Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sigh

The cake is made and decorated, the tree is up and there's a promising swag of pressies underneath it, the epic final assault on the supermarket has been made with success as regards the strawberries (TV news reporting a threatened shortage this year, sparking panic buying in this household at least), the pavlova-making is scheduled, the last-minute asap-deadline of 40 short Australian stories for a website has been met with the promise of a thrillingly generous reward, the weather's come right, delivering sunshine and heat - what could stop this Christmas from being another corker?

More earthquakes in Christchurch, that's what. Four yesterday between 5 and 6 points, shallow and sharp, more liquefaction throughout the eastern suburbs where I used to live, some building collapses, more damage to the already wrecked Cathedral, some minor injuries and, unsurprisingly, heart problems, closed airport, evacuated malls on one of the busiest shopping days of the year - and lots more people deciding that they've had it, they can't take any more. The timing is so cruel, after months of quietness, everyone beginning to hope that it was all over, putting it out of their minds, focusing on Christmas and summer holidays; and now all that's in ruins, shattered like the glass balls on the toppled Christmas trees in homes throughout the city.

It seems very unfair. Yes, other places round the world have suffered much, much worse this year in all sorts of ways, so 185 dead and a bunch of broken buildings is comparatively not much to complain about. But the way it's going in Christchurch is almost like torture: sudden pain, then it's over, but the possibility and fear of more remain, then more pain, then fear, then pain, then fear, then a long respite and the beginning of real hope, then pain again. It's ruinous to the spirit, and especially at a time of year when everyone looks forward to family and fun and being at ease mentally and physically. I do so feel for all those people outside - and inside - their houses right this minute, shovelling stinking silt yet again; and I understand if they feel they can't go on any more.

On the other hand, though, this isn't the Christchurch any more that was so shocked by the first quake in September last year: the city's got systems in place to sort power and water and roads without delay; pretty much everything that can fall down, has fallen down already; the people have water stores, gumboots ready, ornaments Blu-tacked in place. They'll come on through, and they will have a good Christmas. And, afterwards, only some of them will leave.

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