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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jack Campin BS: Who first lived in your house/pad ? (29) RE: BS: Who first lived in your house/pad ? 06 Jun 21

The house I lived in as a kid in New Zealand had a life that encapsulated a lot of history. My father was an architect and moved us from England to NZ in 1958, when I was 8. He may have used his training in town planning to pick the vacant section he bought - it was right at the edge of the suburb, with a bypass planned next to it. That meant he got a bit more land for the money. We lived in a B&B for a few months, then moved to the section, spread between a caravan, a portacabin and a tent (which had our stuff and the chemical toilet). My father spent six months slashing the gorse away with his uncle's East African sword and digging a house-sized hole. He ordered the house from a factory 30 miles away and it arrived on a truck to get plonked on the concrete piles he'd put in position. I went to school one day from the portacabin to come back with the house there.

My father then spent years adding hand-built things to it - porch, verandah, carport and garage, trees, garden stuff and a pond. It didn't look at all like something that arrived on a truck by the time he finished. Then when he retired, planned to sell up and move back to England. Finalized everything, was loading the furniture into a removal van and died instantly from a heart attack while heaving an armchair. (My brother and I both had heart attacks at the same age). So, my mother sold up and moved away, splitting the section in half so the garden was taken up by a new house.

Fast forward to a few years ago. My wife's younger son was getting married in Malaysia, so we decided to combine that with a visit to NZ. I looked on Google Street View and saw there was a backpacker hostel directly across the street from my old house, so we booked a few days there.

I didn't expect what I saw. The whole suburb was now twice the density it had been thanks to homeowners doing what my mother had done. And our house was an unbelievable mess: the carport had been replaced with a new garage but they hadn't replaced the driveway so it went into it at a weird angle, there were sheets of roofing and boards missing from the verandah, polypropylene sacks threaded through the fence to stop people looking in, the feijoa tree my parents had planted overgrown to a size I didn't think was possible. And an unbelievable number of people visiting in cars all day long. My first guess was that it was a brothel but on seeing the lady of the house... no way. So I was totally mystified.

I got the explanation after coming home. The place turned up for sale on a local real estate site. With a video of the interior. Every wall had been covered with laminate, right over the fireplace as well. I found out why people did that. NZ has a massive problem with "P", methamphetamine. Houses where it was made, dealt or smoked a lot got every porous surface contaminated with toxic levels of the stuff. There is a huge business of P-decontamination. The laminate was to cover up the original plasterboard which was toxically loaded with P. The visitors had been doing drug deals.

All was not quite lost. My father specified rimu floorboards - this is a very hard and impervious native pine which is now almost unobtainable and very expensive. So the appropriate fix was to rescue the floorboards, then incinerate and dump the rest of the house.

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