Monday, October 8, 2012

For Want of a Nail

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where this blogger is?
 A demolition survivor in my garden

Apologies. For a while there, life got well and truly in the way. But, having emerged (just yesterday) from the binary black holes of house and marking, I finally have time for an update.


There have been a couple of notable anniversaries since I last wrote... the most obvious being the second anniversary of the Sept 4 (Darfield) earthquake. It was the first weekday observation - the original event was early Saturday morning, and the first anniversary was on a Sunday. Being the middle of term, I was busy with tutorials and workshops at polytech for most of the day before dashing across town to the university for a meeting. I barely had time to stop that day, but it was lurking in my thoughts the entire time. 

Although it was noted in the day's news bulletins and current affairs shows with the predictable two-years-on stories, the fact that this original event has since been overshadowed by the Feb 2011 quake will see it fade sooner from the nation's collective commemorative moments. I don't think it will be too many years before the Sept 2010 quake becomes merely a footnote to Feb 22nd, and those of us who suffered most in the original event will forever be pointedly reminding people that we got munted first.

A rather different anniversary was also marked last month but this one was definitely worth celebrating... our 20th wedding anniversary. We had a glorious Sunday afternoon and evening at The Darkroom with friends and family, filled with food, drink and fine live music from local acts Tribeca Trio, Adam McGrath and Lindon Puffin. A most excellent way to mark the occasion - followed by a quick getaway for 2 to Maruia Springs.

We could not have picked a better place to escape to. Quite aside from the gorgeous scenery, natural springs, private spa, and soothing massage, this place also provided the most unexpectedly good meal we've enjoyed for many years. Far beyond anything we hoped for, the 3 course dinner we ate that night was simply superb and the little bottle of warm Saki on the balcony afterwards just topped it off nicely.

Maruia Springs: highly recommended, would go again - even if just for the food! (Now if they could only get rid of the pesky insects, this place would be unbeatable.)

You lucky, lucky bastards

So, we made it. Just. Sort of. For now. 

Having a new house is kind of like having a new baby... everyone feels entitled to come up and coo over it, whether they know you or not. We've been congratulated by passers-by, tradespeople working on neighbouring properties, local retail staff... Even the guy who delivered the new couch was an interested bystander - he'd been keeping an eye on the build progress every time he visited his mum (who lives across the road).

I've noticed that whenever our new house comes up in conversation, the word 'lucky' inevitably gets used. Most people seem to assume that insurance has paid for everything, that we must've had a replacement policy and are now sitting pretty. Cue Tui billboard (yeah, right).

Is it luck? I'm not so sure. It's been hard work, I know that much.

In the end, we had just one day between moving out of the rental house & the new tenant moving in. Truth be told, I was still doing last-minute kamikaze gardening that Friday morning, in order to make sure the bond money was fully refunded. The time crunch was all due to the late power connection, which delayed the Code of Compliance visit, which delayed the valuation, which delayed both the insurance and the final mortgage payment, which delayed the handing over of the key and the moving of the stuff... and that late power connection comes down to the inattention and lack of follow-through of one person, way back in March.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe the horse was lost
For want of a horse the rider was lost
For want of a rider the message was lost
For want of a message the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I've had this poem/proverb running through my head for the last couple of months. It pretty much sums up the infuriating, inevitable knock-on effects from every little mistake in this house-building process... and they're still emerging.

Inattention and lack of follow-through have contributed to another set of issues, this time to do with our kitchen island - home to our beloved coffee machine.
At installation, the toekick at the rear of the island unit was scratched, so the installer decided to take the damaged piece away, to be replaced by an undamaged version. Eventually.
In the meantime, the carpet was installed with a flappy bit leftover, underneath the rear shelves where the toekick was missing.
Last week (2 months after installation), someone finally turned up to install the missing toekick. Which is when we noticed the carpet... not only was there no underlay beyond the line of the shelving, the carpet had been cut on an angle leaving a gap through which bare concrete can be seen.

Maybe the carpet installer thought the toekick would be flush with the shelving exterior. Who knows. It's just another thing added the 'yet-to-be-resolved' list.

Our poor kitchen island is also currently missing a cupboard door. It has to be replaced because it got damaged before we moved in. The damage occurred when the cupboard unit had to be taken out and swapped over with the drawer unit. Yes, even though the installation instructions had a picture of the completed unit, the installer put them in the wrong way round...

Admittedly, these are all minor issues and they are in the process of being resolved. There are others, but they too are being worked on (slowly, after regular reminders).
But we can't quite settle in yet. Despite all the unpacking & the hanging of pictures, despite the handover of cash (to them) and the keys (to us), we are not yet free of the building company. And, in a month or so*, we are going to have to pack up and move out again for 2-3 weeks while most of the interior surfaces of our house get replastered and repainted. Let's just say the finish is substandard. The phrase, "I could do better than that" has been uttered by many people, including me. So, at some stage in the near future, our recently-unpacked belongings will shelter in a container while we serve time once more in temporary accommodation.
*It was supposed to be in a month's time when first mentioned 3 weeks ago. Heh. Yeah right.

But, if there's a silver lining to the fact that our old house got munted by an earthquake, it's that our old house got munted by an earthquake. They always say you should buy the worst house on the street... we didn't think we had, but ours was the only one that needed to be demolished! 
So, every day, despite all the unfinished bits, despite all the irritation over careless mistakes, I channel a little Thanksgiving spirit.

I'm thankful that we have a house to call our own. It may not be quite finished but at least the wind doesn't whistle through the gaps in broken chimneys. It may need repainting already but at least I don't have to go the the back of the EQC/Fletchers queue. 

I'm grateful for the quirk of nature that put some nice solid rock in this part of the street which meant our section escaped liquefaction. I'm so damn happy to finally be back on our plot of land, seeing all that careful planning & hard work come to fruition, that I don't mind the fact that we'll have to vacate it again briefly.

So, yes, I feel lucky. But, "here's the thing about luck... you don't know if it's good or bad until you have some perspective".
Alice Hoffman, Local Girls 

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