Just keep swimming

00:08, Jun 16 2011

Well, the last few days have been tough, and no mistake. Like many other Christchurch dwellers I'm tired and weary and just plain fed up. How many times is it possible to take it on the chin...before you run out of chin? We're not a city of Bruce Campbells, after all.

But in the absence of anything else to do, we mostly just keep on. Though I'm no fan of the ubiquitous "Keep Calm and Carry On" catchphrase (I prefer this version which, shock horror, has a big effy swear word on it - you have been warned) but it does exemplify my approach to living in a disaster zone (and I'm not talking about the spare room this time).

We pick up the mess and the broken bits and carry on as best we can with not enough sleep and wearing a heavy overcoat of anxiety that makes everything just that little bit more difficult than it needs to be. Well, what else can you do? And everything is odd and out of kilter. Even what day it is doesn't quite make sense.

Because the earthquakes hit on a Monday this time, Tuesday feels like a Sunday. The day after a big earthquake is a bit like a Sunday in the eighties, actually. There are bugger all people around, NOTHING is open, and a lot of people are digging in their gardens.

In the afternoon, after spending the morning finishing off the current round the exciting "this is broken/this isn't broken" game with the Silver Fox, I go to my friend's house to help her dig silt out of her garden.

Why I should really invest in some gumboots
On the way I invent an even more thrilling game which involves trying to bike with a spade over your handlebars. Doing this loosens your grip on your brakes which makes biking over and around sinkholes, patches of gravel, newly formed sand dunes and surface flooding while avoiding traffic that much more invigorating.


I spend a couple of hours doing good honest labour and it's pretty good for the soul (and my incipient abs). Though it should be the drudgiest of drudgery I find digging with a group of people to be pretty cheering. You dig, you talk, you catch up. You unanimously agree that silt is the work of Satan. Invariably you find yourself wishing it were chocolate. If only it were just a bit more brown and a bit less grey. Actually, forget I said that. Under no circumstances do you want brown silt. Brown silt is not good and if you're fantasising about eating it then this is probably not the website you were looking for.

I go home tired and a bit sore but happy in the knowledge that that's one less driveway in Christchurch that needs clearing.

In the evening we watch a bit of telly, including heartbreaking interviews with Bexley residents who look like they are reaching breaking point. If you haven't seen the footage of John Campbell walking through a Bexley house that's floor looks like some kind of minigolf course from hell, then I really encourage you to give it a look. It's sobering stuff. Not long after, as the Silver Fox is cooking dinner, the TV dies and lights go out. We've lost power.

After a bit of fossicking torches are located and we go out on the street to chat to the neighbour. The power looks like it's only out in our block. After going back inside we have a bit of a debate about candles. Candles are a good lighting source when you don't have power. Candles are also a good source of ignition for a raging inferno of a house fire if they tip over in an aftershock. The Silver Fox isn't that keen but I point out that I'm quite likely to kill myself by tripping over something in the dark without them. In the end we decide to mitigate the risk by only having candles in the room we're in, only lighting tealights in glass jars, and blutacking said glass jars down.

It starts to get quite cold without the heatpump, er, pumping so we head to the warmth of bed to watch a DVD on a laptop that's still got a couple of hour's battery power. The power comes back on about 3 hours later so in the end we don't have too frosty a night.

I've found that I've been hit with quake-brain again. I'm constantly forgetting where I put things and only leaving the house on the third go because I've forgotten something vital like my bike helmet or house keys or like yesterday, my laptop. I got all the way to work only to find it wasn't in my backpack and then had to go home again. I feel like a complete spud. There isn't really anything to do except go home again so I do and work from home for the remainder of the day.

On Wednesday evening the Silver Fox's mother calls during dinner to say that one of her dogs, Shania, has died. The Silver Fox, like any good son, offers to go over and dig a hole to bury her in and I find myself on torch duty as he toils in the cold against slightly clay-y ground. It's horribly sad. I can find a touch of humour in most things but there really isn't anything vaguely amusing about any of this. She was a nice old dog but she'd largely lost interest in food since February and had been going downhill ever since.

So that's been my week so far. How do we all keep going? I honestly don't know. I can only speak for myself, as someone who has the luxury of a job and a non-sludgy house to live in, but I have people around me who care about me and a stubborn streak that rivals the alpine fault and I know from personal experience that every time I think that things are too big to cope with...that in the end, I do.

I don't know what the trick is. I don't even know if there is one. But to quote that great philosopher Dory from Finding Nemo, I intend to "just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."