Attack on the cherry tomato

22:01, Jan 31 2013

Drilling. It's a thing that's happening a bit around our area (and I'm not talking about the girls a couple of blocks over on Manchester St). Specifically, the geotechnical kind of drilling.

To bring you up to speed, residential properties in Christchurch fall into three technical categories in terms of the level of liquefaction expected in future significant earthquake events (which hopefully there won't be any of for a very long time). Liquefaction is "unlikely" on TC1 properties, will be "minor to moderate" on TC2, and "moderate to significant" for land designated TC3.

We currently live in a rental home on TC3 land and the house that we tried to buy last year was similarly TC3. I'd like to tell you that living on TC3 land gives a person a devil-may-care air of danger, but there really isn't anything exciting about it.

Well, except for when an enormous drilling rig turns up.

One of the requirements for TC3 land is that a geotechnical report specific to the property must be produced before any new building work, and specifically foundation work, can begin. Because the house we live in is getting knocked down (sniff) and a replacement house will be built, geotech drilling is required. Hence lots of fluoro-clad workmen cluttering up our front yard on Wednesday.

They'd been round a week earlier to spraypaint orange marks on the driveway and a circle the size of a side plate and when I got home on Wednesday night after work there was a bustle of activity as they loaded their heavy machinery on to an even larger truck.


I had a chat with one of the guys and he informed me that they had finished and would get out of my way. He asked about the repair status of the house and seemed friendly enough.

I inspected the new hole in our driveway, which was indeed very deep and dark, then I went inside and left them to it, noting as I went that they'd moved a couple of chairs that live on our verandah into the front yard, presumably to sit on. Oh well, that was okay as long as they put them back.

Some time later I went out front to see if they'd gone, and they had. But the chairs hadn't made their way back to where they belonged (mild annoyance). One of them had an open container of teriyaki chicken and rice sitting on it (moderate annoyance). And a patch of garden containing some cherry tomato plants, looked as though it had been sat on (outright fury). And then I saw that one of my tomato plants was destroyed, the stake that held it up snapped off. What the hell had they been doing? I'd assumed the fluoro was for safety reasons but it was starting to look as though they'd just been having a garden-based dance party. I briefly reflected on how much of the 90s were ruined for me by those stupid whistles that everyone used to take to raves before remembering the tragic loss of my cherry tomato plant.

I am not much of a gardener, truth be told. I sometimes weed things. I'll mow things if it's required, but I don't really know what I'm doing beyond that. Every now and again I'll just throw some seeds around and see what comes up or plant something and water into until it flourishes or dies.

I was quite proud of my little tomato plant. I'd had one whole, small, sweet tomato off it to that point. The Silver Fox had pointed out that for the price of the plant we could have just bought a punnet of cherry tomatoes and that would probably have amounted to the same value for money with less work, but the point of growing anything, to me at least, is just to see if I can. My little tomato plant was doing well. I was therefore a success as a human being and not necessarily wholly malignant.

Looking around further, I noted a couple of dirty rags on the ground, mud, and the garden hose that had been coiled on a holder attached to the house, dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the yard. It's been a long time since I've been that furious.

I understand that they have a job to do, and that it's not necessarily a very clean job, but my sense of what's right and fair says that if you're going to use other people's things, or move them around, you should make sure to put them back where you got them from. It's that simple. And if you break something? You should tell them about it and bloody say sorry.

These are things that my mother taught me from a very young age. It seems bizarre to me that adults wouldn't know them but time and time again I am surprised by people (especially tradesmen) who do not appear to operate to these rules.

So we complained. And yesterday someone came back and "cleaned up" and we'll be having a small private ceremony for the tomato plant (I'll remove it from its stake and chuck it in the organics bin).

Several people I know have had terrible experiences with tradesmen lately, what with all the earthquake repairs happening. What's your worst story? Alternatively, if you've had a tradesman who was brilliant feel free to share that.