Levavi oculos meos in montes, unde veniet auxilium mihi?

It was a wonderful week for my part of the Festival of the Scorpio. My workmates took me out for coffee and cake, I had a fantastic dinner on Friday with Good People that I’m very happy to have in my life, and I had tradition birthday High Tea with an incredible bunch of ladies (and Hywel). I topped it off by watching The Arrival with another new friend I adopted about a month ago, and made it home around 11 last night.

And then I learnt something about myself.

At 12:02am my bed started to rock gently. I don’t usually feel earthquakes in my apartment so I made note of it, and waited for this one to settle down, as they usually do. Only, this one didn’t. It got more insistent, my bedroom roller blind shot up and there was a sort of thump before all hell let loose. This was the first time I’ve lunged for the doorway. The shaking was so bad that I was actually flung backwards into hallway wall. I managed to steady myself in the doorway for what seemed like an eternity – staring outside and waiting of the quake to finish. I watched the beautiful blue lights flash high up in the clouds above the Hutt Valley, and then the green flashes along the Petone foreshore as the transponders all shorted – leaving darkness behind them. Then the shaking stopped, but I didn’t stop shaking. Not for another 5 minutes anyway.

One always wonders how you would act in case of emergency. I know now. While I was braced desperately in the doorway in terror (I’m not afraid to say that – I was terrified), the 12 storeys of apartment block groaning above me and the noise the walls were making, there was a very clear, very lucid part of me that was assessing the situation. It was making a note of where my wallet and passport were, how close was I to my shoes, that I had a backpack just around the corner (in fact I could have reached it with my foot) with water and some energy bars in it. That I had my walking gear in the cupboard near my left hand and a torch next to my bed. It also sighed internally and said I really don’t want to do that walk to Paremata again. And that part of me turned to thinking about my people in this part of the world, and if they were all okay. You can tell a great deal about who you think of first in such situations. I surprised myself. And then I grabbed the phone at 12:04am and called my mother: waking my parents up in time for the earthquake to roll through the Bay of Plenty.

There wasn’t much sleep last night. I think I managed about 4 hours all up, waking up with sandpapered eyes to the sounds of people examining the staircase and lobby on the other side of my front door (the joys of ground floor living). It took a little while to survey the scene. The support struts that dominate my hallway (I have the Harry Potter apartment) have new cracks, and some of them had clearly shifted. There’s a significant crack inside my built in wardrobe and there was a howling gale whistling through it. It looks like there’s a wee bit of structural damage to the external walls (some of them are now weeping in the rain) and there’s a fair bit of cracking around the place. It’s made for a nervous day with the countless aftershocks. The damage to these same struts that also run along outside and into the lobby looked far worse for wear than the parts in my flat. The significant cleaning that was taking place in the lobby made sense when I went out to look.

But I did the Long walk home last weekend. I managed 42km of the 50 before the marshals bundled me into a car and dropped me off at the nearest railway station (Paekakariki). In case of emergency I wouldn’t need to walk all the way to Kapiti: Titahi Bay or Paremata would suffice, boats can launch from either. The point of the exercise was an earthquake drill for those living in Kapiti who would need to get home from Wellington, should something like last night happen when they were at work. I did it because it would be good to know how to get out of Wellington if/when a mass evacuation will take place. People were encouraged to take their emergency pack with them on the walk, so they would know what it would be like.

That is probably why I was flicking through a mental inventory last night while the earth groaned. I put it all in a bag today: the things that can stay there in case of emergency. When you really think about it, it’s amazing what you would take with you. I had all last weekend to think about it, and today to clean up the broken crockery (I lost a few plates ), plaster, and bits of stuff I had lying around. Spoke to Apartment board members, took photos and submitted them to my rental manager, and felt generally frazzled, feeling horror at the stories coming out of North Canterbury and the epicentre. And then I saw the photos. I hate feeling helpless – I wish I could go down south and do something: dig trenches, clear trees, look after sprogs so their parents can rest, cook meals, anything. And in this weather I just hope things settle down soon – but with three hot spots playing tag, I don’t think that’s going to happen soon.

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Peter Rabbit, my trusted stuff toy for 28 years.

And now the wind is howling and I realise the windows may be leaking too with the horizontal rain and the almost constant aftershocks. But I have power, and hot water; friends who care, and my lovely mother and brother on the other end of the phone when I need to be distracted.

I pleasantly surprised myself with how the rational side of my brain took over before the hysterical wobbly side was let loose once I realised I wasn’t in any danger. I’m happy to know that I would have the ability to act should I ever be in such a situation again – and that I have a go bag prepped now.

I hope I will get some sleep tonight. I’ve been running on adrenaline all day and feel it. One thing is for sure though: my toy rabbit, Peter, is keeping me company tonight.

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