Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Why such a wait between blogs?

Well that must have been a busy 18 months or so to result in no blog updates whatsoever!
Yeah, actually it has been. Too much time working, that's for sure!

So what have been the big news items over that time.....

13,000 aftershocks! We're kinda getting used to them now. Still demolishing the city centre - apparently around 100 more buildings to knock down and then they can start proper on the rebuild. Lots of people still frustrated by Insurance and EQC - still living in broken homes - though others have been fortunate and have either been bought out (by the Govt) and moved on (ie. bought new) or have had repairs done.

We have moved since the last blog. In fact we have moved 3 times - and that was in the space of 6 months - which was quite exhausting. We're currently in what we affectionately call 'the greenhouse' - due to the extent of glass in the walls. Great in Summer - not so good in Winter due to it being single glazed. Yes, it was Summer when we chose it! Winter has been a bit of a challenge but we are heading towards warmer weather again so things are not so bad. It's a little on the small side however methinks that move number 4 may be on the cards again soon!

Chris moved out of house No 1 to set up with his girl, Kylie, who he had met whilst working at Burger King. One of his first decisions upon leaving home was to acquire the puppy he had always wanted and so Tiny the Bull Mastiff became his new pal. He decided on a change of career during 2012 - firstly with a stint in Telephone Sales which was quickly followed by a job as a Farm Hand on a Canterbury dairy farm. After a year in that job he and Kylie headed down to Central Otago and onto another dairy farm - which lasted around 2 months before he returned to Chch in search of other employment.

Sarah has been busy working hard at NCEA's - achieving some great results at Stage 1 and looking to repeat the feat at Stage 2 if all goes to plan. She also acquired a part time job in Riccarton Mall - she's a 'Wendy's Girl' - serving ice creams, shakes and smoothies to the throngs of shoppers. She started driving earlier in the year but that came to a halt recently when - after no fault of her own - the car was shunted by a red-light-jumper - and it's been sat in the panel-beaters for the best part of 3 months (that's another story altogether!). Maybe we'll get the L-plates back on again this weekend?

Talking of weekend, Maria's back from the UK on Sunday. She's been back to celebrate the wedding of James and Jodie Kennerley.

Maria has a new job, by the way. She no longer works for Safe and Sound - but instead is Business Health Nurse Manager at Moorhouse Medical Centre. Business is booming and she is enjoying the challenge of having responsibility for the performance of the dept.

Maria, Sarah and I visited Melbourne, Noosa and Brisbane for a week last April - catching up with Eibhlin Fletcher and the Guyomar's in Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. And whilst Maria has been in the UK, Sarah and I have enjoyed a short break with Steve Frodsham and his daughters down in Queenstown.

I've been busy working all over the country - mainly teaching Lean Thinking. I currently have clients in Tauranga, Hastings, Christchurch and Dunedin - so I spend quite a bit of time sitting in airport waiting rooms - which can be a bit tedious. However, I enjoy the work so that makes up for the hanging around and nights away from home.

I've also been doing a regular radio slot with Plains FM, which has been fun. I've met some really interesting people as a result of doing the show and hopefully intend to do more. I've also just finished my first season as a football coach with one of the teams from the local Boy's High School - which again has been very satisfying and great fun (at least when we won!).

A combination of football commitments and busy work schedule has impacted my own sporting activities - I've not been getting out on the bike as much as I would have liked - but hopefully that will change now that Saturday mornings are footy-free! Trouble is that the extra 5kg will be a bugger to pull up and over the Port Hills for the first few weeks!

And hopefully Maria will be bringing me back some new Asics running shoes so no longer will I have an excuse for not getting out for a run around the park or along the Harry Ell track!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year

I've had difficulty posting blogs since June last year, so this is a test to see if it's working again. If it does work, then I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year and I'd better get a plan together to update you all!

Friday, 3 June 2011

We're still here!

Wow, I hadn't realised that 3 months had passed since my last blog....I bet you have all been on tenter hooks!

Not much to report really.

