Last weekend saw a 6.5 earthquake here in Wellington, the last in a series of three major ones (5.7 Friday morning, 5.8 Sunday morning, 6.5 Sunday evening, though I’m guessing that things were a little milder up the valley here as we were further from the epicentre). The 5.7 shook my workplace a little, but without much effect. The 5.8 woke us – an original suspicion that it was just a cat engaging in an unusually vigorous wash at the foot of the bed was dispelled by the persistent tinkling of the Galileo thermometer on the chest of drawers – which went on and on. There was a crash (which I later discovered to be a pile of magazines falling on a wind-chime which, for some reason, I have on the floor of the study) and the cats hurtled off. And we said ‘Whoo!’ and got up.
The evening one was less enjoyable, if that’s the word I want. It started much the same way and built gradually. By the time I decided to go through and see how Marjorie was faring, it was a very insistent shaking. A freshly-run bath was sloshing rhythmically (though it didn’t in the end splash over) and my tea left splashes along the corridor. (Why did I pick up and carry my cup of tea? I mean, why?) Even then, there was time to wonder just when it was going to stop as I stood in the living-room doorway. But stop it did, though there was a strongish aftershock in fairly short order which raised all the fears that maybe this one was going to grow again and not stop growing this time. I should note that whatever sixth sense regarding earthquakes is meant to be possessed by pets has deserted our clowder.
Relatively little fell off shelves, though we’ve been finding odd things in unexpected places on the floor ever since which must have toppled then. There was much more damage in Wellington, where some reclaimed land was claimed back by the sea, and several buildings lost chunks of façade. My workplace – which is actually three buildings – has cracks and shears and ripped carpets along the joins between its components. The lawyers in the adjacent open-plan have a strip of ceiling now at floor-level to find their way around (again along a crack between two of the conjoined buildings). A panel fell from the seventh floor into the part of the atrium which has been cordoned off for several weeks (downright prescient, if you ask me) – all similar panels have been removed. Even two days later parts of some streets were not accessible and there was glass being swept up.
The big earthquake in Christchurch was ‘only’ a 6.3 (its less impactful predecessor was actually a 7.1), but that was somewhat shallower, and on different ground, and closer to the city, and in the middle of a working day, all of which conspired to make it far worse in its effect. But no earthquake of that sort of magnitude is in any way fun, and what the 8.1-8.3 that hit Wellington in 1855 was like I can’t imagine. (‘It created the airport’ someone once explained to me – more downright prescience.) I now have the experience to go with setting Listener Crossword No. 4122 (Heart by Phi – go on, you can work out the implied anagram) and I’m by no means convinced I needed it.
This week you get a straightforward daily cryptic – not the time for anything more stimulating, I feel. Thanks as always to The Independent for permission to reprint it. I’ve also started a page for my setter’s blogs which I will augment as solutions to my thematic puzzles appear – the first entry will not be lonely for long, as there should be a second one up in a few days.