Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas in an Earthquake Zone

It's the Christmas season and I take it I'm supposed to feel festive and jolly.
I like to think I feel that way most of the time - even living in a city battered by earthquakes and regardless of Christmas. Sure, there are days when the realities get you down - when you're sick of driving your car into huge potholes, or over popped-up manholes; when you're tired of having to travel across town negotiating endless detours, road works, road cones and puddles; and when the dust and crap, the heavy lorries and the metallic clawing of diggers and cranes sends shivers down your spine. But overall, I feel pretty fortunate to have survived 2010 and 2011.
But there are thousands of others in Christchurch who will have a miserable time over Christmas this year. They may have lost family, their houses, their businesses, their futures - or, if they live on the Sumner cliffs, may be about to.
They may be living beside huge road construction zones like this monstrosity on Woodham Road.
A situation that's unlikely to change for many weeks to come.
They may be like this antique dealer, contemplating valuable stock reduced to rubble in the ruins of a city store, unable to get in to retrieve anything, unable to move forward until they've waded through harrowing and frustrating bureaucracy - a process that will drive them to the point of despair in its own right.
Or this Linwood firearms dealer, who has sealed up his shop (having removed the firearms and left a sign to that affect) and has tried to make someone else's day brighter by offering them free bricks from his rubble.
Or like these Bexley homeowners, they may have had to send an urgent message to the North Pole, enlightening Santa to their plight and begging him not to try climbing down their supported but still unstable chimney. (Children all across Christchurch are likely to be frettiing about the loss of their chimneys and how Santa will access their homes for present delivery).
Or worse, perhaps they no longer have a home at all. Perhaps it's lying in a state of ruin like this Bexley home - its front torn asunder and all their possessions broken and exposed to the world; their gardens now abandoned and over-grown.
And there will be many Christchurch people who will not be able to go to Christmas services at their local church. If they were once members of the Avonside Holy Trinity congregation, this is all they'll find on the site of their once beautiful Victorian Gothic church - a pile of broken tiles, some rescued lumps of masonry and this small box of lichen-covered roof slates - all set on one side of a huge, now vacant city lot.
Empty,  Quiet.
We know you've probably all had a gutsful of hearing about our earthquakes - the destruction, the loss, the chaos - but this Christmas day, if you don't get the present you were hoping for, or your Christmas dinner turns pear-shaped as old family resentments rise to the surface over the Christmas turkey, think a little of these Christchurch people who  have lost an unquantifiable amount and who are having their second Christmas in an earthquake zone. Not me, I'm fine. I'll be baking in the Melbourne sun for Christmmas.
Many people like these won't be having any fun at all.
Cast your thoughts in their direction.
It won't take you a minute.
And we *will* be grateful.

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