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Spring is springing

Posted on Tuesday 27 September 2011 at 04:45 - 2 Comments - Link

Another 6 months on, another blog entry.  How things change from when I first started this?!  It is now Spring again, and believe it or not our wee boy Harry is now well past his 1st birthday which is pretty epic all things considered.  He is pretty awesome, and the apple of his daddy's eye (what a surprise!). 


2 big old earthquakes and a few thousand smaller ones see us still clinging on here in Chch.  Things have certainly got much harder as a result of the quakes, everything from travelling around Chch to our job security.  Add this to a wonky house and an indefinate outcome of whether it is to be fixed or not and we've had - and I think will continue to have - a pretty stressful time of it.


On the plus side, I've got my old TDR250 motorbike back up and running so that's giving me a few grins every day, my olds are over from that there Welsh Wales for the Rugby World Cup and we've caught a few matches down in Dunedin which were great fun.  Kaikoura Seafest this weekend, and then a week up in the Marlborough Sounds late October will also help those stress levels a bit I reckon.


In light of all that's happened here with the earthquakes, T and I have had some in depth heart to hearts about our options.  They are pretty limited as all our equity is tied up in quake damaged property, so even if we did want out then it may prove to be a tricky and financially messy process.  Fortunately we're not keen on leaving right now, however maybe as things drag on and on and on with the EQC (earthquake commission - the government run insurance scheme that protects insurance policy owners for EQ damage) due to the volume of work they have on this may change.


We've made some great friends here now, and are loath to leave them to start up again somewhere else, plus some of our mates are in the country so we get to do all fun things like bottle feed orphaned lambs, and go hunting deer and pigs, and pick our own cow to feed up and take to slaughter to go in the freezer and all that good stuff.  Plus, summer's around the corner so it'll be time to dust of the speargun and go grab some kai moana!


Anyway, just thought I'd drop in to say still, here, still enjoying it though not quite loving it as we once were, but then wee quakes will do that to ya.  Good luck to you if you are soon to arrive in NZ, it's a great place to be.

The dust settles

Posted on Sunday 27 February 2011 at 07:33 - 1 Comments - Link

Tomorrow it will have been a week since the quake.  7 whole days.  It seems to have been fleeting in some ways, and yet interminable in others. 


Yesterday, I helped my neighbour Rangi out, as his cousins place in Avonside had big holes in the roof.  After feeling sad about our place, to see his was a revelation.  1 metre wide cracks in the garden, the front right of the house had subsided, the 2 chimneys had collapsed through the roof and into the lounge.  In short, it was seriously messed up.  He's an older chap, never bothered with insurance, so he has no EQC (earthquake commission - a govt body that effectively insures property against quakes) coverage.  He just has to make do as best he can.


We spent 3 hours retiling the roof for him, re-alligning all the displaced tiles and tying then onto the battens with wire.  It felt good to be helping out, even in such a small way.


We drove back along Avonside drive.  What a mess that palce is.  Whole sections of road have dropped 2 or 3 feet towards the river.  Telegraph poles are on a 45 degree lean.  Random holes have opened up in the road.  Houses are missing walls, roofs, and liquefaction is all over the place.  Made me realise that Hoon Hay - although a bit knackered - is not even in the same realm as poor Avonside.  Many of the houses are empty after the first quake - it was all rather eerie.


I got back to Halswell, where we remain with our in-laws, and showered off the dirt.  We then headed off to see our friends Dom & Gina in Parklands.  They are quite near the beach, and goodness what a trip to get there.  A couple of the usual roads were closed, and as we got into the housing areas you could see why - feet of silt all over the place, more broken roads, flooded houses, ruined property.  The extent of it is simply mind boggling.  Then we turned a corner into Dom's road and it was almost as if nothing had happened.  The randomness of the quake's effects has to be seen to be believed.  Really odd stuff.


We remain in Halswell and will do for a while yet.  Carl, my brother inlaw, knows a builder chap who has been doing EQC building surveys and so will try and give our place the once over in the next day or two and comment on its soundness.  T is not keen on a return, expecially considering the liquifaction that has gone on underneath the house itself, and hopefully this will reassure us both that it is OK.  I feel that it is, and am keen to get back there but better safe than sorry and all that.


On Saturday, it was announced that as people needed to boil all water, and most folks use bottled gas for their stoves, the gas companies were giving their gas away so people could achieve clean drinking water.  We had almoist run out and so took our bottles along to the Caltex station on Blenheim road.  It was a couple of hours till they were filled, but I used the time to speak to all the others queuing and it was great to share stories and get some community spirit going.  The staff there handed out papers and chuppa chups lollies so all were in good spirits.  Good on the gas firms!


Today I am due to return to some aspect of work, with our first meeting since last Tuesday.  It will be for a few hours at a local coffee shop, and I am really looking forward to catching up with everyone.  I know that at least 2 of my colleagues are living elsewhere after their homes have been destroyed, and saddest of all is that my boss's sister in law is still missing.  It is sounding likely that we won't be going back into the city for at least a month, and that's if our office building is still habitable.  Even if it is, I don't know how many of our staff will be happy working in a 10 story building after this event.  So, it will be interesting to share our thoughts on where we go to from here, and to start discovering what - if any - of our clients are still standing, let alone trading.


