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One of Those Very Ordinary Stories Sandra Freeman


And Kindness Lay All About

Stories from the Christchurch Earthquakes

Š

Glenn Busch


Sandra Freeman

‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ That was my brother, he came from Perth last year to visit, he wanted to come and see what his home city was

like and he was just blown away. He kept saying, ‘Oh my God,’ all the

time, and I’m thinking why is he going on so much, this is all right isn’t

it? It’s really not that bad? But he’s shocked and he keeps going ‘This is terrible, this is terrible,’ and you realise maybe we’ve just got used to living like this, you know, maybe we’ve normalised it all. You start

asking yourself questions, ‘Have we become too blasé about what we are living through?’ But then you’ve only got to look at what happened

in Japan soon after—that was a disaster. I mean no disrespect to those

that died here. One is always too many and that was shocking to us all. I’m sure everybody’s heart goes out to those who perished—to their families. But Japan, Haiti, those things were in a different league. In an upside-down sort of way we are lucky. And certainly, with our own

family, we have been. Nobody has been hurt, we have each other and we are together, and that’s why, at least for us, I use that word lucky.

Living as we do, in this part of the world, it’s been that way for

a long time. My husband and I were childhood friends. Well, he

was a friend of my brother, one of those very ordinary stories that’s worked out well. I knew him way back then and we’ve been together ever since. Childhood sweethearts really and we’ve managed to stick

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it out. This whole situation at the moment has probably tested us more than anything. It’s tested most people I should think. I know

just from those I’ve talked to at work and other places that people— some relationships—are not going to survive it and some already

haven’t. We all have tensions don’t we, and when something like this happens it just exacerbates it. The fact that the earthquakes have kept

on keeping on doesn’t help. And it’s nobody’s fault; we can’t blame

anybody can we. I suppose we could blame the Council, we could

blame the Government, but it’s not their fault either. Everyone in my opinion has done a sterling job. They got our water up as quick as

they could, they’ve got our power up, and we are still able to live here for the time being. Still got a roof over our heads.

Okay you see some division in the Council and that was probably

always going to happen. Catastrophes tend to highlight anything that’s problematic or difficult in a family and the Council is the same

isn’t it. The same as any family. These events have just highlighted it. The whole ongoing nature of the situation brings all of those negative things to a head and away they go. I’ll tell you what, you certainly couldn’t fault the workers, they’ve just worked tirelessly. But I guess at

the end of the day, everything will always come down to money and

once the money issues start to kick in, all of those negative influences start surfacing and all of the in-fighting and problems come to the

fore. I think this Tony Marryatt thing, the city manager, that’s just highlighted it really, hasn’t it. You know, it’s like, you’re getting this

huge raise! ‘You’re what! How much!’ Crazy! Especially with so many people in such desperate straits. But for all that, for people like us

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in areas like this, the council people on the ground are still doing a good job.

Our first house was out in Riccarton. It was a good first home but

we never intended to stay there. We searched long and hard to find this

place and we’ve been happily ensconced ever since. It’s close to where

we’re both from and we never imagined we would ever move, not until

we were a lot older, maybe downsizing to a small flat, just for the two of us. Ironically, all of the reasons we picked this place are the very reasons

we have to leave. The water, the reserves, we are close to the sea, close

to the city, we had it all here, everything we ever wanted. I don’t think other people realise just what we have—had—here. The river is a whole playground in itself. Walking and running and cycling and kayaking and yet it only takes me minutes to bike into town. So yeah, that is what we had and that is what I will miss.

This place has been my life and I’m finding it hard to imagine living

anywhere else other than Christchurch. Not that my upbringing was anything out of the ordinary. A low-income family that meant perhaps

we didn’t have a lot, but very loving parents and we made our own fun.

The sort of childhood where pegs became guns and broomsticks horses, maybe on the weekend a bit of fishing off the wharf at Lyttelton—a very happy life in a very loving family. Then marriage, children, my own family, living happily in this house, our home, for nearly thirty years and that’s my history. A simple one—until now, and certainly all our

histories, all our futures, are being altered radically in some way aren’t they. Until that day in September I thought I knew pretty much where our life was going, what our future would be, but from that moment on

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we were no longer sure. Right now, today, we can no longer see the way forward, can’t see the direction we’re headed in, not clearly.

