Life


So just to spice things up Christchurch decided to have a massive earthquake.  As you do.  So I thought I’d briefly break my absence from the internet.  Sometime around 04.30 on Saturday morning (4th September) at the tail end of  a bad dream I woke to feel the room starting to move and then about 5 seconds later all hell broke loose with violent shaking, a roar from outside and general freakiness.  It was pretty scary and the whole thing lasted about a minute though the initial aftershocks continued for a few more.

One of things that amused me coming to NZ a few years ago was the ‘disaster planning’ adverts on TV explaining how to create a plan and stock emergency supplies.  ‘But surely NZ is one of the most passive countries in the world?’ I scoffed before also mocking the section at the back of the yellow pages offering specific advice on a range of possible natural and man-made catastrophes (‘in the event of a volcano do not move towards the lava…’).  I never really put much belief into the local tales of small quakes every now and then.

Last year however, we actually did put together an emergency swine/bird flu kit/food cache just in case the two strains did cross and suddenly the end of the world came about.  When this didn’t actually happen we just ate it all.  Foolish.  So in the early hours of Saturday morning we finally had an occasion to utilise my well thought out (and patiently listened to repeatedly by K) ‘zombie apocalypse survival plan’.  Kind of.

How are you supposed to run and get under a door frame when the ground won’t keep still?  We got petrol and food in the morning and whipped out my camping stove and had tea.  Reaching 7.1 on the Richter scale it was pretty powerful stuff (stronger than in Haiti recently) with no deaths but a huge amount of property damage and destruction.  There was a curfew yesterday overnight in the very centre (we fall just outside) and a strange quietness to the place.  Lots of people were milling around yesterday, talking to strangers and neighbours and sharing stories.  We didn’t get power until late in the evening but water had been running since lunch and got to sleep in our own bed after spending the evening with friends.

Thankfully we got off pretty lightly with just a broken coffee jug and a minor crack by the stairs.  We’re still having ongoing aftershocks (one of the recent shocks was 5.1 on the scale) though the general queasy sea-sick feeling I had yesterday seems to have gone.  Very strange sensation.  The only previous quake I’ve had was in Nepal in 2006 (5.3) where the bed felt like it was vibrating.  I missed the one in Folkestone (my home town) a few years back, being in California (of all places) at the time.

Weirdness all round and my thoughts are all over the place.  Looks like it’s going to take a while for things to settle but it could have been a lot worse.  Amusingly I got a worried and urgent phone call from my mum this morning (almost 30 hours post event) informing me there’d been an earthquake and was I ok?  Ha ha.  She needs to watch the news more.  More photos are here or you can follow breaking events here.

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On a different but equally exciting note I met the Prime Minister last Friday at Burwood Hospital.  He wasn’t supposed to come to out ward but stopped off for a chat with the tea lady and then one of my patients stalked after him with her zimmer frame so he came back for a brief hello.  Opening gambit of, ‘yes I’m far shorter and less attractive in real life…’.  Nice.  Seemed extremely approachable and friendly with no airs or graces.  It should be one of those ‘thing to do in NZ’ eye spy tick boxes – meet the PM.

Right.  I’m off to sit quietly and try not to get too excited by the ground wobbling.

That’s how many more people need to come to my blog for me to reach 6000 hits.  Yet I don’t really write any more.  Why?  I want to and frequently construct entries in my head but when it comes to the sitting and the writing and the composing, well my muse leaves me.  Stranded in the desolation of the internet and the shallow reciprocity of many online interactions.  I sometimes miss that online blanket of like minded people with similar ideals but when it comes I also miss the physicality.

……………………..aside……………………

When my brother was younger he had an imaginary friend called Chocky.  He was young at the time and not corrupted by all the movies I let him watch way too soon.  Chocky lasted for a year or two and then one day departed.  It was only years later that I found a battered copy of Chocky (by John Wyndham) in a charity shop.  It’s about a boy who has an imaginary friend who turns out to be an alien consciousness communicating with the boy’s mind.  There’s no way he would have known of this or seen the TV version.  That freaked me out quite a bit.  It’s quite an unusual name to just make up.