Christchurch CBD remains locked down whilst the demolition teams go about their task of flattening all the broken buildings. The Eastern suburbs are still a mess. Summit Road and Sumner Road remain closed so there have been no Short or Long Bays cycle rides for quite some time. I did go for my first swim at Jellie Park since the EQ at the start of this week. I'm sure they have increased the viscosity of the water. Still, it was great to be swimming outdoors in the sunshine on a remarkably warm late autumn day.

I have had one other swim since the EQ - but that was whilst over in Oz during our Easter trip. We had a great time.

Five days with the Guyomars at their lovely place in Ormiston to the south-east of Brisbane during which we took in a trip to North Stradbroke Island, a mooch around the Tamborine Mountains and a visit to the Gold Coast.

Cocktail hour was a regular theme. Would you expect anything less?!

We also got together with some relatives of mine down at Paradise Point - Madeline and Nicola hosted a BBQ for us - though the trditional old Coast sunshine did desert us that day. Fab get-together though.

We then had 3 nights in Sydney - staying close to Darling Harbour. What a great city Sydney is. The weather did its best to put us off, but it failed. The ferry trip out to Manly was a little choppier than expected, but the sunset views of the city on the return were worth it.

We met up with Vicky, Kevin and Olivia - one of Maria's nurse-training pals - and spent the evening in a bar on Circular Quay watching the (NZ) Breakers win the Australian basketball championship - oh, and the girls got to watch a wedding that they were beaming over from the UK.

We also managed to catch up with more of the 'McCormack clan' - the New South Wales chapter - with Mary and Jimmy hosting another BBQ for us - and Jane doing a fantastic job of taxiing us all around the place - apart from driving down the one-way street in the wrong direction!

So what else has been happening here....? Best check the diary to remember.

Ah yes, early March, Maria, Sarah and I headed off to Tekapo for a night away from the shaking. We stopped at the Chalet - 3rd time we have stayed there now - I think they are going to rename the romm as the Burns Suite. Had some fun in the hot-pools and also visited Mount Cook village - which was very scenic with the mountain backdrop.

Also in March, there was an Earthquake Memorial Service held in Hagley Park - just across the road from where we live - which we attended before heading off to Hanmer for another shake free evening - compliments of Solid Energy where Maria works. More lazing in hot tubs. Glorious! Plus a bit of mountain biking in the forest.

I had a couple of trips up to Auckland with my Simply Lean colleagues in April. First one was for a few days work with a client in Warkworth - about an hours drive north of Auckland. Interesting little place. It was noticeably warmer than Christchurch in the evenings! The following week saw me at a Lean Accounting Conference in Mount Wellington (Auckland) for a couple of days.

I've continued to do some part time work with Business Mentors - there has been a big increase in demand for the services since the EQ's - so there's plenty for me to do. I've also got involved in a project to help organise and run the Tour of New Zealand - a 9 day cycle event happening next April here in NZ. The event was formally launched at NZ Parliament in Wellington mid-May - so that involved a trip up to the capital with one of the race directors - and my new next door neighbour - Ghene Snellen. Having earlier said that the Manly ferry ride was choppy, well it was like a mill pond in comparison to the crossing we had from Picton to Wellington on our way to the launch! I was glad when we finally made it into the shelter of Wellington Harbour.

The launch event made it onto the evening TV news - and so did the back of my head! Actually, so did the front side - but blink and you'd miss it.

The event promises to be a fantastic showcase of NZ, particularly the opportunities for cycling over here - the Government have launched a programme to create a series of Great Rides throughout the country - some of which are going to be incorporated into the Tour. Anyway, Desmond Street in leafy Fendalton is now 'Tour Central'!