We are still waiting, along with many others, for an outcome with

our insurance company. We have decided that we don’t want to build, we want to buy, so we’ve started looking at houses but then we don’t

know the exact amount we’re dealing with and that doesn’t help much. I tell you; I live more in fear of the insurance company than

the earthquakes at this moment. It’s hard enough to make decisions

amongst ourselves but with the ongoing quakes the possibilities about

where you can live seem to shrink week to week. Worst still is when

you talk to the insurance company and its always next week, next week, and constant confusion. Seeing any sort of way forward is difficult. We are definitely living in some sort of limbo land right now.

Stress levels are high all over the city and I suppose we are like any

other family in that regard. Sleep deprivation is a huge thing, you’re either a person that can switch off and go to sleep or you’re that other

sort of person, the one that’s not sleeping well at all, and that’s probably

more likely. Nobody’s getting enough sleep, I know in our family, my teenage daughters, they are meant to sleep a lot—they want to sleep a lot—but they are having trouble doing that. It’s a mother’s role to keep everything on an even keel but tempers are always short and the sleep

thing doesn’t help. My husbands extremely stressed not only because

of the way the earthquakes have affected our home, but because there are all the outside things too. His work has been affected quite badly

and at times the big picture seems just too hard. It’s not only us; there are heaps of families in this predicament. You take all those factors and

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put them into one big pot and no way is it a healthy brew. You’ve got to pick your battles really carefully and sometimes you’ve just got to walk away. The worst thing of all is the same old non-answers regurgitated

by the insurance companies, that’s made life even more difficult for a whole lot of people; the last thing any of us need right now.

What we will do, where we will live, it just goes around and around

and I don’t think you can stop that? I don’t know how to stop it. We actually managed to have a holiday at the end of last year—we were

all totally focussed on this holiday. We went to the Gold Coast and everyone said, you’re not going to know yourself, you’ll be away from it

all, it’s just what you need. You wouldn’t believe it; Surfers Paradise has got as many orange road cones as we’ve got. The weather was terrible but having said that, at least it was warm. Lovely really. We kind of

did the family thing and some of the highlights were great, but here’s the weird thing, when we came back, I actually didn’t feel as if I’d had

a holiday at all and that is something I’ve never experienced before. I don’t know why exactly but somehow it wasn’t the de-stressor we thought it would be. I went on that holiday tired and I came back from

that holiday tired. We seem to be living with tiredness at the moment, perpetually tired, and that’s just one of the emotional effects that stem from all this.

The other side of the coin is that I didn’t find coming back as

shocking as people thought I would. Okay the streets are bumpy and

yeah, it’s all a great mess, but I can actually handle that. I can handle that so long as we still have this feeling that it’s all coming together, it’s

all going to be dealt with. That eventually we will have another home

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somewhere and life will be happy, the way it was before it all fell down around us.

It was a shock wasn’t it, that first earthquake, cruel, coming in the

middle of the night like that. It actually knocked me over, literally. I

was disoriented, we both were. Imagine waking up to the earth moving

and then it just wound up and up. The first thing that comes into your head of course is your children, our two teenage girls. So off we go

rushing down the hall, which is when I got knocked over. I got back to

my feet and flew into my daughter’s room where I almost knocked her over as she was getting out of bed. Then I stood there in the doorway trying to stand over her, she who is almost six feet tall.

By that time my husband had got down the hall and he was getting

the two of us around to what we considered a more sold part of the

house. It had registered by then that our other daughter was staying at a friend’s place and then of course we had to go through the cell

phone thing, trying to get in touch. Funnily enough my daughter got through to me first and she goes, ‘I’m fine thank you!’ She was a little

bit miffed that I hadn’t actually got through to her first. Kid’s, I don’t think they understand that sheer panic parents feel—are the children okay? I know I’m okay, I know that my husband’s okay, but you need to

know your children are okay. It’s the recurring theme throughout all of the quakes and not just with me, I notice at work, as soon as we’ve had a big quake, the first thing, the overwhelming need, is to confirm that

your children, your family, are okay. We don’t have parents to worry

about, but once you know that your family’s okay you’re absolutely fine. Anyway, after all that, after it settled down, we checked out the rest of

