Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Earthquake: Day 9

Services are beginning to be restored in some areas. When we hear that, we tend to assume it will be in the north and west. However, I was pleased to find that mail is being delivered again in our area. There doesn't seem to be a week's worth of mail, though. Normally we would receive something every day, so after a week there should be more than one item in the letterbox, surely? I guess there is a really big backlog at a sorting depot somewhere.

We are not so fortunate with the mail for Takahe magazine, whose box lobby is behind the cordon. So we will have to go to the Mail Centre at Orchard Rd, near the airport, to retrieve the mail from there, and anything that arrived in the box between Sunday 20th when it was last cleared, and Tuesday 22nd, may have to wait weeks or even months before we can access it.

The news is suggesting that the CBD may not be open until Christmas.

The buses are also beginning again on some routes. We thought that would be the north and west, but the Orbiter, a wonderful service which does a circular route round the city, via many schools and malls, is also resuming. The route will not be so much an "O" though, as a "C" with one segment of the route inaccessible. Still, it means my eldest daughter who works at the university and doesn't drive will actually be able to get to work when it reopens, so that's a big plus. And perhaps having buses running will help with the congestion on the roads.

At the same time, the cancellations are starting to appear. The Ellerslie Flower Show, of course. Siobhan Harvey was planning a launch of her poetry book at the South Library on 8th March - now cancelled. And I had to point out that MCB, where she planned to deliver some copies to be sold, is in the Science Alive building which is behind some serious safety fencing (though my daughters tell me that someone is being allowed in to retrieve the turtle).

Annie Proulx was to speak on March 17th, I had planned to go but that is cancelled. The Press were planning a mini writers festival in May to replace the September festival cancelled after the earlier quake. It hasn't been announced as cancelled yet, but I'm not hopeful. The university has cancelled their April graduation ceremony. The Canterbury Poets' Collective has postponed their autumn series (at which I was scheduled to be a guest reader) until October. The venue for that one is behind the cordons, too. There just aren't many venues available at the moment, and inviting guest readers to visit the city right now would be a big ask. Many, many locals have also left town.

Even so, today felt remarkably normal. Except that I was really, really tired - but I stuck it out at work, because I felt that if I went home and slept during the day, I'd be even more likely to wake at 4 a.m again tomorrow, and the cycle would start again. Actually, I think work is the best thing even though it's hard to get into it at times, and I am trying not to spend too much time on news websites.

I was trying to figure out an appropriate answer to "how's your house?" or "how's your family?" I tend to say, the house is good, it has some damage but it's still liveable. The family are all safe. And of course, we are lucky - our house is not buried under a ton of rubble, or flooded with muck and silt and listing off its foundations because of ground subsidence. Our family are physically fine. But at any other time, if the chimney fell down, cracks appeared in most of your external and internal walls, the driveway developed several big cracks, and yours was the only house it had happened to, you wouldn't think it was "OK". And if family members moved to sleep on the couch just to be handy to the doors, and avoid being upstairs, you wouldn't think they were OK.

The constant coming and going of helicopters overhead is easing off. First it was the news media, then the engineers checking the stability of hillsides - there is an ongoing nervousness about possible rockfalls - and there is also the group flying in hot food to people in eastern suburbs where the roads are too bad to get in easily on the ground. Helicopters, soldiers manning cordons, rubble in the streets - no wonder people are comparing it to a war zone. At least no one is shooting at us.

It was a windy day, whipping the dust from the rapidly drying silt into fine eddies. Our barrel of rainwater that we were heating to wash dishes has developed a fine film of silt over the surface. So we are now using the tap water, which has to be boiled. It takes a long, long time to fill a large saucepan full as the pressure doesn't look like improving any time soon.

Odd bits of good news, such as the pigeon which was rescued alive from the rubble of the Cathedral tower, after being trapped for nearly a week. Can one hope that there will be similar survival stories to come for one or more of the human casualties?

Here is David Howard's moving elegy for Rhys Brookbanks, a young poet listed as missing in the CTV building.

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