Still, the dust is settling and life does go on.  Let's see where it actually goes to.

Achey Quakey Heart

Posted on Saturday 26 February 2011 at 02:51 - 3 Comments - Link

Don't really know where to start this one.  Usually it would be with an attempt at wit, an apology for not having done it for a while, and so on and so forth, but after the last few days it all seems a little trite.


First off, following Tuesday's 'quake here in Christchurch, you'll (hopefully) be pleased to hear that both I, T and little H are all fine and dandy.  Pretty amazing really, in that I had agreed to go with T to H's 6 month assessment at the doctors, to check he was hitting his milestones and his early birth hadn't affected him.  It was the first time I had done so.  The quake hit just as we were halfway through.  We were in a big room, and it was moving so much I just threw myself over H, tried to grab T at the same time, and then just stayed there till it stopped. 


Unlike the September quake, it seemed shorter but a little more violent and irregular.  That one in September seemed like being rocked from side to side, compared to this one just shaking us all over the place.  We knew it was a decent one, but didn't feel that it would be too bad.  After getting over the shock, we decided to split - me to go into the city and check up on my colleagues, and T to go home and check the house.


It was only after getting in the car and turning on the radio that things started to click into place that this was something so much worse than September.  Traffic started building, I was driving through foot deep water, past cars stuck in silt, past roads split in two, and then heard about a number of building collapses.  My heart sank, and I tried calling T but the phones were jammed and then my phone started beeping as the battery wore out.  Unexpectedly I got a call - my neighbour, on his way back to Chch after a trip to Kaikoura, saying was I OK as his wife had been to ours and it was a mess.  I told him she was OK, and asked about the house but he didn't know any more.  The phone went dead.  Shit!  Traffic continued to get worse as everyone was doing the same as me.  I skipped the idea of getting to the city after I heard that the Cathedral spire had collapsed into the square.  My office is directly opposite so I started thinking about my work colleagues and if they had got out OK.  Thank goodness I was with T and knew she was OK!   I was then thinking about our friends kev & Vicky, and their 2 kids, who'd only the day before landed in Chch to start a 3 week holiday.  They were due to be in the city at the time of the quake.  I could only hope they were OK.


Thoughts ran through my head about what I would find when I eventually made it home.  Traffic was now gridlocked and I took to the back streets to finally get home one and a half hours after I'd started, for what is usually a 20 minute journey. 


I arrived to find that T had made it back just before me, and we surveyed the house with a feeling of relief - it was still standing - and shock as it was surrounded with large piles of silt and looked to be flooded with water.  There was no power, and mud everywhere.  Kev & Vicky were there too - they had had a lucky escape from a cafe that has since collapsed, and chose to walk the 6kms back to our house.  After securing the house and grabbing what we could, we left to go to our inlaws who had power, water and a phone, and got to contacting friends and family.


We spent the evening in shock, watching the TV reports starting to reveal the true extent of what had become of our beautiful city.  Scared, helpless, with aftershocks still regularly rattling the windows, it was eerie to think that only 7kms away, people were trapped, dying, or already dead, yet here we all were - a family together, with food in our bellies and a roof over our head.  You could have thought that we were watching events on the other side of the world.  So strange.


The following day - Wednesday.  Phone connections had improved to the point where we could call family in the UK and let them know we were OK.  Internet was up and running, and facebook became a godsend in keeping everyone so far away - and local - updated with what was going on.  We went back to the house to have a good look.  It seemed that the old cracks from the first quake had got worse, and we had some new ones to admire.  The silt was throughout the front and back garden, and over a foot deep in places.  The front and read doors needed to be encouraged to open as they were stuck hard in their frames.  Any builder will tell you, this is not a good sign.  Inside, the kitchen, dining room and bedrooms were a mess but nothing that couldn't be sorted out.  Glass had broken, cupboards had emptied, and T got busy clearing this up. 



 I headed to the neighbours and borrowed his wheel barrow, and got stuck in to this lot.



After 7 hours of shovelling and barrowing, I was only about a fifth through it.  This stuff looks like a pile of sand but it is sticky, fluid and fould smelling.  It is apparently a realatively unique result of the Chch topography.  As Chch is build on an ancient riverbed laid down by the Waimakariri river over millions of years, underneath it is not rock, but billions of tons of sand, shingle and stone.  There is a water table in this that is relatively close to the surface.  When a quake hits, the silty sand in the ground under the water table liquifies in the water around it, and acts like a liquid - the pressure from the buildings and roads above forcing it to come jetting out of the ground like a mini geyser.  Once the shaking stops, the sand behaves like sand again, allowing the water to flow away and leaving us with tons and tons of the stuff to clear away.  The hydraulic pressure this stuff exerts in huge - it bursts up through tarmac and concrete, it allows deeply driven piles to move in one, two or even all three planes, and generally is a bloody destructive force.  As my mate said to me over the phone the other day 'NZ, it's like living inside a geography lesson!'.



