Sunday, September 5, 2010

Drama in Christchurch (but not for us) and some lazy Sunday lunch

I was feeling pretty sniffly on Thursday and Friday, and was looking forward to a good sleep-in on Saturday morning, hoping my immune system would do a good job of fighting back against the evil things which were making me feel horrible.

My staple diet for the last few days

I did sleep-in - until 8am, when our phone rang and had me leaping out of bed, panicking that someone had died (because only our parents ring us at home, and certainly never at 8am on a Saturday). I wasn't quick enough to get to it but immediately checked my mobile, knowing that as the sound was off it could have rung without waking me. It yielded a text message - somewhat cryptic - from my mother: "Chimney down by kitchen but okay otherwise". I rang her and opened my laptop at the same time, realising very quickly that something big had happened - as you are likely all aware by now, there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake based near Christchurch at 4.35am. Astonishly, there have been no fatalities (a product of sound infrastructure and building standards, comparatively low population density, and the anti-social hour of the event) but the photos are gobsmacking. We were there only last weekend, as my previous post attests, and I spent most of the weekend wishing we had booked our flights a week later - there were things happening in Wellington last weekend and in Christchurch this weekend. I have subsequently altered my judgement; I am quite pleased not to have experienced what sounds to be a terrifying experience. We are grateful also that not only were we oblivious until awoken by the phone, but that phone lines remained connected and that there was no delay in determining the safety of either of our families.

Obviously a big clean-up is unavoidable, and many homes are still without water and some without power - and some are altogether uninhabitable. The city is also still experiencing very frequent and fairly strong aftershocks - 30 already today - so it's far from settled there. But the damage is largely to property, not people, and even in terms of property the vast majority of new houses are relatively unscathed - so there is a lot to be happy about for those in the thick of it!

The most vulnerable thing in our family is Merchiston - you may remember us doing high teas to fundraise for repairs. Well, the 130 year old villa did remarkably well, but the repair list has increased a bit. As my mother's cryptic text message indicated, the chimney near the kitchen had come down, falling off the side of the house and making an instant brick pathway (if a rather bumpy one). 

In the photo on the left, you can just make out the chimney peeking above the gable; in the photo on the right there is no longer a chimney on that side of the house - and the one in the middle is significantly cracked (the tarps covering the front of the house are part of veranda renovations which Dad started a couple of weeks ago - not anything to do with the quake). This has been temporarily stabilised by my uncle:

Another chimney at the back also crumbled completely:

(sorry for fuzzy before photo, it probably wasn't ever intended to be published!). This created an obstacle for my cousin, who lives in a bedsit at this end of the house. Her pathway:

Inside the house there were a great deal of open cupboard doors but given the number of fragile items again the damage was fairly limited. I am very sad to see this gilt mirror meet its end:

I know it doesn't look much like a mirror in the second picture. Apparently earthquakes and mirrors are not good friends! My grandmother is also sad that her saint/apostle statues all leapt to an untimely death (all but one, that is, there is some debate about whether the survivor may have pushed the others...):

However, on the bright side, nothing structural seems to have been compromised, and none of the chimneys have been in use for many years. I am very sad to see the damage sustained to the Homebush Homestead built by the Deans family - this was built around the same time as Merchiston and has been lovingly restored - but unfortunately the brick structure was not as tolerant of the movement of the earth as our old wooden villa (Homebush was also very close to the epicentre).

(photos from here and here)

I hope all Christchurch readers were similarly fortunate and are not finding all the aftershocks too unnerving! 

In happier news (and actually food-related), I was planning to do some baking today, but I'm still sniffly enough that I suspect giving food made by me to people would be unkind. However, we did nip down to City Market this morning and got some goodies for lunch.

We got delicious venison and vanilla potato-top pies for lunch from the Wakelin House stall - two for $7 and although they had run out of hot ones we managed to survive waiting 15 minutes for them to warm up in the oven. The filling was lovely, not overly rich as I had thought it might be, being venison, the pastry was crisp and buttery, and the vanilla potato was surprisingly good. Fantastic!

For the first time (after looking longingly at them many times) I succumbed to the draw of Cupcake Sweeties. These are $4 each, and I am sorry to report I was disappointed. The lemon cupcake had a nice cake and a very lemon scented buttercream, which was good but a little overwhelming in the quantity given. Our other choice, though, was caramello - the cake didn't taste good to me at all - it was light, but I couldn't detect any caramel, instead getting a faint whiff of baking soda. I found it pretty bland. The icing was nice enough - cream cheese, I think, but not enough to carry the cake. Oh, and the decoration was compound chocolate and not nice at all - would have been better without! Sorry, Cupcake Sweeties, but I was disappointed.

On to second dessert, then, and finally I managed to be at the market on the same day as L'affaire au Chocolat so chose three chocs to finish off - the caramel (at the front of the left-most photo) was fabulous, with a very deep-flavoured smooth caramel filling - the flavour just kept coming, and the dark chocolate off-set it nicely. The coffee one (centre pic) was filled with a flavoured spicy coffee ganache, and Mr Cake loved it. Last on the list was passionfruit, which again was a ganache filling and had a nice subtle tang to it. These were definitely a great way to finish our Sunday lunch.

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