Friday, March 4, 2011

Earthquake Brain

I'm sorry I've been AWOL all week - blogging has slipped off my radar a little; I just haven't been able to focus very well - all I want to do is check every two minutes to see if there are any odds-defying survivors being pulled from the rubble.

As well as the earthquake filling my head I'm also in the midst of changing jobs (I had an interview last Wednesday, which I barely feel like I attended but evidently it worked out as I've secured the contract role I was after), and am handing over my current role to my replacement as well as learning the new one this week. We're heading off to Melbourne on Saturday, for a long-awaited holiday (with lots of foodie escapades which we booked ages ago) and though that's obviously something really exciting at the moment it just seems like an extra complication. As such, I've done almost no baking - and certainly nothing new or interesting - in the last couple of weeks. I thought I'd provide a quick update, though, and some quake pics, which are hopefully less depressing than the ones on Stuff.

When I arrived in Christchurch last weekend there were no immediately apparent signs of the quake, except that the airport was packed full of people. My youngest sister picked me up and it wasn't until we were well along Brougham Street that there were any visible effects (apart from the really heavy traffic) - the north and west sides of the city are relatively good, which is great for the people who live there, obviously, and also for the city as a whole as it means that you can shack up with your rellies on that side of town if you need to. Mr Cake's Mum and Dad never lost power or water to their house, which goes to show that perhaps my folks are living on the wrong side... ;-)

The biggest landscape change noticeable from the street was the liquefaction - astonishingly huge piles of sand were everywhere (people have been working so hard to clean up even three days after the fact much of the sand was shovelled off the road).

When we arrived at home Grandpa was out front of the old house trying to mend the grandmother clock (a grandfather clock has a glass-front case, so you can see the workings; ours has a wooden door). It's in better shape than I'd expected considering it fell over - though when I left he hadn't yet started reassembling the workings. Here's hoping he can bring back the chime!

The dining room mantle piece at Merchiston decided, rather dramatically, to explode - which gave my Mum, who was in the next room when the earthquake hit, a bit of a fright! The photo on the left was taken at Christmas - so after September's quake. The mantlepiece made it down in one piece (you can see it at the bottom of the fireplace in the middle photo), though it did make a bit of a dent in the wooden floor. The light fitting took a leap from its chain (anyone in Christchurch have a nice large light fitting going spare?) but none of the plaster fell off the ceiling (though there is a crack through it now).

The plate cupboard above the sink in the kitchen, which astonishingly made it through September's shake completely unscathed, lost most of its contents. This is one of many of the incidents where, had so much been broken back in September we would have been very upset - but now, considering the family are all alive and well, seems really rather insignificant.

The music room lost its lovely gilt mirror in September but that was pretty much it - this time a lot more came down (the photo on the left is pre-September; middle is September 4; right is this time round).

And the photo taken in September of the cracks in the plaster moulding is probably no longer needed as proof of damage - this time large chunks of it fell to the floor!

Still, there are lots of positives. First of all, this is only stuff. Secondly, plaster and bricks can be picked up off the floor, and even 130-year-old carpet can come up looking rosy after a bit of vacuuming:

Thirdly, this really is bringing people together - people are offering each other help, chatting to their neighbours, and generally just doing what they can to restore normality to everyone.

My uncle/grandparents have rigged up a hose from an artesian well on the property to the street so that anyone who needs to can fill their water bottles at any time - lots of others have done the same. People are knocking on doors and offering help - and the Student Volunteer Army is just incredible.

And finally, people might be on edge, but they are making the most of the little things; rejoicing in showers and flushing toilets (I had a renewed appreciation for both when I got back to Wellington, and I was only down there for two days!) and truly appreciating the people in their lives (which is really a big thing, but one we do tend to take for granted).

I did do a spot of baking while I was there - my Mum's second cousin Jenny, who is intellectually handicapped, turned 60 last Saturday. Unfortunately due to the chaos the home she lives in cancelled their celebration, but Grandma had planned an afternoon tea for her on Sunday so I whipped up a cake in the morning. Fortunately my Mum generally has a well-stocked pantry so ingredients weren't an issue - sadly the local supermarket has been condemned so nipping down for a block of butter is no longer an option. I claim an aftershock moved my stencil - hence the sloppy placement of her name. ;-)

I probably won't have any baking stories for another week, since we're heading away, but I do have a competition coming up for you in the next day or two, so keep your eyes peeled for that - and there should be some cool stories from Melbourne, too, so I won't be completely absent. I hope you can forgive me my earthquake brain!


  1. My mother sent me a new acronym she had come across: ETA - Earthquake trauma amnesia. Where you can't remember what you're supposed to be doing next due to aftershocks. As acronyms go, think it pretty well describes how your (and my) earthquake brain.

  2. I love your blog. It must have been great for your parents to see you in this time.
    Family is so important. I live in Barrington and I have that braindead thing too. Love the other comment, will tell some people about that as I feel that way. I hope you enjoy your time away.

  3. I find it so hard imagine what cantabrians are going through but this post has got me a little closer. So sorry for your family having to go through all this.
    Have a great time in Melbourne, take lots of pics to share with us when you come back.

  4. Hope your holding up. The earth seems to be quieting down and being able to get back to work has been pretty huge in getting over earthquake brain. Initially I had to have tv shows from tvnz running in the background to occupy my brain to not think "earthquake earthquake" ect. I also limit my exposure to it by only several looks a day. Hope your parents house is OK structurally.

  5. Daniel, that's an excellent acronym. :-)

    Vivien, thank you! It was great to be able to see the family - even when you know they're fine it's good to be there.

    Jacksta, I know - I feel a bit of an outsider myself, not having been there, and there are so many so much worse off. I will do my best to bring a bit of Melbourne's foodie delights here. :-)

    Simone, thanks, I'm fine - just a tad obsessive. ;-) I think it's very wise to ration media access - they do show the very worst over and over again. Good that you're able to get back into the swing of regular life - and that the ground is settling down a bit!

  6. Very much appreciate your efforts to restore my pantry to better than before eathquake condition. Still thinking of the moment when you asked "What are you keeping this for?" and I said it was in case there was a big disaster....

  7. I was just thinking we hadn't heard from you in a little I headed over hear & very happy to hear that all your family in Christchurch are all OK. X

  8. Glad to hear from you again. You've been in all of our thoughts. Hope your trip to Melbourne gives you a little break from earthquake brain. Are you going to any food & wine festival events?? I was dying to go but have some other trips planned this year and couldn't afford everything. Have fun!

  9. Have an amazing time in Melbourne, looking forward to hearing all your food-stories!

    So glad all your family in Christchurch are okay. I really, really love that carpet :)

  10. Mum, well, no comment. ;-)

    Mairi, thanks - all safe and well. :-)

    Millie, thanks for thinking of me! We have been to a couple of festival events and have another couple lined up - this will be our holiday for 2011 so making the most of it!

    Laura, thanks, there will be plenty of Melbourne stories coming up, I'm pretty much eating non-stop. ;-)

  11. Enjoy Melbourne, I was meant to be going too but decided to postpone after the well and I shall look forward to a debrief!


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