Monday, January 30, 2012

The Christchurch rebuild starts here

As of yesterday our house became a construction site. The first thing the workers did was nail a sign to our fence saying that hard hats must be worn and permission to enter must be granted by the site forman (sic). We seem to be exempt from this; the only hazard seems to be tripping over men and their lunch boxes. They are taking down the chimney and putting in a log burner. Then more people will come and fix cracks and paint the rooms. There is dust everywhere and the noise of power tools and Metallica. We have chosen a burner and are thinking about the colours for the daughter's room. It's messy and chaotic and a bit exciting in a House and Garden kind of way.

i have said before we are some of the luckiest people in Christchurch and really we deserve none of this. Assessors came from EQC and told us we have between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of damage. Now they are fixing it. Meanwhile there are still people without water and sewage and people who are trying to find a place to live, and people who are struggling with the uncertainty of the usual gloriously Kafaesque system to find out what they can get and when. We have been careful to be scrupulous about our claims and i do feel a bit guilty about getting so much.

My main hope is that the system is transparent and contractors charge only what the jobs are worth, and people don't rort their insurance companies, and that everyone is honest and caring and thoughtful.

My goodness, why has the sky gone all dark? Suddenly the air is thick with flying pigs!

Sunday, January 22, 2012



Pain forced blood from the mine of my womb.
I got up,
Took 4 nasty painkillers on an empty stomach,
And felt the earth
Thought i would bleed freely in the morning.

Sleeping through the pain,
Lo! i am on an elephant, overlooking Berlin,
And astonishing!
I can see the Brandenburg Gate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Automechanics for girls

Recently a man drove my car and pointed out the brakes were overheating and the hand brake was not disengaging properly.

Thehand brake light had been showing for months. Occasionally people would point it out to me, and i would say yes, i know, thehand brake light isn't working.

It never occurred to me that the hand brake light was working perfectly, but the brake wasn't.

My mechanic gently pointed out to me that the light actually indicates several things - lack of brake fluid and overheating brakes being the most likely - and the least likely being a non-workinghand brake light. As it was, the brake pads were wokn through and the brake fluid needed topping up. i was lucky not to do more damage.

i suppose one step further in silliness would be to put a smiley face sticker over the brake light so that nobody else would notice it was on and bother me about it.

Well, it was a very girly approach to the whole incident, and based on a faulty suppositon on my part, but i don't think it was only ignorance on my part. For me it makes sense to say that if the brake light isn't working properly it shows the brake light isn't working properly. i don't ask what else it might mean. Why not?

i can live and drive happily with my brake light showing and as long as the car performs normally i figure i am OK. i don't want to go to the mechanic with trivia - that seems even more girly. i pride myself that every time i hear a knock in the engine or have some sort of intermittant fault it does make sense and can be found by someone else. i don't make stuff up.

i think that many men like facts and like to know facts. Male conversation builds edifices of facts. Men compete about facts - look at my great big fact. When i was a teenager i was amazed at the stuff the guys knew - all about cars and stereos and martial arts and guns and alcohol and politics. They used the facts to marshal arguments about what was the best car, gun etc. it was usually pretty hypothetical because they never actually had access to any of it - but you were to know darn well that if they ever did get to own a car, gun, stereo or whatever it would be the best darn one because they just knew all that stuff. And when i briefly owned a motorbike, they were all sudden experts, and endlessly, clownishly helpful.

Recently a young woman who avowed she knew nothing about cars got a job in an auto parts store. Her rival for the job, an older man who is a qualified mechanic, lost out to her, seemingly because she was cute, and men would like to buy things from her and women would relate to her better. But wouldn't men want to buy auto parts from a man who had real expertise? No - because men already have all the expertise they need! Men do not go into an auto parts store and say - uh - i want a thingie, you know, the beige one. Men go into the auto parts store and enter into a spirited debate about the merits of the beige thingie they have already decided on. (And i have never known a man say beige. Men do do colours, but only if they are painting or if they are professionals.)

So it was superficially a winning situation for the auto parts shop. Men got to come in and see a cute girl.And maybe show off bit. Women got to have a laugh and do a little bonding over their purchase and maybe feel more comfortable in the store. The losers would be people like me - i don't need cute but i do need sensible advice that puts facts together. So thank you to the men in my life who provide it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Voodoo, cemeteries and earthquakes

i walk a bit in my local cemeteries. Near my neighbourhood is an area that consists of mostly cemeteries and car wreckers. i walk my little dog Tigger there. They are peaceful places and provide good short walks for my aging doglet.

i have got to know the graves a little. There is a grave for Mrs Tiny Mite, a famous circus midget who toured the world and who died being run over by a car here in Christchurch. There is the Jewish quarter, the graves having been moved from their orginal location in the CBD. There is a group grave for nuns from a local convent. There is a small section for children and babies, more recent than the rest, and they mix the gaudy and the sad with their plastic flowers and windmills and soggy teddy bears spilling onto the pathway. There is not much that is sadder than a soggy teddy bear.

The inscriptions have changed over time of course, becoming more secular and more personalised. i liked one that simply exclaimed: Mary Jane Dawson: Everybody loved her. My friend and i looked at each other, flung our arms wide and both at once we shouted ' I LOVE Mary Jane Dawson!!' And our arms widened and our smiles widened and at that minute we really did love Mary Jane Dawson, some random dead chick we'd never met, but who had made us briefly happy.

The earthquakes damaged the cemeteries of course, and many of the graves have fallen over. It took a lot of force to knock the columns off their plinths and crash the wrought iron fences. Liquefaction sits in some of the coffin spaces. Cracks have formed in the concrete, opening up the graves to the elements. Some have been cordoned off.

i had a recent voodoo moment in the cemetery, walking my little dog Tigger. A small aftershock took hold and i missed my footing in a grave as i was stepping over it. when i regained myself, Tigger was gone. i called for him, but he never answered, so i went looking in the fartherest reaches of the cemetery, where i didn't usually go. Walking and calling i came across the photo above. A little weathered statue on a stalk, clearly marking the grave of a loved pet. Called - Tigger.

Well, i found my Tigger, half hidden in foliage, eating something he shouldn't. He was unrepentant. i was strangely moved.