……………………..return……………………

The time I wound down the writing corresponded to the time I found the wonderful xkcd – this sums up my feelings about the internet and online journals pretty accurately:

So true.  And it struck home.  I mainly exist in comments these days.  Find me there.

There have been many great things about moving to NZ but one of the biggest things that I miss is the music scene.  Or the lack of it.  Ok, so I’m going to say it: the music scene in NZ sucks.  What the fuck is up with the adoration of dub/reggae and piss poor European house?  Seriously.  Ok, it’s said.

So the other big issue is that not only do very few bands come and play here but if they do they invariably skip Christchurch (apparently crossing the Tasman is ridiculously expensive).  Then even if they do come here the chance of finding out about the gig is pretty small as promotion is often non-existent (when I found out I’d missed Dan Deacon last year I was not a happy bunny).

As time has passed I’ve realised it’s not quite as bad as I first thought (I really was spoiled living in Brighton before all this).  In months to come we have Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, The Pixies, Yo La Tengo, Camera Obscura, Pavement, Neko Case, Mono, Wilco.

And now they’ve announced Joanna Newsom with Jens Lekman no less.  In Christchurch.  While I’m on nights.  The same nights that cover my birthday none the less.

See, to go to any of these (as none of them bar the lovely Ms Newsom are playing CHCH) I have to try and book 2 days off work a few months in advance (a process which can take up to a month to confirm sometimes), get flights and accommodation in Wellington or Auckland and all the other little expenses that go along with it.  It makes it very difficult and expensive plus it’s eating into my annual leave.  I miss the day I could lean out of K’s window and listen to Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan playing across the road in St George’s church.

So I make my choices.  I chose Pavement over Pixies.  I’m losing the rest of the week to be in Auckland for Dirty Projectors 2 days later.  Mono I’ve seen before.  Neko Case I’m still deciding.  Wilco I will make happen.  I will also see JN even if I have to miss the end of her set (or be late for work which is more likely).  Tomorrow I’m off to see Jarvis Cocker in Wellington all by my lonesome.

A plea: if you are coming to New Zealand to play, please extend the tour to CHCH.  You’ve already spent all that money and time flying here in the first place so what’s a little bit more to come a bit further south.  I’ll come pick you up myself if it will help.

Now I just need to figure out how I’m ever going to see Mogwai ever again.  Fuji Rock 2010 anyone..?

Will I won’t I shall I shan’t I?  Write?  Well.  I’m unwell.  A long felt awareness of continually running at sub-par always seems to manifest whenever I take some time off.  Maybe the energy and stresses of work allowing my immune system to keep trucking on, keeping a low profile from the distracted awareness of my brain, crash and burn when I stop.  When the long weekend and relaxation kicked in it translated into rapid sinus congestion, sore throat and muzzy head.

Reasons to write?  One being the fun weekend we all had in Akaroa.  Got monumentally drunk Friday night with good friends and to my immense sense of self satisfaction I managed to play the entirety of Tarot Sport to a room full of people in a party type situation.  And only 2 people asked me to turn it off (cunningly by this point of the evening attention spans had been tequilaed down to bare seconds so I just ignored their pleas for musical leniency).  I actually played Street Horrrsing too but there was only one other left drinking and awake by that point so not sure I can claim that one.

Our sortie on Saturday for a bit of a ramble was scuppered when we arrived on the desolate beach to find a freaked out surfer who pointed us out to his 2 mates who were being swept out by the rip.  Our mate jumped in his kayak and went out to help the swept away guy (the other one made it to the rocks) while we went to call the coast guard.

One helicopter later, lots of standing around for us (plus a fuck load of paddling our mate) and all 3 were safe.  Good result and they were sheepishly nonplussed once it was all over.  Surfers are stupid.  We on the other hand went sea kayaking the following day and didn’t need helicopter rescue.  We did need burgers though.

