Seabreeze Close. It's a cul-de-sac in the eastern suburb of Bexley and, unfortunately, something of a poster child for the destructive power of liquefaction.
It's out in the 'burbs and I'd never had any reason to go there in my pre-quake life but on Saturday the Silver Fox and I, as a part of a small group of volunteers, spent four hours there dismantling garden fences (third photo on this page, there's a little bit of me on the right of the picture, behind the wheelbarrow).
Of the hundred or so homes in this community, as few as five might remain in the long run but for now only a handful have been demolished. This has left silt-covered driveways that go nowhere and empty, cracked and lumpen sections ringed by perfectly good fences. Fences that will eventually be munched by diggers or other heavy machinery in the process of clearing the land. Except that now they won't be.
Instead, the wood from these fences will be used to build something. In particular a small 10-square-metre office a bit like this one, for recently formed trust Life in Vacant Spaces. But before that can happen, you have to actually get the wood, more or less intact off the fences.
I can tell you that after Saturday's efforts I have a newfound respect for people who build fences. Some of those fenceposts really didn't want to give up the ghost.
I'd seen a posting on Facebook on Friday saying that they needed volunteers to help out the following day and having scanned my calendar for important events that weren't "laundry", I concluded that I could spare the time to do something a bit different that day. We were instructed to bring our own tools, fluoro and lunch. Check, check and check. The Silver Fox openly mocked my dainty pink-handled hammer as I brandished it proudly. I made a token effort of menacing him with it and off we went.
Since waging war on Saturday to free large grooved nails from fenceposts with Miss Pink, I can honestly say now that she's more of an "indoor hammer". Strictly a "banging in small nails for picture hooks" kind of girl. In fact, by the end of our time there I had completely given up on hammers and was wielding a crowbar as though it was an extension of my body.
It felt a bit weird to be just another person destroying something. There's been a lot of that here. But I felt better knowing that the wood that we successfully plied and sawed away would actually be put to use building something new. Also, as you stand in a section that used to have a house on it, and see the shrubs and plants growing wild, the anaemic silverbeet from someone's vege garden that's managed to fight its way to the sun through a layer of silt, and hear the birdlife out on the estuary, it's hard not to feel that all you're doing is hastening entropy. Getting these fences out of the way so that the natural world can have its own way again. Not that that made me any less sweary at the particularly stubborn nails.
Seabreeze Close (and surrounding side streets) is a strange environment to be in. Like a lot of people, I'd seen the pictures before of the half-sunken houses and sand volcanoes, but there really is nothing like being physically in that environment to give you an understanding of just what has been lost. The roofs at crazy angles. The living room floors covered in half a foot of silt. The black tracings of mould crawling up cream-painted walls. These used to be lovely houses. This used to be a lovely place to live in and now it's just desolate and broken.
As you peered into buildings that used to be homes, your overriding feeling was one of sympathy. I hope that all those families have somewhere warm and safe to live now.
In some instances the fences had fared better than the houses. Good, solid, unyielding fences. Damn them.
In the end it felt good to do something completely different, and physical. I even found that I enjoyed it once I got the knack of the crowbar. As someone who spends a large proportion of her life sitting in front of a computer, I got a glimpse of how satisfying physical labour can be. I know it's not vastly important to anyone else, but getting that last stubborn nail out of that fencepost, I actually felt as though I'd achieved something useful. And I did it myself. I self de-fenced.
Unfortunately I've also discovered all sorts of body parts that hurt now in ways I couldn't have predicted (more than the pun in that last sentence) but I don't even mind that as much as I might. It's the pain of good honest labour. And also there are things like wheatbags.
Have you been into the residential red zone, and how affected by it were you? When was the last time you did some satisfyingly painful physical labour? When does it stop hurting please?