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Stoneyhurst Street, Christchurch, NZ
1984

This was my first home away from home, not counting Christmas (summer) holiday trips and school trips, and not counting some days staying with friends of a friend in Christchurch, and a week or two in a university dormitory room. It was an archetypal Kiwi student flat, a huge old two-storey house in a poor but livable state of repair, divided into four separate flats. The part I was in was shared with three others, all of us being either university students or recent students. It was maybe 10 minutes' walk from Cathedral Square.

The place was a total dump. Part of the ceiling in the back hallway was starting to cave in. One night I was lying in bed awake a little after midnight when everything started shaking. My first thought as I grasped for explanations was, "My god! The foundations must be collapsing---the house must be actually falling down!" Then it all stopped and I thought, "oh, maybe that was an earthquake." (And it was---a minor one but the first I ever experienced.)

There was a fairly steady turnover of people, and by the end of the year none of those who had been there when I first moved in remained. I wrote a fairly bad story, "Tangled Web," set in the house and based on my flatmates.

The rent was unbelievably low, and the landlord was unable to raise it because of a price freeze that the Muldoon government had instituted to combat inflation. When the price freeze was partially lifted, the landlord demanded that we pay more rent---but more than the increase allowed by the partial freeze lifting. We complained to the housing authority, who actually took him to court, and we won. All the excess rent was refunded to us. Ah, the joys of quasi-socialist bureaucracy.

On Christmas Day that year, the landlord left us a present: an eviction notice. Since we had no formal lease with him, he was completely within his rights this time.


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