Our capability is our ace in the pocket as anniversary nears

Only two more sleeps till February 22, with everyone I know exhibiting some form of pre-menstrual tension before the arrival of the dreaded anniversary.

It's like the buildup in Darwin but without the humidity as I hear a lot of people are clearing out of Christchurch for the day and they've got their reasons.

Of all the big shakes, two have occurred close to the significant date of Christmas - bumming us all out - and the thought of Old Bucky dishing out another smack on or around the anniversary would be too much to bear.

I have declined invitations to dodge Dodge, because for me it would just feel wrong to be in absentia.

For Cantabrians, February 22 will never be just another day. After all isn't this what calendars are for: to mark major events in our lives and remember the dead?

A few days ago I visited my parents' grave on the day of my father's death and winced at the wasteland where they have fetched up.

The lovely church and the hall demolished, leaving only an office, the graves, and the ubiquitous post-demolition vista of ugly gravel.

What I liked so much about Holy Trinity Church was the way the bone yard snuggled the church, but now with the church wiped off the face of the earth it all seems rather pointless.

The rational part of me says what does it matter; they're dead and gone and a long time looking at the lid, but mum would be appalled at the aesthetic crime scene, her version of the ghastly scoria gardens, while dad would probably wax philosophical about the cacophony of bulldozers, remarking there appeared to be no rest for the wicked.

Seeing Sam Johnson, resplendent in dinner suit, on the front page of The Press in a photo taken after he had just been crowned Young New Zealander of the Year, was a welcome feel-good story in a paper that has had to be the bearer of so much bad news.

When my mother died, Sam's aunt, a dear friend of mine domiciled in Australia, sent her nephew along to the funeral to represent her. I had just blithered out of the church.

This lovely young man with a halo of angelic hair, pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair he'd never met before, made himself known to me, telling me he'd even made notes on the eulogies to relay back to his aunt.

All this happened before the quakes, so I am happy to inform you, though it's hardly necessary, that our hero is the genuine article, brim full of manners and blessed with a deep instinct for the right thing to do.

When his aunt Jenny and I lived in Sydney along with a bunch of other expat Cantabrians, if one of us had performed something DIYish, or made something "just like a bought one" we'd described it as being "Canterbury capable". We were taking the Michael but you knew what it meant.

When burdened with what seems to be a herculean task, that phrase often springs to mind; that it can be accomplished on account of having that ace in the pocket of Canterbury capability. Sure, that sounds terribly parochial, but hey we'll take any advantage we can get these days.

The last year has challenged us, turned us She'll Be Righters into a Once Were Worriers tribe, as we hold our breath on the big Wednesday waiting to let it out on the other side.

This is the first anniversary and we have no idea how we will cope, as we take stock - to use a hideous word, to process - of all we've been through, while we try and arrange our faces as the rest of the country watches us commemorate the day.

This is big emotional stuff and comes upon us at a time when the wounds have not healed, as the aftershocks continue to knock the scab off again and again, pushing the healing game back to square one and into the purgatory realm of Groundhog Day.

The one thing we know is that things are different now - that we are different now, that we've lived through our own disaster movie, but still don't know how it will end.

Like the Maureen McGovern song for the Poseidon Adventure says: "There's got to be a morning after - if we can hold on through the night".

The Press