The Ministry of Sorrow

Another day, another @#*! earthquake. I was cooking dinner at the time, and let out a shriek, which is not usual for me. I hate hate hate hate hate @#*! earthquakes.

But it did have one useful effect – reminded me of an article I’d seen on the Stuff website. It was written by Islay McLeod, talking about the need for people to prepare themselves emotionally for the sight of what is left of our city once we’re allowed back in there. The shock-value of the article itself wasn’t high – I suspect we’re all so used to being gobsmacked by the sight of the devastation every time we make the mistake of turning our heads in the direction of the city centre that our shock-glands have run dry. (Either that or neural adaptation will have taken hold to such an extent, it’d  probably take the sight of a T-Rex in Bob’s parka, having dinner with the Abominable Snowman in a tutu and the Loch Ness Monster wearing a tux and cummerbund, at least eight feet above the ground in whatever is left of Cashel Street, for us to do more than blink and go ‘well that’s a surprise’.)

What caught my attention was a comment about halfway down. She was quoting Hugh Nicolson, who had commented that while we have a minister for recovery, and official teams of people dealing with things like fixing the sewers and the roads, but

… we don’t deal with emotions and people’s experiences very well … We don’t have a Department of Sorrow.

As soon as anyone mentions mass despair I can’t help thinking back to the nation wide trauma that has followed the All Blacks’ various losses at the Rugby World Cup (remember France in 1999, when Jenny Shipley did her best to be the mother of the nation ?… No, John, for the love of god, NO). But this is going to be something absolutely different. I’m lucky here – other than the Leeston Pub being added to the ever-growing demolition list last week, we’ve escaped the real damage so far. So the whole ‘stay, or go?’ question has been one we haven’t really had to contemplate. But last night some cowardly little part of me (presumably the bit responsible for me shrieking like a complete wuss) slipped the thought into my brain. It only stayed a moment, but its presence has rattled me as much as last night’s quake.

Which sent me back to the article, and the expectation of psychic trauma to come. (Oh, goody.) And the seeds of yet another @#*!ing earthquake poem. This has been a bastard of a year for everyone in Canterbury.

A Ministry of Sorrow. What a bloody good idea.

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