Thursday, 30 September 2010

Another step

I left work early yesterday, to meet a pair of EQC assessors at River Rd. They essentially repeated the surveying and plan drawing done by the builder last Monday; he was hired by an engineering firm contracted by State Insurance, so I presume that now the various analyses and prices will be weighed up, and we'll get a "rebuild or repair" decision. The assessors thought that the decisions could happen in the next 10 days, but there will be a lot of other steps after that decision is made. Still, it's progress.

Tonight we will attend a meeting at the Richmond Club, organised by MP Brendon Burns. This will focus on the needs of people in Avonside/Richmond/Dallington, and should be quite interesting.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Quiet weekend

We've had a restful weekend, with minor tinkering and a bit of shopping. (And a couple of solid aftershocks around 8pm on Saturday.) Another reason for staying around the house was our two cats, who are slowly acclimatising to the new setting. They're still pretty timid, but that will improve during the week, I'm sure. We also have a complication, in the shape of a large old male tabby named Tom, who seems to have an amiable enough disposition, but he's a bit puzzled about changes to his surroundings and the two new arrivals.

We are surrounded by the best fruit and vegetable shops in Christchurch, so we'll have to start comparison shopping around these. I don't know about supermarkets; in some ways it might be easier to carry on with our old Stanmore New World, as they stock brands we're used to, we know the layout, and most of all, I have all the aisles tagged to products in HandyShopper - so I can sort the wanted items by aisle, and zap through the shopping really quickly. Yesterday we went to the Countdown in the Belfast Super Centre, but it's not an attractive option, and it's a bit of a haul to get there.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Settling down

The aftershocks are tapering off in frequency, though there are still some 4-plus shakes to keep us alert. We are now settled in to Leanne's place in Waitikiri Drive, near Bottle Lake; we've unpacked a fair bit of our stuff and Heather has rearranged the living room furniture (to suit the cats, she says, although the logic of that hasn't hit me yet). The cats came back from the cattery yesterday and are settling in to their new home quite well so far. Our lawn mowing guys came and cleared the section on Thursday, so the back yard looks miles better.

We think it's a pretty nice part of town, though it's a long way to the CBD - about 10km in fact. However, my commute to University is quite straightforward, and there are pleasant views of the mountains as I drive across QE2 Drive to Northcote, then down Greers and Clyde Rds to Ilam; it takes about 20 minutes, the same as it took from River Rd.

With only three weeks to go before my hip operation, our next focus will be getting set up so that the house can be navigated by a person on crutches. As I recover, Bottle Lake Forest, just along the block, will get well explored. It's all go round here, folks.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Down it comes

The EQC assessor on Thursday was pretty concerned about our back room's precarious condition, and rightly so. On Saturday a strong wind in the afternoon sucked one of the bi-fold doors right out onto the paving. Today a builder and a guy with a small digger arrived, and proceeded to demolish our lovely sunroom. Alice had forgotten something and came back just in time to see it all happen.



Friday, 17 September 2010

Many things

This blog is getting neglected, in favour of Facebook and Twitter; for those that haven't heard the news, we are moving out of our house this weekend, and putting most of our stuff into long term storage. We are sharing a house with a workmate of Heather's till Xmas, then she's away for a year and we'll have the place to ourselves.

We expect that our house will be demolished and replaced, but decisions like that are a long way off. So we're being safe and sensible and getting out. Insurance company and EQC say it's OK, so here we go.

In the meantime, I'm having a hip replacement (yes, another one) on October 18th. That will take me nearly through to Christmas for recovery. It will burn up most of my leave, but it will be worth it. I'll be doing my recovery walks in Bottle Lake, 200m from the house.

It's a full life...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Welcome back

Herbert and I arrived at work together, just on 8am, walked up the stairs, and found that we couldn't get in. Our cards didn't work on the doors or the lifts, so I phoned Security who said they'd send someone over. Other staff arrived, till finally there were six of us standing on the landing, and eventually a cleaner inside the office area let us in. We still haven't seen the Security person.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Word

God spoke to The Onion almost 10 years ago, and still nobody listens.

"If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

Heard that, Gaza?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Right angle turn

A friend of mine said, many years ago when I was contemplating leaving teaching, that "life needs to take a right angle turn every ten years". I'm not sure about the timing, but I do agree that the right angle turn has visited us this week. Our house is very likely to be deemed a re-build, so we now have to prepare to move out.

