Radio reports prompt comparisons

19:45, Nov 04 2012

Hearing snatches of phone records from trapped CTV victims played on the radio in recent days has been both harrowing and depressing, jolting you back to the horror of that terrible February day.

Ditto CTV coroner inquest revelations about red tape. The wasted precious time over the chain of command confusion and a ludicrous lack of common sense shows how far removed clipboard, box-ticking bureaucrats are from their natural "first response" impulse.

Retrospective accountability, finding out if protocols and due processes were followed, is a necessity, but few have the stomach to hear it. Last week's no-red-tape imperative by President Obama in regards to the federal response to superstorm Sandy cut to the heart of the matter. He decreed: "We don't have patience for bureaucracy. We don't have patience for red tape."

No doubt we will see if the action matches the rhetoric in the dark days of lost power ahead. Cantabrians can't help but watch and compare our own experience with the American disaster, aware "our fellow Americans' " superstorm fell in the cold of winter, but came with the benefit of a warning and occurred within a six-minute prediction.

Competitive suffering or hardship is small-minded and petty but again it brings our experience back, and for those without power and access to television in the quakes, the coverage of the unfolding American storm gave us some idea of what the rest of the country and world viewed, while we groped in the mushroom dark.

Speaking of metropolitan comparisons, Christchurch last week more than once topped the temperatures, inducing one to change gear sartorially and stride off into town with the sun blazing down. With such a large number of multistorey buildings given the bash and flattened to ground zero it has exposed a desperate lack of shade.


It's only the first week of November and one found oneself "leaning forward" (another Obama-erism) for an awning or a tree to rush under to take shelter as the hot burning sun bounced off the rubble and the road. Pity the poor demolition, rebuild or road worker having to toil in thick overalls and protective gear in that un- towering inferno in the hot sweat of the months ahead.

Notification of the demolition of the large white edifice a door but one down dropped into our letterboxes well in advance. The building, which used to be a maternity hospital way, way back was pre quake a large boarding house with a warren of bed sits.

I once nicknamed it the House of the Lost Tribe of Albinos because the curtains were always drawn in order to protect the delicate red eyes I wildly imagined, but rumour has it that an axe murdering once took place within its walls. There have been reports of a ghost, of boarders waking up in the dead of the night to find a woman covered in blood perched on the end of their beds, and the tenants running terrified out on to the street.

Now unseated from her dwelling, hopefully this troubled ghost won't try to rematerialise in any of our abodes.

The guys doing the demo asked if I could chill their beer for them and the new fridge proudly accommodated a doz. When they knocked off they came in from a hard day covered in grime and were touchingly apologetic about parking their dusty backsides on the furniture before throating a couple of cold ones.

Full of humour and anecdotes it felt good to make contact, break down the barriers between us and them.

It's easy to fall into a grump of resentment toward the noise and dust makers who from necessity crash and bang and drive the great mastodons of machinery that can wear down and irritate inner city residents.

Stupidly I told them they were doing God's work (where did that come from?), to which they wittily replied that actually, they were cleaning God's work up.

The Press