How do you talk to the people of Christchurch - ditch the cliches

22:25, Feb 23 2013

It's a touchy combination, Christchurch and the quake. As residents, we don't want to be defined by a single event but at the same time, it is the undefeated heavyweight champion of topics.

This province has always come with a tabloid tag. For years we were "one- eyed Cantabrians" but since the earthquake it's even worse. Now we are resilient and stoic. I'm not sure we were ever any of those things.

Having just passed the two-year mark, we are a long way from having to dig a hole and crap in our backyards but "resilient" implies a bounce back to our original position. We're not quite there yet.

However, we are slightly sensitive so could everybody please - and that includes this publication - make a truly meaningful connection with a thesaurus. With the greatest of respect (translate that how you will), we are done with being called resilient. We are done with "kia kaha" and quite frankly, I'm not sure we were ever "stoic". That expression on our faces wasn't stoicism, it was shock.

Logically, we can't be stoic and resilient and still be cast as moaners and whingers the rest of the time. Mainly I blame lazy media but those cliches were contagious. The prime minister praised our resilience at a memorial event on Friday. Oh dear. Not again.

It is difficult to tap into the hive mind of a city but if you were wondering how to treat us, just be confident. Come on down and take a look around. We like sharing our stories and you probably saw it on TV or knew someone here. It gives us a common language and I promise we've developed a sense of humour about it, especially around hi-vis vests and road cones. Yes, it would be easier if we could schedule our mood swings but, like the next aftershock, we can't predict the impending turn.

You want a bit of advice? Be mind- readers. Be patient. Don't troll. Send chocolate. And take some ownership too. It may not be your city but it's your country and you can have a say. We get angry and we have differences of opinions amongst ourselves. We also have an election on the horizon and we'll express our opinions through ticks in boxes.

The two-year anniversary caught many of us by surprise. After all, an anniversary is simply another day on a calendar. I expected to feel like I did yesterday and the day before but the emotion crept up. It was quiet, reflective. It was silly laughs and shared comfort. There were deeds that needed to be remembered and decisions that should not be forgotten.

I felt unmoved by the prayers and hymns at the service in Latimer Square but later I visited the site where the PGC building pancaked and killed people. I looked at the perfect field of grass and the small floral tributes. I saw two little pot plants with the words "To Mummy" written in children's scrawl and I didn't feel stoic. I let the tears roll down my cheeks where they belonged.


Fairfax Media