 The front yard (above) now has some new crap to go with the old chimney - the pile of bricks in the corner - which was a victim of the first quake.



That evening we went back to our in-laws, and watched the news - stunned at just how bad our city had been hit.  Some people had been saved, others confirmed dead.  Stories of heroics, luck, and tragedy unfolded.  After a while we turned it off, feeling helpless.


Thursday we went back home, and carried on where we'd left off.  Only this time it seemed that everyone had felt the same as we had the night before, and we had people coming to help out from all over.  My neghbour and 2 of his friends came with barrows and shovels.  A mate came down from Rangiora with a shovel and a tray of baking from his wife!  Toni's old shcool friend and her other half spent the morning with us.  My sparky mate Harry came and donated an hour of his time, even though it was his birthday!  One guy just pulled up in his ute, jumped out and got stuck in - thanks Mike!  This meant that by the end of the day it was all shovelled, barrowed, and now in a big pile by the side of the road.  We all had a few well earned beers. 


I spoke to my boss in the evening, and heard that all in our office had got out and survived, despite the building next to us collapsing.  It went without saying that we were unlikely to be back in the city for a while and so work has been put on hold till Monday.


Friday was an odd one.  I was shattered, both physically and mentally.  We went back to our house again but ended up cuddling on the sofa for hours, just T, me and our boy, having little urge to do anything other than all be together.


And that brings us to today.  Life goes on - and we may no longer be the top spot on the BBC1 news - but rescuers continue to search, volunteers continue to work hard at making someones life better, neighbours are neighbourly.  Shops are open, petrol stations are trading, support is coming, and in some way, shape, or form, I am positive that Chch will make it through.  It will never be the same.  It may not even be similar.  But it will be Christchurch, and it will be we who live here who will make it our own again.  We will mourn the loss of so many lives, we will celebrate the victories - however small - as we have them, and we will look back on this event with sadness in our hearts.  However it will also be with the knowledge that this will only bring an already closely knit city even closer together, as it is us - the people who live here - that make it what it is.


Thank you to all those who have offered words of support and offers of assistance.  Both T and I appreciate these so much, and even if you are 12000 miles away, know that your call or email is as much help emotionally, as a man with a shovel would be physically.


Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, we are thinking of you.




Happy New Year!

Posted on Wednesday 19 January 2011 at 02:46 - 19 Comments - Link

It'll be 4 years today that we left the UK for NZ.  4 years!  Can't quite believe it but the calendar apparently doesn't lie. 

So, as usual these days it's been a while since I've updated you all on goings on.  You'll be pleased to hear that little Harry has done an awesome job of catching up following his early start and is now close to 6kgs of loveliness.  10 weeks of special care was all it took to see him right and that whole episode now seems so far behind us.  Here he is at Christmas:



We've been discovering just how much time and energy a child involves, but are slowly getting used to it and Harry seems to continue to flourish so we can't be messing him up too badly.

Was a pretty intense time for sure, but we've had an almost constant family presence throughout the last 6 months in the form of T's mum, then my sister, then my parents, then T's mum again, so having that support has been invaluable.

2011 is going to be a good one I feel.  T will be heading off back to work in April, my work carries on well, and the house sort of survived the big earthquake that struck Chch in September so we can at least still live there.

So much to catch up on!  Well this at least assures you that we are alive and kicking, with a new face to join the Great Gallumphings team.  Will try and get a decent run down and some new pics on here in the not too distant future. Catch up soon :0)


And then there were three!

Posted on Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 12:28 - 7 Comments - Link

Hi folks.  Wow, what a day!  It's been a manic 24 hours, but T and I are both so happy to announce the arrival of our son, at 6.33am this morning, weighing 1.24kgs, and 10 weeks early.


As usual when it comes to us, this pregnancy has been a rollercoaster of emotions, with T being good then bad, better then worse, then better, then worse, then better etc.


Only last night she got worse, and then got worse still.  Baby doctors did their thing, and the decision was made to deliver this morning.  All went well, and although both Toni and baby are in intensive care, both have improved throughout the day and we hope for the pair of them to bloom over the coming weeks.


Our first kiwi-lad!  We've yet to name him as T has been too poorly to see him as yet but this should change soon.  She's already vetoed 'Captain Awesome O'Dell' but I really can't see why!?  Although we have some ideas, suggestions are always welcome - you never know!


Here's a couple of pics from today:


Fresh from mum, you can see his dad coming through, especially in how well he carries off the plastic bag...  (They get better believe me :0) )


10 fingers, 10 toes - but a wee bit of growing to do...



She may well hate me for posting it, but here's Mum & bub - soon to be united.  T did so well - she has consistently continued to amaze me throughout our life together, but today she has surpassed even herself (if that's even possible?!).



A lifetime awaits us, and I am one proud dad right now.  From those who have been there already, do you always feel like this about your children?  It's an alien feeling, but then so right at the same time.  I can't wait to get to hospital tomorrrow and see them both again. 


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