering if / when the next one comes too. Feeling out of control of so many things is definitely not a good thing. I hope some good thoughts will help you.

    1. You’re quite right. It is frightening and we’ve had so many that I just wait for when rather than if. I hate that because every time there is a small quake I think ‘is this going to be another big one?’

      But good thoughts are good and very welcome. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Hi Cate!!

    I wondered when I saw the sign that said, “skip here” because I thought it meant “skip over this house” or, in other words, “don’t stop here at this house — just skip it and go on to the next one.” Then when I read your words I realized I’d misread the meaning!! 😀 I enjoy finding out what other words mean in different countries. Now when I see a dumpster, I’ll think of New Zealand and say, “That’s a skip!!” 😀

    On a more serious note, I have to say how very sorry I am that your living conditions are so awful and continue to be so with seemingly no end in sight!! I feel that way about my evil neighbor(s), so that’s the only way I know how to relate to what you’re feeling. However, I know for you the absolute worst part must be a constant reminder of the loss of the physical presence of your dad!! How can you ever get through the grieving process when you are constantly reminded of what happened in your home, of all places!?! And bless your heart, but how I worry about your fibro and the cold weather!!

    My Only resource, as you can tell from reading anything from my blog, is God. Therefore it’s to Him I go to for you. I raise your name up to His throne and ask Him to carry you through this time, giving you comfort by reassuring you (and I am asking Him to reassure you!!) that there will indeed be an end to it. I realize that when it comes to any government things usually end up in a mess!! When Hurricane Katrina hit both Mississippi and Louisiana, everyone focused on New Orleans, Louisiana and basically ignored Mississippi. My youngest niece and her family had just moved to the coast of Mississippi two weeks before the hurricane hit. Her husband finally found his dream job that also paid good money. My great-niece was 3 and my great-nephew approximately a month old. Their house was spared — the trees fell around it in a protective circle, but did smash one of their cars. However his job was literally gone — washed away!! A nearby town where my niece would shop was no longer there — an entire town!!! They moved up the state to where his parents live and moved in with them until he could get another job and they could again get on their own. Our (ahem) wonderful president at the time made large trailers (I think you call them caravans) available for the homeless, but due to massive red-tape (extensive paperwork created for the sole purpose of hindering progress) the trailers were left in Arkansas, several states away, and left to ruin. An announcement was made that anyone who wanted one could go get one, but you’re talking to people who not only had no homes, but no vehicles, no jobs and no money and therefore no way to go get a trailer!! All our tax money spent on these huge trailers that rotted away while the homeless remained homeless, jobless, without money, food, water, utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewer)!!! So I can relate to your situation remembering what my youngest niece and her family went through. I feel like asking God to do something about the government is fruitless — not because He doesn’t have the power, but because it’s filled with money-grubbing self-interest groups and He’s not welcome there. However I do know He’s big enough and He loves you enough to step into your situation and come rapidly to your aid!! So that also is in my prayer this night!! I’ll continue to pray for these and more as I think of it and I’ll trust the Holy Spirit to pray for me when I don’t know what else to ask for!!

    Just know that you are in my thoughts, my heart and my prayers and I sincerely hope that helps you to know that!!

    God bless you, my new friend!!

    1. Thank you so much Kathy. I really appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I’m horrified on one hand about the trailers (yes, we call them caravans) but on the other hand it doesn’t surprise me… unfortunately. I don’t think governments understand that when they do that sort of thing it actually makes it worse than if they hadn’t done anything.

      As for skip, I’m now wondering why we call it a skip. I might have to do some research. But I promise to try and use the right language in my posts, although if something seems odd it is probably a similar case.

  4. Hi Cate,

    A skip in Canada is a member of a curling team. I’m sure you have no use for rocks or ice but a curling team could have many uses. I hope things get sorted out for you.

    Take Care,

    1. Thank you Brett. Now I’m wondering about our curling teams. Although here they only get to play about once a year, so they probably don’t have the time to name themselves. 🙂

      1. At least you don’t have to surf past curling on TV. Actually it’s not a bad sport. I played a couple of times in high school. Be sure to be the Skip as he gets to throw the rock rather than sweep the ice. Why they sweep the ice with the invention of the vacuum is beyond me. Who the hell eats crackers on the ice anyway?

  5. Pingback: In My Corner Of The World… There Is Hope | Infinite Sadness… or hope?

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