It’s time again for a further foray for foreign frippery. Jane and I will be outta here on April Fool’s Day heading first to San Francisco and then onto Paris courtesy of the egalitarian Air France. To be honest, we’re not sure that we’re happy about the Air France flight but then statistically, six out of seven dwarfs aren’t Happy.
2011 – Year of the Rabbit. According to Chinese tradition:
“A rabbit year is quiet, giving respite after the year of the tiger. The Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves.”
Rather than torture you with more pictures of destruction, I thought I’d torture you with a short (but highly descriptive) passage of what it was like at 1251 on Tuesday 22nd February when one of nature’s little hiccups hit the streets of Christchurch.
At home, William was in the bathroom when the house started to shake. “No big deal” he thought, “that will be aftershock number 5,607 since the September earthquake”. The gentle shaking continued a little longer than usual so he started to move out of the bathroom and towards the stairs. It got rough then – bone-shaking rattling and rapid swaying which threw him down the stairs into the path of an oncoming yucca which had been slumbering and admiring the view from a nearby window. Avoiding a shower of china, crystal, furniture and fittings he eventually made it out of the house.
At 1251 Jane was perambulating around the many high-rise blocks at Canterbury University approaching a lecture theatre in the depths of the Engineering Department where her Culture lecture was about to start. (I have no idea either why a Culture lecture would be held in the Engineering block). The shaking started, the ground swayed and Jane was thrown back out of the entrance to the lecture hall and struggled out to open ground where she watched the high-rise blocks sway, crackle and wobble. Immediately throngs of students poured out screaming and running for safety. However, there were several engineering and seismology students who emerged clutching early printouts of data on the occurring phenomenon. They were very happy.
I was walking and heading downtown. I had just passed the clock tower on Victoria street and was strolling past Underground café. In the blink of an eye I was slammed into the café’s front window. I tried to push myself away but just didn’t have the strength to do it. A second later I was hurled away from the window. I tried to keep moving in that direction to get away from the café, (it didn’t seem now was a good time for coffee) but immediately a violent malevolent force threw me back across the pavement, over a chair outside the café and then sideways into the window again. Rinse and repeat.
By then I could see a huge cloud of dust rising ahead of me on the street and close to me an office building was waving forward over the road and back again. Each time it whipped back and forth masonry dropped on the pavement and huge volumes of glass exploded over the road. I knew it wasn’t 9/11 but it looked like it.
Finally, (maybe 20 seconds after it started) I tried to break the cycle and lunged towards the road as I knew I had to get away from glass. As I lunged the ground movement threw me in the same direction and I grabbed hold of the back end of a parked Volvo as I flew past. By now I was learning the pattern so I hung on to the Volvo (I assumed that no-one I knew would see me), and avoided a third revisit to the café window. With luck I took advantage of the next wave and managed to surf my way across the road in front of passing cars which were swerving all over the place trying to ride the rodeo that Victoria street had become. I have to admit it’s probably the only time I’ve been happy to see a Volvo although I can’t tell you what model it was and I hope I didn’t scratch the silver paintwork too much. The opposite side of the road was recently cleared following the September earthquake so fortunately there wasn’t anything falling from the sky on that side.
I escaped unscathed – aside from a serious beating by café furniture, glass panes and Volvo badges.
I immediately called Jane but couldn’t get through, I called William and succeeded. We agreed he would drive towards where I was. I walked back up the road towards home trying again and again to get a call through to Jane. I (completely selfishly), couldn’t even think about stopping to help the many who were rushing screaming from buildings – I just had to get home and get all three of us safely together.
William and I missed meeting up initially but managed to meet up a few minutes after the first aftershock. That was another bout of extreme violence – swaying buildings, scaffolding unwinding from the side of buildings, more dust, glass, masonry and hurt people.
