Things that go bump in the night

4.35am on Saturday morning our day dawned thunderously. I don’t know whether I was ripped out of sleep by the growing rumbling, shuddering, rattling roar shaking the house, or by Ciaran hurling himself out of bed and rushing out the door. Before I was awake I was stumbling after him, not really knowing what was happening, feeling like I was running down the aisle of a dark train carriage travelling at high speed. This isn’t a good sensation.

Ciaran and I collided in the doorway of the Bobbin’s room, as I rushed past him to grab her out of her cot, before waking up fully and realising that he’d been there already and was actually holding the toddler, who had been still asleep when yanked unceremoniously out her cot and was clinging to him groggily.

We huddled in the doorframe, holding onto Seraphine, as the house heaved around us. The shaking became more violent and we were in total darkness as the power went down and the streetlights outside faded to black. The first big quake lasted about 40 seconds, which feels like a long time and was followed hard by further aftershocks. It was cold.

After the worst of the tremors stopped, we all went back into our bedroom and climbed into bed shivering. We figured it was the best place to stay warm until it got light outside.  We stayed there, cuddled together, the bed sometimes shaking under us, but never so fiercely as to drive us to the door again, until Ciaran and the Bobbin slept and the grey of dawn came round the curtain and filled the room. It was very good to see the day.

We got off scot free, our house appears totally unscathed. We didn’t even have any minor breakages. Our friends and family are all well and safe. The whole city has been lucky, no one has been killed, and only two people seriously injured. However the damage is significant and it’s all the beautiful old buildings that have sustained the worst effects. Christchurch isn’t exactly winning any heritage conservation awards as it is, and this is going to blandify the city into further banality. Still, as people have pointed out, we are only bewailing this because we don’t have worse things to lament. If the quake had happened in the working day, rather than in the quiet hours pre-dawn, it may have been a much bloodier tale.

Over 48 hours later the aftershocks are still rolling in. Nerves are pretty frayed, and it’s worse when it gets dark. The thing that freaks me is the almost imperceptible grinding judder that comes after the main jolt. I feel it in the pit of my stomach and under the soles of my feet, like a sailor who has been a long time at sea.


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