Too soon for quake drama?
I didn't watch the first instalment of earthquake drama Hope and Wire as it aired. Rather we recorded it and I watched it in the weekend. It had got a bit of stick from people on Twitter when it aired on the Thursday beforehand so I didn't expect too much. Perhaps it would be awful... but I love a bit of bad television almost as much as I like the good stuff.
However Hope and Wire could never really be entertainment. A dramatic rendering of a catastrophe that you've actually lived through is never going to provide much in the way of escapism. Rather it left me with a queasy feeling in my tummy and I was out of sorts for the rest of the afternoon.
I have to admit, I was surprised by this. After all, the events depicted, though dramatic, were over three years ago. A lot has happened since then. My life is very settled now. I hardly ever think about the earthquakes themselves and when I do it's like remembering something that happened to somebody else.
But what I discovered as I watched Hope and Wire is that it's all still there, just below the surface. Waiting for you to do something silly and scratch at it.
I was crying by the first ad break though couldn't really say why.
Surprisingly, the file footage of Christchurch 'before' really upset me. As I sat there looking at images of the cathedral and trams and busy streets my only thought was that is was beautiful.
It was so, so beautiful, my city.
It was like looking at old photos of myself as a child, long-limbed and brown in the summer sun. Why didn't I know how marvellous I looked in a pair of shorts then? I didn't appreciate that effortlessly lithe form then as I never appreciated the domes and spires of my city until after they fell.
When you wander the dusty, gravel-strewn central city as I often do (this is no small feat with a stroller, by the way), you forget what it was like. Before. Eventually you come to remember the new landscape.
The earthquake scenes themselves I found I didn't really watch. Instead I was playing my own private earthquake movie in my head. Crouched down, gripping a door frame, listening to the sounds of concrete and office furniture jump around. Or alone in the of dark of my bedroom hearing every wine glass in the house smash. The scenes in my head are rather more vivid, even now, than anything that can be recreated on a set.
But other things distressed me. In one scene, Donna, who is enjoying a community BBQ in what is obviously Seabreeze Close, looks around helplessly as an aftershock rumbles through. Something in her face reminded me of the desperation we all used to feel. The feeling that the aftershocks would never end. That we couldn't quite imagine a time when the earth would just lie there and not wake us at night and not spill the contents of the fridge everywhere and not leave us scrambling for a spot under a table or desk. And I just felt sad for us and that we all had to feel that way for so long.
But life carries on. You buy a house. You have a baby. You don't think about the earthquakes every day. And yet, as I said, it's all still there and not as far below the surface as I had imagined.
A lot of people have asked since the idea of the series was first mooted, is it too soon?
Later this month my mother's earthquake repairs start. It seems bizarre to me that a mulitmillion dollar television series can be conceived, written, produced, and air before the cracks in her ceiling can be fixed. And yet, that's the reality of it. But it's not the lingering cracks in the plaster that make Hope and Wire difficult viewing. It's the lingering cracks in the psyche.
Is it too soon? It is for me.