Monday, 9 May 2011

From Earthquake Number 2....

The first Earthquake had been a bit of a joke for me. Scary, sure, but really a bit of an adventure. We had all huddled under the table for a couple of hours, felt the aftershocks. I saw a few cracks in my drive way and had laughed at my Mint Sauce Bottle leaning slightly. Corrina had been spooked enough to go to Auckland for a few days. Life went on pretty much as normal. I think we lost power for the morning. We went and got McDonald's for breakfast (couldn't get a hot coffee! How bothersome!!). Today is 7th March. Nearly 2 weeks from the second major Earthquake. Luke and I are home alone. Corrina and the girls are still in Auckland, they get back on Wednesday. This is not a joke anymore, this is serious. People died. No one I know personally but Christchurch is small enough for it to have an effect. Ella's teachers grandchild. I see the names of the people dead or missing from the CTV building and recognise names from typing their business cards at work. This first post is all over the place but that's how I am at the moment. The day itself - In the lunch room with Mike, Karen and Murray J. I had finished my Rice Risotto and was cleaning my bowl. I am sure that there is a split second that you know its coming. We are used to small rumbles now. I glance up from my bowl then all hell breaks loose. I leap to the door frame (I am not sure if this is because its suppose to be the safest place or I want out quick). Mike and Karen have the same idea and we are all stuck like an odd conga line. Murray has fallen and is sitting on the floor. I shout to him to see if he is OK. The microwave flies across the kitchen followed closely by cups and plates. We manage to free ourselves and run to the car park. I see dust rising from somewhere and a few people coming out of the side door. I know instantly that I need to get home. I just want to get to the girls and Luke. I need my car keys which are beside my desk. I know I shouldn't enter the building but I have to get those keys. I run up the stairs passing people coming down - Janice and Louise I think. I make my way to my desk, pausing briefly to look around and see computers on the ground and paper everywhere. I grab my bag and run to the exit. Robert is just ahead of me. I shout back "Is anybody still in here?". No answer. Good. Down the stairs and into the car park. I stand on the wall and look around. I remember Aletha and Lorene crossing the road looking pale and terrified. Then I hear Wayne Wright shouting for help and enter the warehouse. Several of us start moving boxes and pallets but I get the impression that he is OK so I just want to get to my car. I leave others to it and run pass More FM and to my car in Beverage Street. I snake around the back streets as the main roads are already blocked. I have to do several U-turns as the roads are blocked and have lifted up. One had a power line draped across it but I managed to mount the kerb and get under it. I eventually get to Marshland Road but this is like a river and cars are not moving. I park up in a doctors surgery an start to run up towards QE11 Drive. I remember thinking that I didn't want to get my new sneakers wet!! That didn't last long. I bang on Glenda and Peters door thinking I would be able to use the phone but then remember that they are in Hanmer for the day. Continue running pass Bunings and onto QE11 Drive. I stick out my thumb and a 4 wheel drive stops. I hop in and he takes me to Burwood Road lights. I run more, switching from side to side of the road because of all the water. I see Tony Ambrose (a friend from Reffing) drive the other way and he asks if I am OK. Then I get picked up by a young Indian man. He is smoking and asks if I want one. I say no but I have a drink of his water. Do I go to the school first or home? I decide home because he is driving right passed. I hop out of the car and stand at the bottom of my drive and gaze towards my garage. At this point all I can do is laugh. I register the FOR SALE sign on the fence and realize that we will not be selling at no point soon. What looks to me like wet cement is half a meter deep the entire length of my drive - about 25 meters. A large hole has appeared on the front lawn. The kids sand pit, a large wooden box, has floated the entire length of the drive and come to a halt near my front gate. I cannot do anything here. I run back up the road towards the school. Down an alley that leads there. I am stopped by a torrent of water separating me from the school. I run towards the back entrance. The water is a trickle now. I see a lady with 2 kids going into her house and I ask if she backs onto the school. She does so I run up her garden and clamber over the fence. I land in the school field. Kids are everywhere but I see Ella in a group then Beth. I hug Ella then I see Corrina running from the other direction. We all hug and she tells me that the Mother-in-Law has Luke. We are all safe. Corrina tells me to calm down, that I am panicking, she is right. I put it down to adrenalin after my running and leaping.  Corrina's work mate Gary gives us a ride home but I decide its quicker to walk. We thank him and get out and walk the rest of the way home. I leave the others on the front lawn while I wade through the goo. I enter the lounge. It looks OK. Pictures have fallen and broken. The kitchen is chaos. Every item from the pantry is on the floor but nothing had smashed. Only the honey had lost it's lid??. The fridge, a heavy fridge, has moved at least a metre into the middle of the kitchen and the stove has also moved towards the middle. The force is mind boggling. I set up a safe area at the front of the house and carry the kids in. Corrina wades in. There is no electric or water. Thelma turns up with Luke. We start to clean up the kitchen and pick up the glass in the lounge. I also start to clear a path to the gate. The goo is heavy and sticks to the spade. We start to find our emergency stuff - torches, gas bottle, lantern, bottled water. We had learned from EQ No1. The thing I hate most is boiling water and storing it. Don't know why.
