Insurance woes and loss list

The one sentence I heard a lot after our devastating fire was “But your insurance will replace everything”. Hmm, that implies we did have insurance (we did) and also that we had enough (we did not) and thirdly that it would be easy (far from it).

For a start, I had no idea (might have if I read the fine print) that a contents insurance, or at least ours, normally only pays for replacing items that were lost or damaged. Kinda hard to do when you lost everything – even the receipts that could prove you actually owned a toaster or underwear:-)

The pure nature of a house fire like ours is, everything gets destroyed. Frankly, who keeps a receipt of a piece of clothing or a kettle in a cloud? Well, I am, from now on!

Also, it dragged on for so long that I was not sure if they would actually accept the claim in the first place. It’s like hoping for the best but preparing for the worst so to speak. After 7 weeks I rang them and they told me, yes your claim has been accepted and has been handed back to the Assessors for settlement. I foolishly thought that was it then. Far from it.

I am not sure how others cope while they have literally nothing left? We were so fortunate that we live in a small town/village and had a lot of support. We got a new rental place within a week and free furniture to see us right as well – of course, it is not brand new but our old house had hardly any new furniture in it as well so that is ok. We were gifted money in cash and also through a fundraising account that our neighbours had set up (though that had a few strings attached as well). But in terms of a quick insurance payout or at least an advance to let us purchase essentials – nope, nada, nothing! I wonder who others would cope under these circumstances.

I’d be lying if I said it did not affect us emotionally at all, quite the opposite. For the first 3 weeks or so I was an absolute mess. My brain did not function at all and it felt totally overwhelming, to be honest. I had help (again it is a small community, in a big city I am not sure if people would get physiological help as fast).

Then there are the nights, the nights that never end but bring no sleep. When I toss and turn and re-live the night and when I remember the many things that were lost that are irreplaceable. That is the real toll this is taking on me. Every day I think of things that I do no longer have. It is not about ownership at all – it is about memories, so many memories.

It does not help to have to provide the insurance assessor with a detailed list of everything we owned or want to claim – bringing all this back with each keystroke.

I already miss my recipes, my cookbooks. Some of which were handwritten by my grandmother… A friend asked me if I could make him one of my baked cheesecakes, and I can’t, I do not have the recipe anymore. Yes, there are others but the one I used for decades is gone. There were the books, some of which had signatures in them, some of those signatories have passed on now. The Pounamu (Green Stone) adze that my husband got gifted or the lovely weaving tool made of Pounamu also gone. All my collected fibres, sadly lost. Some kete (woven bags) I had been gifted by other weavers or won, never to be replaced as they were one-offs.

weaving books collection part of
Part of my weaving book collection, before the fire

The list goes on… the lost photos hurt in particular. Some of which, only I had the original copy of. Like the last photo of my grandparents together, in hospital on my grandfathers’ death bed – its gone. The last photo of my mum and her sisters together (before one of them died in hospice) – gone. The one I had of two fo my husbands’ uncles with my husband together – they are both dead now – gone…Many more, many more.

rita baker piupiu and potae at waikato museum
My first Piupiu with taaniko waistband no less and my potae (hat) at an exhibition at Waikato Museum, two years ago (both now lost in the fire)

I like to be upbeat about it all but on some days it becomes a bit much. When I stroll into a kitchen shop and realise that I used to have a lot of funky gadgets but also just simple things like a potato peeler.

Some things will live on in my memories, but only there I am afraid. Some others I will be able to replace – like some of the native fibres I use for my weaving. Some other things we probably do not need. Others again will get replaced with the insurance money, if they ever pay out.

Normally I would add a few photos here but the sad truth is – I do not have many left… but I can leave you with some from two recent fibre gathering trips.





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