I have been doing quite a bit of running recently - I had planned to do the Christchurch marathon - which is tomorrow - but over the past few weeks my enthusiasm for entering the event waned to the point that I haven't actually registered. It's being held out at Lincoln township due to the usual course being 'out-of-bounds' due to EQ damage. I may actually just get my bike out in the morning and have a cycle over there to watch some of the event and then spin a few more miles - sorry, kilometres - afterwards. I've done a few cross-country events with the Port Hill Runners over the past month or so - the Hagley Park Relays and the Lionel Fox Relays - the latter being held up at Woodend Beach. It was a great course - through the sand-dunes and forest. And my did it rain - which surprisingly added to the event!

Chris has managed to secure a new job as a trainee shift manager at Burger King. Wendy's laid all their staff off due to the premises being badly damaged in the Feb EQ - and it's in the part of town that is likley to remain off-bounds until at least 2012. So he's got some direction again after a month or so kicking his heels.

Sarah finally got back to school a month after the EQ - and that was almost delayed further by a 5.1 magnitude aftershock hitting the place the night before it was due to re-open. The school has sustained quite a bit of damage - certain parts are due to be pulled down and repaired - eventually. Like lots of other schools, portakabins have been installed in playgrounds or on sportfields to accommodate the lessons in the meantime. In a couple of cases, schools have closed completely due to damage and they are having to use the facilities of other schools - the host school runs their timetable from 8am to 12pm, the visiting school starts at 1pm until 5pm!

Talking of damage and repairs, we have been told that we cannot use the 'south wing' of our house due to the damage that it suffered in the Feb EQ. So that's 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and the double garage that we no longer have the use of. Chris has relocated into the TV room and Sarah is now in my office. I've been relegated to the dining room table - for work that is, not sleeping! Not sure what Nicky's plans are to get the placed fixed up so it remains unclear whether we will have to relocate in the short term.

We also received the news this week that there is a 23% chance of there being another magnitude 6 to 7 earthquake happening in Canterbury within the next 12 months! Just what you need when you are trying to get things back to normal - not!

Anyway....it's Sarah's 15th birthday on Monday and we have a bank holiday on which to celebrate it, so hopefully we'll have a pleasant family day which I can report on at a later date. We are also hosting our new neighbour Ghene and his family for dinner on Sunday - and we were out partying yesterday (a bit too hard to be honest!) at one of Maria's (soon to be ex-) work pals place. So the social scene is definitely going strong...and after a few wines you tend to not notice the aftershocks!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

EQ Update...

It's now Monday 28th Feb - 6 days since the jolt.

We have power and water back on at Desmend St - though still having to boil drinking water. Maria was back in work last Friday and has gone in to Solid Energy this afternoon.

Friday was a rainy day and not much was attempted at Kingsford with the clear up. Instead I had a cycle across town to check up on Di and Geoff in Hillsborough. They had sustained a bit of damage to their property but their kitchen had 'exploded' - or at least the contents of their cupvoards and shelves and they were still in clean up mode. I took meander back through Sydenham and clocked a bit more of the devastation.

We went across to Kinsford again on Saturday and along with some friends and colleagues of Elaine we more or let de-silted Matt and Lou's garden. The access drive still has about a 6 inch layer in places but I think they are leaving that for the men with the excavators!

Despite it being back breaking and stinky, filthy work, there was a real team spirit as we dug and barrowed the s(h)ilt away. Strangers at the start of the exercise - pals at the end. And other strangers - from as far away as Methven and Mt Sommers - pulling up in cars with bags of biscuits and bottles of fresh water. One bloke turned up with a wheel barrow and spade and just got stuck in. No-one knew who he was - he didn't talk much - just kept pushing the barrow back and forth. When he finally left and said his farewells, it was clear he was an East European - helping a west European - over here, that's simply the Cantabrian spirit! Everyone is red and black!

We hosted couple of pals for supper on Saturday evening once we had returned from Matt and Lou's - curry and champagne - what a mix! Every now and then, though, I kept getting a whiff of the silt - must have been impregnated in my skin, or nostril hairs!!