Then we all got to see this:

And finally, perhaps the most joyous thing of all is that someone has posted the boot of the Royal Albert Hall gig by Mogwai from 2006.  In the 7 times I’ve seen them this was and still is the best they’ve ever been and I’ve been hoping for a copy ever since.  Everything about that night was perfect.  The venue was immense; the crowd were real fans, committed and politely quiet; the sound was enormous, it filled and decimated everything else in the hall, you could feel it through every inch of your body (I thought the bass on 2 rights was going to rupture my sternum); the version of 2 rights was the best I’ve ever heard live, the welcome return of Tracy and the second surprise encore (which I almost missed thinking they had gone) of a monumental and righteous MFMK was perfect.  I was there with a sweet Jewish San Franciscan girl I was sort of dating at the time at the end of a brief summer of letting go; she jumped a mile out of her seat at the noise mid way through fear satan and half way through MFMK said, ‘wait, this is…’

Yes it is; with a smile.  It felt better sharing it with someone and I was elated for days.  The recording’s pretty good so please download, listen and share it with me.

In my absence my blog seems to have been slowly ticking over and I’ve had over 5000 visits.  I don’t have much need for this any more though so not sure where to go.  I crave the anonymity and selective exposure of my earlier blog.  The ability to write absolutely anything and not worry about people you know reading it.  Writing to strangers.  There is something in the desire to publish and put out those intimate thoughts and events to be read by random unknowns, to be followed and supported, yet to be kept hidden.  A paper journal holds not the same appeal, the outrage of finding someone you know has peered within the sacred confines of a personal diary does not translate to the internet.  It also highlights the reality of what you’re doing when you sit, pen in hand and detail those troublesome thoughts to the page.  I am tempted to just hit that delete button for this and my past outlet.  Or perhaps reappear somewhere new with no fanfare.

Common joy seems to have lapsed into something sweeter.  This has been a fortnight characterised by a heap of new people and the discovery and rapture of a new muse (most fitting to Aoide); the associated back-tumble to the stages of my life that fling themselves into stark contrast with how things have been and how they can be no longer; and a god awful hangover that eventually lapsed into vague sickness.

There is (despite the runny nose and generally foggy head of the last few days) a smile on my face, a whimsy of the body and a desire to create.

On a somewhat related note I recently bought a new fountain pen.  Haven’t owned one for many a year but decided writing for me had become a chore, an act of work.  I wanted to take back the enjoyment.  Currently it’s been sent to Australia to fit a finer nib but once it returns I shall use it.  If anyone would like a letter drop me a line and address.

We got back a few hours ago from out weekend away with the gang to Hanmer.  Fun weekend with nice people.  Pretty tired now.  A big event – I had my first beer in a pub.  I drank the whole thing and liked it.  Kind of.  I liked the first third, went of the middle third then enjoyed the final bit.  And I didn’t throw up afterwards!  One step closer to being accepted as a Kiwi.

Drinking, sledging, BBQ, hot tubs, mini golf, adventure maze and amusing games.  I’ll try to get photos up later in the week.

We all start a new rotation tomorrow.  I’m on night cover again (through choice), this time covering the other medical specialties apart from Cardiology and Respiratory.  Basically I do the day job of the doc who’s on nights so I change team to team every week.  I’m also on call tomorrow as well which is annoying but hey ho.

I took today off work sick and frankly feel a  bit of a fraud as now I feel fine.  But there was some bowel unpleasantness yesterday and we’re not supposed to go in.  I’m not sure I would have thought much of it if K hadn’t had a similar thing over the weekend.  Therefore it must be contagious!

It annoys me as I’ve only taken 2 days off sick in 3 years so this has now brought my total up to 3.  Still, once a year isn’t too bad.  Did I use the day productively..?  Erm…

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