We got home and William went to find Jane whilst I helped neighbours. About an hour and a half after the earthquake we were all home and together. Not that home was a good place to be, we just used it as a place to hang outside of. Being inside the house was just too violent. (During a short foray into the house an aftershock launched a bar stool at me and I was thrown into a concrete wall but at least it made a change from glass).
There you go – that’s what it’s like being in a big earthquake. Sort of like being in a giant concrete mixer running at high speed. Well, I imagine it is, then again it might be more like being in a Volvo when some nutter is trying to dismantle it from the back with his finger nails.
2010 – A Year in Perspex
As the decade dips below the duvet of destiny, humour me as I mark the moment with a handful of highlights, observations of occurrences and tales of tempus.
The mercurial Magda mopped militantly but meticulously. Every time anyone walked on any floor surface at any time of the day or night, Magda would appear from out of the shadows and within seconds the floor would again be shiny and uniformly damp – just damp enough for the next customer to slip on.
We were in Prague for the All White’s first match in the World Cup. As you know that match was against Slovakia so we made the pilgrimage to an Hyundai Fan Park, settled down in Prague Old Square, one hand holding slabs of bread stuffed with rotisserie-roasted pork and the other hand waving at a handful of other Kiwis and we watched – nervously. The result was fantastic, the All Whites were not defeated.
Getting fat in Frankfurt transmogrified into a TGV train for two days promenading in Paris. Another terrific TGV to St. Malo resulted in a romantic reunification with our ropey RV in Pleurtuit.
Twelve hours into our fourteen hour flight we were treated to the unusual sight of the Captain moving with a degree of haste through the cabin. He looked hurried, possibly harried but not panicked.
Lo Fat Slick gunned the red and white Toyota Comfort into the outside lane and merged his taxi into the cloud of water spray that swirled around the line of trucks and buses grinding their way west from the city.
Right that’s it we’re off.
We’ve decided to do a bit more travelling in our old Hymer campervan, which we think is wonderful. Can you guess it yet? Oh yes, I must be a … Hymerbeliever.
Lucky Pepe knew most of his customers very well. They would stop on their way to work and chat, they would stop on the way home from shopping and rest their heavy grocery bags whilst they discussed the results of the draw and cursed their perpetual bad luck.
It was a small town. The French side of the Swiss border was a single lane and by using rigid traffic barriers was designed to act as a pinch-point. Vehicles were forced to slow to a crawl as drivers negotiated a tight slalom.
We were on the island of Hvar in Croatia and the van’s exhaust was rattling alarmingly. In fact it had been rattling and steadily getting noisier since we were in Germany – where it raised both Teutonic tempers as well as Tectonic tensions.
By the time the long and unusually hot summer of 1697 had faded, Antonio Canal had moved into the small square brick dwelling at Castello 5485. A convenient address, just 8 minutes walk from Piazza San Marco, opposite his favourite restaurant – Al Vecio Canton and around the corner from Paulo Polliero’s excellent arts supply shop. Antonio ran rather large accounts at both the restaurant and the shop.
Bond drove listlessly down the Cote d’Azur… sorry, wrong story. I’ll start again…
I’m starting in the middle but future editions will backtrack to our departure from New Zealand,
As nomenclature goes, The Shanghai Forever Bicycle Company was a delight to discover.
Picton on a Easter week evening and the air is redolent with the heavenly smells of Autumn. Down the road in Blenheim the grapes are all but harvested, the Sauvignon is steeling and the Pinot is percolating.
Nearly two thousand years ago there was a volcanic explosion of astonishing scale.
Christmas in a warm climate is different. For a start, there is less retail hype and the build up starts about the beginning of November – much later than in the Northern hemisphere.
So where are we now? We are in Christchurch with Keith & Lyn and are experiencing our first storm.
Unfortunately shares in The Shanghai Forever Bicycle Company hit a pothole and slipped off the saddle. Inevitably the crossbar saved them from crashing, but the pain will take sometime to go away.
We thought we would sneak into Japan undetected using a large cloud to hide our approach. The cloud turned out to be much larger than we had at first thought.