Sunday we decided to have a change around in the house. Sarah had been sleeping on the floor in our room and Chris had moved into the TV room downstairs - as the 'south wing' that contained their bedrooms had become too 'shakey'! We decided to reconvert the downstairs study back into a bedroom for Sarah - and therefore my office would reside upstairs in the wobbly section! She seemed much happier about the new arrangements - wouldn't be kept awake all night by the snoring - nevermind the aftershocks!

Sunday was actually a lovely sunny day, so Maria and I had a wander around Hagley Park in the afternoon. Although not as catastrophic as the damage wreaked in the CBD and in the Eastern suburbs, the Park has its fair share of scars from the quake. There are several trees down.

Some of the ornamental lakes are either drinaed or draining.

There is cracking on most of the paths and plenty of liquifaction. The golf course is a mess - all of the fairways are full of silt patches - it looks like more bunkers than grass. And boy does it stink!

The greens have developed 'growths' - one reminded me of a a mini-Hobitton!

The practice green outside the club-house has a gaping crack running along it. The greenkeeper is going to be busy for a while...

The Botanical Gardens are normally packed on a Sunday afternoon at this time of year. There is usually a free live music event held on the main lawn. Today it was deserted.

The only sound that disturbed the silence was the the thumping-whirl of the army helicopters that circle periodically overhead.

It not only looks like a war zone - it's starting to sound like one!

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Clear Up Begins.

It wasn't a great night's sleep, Tuesday night that is. The aftershocks kept rolling on through. There was a particularly large one at around 3.30am which woke me and I spent the next hour or so unsuccessfully counting sheep. I did get a bit more sleep before it was time to get up and set about getting on with life in the Earthquake zone!

I think we actually spent the morning on Skype letting worried relatives we were all 'safe and sound'. The TV was on in the kitchen and we had a steady stream of information regarding the situation downtown and the ongoing efforts to rescue people from a couple of buildings that had collapsed with significant people within.

We still had no water and the swimming pool - our prefered source of toilet flushing water - was emptying fast. Time to fill a dustbin with whatever water was left!

Ironically, next door had had the demolition gang in over the past few days knocking down their Sept-EQ-damaged house (the small one that they had been living in rather than the huge one they were having built). They were literally finishing off that morning and Nicky managed to pursuade them to remove the fallen wall from our driveway. Job done in no time at all - it would have taken hours by hand! Another bonus was that one of the guys informed us of an artesian well in next-door's garden - so my concerns over a lack of water supply we lessened. At least I would be able to have a wash down on the river bank in clean water - even if it would be in view of those across the river in Hagley Park!

We got a visit from Maria's boss, Charles (Chops) and his wife Kelly. They were making sure we were alright and offered water as they already had their mains supply back on, plus had had plenty of emergency supply stored. How organised!

Maria and I decided to head on over to Matt and Lou's in the car - to see if we could help them with their clear up. We only got as far as Edgeware Road along Hills Road before we had to turn back - the road was unpassable - with vast amounts of water and silt deposited from the liquifaction during the shake. Driving back along Edgeware Road was like driving along a beach - with cars stranded in silt and sink holes littering the roads.

A cordon had been established around the 'Four Avenues' - preventing people from entering the centre of town - the police and army on patrol with their armoured vehicles. A very strange sight for Christchurch indeed.

We decided to take Chops and Kelly up on their offer of a coffee so headed to their place in Fendalton, via the New World supermarket. There was a small queue of people waiting patiently to be allowed their turn inside, which we joined, and patiently waited! There was a remarkable calm in the store. No real evidence of panic buying - apart from Maria grabbing a few bars of Whittakers Chocolate! So at least we would be able to feed ourselves for the next few days.

Maria had received a phone call from a colleague at Solid Energy and she headed into work for an hour or so to help with a bit of clearing up.

Wednesday evening was pretty event-less. A few shakes but nothing too serious.

Thursday morning arrived - it was a late start as we had slept in - must have been catching up on some missed sleep.

Sarah headed off to one of her friends for something to do. Post earthquakes were pretty boring as the Mall's were all shut!

