The forecasters had warned us of a severe southerly buster arriving late yesterday afternoon. Right on cue it arrived just after 6 p.m.. The TV news suddenly cut out, there was an immense clap of thunder. I turned the TV off and Anne closed down our two computers. There were further flashes and rumbles and then the hail came down. Within seconds the lawn was white. Spectacular! The drum-roll of sound of it hitting the corrugated iron roof prohibited conversation. Within an hour the storm had passed over.
This morning I woke up to use the commode just after 4 a.m. I can do this without taking the mask off. I’d just got back into bed and put off the touch lamp when I heard the rattle of books, pictures and equipment. It’s an earthquake. Well, I was in bed and it passed. I dozed off. When I woke up after seven I wondered about getting up and putting the radio on to see if the quake was mentioned and where it had occurred. .The alarm was set for 7 30 so I lay abed.
Having pulled the curtain I could watch the rising sun edge down the oak tree trunk next door. It was a serene scene. Shakespeare’s lines sprang to mind.
‘Look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill’.
The news came on shattering the quiet mood that I’d developed .The quake – a relatively big one - had struck Christchurch and surrounding countryside at 4.35 a.m.. Epicentre 30 kilometres west of the city, near Darfield where cousin Sally lives. [She lost a chimney] Buildings down in the central city. Water out. Power out. Sewerage out. At such moments Radio New Zealand comes into its own. Kim Hill and Mary Wilson interviewing experts and ordinary citizens around the area.
At such moments one wonders about loved ones. They were asking us not to clog the phone lines. By mid-morning a state of emergency had been imposed. By a miracle there had been no loss of life though two people were in hospital with life-threatening injuries. In one way the timing was fortunate. People were at home, mostly in bed.
Every now and then the thought goes through my head – how vulnerable I’d be if a major quake struck Wellington. And I know it’s a question not if but when. No power. No water. We have an emergency kit. I have a torch in the drawer beside my bed. We have water in plastic bottles in the shed though accessibility could be a problem. I couldn't dig a hole or light a fire. Well, we’ll have to cross that bridge if it comes to it. We’ve good neighbours. Hardship can bring communities together.
All I can do is listen to the radio, emphasise and sympathise with the people of Christchurch and acknowledge that today’s cloudless sky has followed on one of the heaviest downpours I’ve ever seen. We're such puny self-centred creatures when it comes to Nature's Power.
The 2018 Book Council Lecture
2 days ago