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the house. It was still dark but we got our bearings, my husband went

and checked that all the neighbours were okay and then—because it

was very cold—we got back into bed and tried to find a bit more sleep. You could hear the gurgling after that first one and you think, oh,

that sounds wet but you couldn’t really see a lot, not until those first

rays of light. You kind of expect in an earthquake that things will be

broken but not to see the ground like that, the water and the sand, great mountains of it. In the stark light of day the liquefaction there in

the street seemed to go on for miles. We also had no power, no water, no sewerage, just this amazing stuff that had come out of the ground.

The quake had rattled and shaken us around but it hadn’t killed

us, if this was the worst it was doing, making this huge mess, well, it could be cleaned up. And that is pretty much what we did for the next

couple of days, digging, and helping with the neighbours in the local area. Later we learned that it was going to keep on happening with

every earthquake so these days we’ve stopped getting rid of it. You

only move what you have to move and just leave the rest. Personally, we’re lucky that most of ours has been in the front yard; ourselves and a group of schoolboys actually dug it out after the September quake

but there have been lots and lots of people come and help. The student

army were amazing; it was just a sheer slog you know. It’s just so heavy. I believe we had the greatest number of barrow loads put on the street. Initially everyone attacks it straight away but experience taught us you are better to wait at least a day or two to let some of that water

disappear, makes it a bit lighter. But like I say, these days, with the

houses going, you only move what you have to move and leave the rest.

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It was amazing the way that everyone mobilised, that there were so

many good people out there, and it didn’t even matter what they did, they could have simply walked passed and said, ‘Hi, how you going? Are you okay?’ and that meant the world—it just brought tears to your

eyes. Just marvellous. The Student Army and the Farmy Army, and

even ordinary people coming along the road in their car with water containers, people did incredible things. Baking. We had church

groups knocking on the door and offering cakes or other things they

had made. And they’re not saying, ‘It’s a gift from God,’ or whatever, they were simply saying, ‘We just want to help people.’ We’re a group

of all denominations and here’s a food parcel, here’s a grocery voucher, the generosity was absolutely overwhelming. And one that moved me in particular was Hagley College, one of their—I think it was a year

twelve social studies class—they’d done a wee study obviously about

human beings, I guess it was incorporated into their school year but then they did something positive with it. They went out, they fund-

raised, they’d got donations and they delivered help to areas that they

felt needed it, and it was not actually so much what was in it, you know, it was the handwritten note, the thoughts, the caring and the kindness, amazing. So incredibly moving.

I think we have resigned ourselves now to another winter here,

which is not a very nice thought—it’s very cold and damp as you can imagine but there’s not a lot we can do about that. The worst thing

is the way small things become bigger things. We go through times where we can laugh about it, when things don’t worry you, and then the

next day it’s like a switch has gone off and suddenly it’s all a big bother

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again. I think that’s how a lot of households are living right now. We

all realise we need some certainty and direction in our lives and for the time being that’s been taken away and when those things are taken away from you it’s hard to feel up all the time.

Of course we adults are meant to be the example, so imagine how

hard it is for your children to rise above it all when the parents are

swinging back and forth. Feeling okay about something one day and

not feeling to flash about it the next. Realising that we might be

waiting a long time for anything to transpire doesn’t help that, but do you know what’s really, really, sad, it’s dawned on me that in the big

picture, we, the red zone people, could be the fortunate ones in all this. Sure we are waiting, but at least we know what’s going to take place eventually. We don’t quite know the amount, or where, or when, but we

do know something’s going to happen. For a lot of other people, it’s a much longer equation now. They may not know for years and God, isn’t

that a depressing idea, that we might be the lucky ones. I’m seriously beginning to think that perhaps we are and it’s a horrible thought.