We have had a private assessment done (the official ECQ one may be several days away), and we're holding meetings of neighbours this week to decide if we'll do an independent geotechnical investigation. This is all being led by a structural engineer who did our report for some minor works last year, and who lives just round the block from us; he will combine his neighbours with ours, and we'll commission a full geotechnical survey of the tongue of land we live on, betweeen Dudley Creek and the Avon River, bounded by Banks Ave on the north, Woodchester Ave on the west, with Medway St & River Road completing the circuit.

Until we get the official assessment, we are rather undecided about the timing, but it looks like we'll be on the move quite soon.

Our neighbourhood, with our section in black. The area sits between two streams, the Avon River and smaller Dudley Creek, so we are on alluvial soils subject to liquefaction in earthquakes. The houses east of us are all uninhabitable because of structural damage.

On a brighter note, we have water, and we're just hoping that whatever goes into the drains finds a home somewhere under ground. We're not using toilets too much, just in case.

So near but so far

We had water for about 30 minutes before we discovered a leak. Now we're waiting for our plumber to get here and fix it. Even then, though, we can't really use the toilets or the shower, as the sewer connections are all snapped off and the street main is full of silt. Sewerage is getting away somehow, but I don't like to think about it too much, it must be running away into the ground somewhere. We're still boiling the water from our bore. So we'll be using the portaloos down at the corner, and showering at work, while we get ready to move out.

A structural engineer who lives just round the corner visited today; he's a partner in the firm that did our re-piling assessment last year, so their firm already has data about our soil. He wants to get the neighbours to all club in and share the cost of a full geotechnical survey of this block, then we can all use the data and the report to talk with our insurers and EQC. His opinion is that our house is so broken that it won't be fixable, so it looks like we may be flatting with, then house sitting for, Leeanne Russ for the next year or more. I'm about to start calling insurance and storage/removal firms, and we'll probably move out next weekend, or soon after.

In the middle of all this, I see the orthopedic surgeon about my hip next Friday afternoon! The week before last, the hip was my big focus; now it's just a darn nuisance. Oh well, life goes on; if I have surgery later this year we'll cope, no doubt.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Water - well, technically speaking

A momentous moment at 4.30 this afternoon - repairs to the water main in the road allowed us to turn on our water. Visions of showers, toilets, and dishwashers danced before my eyes. Then Heather discovered that our garden tap was leaking uncontrollably, and turned off the valve at the street. So we are without water for one more evening; a plumber is coming early tomorrow.

A projector in C1 had developed a bit of a lean.
I went to the university today, along with several hundred other staff members; we were briefed by the VC and a guy from Buildings, then sent off to tidy our offices. Jess and I had our office cleaned up in 45 minutes, then we joined Erik Brogt from the Academic Development Group and tidied up the rest of the offices and the ADG's library of journals.

Note for future earthquakes; large pot plants kept on filing cabinets can go a long way and spread their soil through everything. I think the occupants of one office will be finding bits of potting mix among their reading for many months.
The Law Library had emptied itself over the floors, but teams were already re-stacking books.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

First assessment

Today we had a 3-person team visit us to do a preliminary assessment of our situation. A woman from the CCC was accompanied by two building inspectors from Nelson; the woman did a personal interview with Heather and me (she circled the happy face, we noticed, so she must think we're mentally stable) while the inspectors checked out the building.

The outcome is that we have a green sheet taped to our front door; we can stay here, but with restrictions. We're not supposed to use the brick additions; that's easy, the sunroom is so shonky we've been staying out anyway, and the addition on the east side, part breakfast nook and part living room, is easily avoided. We'll have to move the dining table, or eat off the kitchen island.

The next stage is a proper engineering assessment. That could take a while. In the meantime we're boxing on with artesian water, which we're still boiling for safety, and a porta-potty, which we're not emtying into holes in the garden often enough. I am required at the University at 9am for a safety and situation briefing, then an office sort-out. I gather our offices are OK, just lots of stuff fallen off shelves; 30 mins should have Jess and me back to normality. I guess we'll be there most of the day, but my manager has already said he's OK with me taking time whenever I need it to sort out domestic stuff.

