The good news is that a friend came to stay with us for a few days last week.
The bad news, for me, is that she has now gone home.
The good news is that she is coming back again for another visit in June.
The even better news is that I have good friends who walk beside me in good times and bad, and the times in between.
A long time ago, when my friend (the one who has just been and gone) and I were students in Christchurch, we were desperately looking for accommodation we could afford. Then, as now, reasonably priced rental accommodation was hard to find. In pre-Internet days, finding a place to stay sometimes meant physically exploring the streets for vacancy/rental signs. We had almost given up hope when my friend came across an abandoned and neglected cottage in an area of the city which is now called the Avon Loop. She thought it looked habitable so she set about tracking down the owner of the property. Again a lot of footwork was required but, finally, an agent for the owner was located and negotiations began. We proposed that, if he let us live in the house for a small rent of $20 a week, we would tidy the property and be responsible tenants. We would protect the property from vandals and vagrants, we said! The owner was dubious (we were students, after all) but he agreed that we could live there until he received planning permission to build on the property, at which time the old cottage would be demolished.
Thus began one of the most interesting years of my life. With some help from friends and relations, and a teeny, tiny budget, we scrubbed and cleaned and painted that old house into a lovely home.
At the end of the student year, my friend and I had different paths to travel, so we arranged for some friends to take over the tenancy of the cottage. The landlord was only too happy to agree as his building plans seemed to have fallen through and he had seen how his derelict cottage had been transformed from disastrous to desirable at no cost to himself. Lucky man.
Over the years, we kept an eye on the cottage and, to our absolute delight, it seemed to find more care and loving hands with each passing decade.
Then along came the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. And the Avon Loop area was hit hard. We feared for our cottage but, on a visit to the Loop last year, we found the cottage, a little tilted, but still standing.
Here it is in 2012, once again uninhabited, as far as we could tell. The residents had probably been forced to move because of earthquake damage to the property.
My friend and I have since discovered that the property is on land that is considered safe for rebuilding but we don’t know if demolition once more hangs over this little house that has such a special place in our memories . Maybe we will investigate next time my friend visits, but, in many ways, if it is gone I would rather not know. Too much of what we once knew has gone already. And as the buildings go, so, too, go the anchors that keep our memories secure in time and place.
Friendly notes or why our friends are more important than ever:
The bad news: almost 12 percent of our district’s populace is depressed. 209,000 anti-depressant prescriptions were handed out in 2012; pre quake mental health referrals of 90 per week have soared to 150 referrals per week in the past 3 months; 80 community support workers are helping 1100 people daily….. and on it goes……
The good news: 66,000 people are seeking help. I would like to say that 88% of the population is doing well but, judging by levels of road rage, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly behaviour and general short temperedness, more people could do with help from friends, medical or otherwise.