You wonder, don’t you the way insurance companies have behaved

as a whole, making people work so hard for what they’re entitled to. It shouldn’t be but it seems an overriding factor in our life, the way it

affects our emotions at the moment. I mean everyone, including the Government, has been at great pains to say negotiate, negotiate, and we

are negotiating—we consider ourselves lucky to have a case manager

who seems like a decent person—we are making progress, but it’s so slow, it’s so drawn out, so much procrastination. Like, does it need to be this hard? It feels like they’re going to hang on to that money for as

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long as they possibly can and that’s probably now, for us, the biggest disappointment.

To lose your home is surely bad enough, I was gutted, it was like a

bit of us. We searched for months and months to find our place. I’m

very sporty and it was all here, the river to run around, I could bike to work, it had everything, even the schools we were thinking of for the

future—Shirley Boys or Avonside for girls. At first I just ignored it, the possibility that we would have to leave… no, no, we’ll be fine. I just

didn’t want to know and then, yeah, I became very emotional about it. This is my home! It took a while, quite a while, but I have definitely moved on from that. You realise that home is where the people you

love are and there is no way we can stay here now; the ongoing quakes have made that impossible. In my mind I’ve now accepted that this

is the way it is—we can’t stay here and I’m okay with that now. That’s not to say I won’t be very sad when they pull it down.

I know nobody caused this, it’s just an act of nature but I feel

bitterly disappointed for our children, for all children, even though I

think young people have coped admirably and I know they’ll be okay in the long run. I’m perhaps even more disappointed for the elderly

because they don’t have the time do they. They shouldn’t be living like

this. They need to be taken care of, to have that certainty so they can

relax and enjoy their golden years, enjoy their grandchildren, all the other things they have earned. It’s this limbo thing isn’t it. Like my

oldest daughter, it was only into her second day at polytec when the February quake struck, it was months and months before she ever got back there.

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Like a lot of others, I think she was in shock that day. ‘I’m coming

to see you mum, I’m coming to see you.’ Somehow, she had managed

to contact me and then made her way through town to the Public Hospital where I work as an assistant in the operating theatres. It’s

a big building and the movement was almost rhythmic where I was standing in a hallway, holding a trolley. I felt that I was just swaying from one leg to the other. I could see the handrail before the power went out and I was thinking, grab the rail, grab the rail. I mean I wasn’t

getting tossed about, I was simply rocking backwards and forwards

thinking I’ll get the rail and then the power went out. It was surreal. We have a big generator there that kicked in pretty shortly afterwards and then it was all done. I’d heard things crashing but not like in the

September one at home. Even so, you straightaway had the feeling it

was really serious. Then everything snapped into action. ‘Right people, who needs help?’ Then the gathering up and the cell phones coming

out as everyone checked on family. At the same time those amazing

medical teams were mobilising as fast as they could because I think everybody knew there would be a lot of incoming.

When my daughter arrived, having walked through the town, we

were in a state of lockdown. There was only one entrance, coming or going and they had some fantastic people out there by then. The nurses

were bringing out all sorts of supplies, blankets and so on to wrap up

people in shock. When my daughter arrived they were going to take her into the hospital, just to have her checked out but she wanted to get

home. It was a case of she couldn’t just come in, and if I left, I was out until they lifted the lockout. I would like to have helped but I wasn’t

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essential and I needed to be with my daughter, so we went. Probably I was lucky, being spared from what they had to cope with that day.

I suppose we knew straight away that if we shook that badly in the

hospital, we were in trouble as a city. Different parts of the hospital do seem to shake a lot worse than others but for us to feel stuck in the

middle of the main block, to move the way we moved, we knew it was

pretty serious and the emergency services right across the board sprang into action, the mobilisation was so quick.

I was absolutely blown away that in the time it took my daughter

and I to leave the hospital and start moving down St Asaph Street, the

helicopter was already flying in repeatedly. They’d very quickly closed

off a section of whatever that wee street is outside the emergency entrance—on the river there—they had that closed off very quickly

and had spray-painted an X where the helicopter was landing with

the most seriously injured. The emergency vehicles were pouring in

as well, there were cars, there were utes of all sorts, ferrying in injured

people, so you were well aware of how bad it was this time. That became apparent very quickly.