Maria and I made another attempt at getting over to Matt and Lou's - this time by bike however. It was quite a slow ride across to their place. There was a lot to take in as we passed through Merivale and St Albans. Many of the areas and roads had been badly affected by silting and people were barrowing their personal deposits into piles on the roads at the front of their properties. Where the water from the liquifaction had dried, it was very dusty, with a sharp easterly whipping up dust clouds into our faces. As well as being dry and irritating to our eyes, there was also a distinct whiff of sewerage in the air. Not very nice cycling conditions at all!

Matt and Lou's street - Kingsford St - had been very badly affected back in Sept. They had fared no better this time around. Actually, it was a real disaster zone. The road was all over the place - layers of silt everywhere, huge puddles of......well let's just assume it was water..... sink holes.

At least there were some contractors there with their Bobcats starting the job of clearing the silt piles that the residents were piling up. It was a real hive of activity to be honest - at least at the first part of the road. TV cameras capturing the efforts of the locals plus a few student volunteers who had been organised via Facebook.

It's quite a way down Kingsford before you arrive at Matt and Lou's. Far enough that the helpers hadn't arrived there yet. In fact it appeared deserted - an eerie atmosphere - I think a lot of the residents had simply packed their bags and left.

Matt and Lou were busy de-silting their plot - helped by Eioghan and Elaine. I got stuck in too and we soon had a fair bit transferred out onto the street ready for pick-up.

Actually, it was pretty exhausting work. Digging hard, damp, compacted silt is back-breaking work. Thank goodness for tea-breaks.

Their place had taken another bashing from the shake - further damaging the structure and sinking a few more inches into the soft ground on which it currently resides. It's habitable - just. No power or water yet - probably won't have either for a few days based upon the state of the rest of the road and the surrounding environs. No doubt the portaloo will be arriving soon. No fun at all.

Maria headed back early for another trip into Solid Energy and I followed on later once we had shifted as much silt as our aching limbs could cope with for one day. I'm out of shape! Another dusty ride home, spotting and photographing a few images on the way.

Safe and Sound had hot running water and showering facilities - so Maria, Sarah and I headed round to use it. Clean at last!

So it was a relatively sweet smelling dinner-time on Thursday as we tucked into a double helping of Cray Fish that Matt had offered me earlier in the afternoon. They were ones he had brought back from Kaikoura last November and had been frozen in his freezer - but no power was slowly thawing everything out.

Discovered that the water supply was back on in Desmond St - apart from us - again. The mains pipe had ruptured again, in the same place as last time. Call in the plumber and I may not need to use the artesian well for a body-wash afterall!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

6.3 Aftershock - 22nd February 2011

How bizarre - our Christmas present from Jack and Evelyn belated arrived on Sunday - Matt and Lou brought it around - Noel Leemings' had finally delivered the wind-up emergency radio (featuring spotlight and soft glow light) that had been ordered at the end of November. We joked that it had gone quiet recently - on the aftershock front - and that we normally only sat drinking tea and eating cake on our patio as a post-quake ritual. Then 48 hours later - BANG!

The day had started differently to that planned. I had arranged for an early bike ride over the Port Hills with Randall - a pal from the Source to Sea event. But it was raining so we cancelled at 7am. Actually, he had texted to say that the Gondola had reported their ride had ground to a halt and they needed him to go and fix it (he installed it). But the rain prevented me from taking to the hills that morning.

Instead I booked some flights for an Easter break in Australia - taking in Brisbane and Sydney on a whistle stop tour. I also made a few phone calls about possible jobs and then headed off into town to the CDC on Cashel Street to do some work for Business Mentors.

Chris was on a 'day off' from Wendy's - they are located just off Cathedral Square on Hereford Street. I left him logged on to the lap-top as I left for town. he talked about going to the gym later in the day - but then he does a lot of talking about going to the gym rather than actually going!!

Maria and Sarah had left at the same time - it was still raining at 8am and Sarah had asked for a lift in the car as Maria passed by her school on the way to 'Safe and Sound' (What a great place to be when an earthquake strikes - kind of reassuring don't you think?!)