We all sleep in the lounge. Aftershocks happen regularly and wake us every time. Next day is much of the outside and in but its crappy work. I go to get my car that I left in Marshland Road. Thelma takes me. The roads are bad. Cracks and bumps everywhere. Water mains leaking. I get the car and drive back along QE11 Drive. I see lots of cars towing full trailers - running away. I pass Tim, an old football friend. I played with him for 2 seasons a few years ago. Hadn't seen him since. I wind down the window and notice his car is loaded with stuff. "Where you going?" I shout across the road. "Up North" he says. I say "Good Luck Mate" and he says "Stay Safe". And that's all but it made me sad and brought a tear to my eye.
The next day me and Matt (Corrina's sisters boyfriend) keep shovelling. Its slow, dirty work. Shane comes round to help. He somehow manages to flag down a passing truck and they agree to help us. They are from a company called Mainland Fencing and have a small digger. They drive up the path and start moving our silt. I remember the driver of the digger is Scottish. About 5 of them shovel silt into barrows. We offer them drinks and food but they just keep working. An hour later its mostly all piled up on the road outside. About 6 piles as big as a car. Where did it all come from?? They leave to help someone else. They saved us about 2 weeks work.
Corrina has been trying to call Air NZ for a couple of days. We hear they have $50 flights. No answer. Corrina is keen to get away. I am not so sure I want to. I feel like I should stay with the house - not sure why. We look into driving and getting the boat but its expensive with 2 cars. Still no answer at ANZ. Its getting hard with no power or water. I am collecting well water from a house around the corner. We have to boil everything on the camp stove. I have dug a hole in the garden. I an OK with it but Corrina and the girls struggle. We get our land line back so we get Mat to phone home. He is the only one who hasn't spoke to his family. They are in Scotland. It turns out that Mats mum has been in contact with Mats Uncle Ian in Auckland and he has flown down to find Mat and Narelle (she is 6 months pregnant). They are staying with us so they are not at home. Mats mum phones his mobile and gives Ian our address. An hour later Ian is walking up our drive. Amazingly Ian works for Air NZ and has contacts in reservations. He has got 2 tickets to Auckland for Mat and Narelle, leaving in 2 hours. He speaks to someone and they say they will look into flights for us. I drive them to the Airport. Nearly there and Ian's phone rings. Get them to the Airport now - 7 standby tickets!! I am wearing grubby shorts and a t-shirt that I have been digging in. I call Corrina - pack your bags and get to the airport quick.
We all get onto the 747 but Narelle doesn't! I feel bad as she is how we got the tickets..but then I see her on the plane so we are all on apart from Corrina's mum. She get on the next flight. We get to Auckland and find out that they left our bags in Christchurch. I go a bit mad on them as I have no clean clothes and am wearing dirty ones! The man from ANZ quietly asks Corrina if I am OK. He thinks I am a bit loopy. I think I was just pissed off they lost our bags!! We get them from the next flight and go to Corrina's friends.
The next week is spent pleasantly swanning around Auckland. Corrina works from the Auckland office. The girls get into the local school. I manage to dodge a speeding ticket because I am from Christchurch. The big Maori Policeman gently sends me on my way with a sympathetic look. We go to Kelly Tarltons Aquarium. One lady who we speak to promptly bursts into tears and has to be consoled!! A mother at the girls school buys them both bags and a pencil case. I catch up with James and Fiona.They are great and I love seeing familiar faces.We watch the news for the first time and see the state of the city. It brings tears to our eyes. But I am restless. I want to get back to clean up the house. Its decided that I go back with Luke.
Driving from the airport you wouldn't know what all the fuss is about until you get to Burwood Road. Then its like a war zone. Dust and piles of rubble piled up on the side of the road. Bumps and puddles to swerve around. We get home and it is pitch black. No power yet and no street lights. I get a call from Dave O'Neill (a Ref friend) who offers me a generator. His son brings it round and gets it going. It is like having a Harley parked on your doorstep but we have a fridge and TV and lights. Fantastic! Thelma (the mother-in-law) is home so we go there for dinner and a shower every day. I have a meeting with work. Its not looking too good. They cant get in because of the building next door. It may fall. I don't want in! I start to think about the future. I am 40 this year. The kids are young. Do I want to live in a city that I have no emotional ties to while it is a building site? To be honest I didn't really want to live here before so its a no-brainer for me. I want out. Auckland would be good?? I have friends there..Melbourne would be good? UK?
A week later we get water and power. I am very happy with that. Corrina and the girls are home. Corrina is back to work but I am not. I am now a house husband. Its hard with all the kids at home everyday. The girls go to Home school at Corrinas friend Kims house. They do a brilliant job and give me a break for 4 hours a day. Still have Luke though. I try to sweep up but the sand just flies around . Easier to do when its wet.
Skip forward to May 9th. I have been back at work for 3 weeks but only 3 days a week. I like these hours. The decision has been made. Melbourne here we come. We leave on June 18th. The girls are not that keen. They worry about silly things but important to them. Ella - "I can't speak Australian" and "I won't be able to marry Bradley". She is 5. I am scared but excited. I need a new job. We have somewhere to stay for a month or two. I just hope the girls like it as much as I do. We have been in Christchurch for 5 years and I can't say that I love the city but I do like the people and I have fond memories. I will love to return in 5 or 10 years and see what has been done. Good Luck - you will need it!


  1. Please excuse any poor grammer or spelling. I just wanted to get this off my chest.

  2. Reading this five years on is pretty powerful, Neil. Brings back a flood of memories like it was yesterday. I'm so happy you and your family made the right decision to go to Melbourne, but I sure do miss you. :) Sue

  3. I actually cannot read this anymore. When I did last read it, about 2 years ago it made me feel sick and teary so now I just don't. I miss you and others from Christchurch but I know I made that correct choice. It has led me in such an amazing direction.