Outside we had joined the hordes of people all making their way

home as best they could. I’d got my bike and we walked along, me

dressed in scrubs and luckily I had a jacket in my backpack for my daughter, it meant we could give the blanket she had around her to another girl we met on the way. My daughter was very insistent that

we get her car. It was a tiny wee thing but it was a new car to her and she really wanted it. Turned out we were lucky, a pile of bricks that had

come down had just missed it. Somehow I got my bike into it and we

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set out down Fitzgerald Ave until we were forced to turn off because

of police and emergency vehicles needing to get through. It took us

a couple of hours to get to Avonside drive and there we had to park. It was impossible to go any further. We took the bike out and walked back to the Dallington Bridge and crossed over there to make our way home. So it was a strange journey, both funny and sad, all of those

emotions really. My daughter was really tired by now—the shock of it—so we sat her on the bike seat, I stood on the pedals, and we biked

a little bit down the road through the water. A few yards down we

just started laughing and other people were laughing as well because

we looked hilarious—it felt hilarious—and believe me, we needed something to laugh about.

My other daughter had had a half-day at school, a teachers’

afternoon, and so all of the high schools were closed. She had been thrown to the ground just as she was getting on to a bus; she and

an old woman had fallen from the bus. She stayed to help with the elderly lady and then her and a friend just walked, made their way

back home. We ended up keeping her friend with us for a couple of nights. My husband was down at New Brighton working—he does

painting and home maintenance. He got thrown to the ground there as well. In the house where he was working the lady was heavily pregnant so they got her out of the house and checked that everyone

was okay before heading home to go check on their own families. He actually made it home before anyone else. There was probably a four-

hour time frame from the time the quake hit until the family was all back at home together.

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This time there was definitely more despondency. You had this feeling

of everything being wrecked this time. In retrospect the first quake, having seemed so big at the time, now seemed small in comparison. Knowing that people had died, that people had been injured, it took it to a whole new level. Psychologically you felt this was bad. Everyone seemed to go a little bit into themselves. I know that the next morning

I biked down to New Brighton and into Eureka Street, in Aranui, to my sisters. They were just waking up, they’d been sleeping in their

sleep out and they came out to meet me in their dressing gowns. I just

blurted it out, ‘Its all buggered this time!’ and I burst into tears. My

brother-in-law said, ‘Don’t you start.’ But that was… you know, I felt overwhelmed. In the last one they had been unaffected and we were able to go there, but this time they were hit like the rest of us and it

made it seem so much bigger. That was probably my lowest time and really I think I just needed to know they were okay. I mean we knew they were okay, so I guess that was just despair.

Different people cope in different ways I suppose. My younger

daughter is like,

‘Okay, so I’m going off to so and so’s tonight.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow, you want to go where?’

Because initially I was always worried, where as they’ve just

continued in the most remarkable way to live life quite normally. I’ve even said things like, ‘Don’t you want to be close to us, don’t you want

to….’ and that edge is always there, absolutely, in the back of every parent’s mind. My husband’s not an emotional sort of person but I know

he’s like everyone else; he needs to know we are all safe. I absolutely

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feel for the people with young children who are not independent, that must be so much harder. But with mine, at the age they are, they’re

quite happy doing what they’re doing, they’re resourceful, and so why would she not want to go somewhere that’s got a toilet and got some

power and got a shower. I think we all realise now there is no certainty in anything. All we can have now is normality, and the more there is

of that the better it is for their emotional wellbeing. They need to be doing what they want to do and I just have to deal with it, I can’t keep them here with me every moment.

We do have a secret weapon thought, cell phones. We complain

about them, but they’ve been absolutely amazing through this whole

experience. I can just imagine the emotional state of people if we didn’t have those little devices—even if it takes a bit of time—I can’t imagine

what it would be like waiting hours and hours and hours to know if family or friends were okay. My anxiety would escalate ten-fold.

In June I knew pretty well straight away that everybody was okay.

One or two calls and you have that peace of mind don’t you. My

manager at work very quickly got us together after the first one arrived. We’d all learnt lessons from what had gone on before. ‘Right,’ she said, ‘anybody living in the east, go. You’ve got more liquefaction.’ A short

time later I was on my bike, I’d got as far as River Road when the second big quake that day hit.