As far as the house goes, I think there are two main options. First, and cleanest in my view, is to demolish and rebuild a modern house on the site. Second is to keep the core house and level it (how do you ram 1.8m piles under a 95 year old house that's only 300mm off the ground?), then rebuild the extensions to modern code. I suspect that would look cheaper, but cost more in the long run, and it would still leave a not particularly significant house with patched-up foundations, and unknown other issues.

In any event, we don't have to move in a hurry, and maybe not at all. But we have a Plan B, thanks to a friend of Heather's who teaches Japanese at Shirley Boys High. She lives in a 3 bedroom house near Bottle Lake and has offered to have us as flatmates for some time. And next year she goes on extended leave for the whole year, so she'd have been looking for people to rent her house anyway. If we have to rebuild, it could easily take a year, so this looks like a great deal all round. Once we know the next step, we'll know if we have to move.

In the meantime, we are awaiting mains water supply and sewerage. That will make all the difference, and will also help us make decisions about accommodation.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Progress, possibly

I had email today acknowledging our EQC claim and telling us that we'll see an assessor one day soon. In the meantime things have moved a bit more; the sunroom/dining room is now a no-go area because the north-west corner is leaning quite alarmingly, and could take the whole west side of the room with it.

We are surprisingly lethargic; the best we've managed today is doing a load of washing at the Schroeders' place and burying the portapotty's first load in the garden. We keep saying that we're going to start packing up, as it's obvious that we'll have to leave this house at some point. So we might as well use the time off work to pack pictures, CDs, books, and other gear. We can leave clothes, and the gear like TV and stereo, until it becomes the Real Thing; probably the day after the assessor calls.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The cleanup begins

We had Rick and Nathan from Slate & Shingle Roofing arrive early yesterday morning, and by 11am they had both of our shaky chimneys removed. All we have to show now is a big pile of rubble. The holes where the chimneys used to be were then filled with tiles from our stack of spares, so the house now looks as if it's always been chimney-less. It's a shame, they set off the tile roof nicely, but they were a menace at times like this.

One chimney was still standing - but only just.

The chimney above our bedroom came down in the initial quake, but it crumbled gently rather than crashing through the roof.

Once these were chimneys, now they're landfill.

The road at the end of our block had subsided, leaving big cracks. That didn't stop morons in SUVs and hotted up cars trying to drive through the police cordons. On Sunday a roading gang moved in to fill the gaps and smooth out the mangled tarmac.

The University is shut for the week while structural assessments are done. Apparently the Library may take months to repair, and we've heard rumours of a big crack through the Law building, where our offices are situated on the 4th floor.
The University Library is a big mess.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The big one

It's hard to think of a title that isn't corny, but what do you say after a day that began with a magnitude 7.1 earthquake at 4.35am? I'm sure that Canterbury's quake is all over the media, so I'll stick to some basics. I've put photos at my Flickr site.

Heather and I are fine. The main part of our house held up OK, though the brick additions done in the early 50s have cracked and chunks of brickwork have fallen out, doors won't shut, etc. Both chimneys are damaged; one has crumbled into a heap of bricks and the other is standing, but looking dangerous. We've been cleaning up messes from fallen shelves etc but most belongings are intact.

The back concrete patio is a cracked jumble of concrete slabs, and there's a 15cm trench across our back yard. We have phone, power, TV and internet (obviously), but no mains water supply. Luckily we have an artesian bore which produces clean looking water, so we're working from buckets and boiling our drinking water. Most of the neighbourhood is coming along to fill buckets etc, so we've had a very social day. The back fence is down and our neighbours, like many others, have large piles of silt from where water and springs have bubbled up through the earth.

Our road is badly damaged, and it's not passable at the end of our block, where River Road meets Banks Avenue, Dallington Terrace, and McBratneys Rd. The footbridge at the other end of the block is now a piece of sculpture.
The footbridge over the Avon at Medway St.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Big show coming

Well, it's big for our group; we do a presentation to senior management on Monday morning, showing them what our group does and how we're using Moodle. This afternoon we had a dry run, and all looks good - we're doing a dual projector mix of PowerPoint and live web sites. Now we just need to stop people fiddling with slides and demonstrations, in case they break something that was working today.

Lectures begin again on Monday, and it's a mad sprint to October 15th when lectures finish, and exams start on 26th October. Another year gallops on; this one's been more eventful than most, I must say.