Christchurch loves the Avon, but our feelings about the river are now tinged with sadness. We just need to look at how some of the land and properties on its boundaries have fared since the earthquakes.
This geologically young river has a rich history. It was known as Ōtākaro – “the place of a game” – to local Māori, and was highly regarded as a mahinga kai by Waitaha, Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu.
Tautahi is the chief from whom Christchurch Ōtautahi derives its name. In his time, few Māori would have lived in the Ōtākaro area itself. Those that did were known to Māori living outside the region as Ō Roto Repo (swamp dwellers).”
Prime has been showing a programme called Blitz Street. A typical English street of World War II vintage has been created and then blown up to simulate the kind of damage caused by bombing. Along the way survivors of the Blitz share their experiences. It’s finished now, but it’s the sort of thing that might resonate with Christchurch residents. Earthquake street could be our new reality show!
What the Blitz survivors talk about is resilience. How to endure terrible experiences and stress and bounce back up again. Resilience in the face of adversity can help with your mental and physical well being. So how do you build your resilience?
The other day the water went off in my house for half a day. It was the first time since any of the quakes and it really threw me for a while. I found it hard to concentrate or do anything. I had to remind myself about all the positives – power is on, house is warm, house is weatherproof and so on. I went to have a look around our neighbourhood and saw the comforting sight of men at work. Then I made preparations in case we were without water for some time. I tried to get through a crisis in a positive way but it made me realise I wasn’t as resilient as I thought.
I looked up the library catalogue to see what I could find and sure enough – resilience brings up a good list of titles.
“I’m over it” has been a common comment after recent events, but how did people cope when the disasters kept on coming, sometimes for years?
Having a bit of an obsession with fiction featuring World War II does make me something of an expert on the subject, but it must be possible to learn more about the Blitz than can be gleaned from The night watch. Fiction is all very well, but how did people really get on under the threat of bombs dropping out of the sky with little or no warning? What did a diet of Spam and powdered egg and one inch-square cubes of cheese do to them?
The world’s first pictorial weekly newspaper, The Illustrated London News, gives a tremendous account of what life was like for Londoners from 1939-1945, using the actual words and pictures published at the time.
So how did they cope? One thing they did was build a ‘blitz farm’ on bomb sites in Bethnal Green. When Queen Elizabeth, Queen consort, come to visit she was told that every inch of soil had been reclaimed from under four feet of rubble. Her Majesty then observed: “It’s amazing what hard working people can do”.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction versions of history? What’s your favourite World War II tale? And what survival stories will we share with our grandchildren?