Now that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experience—it really

was surreal. I’m just biking along slowly and then I hear it, Boooom!

Like an explosion. ‘Oh God, another one.’ And then it was like

everything was in motion, once again that rhythmic whiplash down

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the river with the water lapping at the sides, all in slow motion. I was trying to take everything in and figure out what was happening

at the same time. Biking along and thinking, what’s wrong with

the road? I was actually riding on a little two-foot spike and then I’d go down it and then the lamppost and the trees, rather than go

the same way, they were on a different wave. The lamppost. Wow!

The trees. Wow! And all the while I’m going up and down on these ground waves while being astonished by the river. It was the most bizarre thing, and in the moment, totally fascinating. Then, just as

suddenly, it stopped and I felt like I was going to fall off. I didn’t, I managed to stop and lean on my handlebars. Then a car came up

beside me and they asked me if I was okay, did I need a lift? ‘No, thanks, I’m good.’

As I started off again I could hear it, the water coming and the

cracks. You hear it and in no time it’s across the road and I’m just

racing. The water is the first tell-tale sign and then you see the little volcanoes starting to spew up these mountains of sand. In the end I had to get off because you don’t want to bike through it without

being able to see what’s underneath. Then the only way is walking and feeling your way. By the time I got down to our street my husband

was at the gate with the gumboots. He saw me and walked down the

road to hand them over, then he picked up the bike and we waded home where it was all just more of the same—more liquefaction and a case of taking stock. Power, water, right, can’t get the car out this

time. Same old same old, sit down and start to figure out what you

need to do, how are you going to get through the next couple of days.

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People are always asking me what’s the biggest problem? What’s

the thing you miss most? Water, power or toilet? Well, I really don’t

know. It’s inconvenient not having any of those, but the sewerage— we’ve only had intermittent sewerage at our place since the original

September quake. The water we lost for a lot longer in February but then we had people dropping water off. At one stage we must have had

two hundred bottles sitting down at the end of our drive. We had a big

sign up at the gate there, Fresh Water Available. You had to boil it but

we had so many kind people coming to leave water for us that we were giving it away to others. The getting together, the mass cook-ups, the

kindness of people just coming to your door, it was really exceptional. The Red Cross coming down with their parcels and things—it didn’t matter what they contained—it was special that they arrived at all. I vividly remember the Red Cross lady at one stage arriving and then

disappearing down a hole in a trench that had been dug and it’s like, ‘Oh God, are you okay?’

‘I’m all right,’ she says, and comes bouncing out the hole.

So much of it was happening. The businessmen in Auckland who

packed up trucks to come down with mobile showers, and the ones that left their jobs to come and run food banks, I mean how incredible was

that? These people are the real deal aren’t they. And the laughs you had traipsing through the reserve to get the hot army food. ‘Has so and so

got a meal, do you need a meal?’ They’re all amazing. Absolutely some

very special moments, like, we’ve got a little lady that lives down a back drive and each time there was liquefaction, she couldn’t get out of her

house. So of course everybody’s there with the wheelbarrows sloshing

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around to dig her out and there’s her, trying to hang out windows

to thank everybody. She’s actually trying to track down everybody’s

address so that she can pay them some kindness and it was like, no, no, no, people want to do it. They don’t want anything for it they just

want to help somebody because it makes you feel better as a human being. And it does, it really does.

The good acts have far outweighed the selfish ones but you

always get the exception don’t you. We had three portaloos just in this immediate area. One just down on the corner here, one that’s over the road and one a couple of houses down. Over time they’ve slowly taken them away and now it’s got down to just the one. In

the last two months it’s been knocked over—once by the wind, so we can’t blame anyone for that—but after my husband pegged it

down we’ve had people just kick it over a couple of times and it’s

really not that funny. Not after you’ve been camping for this length of time. You kick that over and you’ve taken away our toilet which

leaves the only other option, the bucket in the yard. And that can do your head in. Yeah, that gets everybody angry. Well it’s robbing

people of one small facet of normal existence. My husbands already had a terrible accident going out into the night to the toilet; it was

pouring with rain and he tripped on the swing seat and smashed his face on the door. That didn’t go down very well, we just don’t need this rubbish right now. And I’ll tell you what, these idiots probably

don’t realise they’re taking their life in their hands doing this sort of thing. Probably just people who’d had a few drinks, did what people

do, you know, in a normal life. But this isn’t normal life, is it. I tell

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you what, I wouldn’t like to be them if they got caught; they could get themselves lynched.

