Saturday afternoon and the house was being gutted, not just a simple removal of the filthy contents but the actual fabric of the building. It was as if we were trying to remove something nasty by stripping off the skin. It was also very cathartic. By this stage there was about fifteen volunteers in the house and all energies were directed at removing the now sagging plasterboard. Since the house had been raised in 1997 the extra metre in height had meant that even though 5 metres of water had washed through the two stories of the house, it did not reach the ceiling on the second floor. The goal was to remove the walls without damaging the ceiling. As one volunteer put it who had never removed a wall before, “this was fun”. I’m not sure I agreed since I had only just put the damm thing up two years previously, but we all appreciated the enthusiasm. That was one of those details I will always remember, the laughter and the fun. Amidst that filth we could still laugh.
The one thing about plasterboard is that its easy to put up and its easy to pull down but it leaves a real mess when its wet. You shovel it out rather than carry it.
What was once a beautiful home was now becoming a very unattractive shell and
what was once in the house was now outside and my pile of rubbish was rapidly catching that of Bryn and Pete and Anita.
By this stage it was becoming increasingly obvious that there was not a lot was going to be salvaged and possessions acquired over a lifetime were reduced to a small pile in the main bedroom. When I look at it now its a pretty sad sight but I actually don’t miss most of it and its already a fading memory. Possessions are not that special, its people that really count.
And here are some that really count – some of the volunteers who as strangers came up to the house and offered to help. What struck me was the number of young women who came to the door and offered their help. If you are worried about the next generation, don’t be. I’m sorry I cannot put names to faces but I have most of the names written down and when I’m back in the house, which at this stage looks like early 2012, there will be some personal invitations to join me in some serious celebrations.
Then it was the kitchens’ turn to be skinned. Water and chipboard really do not mix and the idea or “moisture resistant” board which is a must for a kitchen seems a little ludicrous under these circumstances. We all commented on how hard it was to remove which made me laugh later when I was talking to the owner of the company who originally installed the kitchen. His dad Mac, was from the old school and fitted it within a millimetre of its life. It was there to stay and I have to admit put up a magnificent fight. Sledge hammers and axes had to work pretty hard. If anybody ever wants a stubborn kitchen just ask me. I know a man…….
And this is the one picture of myself that probably sums up the whole experience of that day. I’m not sure what I was thinking or feeling at the time but the image is one of those that capture the essence of a moment in a single frame. I actually find it hard to look at.
By 5pm most of the volunteers had left, no doubt to spend the night under a shower trying to removed the ultrafine mud that was almost impossible to shift. What was left was the detritus following a frenetic day. In many ways it was the start of what is turning out to be a long slow process of recovery.
A surreal calm descended on what was now a beautiful clear summer evening. Every house had its innards dumped unceremoniously on the verge and there was no such thing as privacy anymore.
Out the back the water and the “ooze” were still there but there was still beauty in the ugliness.
And finally the “Saturday” crew, some are missing but I will be eternally grateful for the unselfish support I received on a day I will never forget. Thank you.
Thats was Saturday the 15th January.