Sarah was on a half day - I think that the teachers were on strike in the afternoon (I might be wrong about that, but there were definitely no lessons on the agenda). As the Boys High School were also off for a half day, the obvious thing to do was to head to Westfiled Mall to do some Girls High/Boys High 'opposite-sex spotting'!

So a pretty normal day...until about 10 to 1...and then all hell broke loose.

Sarah was sat in the Food Hall as the Mall started to shake around her. She grabbed her friend Molly and dived under a table. There was debris falling from the ceiling and a stampede for the door. But everyone got out OK. No major damage observed. A little shaken, Sarah and her friends headed back towards Boys High (there must have been some Boys with them!) - idea being they had a large sports field and it would be safe stading in the middle of that!!

Chris had still been on the lap-top when the house started shaking. Having spent the morning sitting around in his underwear, he decided he should now get dressed as he clearly would have to get out of the house! Apparently he was mid-dress when a large aftershock hit and he says he nearly jumped out of the bedroom window as his room was shaking so much!

By all accounts, Maria's place was safe and sound!

I had just eaten my lunch and had gone back to the desk where I was working on the 2nd floor of the CDC building on the corner of Cashel Street and Liverpool Street. I had experienced a few aftershooks back in January at the CDC and everyone was conscious of the windows imploding as they had done so during the Sept 4th Quake. We had also had a few conversations regarding the strongest part of the building - supposedly being the stairwell - and how you should head for that in the event of a Quake.

There was no warning. No rumble. Just a bang and everything started to shake. It was obvious within about half a second that this was not a 'normal aftershock'. Instinctively I turned my back on the windows and headed for the stairwell. I was conscious that others were heading off in other directions - where to I didn't know. But I was on a mission.

The shaking probably lasted around 10 seconds - maybe a bit longer - I can't really recall. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion - or maybe it was the fact that you couldn't move in a straight line as you were tossed from side to side, against walls and cupboards as you headed for wherever you wanted to be.

Anyway, I made it to the stairwell. I stood there on my own as the shaking subsided and then wondered where everyone else was! "Everyone get out" was shouted by someone in the main office. Good idea, I thought. And then I broke the golden rule. I headed back into the office and to my desk to grab my phone, ruck-sack (containing wallet), bike helmet and jacket. And an apple that I had brought for my lunch but not yet eaten - not sure why I grabbed that, but I did!

There was a cabinet tipped over and blocking the exit for a few of the office staff so I did my bit to help clear a way out for them and then we all headed down the stairs - quite calmly - and out onto Cashel Street. As we exited the building I noticed the building opposite with gaping cracks running down the walls and I then started to realise that maybe it wasn't just a minor tremor. Also, the air was full of dust - which I was later to realise was as a result of the CTV building that had collapsed just 200 yards away.

We gathered on the street outside the building - the road was split open and brown water was spewing all around us. I looked up at the surrounding buildings - all at least 4 stories high - the CDC cloacked in scaffolding from the Sept shake - and thought to myself that this was not a good place to be if another more powerful shake struck. I then noticed the top of the Grand Chancellor Hotel a little further down Cashel Street and noticed that one side had appeared to have sunk. Only the tallest building in town, a quarter or a mile away, looking like it was about to come down. I did not feel comfortable there at all!

It's a bit of a dilema for most. You find yourself in a bad situation. You want to get away. Your normal mode of transport is your car - but in this case it's in a car park which you can't get to - or are frightened to go to - so what do you do? Only option is to walk.....

Unless your bike is parked across the road from the CDC!

So I officially declared I was leaving and I was off.

I actually headed towards the Grand Chancellor for about 100 metres and then turned north up Manchester Street. I then realised just what a disaster we were facing!

All the shop fronts were down. Rubble was littering the streets and piled on top of cars. There were gangs of people tearing at the piles obviously trying to help free people. People were stood around looking helpless. Others were taking pictures or filming with their phones. I got to around Gloucester Street and stopped - partly because the road was blocked by rubble, but also because I wondered whether I should stop to help.

