Quake not understood by out-of-towners

20:54, Jul 22 2012

A man had stopped on the footpath for some time and was taking photographs of a cleared section over the road in Kilmore St.

Curious to know his interest or connection with what now looked like just another scruffy piece of vacant land, but was the former abode of the garage people, I was bold enough to approach and engage him in conversation.

Aarone was originally from Northern Ireland, came out here about 10 years ago and lived in the boarding house that once stood there. It was the second house he had been to that morning to see if it had survived the tumult, only to find that both had been dealt to by the wrecking ball and he was feeling a bit shaky.

When he first came to New Zealand he had every intention of touring the country, but never got further than Christchurch.

"It's such a beautiful city I just fell in love with it, " he said.

When he finally tore himself away from the Garden City he knocked around Canada for a while and formed a romantic attachment with an Australian, which was the reason he'd just been granted permanent residency across the ditch and for some reason had to re-enter the lucky country from New Zealand, hence the visit.


Having only arrived in Christchurch the night before, his eyes were literally out on stalks. Truly, his pupils were dilated, and he wasn't high.

"I heard about the earthquakes when I was in Canada but I didn't know till now the severity of it. Last night I wanted to go into the city but there wasn't one," he said looking nervously over my shoulder towards the hollowed out centre.

That morning he'd walked up Gloucester St and was amazed to see that Chancery Arcade, his old haunt he used to frequent for the Japanese food and karaoke, was now just a pile of rubble, he told me with his hand over his mouth still taking in the broken image.

"Now that I've seen it, I feel I have to return. You're going to rebuild it and put it back like it was?" he asked, as if I knew or was responsible for the answer to that vexed question.

I replied in Tui - a language foreign to someone absent from these shores a spell - and said, "Yeah, right".

It's hard for us to go back in civilisation when we had every expectation to go forward as so many are left in limbo, inert and angry.

That afternoon, being a nosey git, I checked out a townhouse in the ''hood'' up for sale, the interior of which was like the Marie Celeste. The realtor said the owner had had a gutsful after the last big shake and upped sticks and shot through to Auckland leaving pretty much the entire contents - beds, couches, fridge, crockery, landscape paintings.

You name it, the whole kit and caboodle was there in its entirety all up for grabs and included in the asking price, and he was about to take the price down and would consider any offers.

A friend who left town a month ago - yes there are continual farewell parties going on down here - had a nice rental, two bedroom, a garage and north facing and I asked her if the landlord had taken many people through, and had he put up the rent. She said not many, but yes he'd upped it 20 bucks, which is surprisingly reasonable in this market.

The neighbourhood is changing, the people who are moving in go off to work in hi-vis and overalls, and come home looking like they've put in a real hard day at the office.

Our road continues to be fixed as the men clatter up and down in their machinery and I don't even notice the noise any more that sounds like someone's continually dropping drinks trays.

After 18 months I've finally got some movement on replacement money for the TV. I had to get a TV repair chappie round to look at the old one and write a damage report and when I said to him why is that nobody else I know had to get one, he said ''they'' had to tighten things up because everyone was rorting the system at the beginning. Aren't people rotten.

The landlords are tearing their hair out because the spring of water that's going under the house continues to spew forth, with EQC and insurance companies not wanting a bar of the problem, and plumbers turning up and scratching their heads trying to find the source of the Nile.

Meanwhile, I guess the lake under the house is spreading and the black mould will set in. At this rate we'll have to get out the punts and set up a tourist operation and call it Little Venice.

I wonder if they make boaters small enough for cats.

The Press