the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

Shake, Rattle And Roll…Pt I


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A familiar site and sight in Canterbury…the historic Hororata Homestead

At the time I couldn’t have told you what time it was, how big it was, and I even thought it went only half as long as it did, but I remember September 4th as if it were yesterday.

In my semi/sub-consciousness I remember thinking “For fuck’s sake Jim why the hell are you starting up your truck now?!” As the haze of sleep rose, the noise became louder, and the shaking of the bed suggested his truck was right outside my window. I rolled onto my back, eyes and ears fully aware for a couple of seconds, and summed up the situation. “Right!” was all I said as I leapt up out of bed.



Manchester St, the symbol of the of September 4 2010



Kaiapoi walkbridge



In Katie’s words; “When the bed started shaking I was still asleep and thought it was Keith was shaking me. When I opened my eyes and saw his bare bum running out the bedroom door I knew then what was going on!”. I yelled back behind to Katie to grab the baby and that I was headed to Deanna’s room. I flicked the hall light on and just like in the movies, the lights struggled to life, flickered, and then slowly dimmed. I swear that generator sound they use as score could also be heard as the lights did this. Standing in Deanna’s doorway in the dark, I called out to Deanna and Cohen. Cohen is her 4 year old cousin, spending his first ever sleepover away from (an overprotective) mum. Dee was soon by my side, blubbering, but not yet crying, she knew all too well what was happening, we had only discussed it a couple of weeks before what we would do in emergencies. There was no response from Cohen and I continued to yell to him and rummage in the bed we set up. He simply wasn’t there – it transpired that during the night he had crawled out of his bed and into Dee’s. Typical! With both kids in the doorway, and Katie and Renee (who had in fact only awoken when Katie snatched her from the cot) I was suddenly aware that we weren’t the only ones to look out for. We have pets, and they are part of the family and the noise from the garage where the cats slept was incredible so sprinting by I opened the door to let them run in as I continued to the living area where a couple of my fish tanks were. The floor was soaked, I fumbled in the dark to determine if it was a split seal or cracked glass, and in the dark could make out that water was sloshing out over the top of the 450l tank, but it appeared to be OK. It was about this time that the shaking stopped and it suddenly was eerily quiet, apart from Dee’s sobbing up the hallway. They all joined me in the living area and Katie and I went in search for light. The torch on the fridge didn’t work and I cursed not replacing the batteries I took out to put in one of Dee’s toys last week! Candles were located, and we put them in every room, as candle light can be the complete opposite of providing romantic light in this situation.



The force summed up in this photo near Darfield



Railway tracks near Kaiapoi



As we sat at the table together, we chatted, and explained to the kids what had happened, and everything seemed OK. Renee was in now not going back to sleep so I stayed up with her (after I finally put clothes on!) making coffee on the gas hob, and Katie took the other two to our bed as Dee was clearly not happy with the situation.
As the sun rose, we pretty much just went into routine…breakky, coffee and Milo, having a chat about the night before and the day to come – I wanted to get my lawns done, Katie was going to do some housework and laundry. That’s when the scope of the shake came through, and it came from the other side of the world. Facebook and TXT messages came from the UK, Morocco and the States asking if we were fine…we were bemused that it would be news so far away, so we opened the laptops and the photos on new sites started to show what in fact we had lived through. Suddenly as our friends and family closer to home awoke, our hones went nuts and people started quoting news articles to us as we had no media other than the laptop.

The day was stunning, but weirdly cold. My tropical tanks (temperature was dropping) were my only concern as the house (apart from a few small things) was firmly intact. That afternoon I did as I said I would, mow my lawns with coffee and smoke in hand, iPod blasting metal and 80s music. Missed the 5+ aftershock completely.

Heritage buildings thankfully getting
attention

As time went on, days rolled on, it was clear we had had a major disaster, our beloved Christchurch was in chaos, infrastructure was on edge, people concerned. But through it all, there was a collective sigh of relief that there was not a single fatality, a miracle no doubt. And the talk amongst us, the neighbours, the community, and the city was that Christchurch would come out OK, we are a tough and resilient collective, and it wouldn’t be long before we would and could get back to normality.

Our symbol of hope – the iconic Cathedral
stood stoically after it all
Aftershocks kept coming, some made you stop and think about your next move, but soon they just became a part of routine, a lot not even being noticed, or commented no more than a fleeting remark. Months on, they kept coming, and we were distracted by events on the West Coast and the country went into mourning.

Me and Katie were married in December as planned, Christmas Day was spent with friends and family, and even the jolts of Boxing Day and following did not really dent the Canterbury psyche…our attentions were turned across the Tasman were some of my family who had only been here days before were being crushed by floods and later a hurricane.
Life carried on, a sense of normality was definitely back, the city functioned as it did prior, and apart from the demolition being carried out and the doom-sayers warning of coming Armageddon, it seemed we would all be OK…

How quickly nature can bite you on the arse…

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