And then I started to worry about Maria and the kids. I rang Maria as I cycled. No reply. I rang home. No reply.

A text came through. I stopped cycling and checked the phone. It was from Sarah asking if I was OK - which meant she was OK. Thank God. Then one from Chris asking the same. Relief. Just Maria now and we were all OK, though I just couldn't get a message to send to her.

I could smell gas. So could others. There were calls to get out of the area quickly. I was at Armagh St and decided to take a left to head across town. As I approached New Regent St I had to negotiate a large hole in the road plus a rather large gap that had opened up between the tram tracks and the tarmac. There were compression breaks too that I had to 'hop over' and puddles of orange water that I had to steer around.

Victoria Park was full of people who had emptied from the likes of Farmers and the Copthorne. I headed over the Avon and over Durham St. The road was particularly bad around here - pretty flooded. Then there was another strong aftershock.

I still couldn't get a message to Maria - neither had I received one from her.

I got to Hagley Park - Armagh Bridge entrance. The Ellerslie Flower Show crowd were beating a hasty exit. As I cycled past, I could see that the area was awash with liquifaction. I headed across the Park, between Victoria and Albert Lakes - except there was no between - they had been joined by about 12 inches of flooding across the dividing cycle path - so I got a a bit wet, or at least my shoes did!

There were piles of silt all over the track and over the golf course - and by the time I had arrived home I had a fair covering over myself and the bike!

Chris greeted me at the bottom of the path with 'the house is f###ed'! I had visions of it being flattened but fortunately he was a little bit over the top with his summary of the situation. Yes, stuff was all over the place; glasses smashed, TV, chairs, bed-side cabinets toppled over, etc... but the fabric of the building was still OK.

Still no news from Maria though.

I sent Chris off to get Sarah from school - forgetting she wasn't there - and set to tidying up the mess in the house. Then my phone beeped and I receved a message from Maria asking if I was OK. 'I am now' I said to myself!

Chris returned home - sans Sarah. Molly's parents turned up, worrying where she was - hoping she was here with Sarah. She was, and when they turned up it was rather emotional for a minute of 2! And they were closely followed by Maria who had left her 'Safe and Sound' workplace to check out that we were all OK!

We were still experiencing quite strong aftershocks and we had a bit of a fright when our garden wall was brought down during one of them.

We set to cleaning up the mess in the house - particularly the kitchen - a nice mix of glass, pasta, bulgar wheat, olive oil and tomato passata all over the floor! No power. No water. But at least we were all OK.

Thank goodness we had an emergency radio....and a landlady with a good supply of champagne! Nicky arrived back at the Studio late afternoon - she had been just around the corner from me Downtown and had experienced death and destruction at close quarters - tending to a guy who had fallen from a 3rd floor apartment onto the road below.

Some friends from around the corner had called in - mainly to get away from their place which was teetering on the brink of destruction - and the bubbly was duely offered to all. So there we were, sitting drinking champagne on one side of the river Avon whilst on the other side, in Hagley Park, hundreds of homeless people were queuing up for a bed for the night in the previously mentioned Ellerslie Flower Show Marquee! I did feel slightly ill at ease, but I think that was mainly due to the bottle of fizz that I supplied not really being up to the standard of those served earlier!

Chris had appeared with four of his pals whose house had 'taken a beating' with plans to sleep on our floor. They had turned up with some food - pizzas - but unfortunately we had no means of cooking them. But then, just as we were about to hatch a cunning plan, the power came back on, around 9pm. So it was pizzas all round! Plus we could catch up on the news of the Quake on the TV - see what the rest of the world was being told. Decided then to let my bro' John know we were OK - no point in letting everyone back home worry unnecessarily!

So that is more or less my story of the Feb Quake - or at least the first 10 hours or so. I guess this one will run a bit. May be a pivotal point in our Antipodean adventure? Watch this space!