Cold ham – hot ham – cold ham – hot ham, that was Christmas. I

was at work again, I was walking down a corridor and stopped briefly

to talk to a colleague, the quake hit, we rocked, we clung to each other, we cried and it was sheer frustration and anger all over again. ‘It’s not

fair!’ I said that out loud. And that, I think, was another real emotional low-point. It’s like I can’t handle them anymore. I want them to go away.

I got home and everyone was really down this time, thinking, you

know, Christmas. No power. I suppose it’s a psychological thing— everyone was just bloody angry, sheer frustration and anger that it had happened yet again. We’d all thought—wanted to believe I suppose—

that they had gone. Then an hour later the power came on—ah yes, we can handle this. Amazing isn’t it, just one of those services comes

on and it makes all the difference. We’ve got power. Hot ham for Christmas.

Like most these days I suppose we’ve been worn down by it all.

Within our own world we’ve become more introspective I think. We’re

not going out as much. I guess we’re kind of homebody people anyway. I’m kind of a little bit more social, doing the girl thing, always have

done, but we’ve definitely tended to turn in on ourselves a little more. We haven’t been socialising with family and friends the same as we

might. Now days we go to work, we come home, we might watch a bit of telly or read and we go to bed and then we repeat it all again the

next day. I think we’re all tumbling towards a crash point really; the

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negative influences are starting to stay with us. The thought of another

winter here, gumboots at the door, is not appealing at all. What we need is to get closure on this insurance thing so we can move on. That

will fix it. We’ll be able to take stock then, invite people over and just get on with life as we knew it. The best thing in our lives right now is

our children, definitely the children. They’re kind of like the glue really at the moment.

One of the biggest things for us has been the splintering of the

families—groups we’ve been part of. The children that our children

grew up with. It’s the splintering of whole communities really, your world gets broken in more ways than one and it’s playing on everybody’s

mind. We’ve known people that have gone overseas and its like, awful, ‘You’re going where! ‘

I’m quite adamant that I won’t shift away from Christchurch.

I’ve always loved it here. Not that I’ve travelled widely—I’ve been to Australia and seen a few other cities in New Zealand—but I’ve always

loved living here. The Garden City thing. I’ve never had a need to

be anywhere else and I still feel that. You know it’s broken, but it’s still a beautiful city. And while it might never be the same, we will mend it. I’m not expecting any great progress with the city, not given

our situation right now, we don’t even know if the quakes have really finished yet do we, so I have no great expectations for the next year.

Personally, we would dearly love to be out of here before the

worst of winter and it could happen. I don’t think we’re too far off settlement, but yeah, definitely within the next year we’d like to be

settled in a new house somewhere. Somewhere in Christchurch. I just

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want some stability, a happy family environment again where we are all comfortable once more and the girls can start pursuing what they

want to do with their life. That would be my wish, my hope, that our girls can go out and find something they want to do in this city, in Christchurch. I think that’s probably every parent’s fear at the moment

isn’t it, so many young people leaving the city because, well, what’s here

for them? We’ve just got to hope there will be something for them. I would dearly love for my children to remain in Christchurch and

that all of us who live here could get back to some sort of normality. Actually, I’m not sure we even know what normal is at the moment, we’ve got so used to living on this rather different psychological plane. So yes, just to have some normal happiness back into our lives, that’s

what I’d wish for everyone, just normal… and maybe another holiday. One of those feeling like I’ve had one, holidays. That would be good.

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Profile for Place in Time

One of Those Very Ordinary Stories – Sandra Freeman  

And Kindness Lay All About: Stories from the Christchurch Earthquakes.

One of Those Very Ordinary Stories – Sandra Freeman  

And Kindness Lay All About: Stories from the Christchurch Earthquakes.