Recently, I sent out a request for others to share their memories of the Christchurch earthquakes that occurred five years ago. To my pleasant surprise, some have come forward with stories so moving that I felt it was important to share them with the world. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the stories sent to me about that day as well as sharing a few of my own. The February 2011 quake changed our lives forever, but has made the city of Christchurch a stronger community.
Throughout Christchurch, many were without working toilets for months on end. Everywhere you looked, there would be at least one Port-a-Loo sitting on someone's lawn as they waited for assessors to determine the fate of their properties. Jennifer Wilson shares what it was like to use the Port-a-Loo in her front yard for the first time.
By Jennifer Wilson
There it was, tucked in front of the small cabbage tree inside the front fence, only a few feet away from Pages Road. “That's the best place for cleaning purposes,” I was told, after pleading to have it somewhere more private.
It was a nice shade of green, very bright; you could see it from afar. I stared at it, it stared back. Perhaps I could dress it up a bit, tie a bow around it, give it a name. It was going to be there for some time.
I poke my head inside. It had a certain smell. I close the door, thankful that I didn’t require it at that moment. I mean, I had to mentally prepare myself for this event.
“It's almost on the street,” I tell my friends. They laugh. Maybe it was funny, I’m not sure. It’s... too new.
Eventually, the time comes when I need her. I call it her because she was a pretty colour. Do I go down the drive by the fence, or out the front door and across the lawn? Either way I will be seen. Hugging the fence, I make my way towards her, open the door and jump inside.
People are close, they don’t know I'm in here. It’s weird. I can hear them talking. I’m so thankful for the cabbage tree; I don’t hate it anymore. I felt vulnerable. “Oh no... What if someone pushes her over? What if there's an aftershock?” She is on a lean. I make a very fast exit.
“How's the porta loo?” my friends ask with a chuckle. Strangely, they’re not keen on my suggestion to... try it.
One day, she disappears. Horrors. I miss her desperately. She returns four days later. “Ah relief.”
“She's home,” I tell my friends, excited in an odd kind of way.
It's easier now. I'm used to the toots and waves. She has become my friend.
The following day another one arrives. Suddenly, I have a family of porta loo's. He was orange and grey.
“We must use the orange one,” they say.
“Where would you like it?” the man asks.
“You mean I have a choice?”
He sits at the back of the house. I jump for joy. She sits alone in front of my cabbage tree; no one wants her except for an elderly man one morning. Finally, she leaves home, her future unknown. On a street corner, or perhaps on someone's property.
He, that is ''Dun Loo”, is very much part of our family. Will we miss him when he goes?
About the author:
Jennifer Wilson was born in Christchurch and finished her education at Avonside Girls High. In 2012, she published her first book, describing how one woman sheltered and protected her children from her husband's devastating bi-polar illness. For the past two years, she has hosted a children's program on local radio, where she presents many of her stories. Jennifer is currently working on her next book which she hopes to publish this year.
If you have a story that you would like to share, I want to hear it. Visit here for more information on Project Share Your Stories.