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Around the Table | DineOut Articles


Shaken, and stirred

by CJD, Sun 5th Sep 2010 11:00pm

What a start to the month! For those of us who live and work in Christchurch, this past weekend has been a dramatic one. Here is my story, with a special appearance from one of the most amazing people I have met for a long time.

On the Friday night I was at a charity quiz night (for Cure Kids) in a team with Col, TMouse and Debbie & Jimmy from Sezn. Prior to the evening Debbie had rung around and rustled up some vouchers from Under the Red Verandah, Mondo, 205 Yakatori, plus wine from Sandihurst, coffee from Supreme and more! Over $600 of goodies were added to the pot thanks to her, so we and the organisers were quite happy. We didn't do too well in the quiz, scoring 10/10 in the first round (it was all about food, so no surprises there!) but our average fell off somewhat in the sporting round, and our general knowledge could have done with more knowledge and less general. We finished in the middle of the pack with some prizes (we're all off to the rugby next month!) and smiles. I arrived home in a good mood, full of the glow of charity and goodness of others. Life was good.

At 4:36am on Saturday we were awoken to a deafening noise, shaking, smashing and confusion. It was pitch black, and I was half buried under a bookshelf.Once the shaking had stopped I managed to dig myself out and using my cellphone as a torch located my daughter in her room. We all re-gathered in the bedroom and I scanned the house for damage. Stuff had fallen from walls, bookcases toppled, drawers opened and cupboards emptied onto the floor, but nothing dramatic. We had walls, a roof and all the windows were intact, but no power. Huddled back in the bedroom we scanned the airwaves and tuned into More FM and listened to Bondy who helped keep us calm and informed. My hat off to you sir, your controlled demeanour and steady stream of information was our lifeline at this time. The earthquake was a 7.4 on the Richter scale (later downgraded to 7.1) and centred just outside of Christchurch and just 10km deep. Apparently this only happens every 1,000 years or so. Too often as far as I'm concerned!

As the sun rose, we picked up some of the fallen items, stacking them on the floor as the aftershocks kept us wary of more big shakes. We headed outside to check for damage and check on the neighbours. It was all quiet and eerily calm. Occasionally the silence was pierced by sirens as emergency vehicles raced off to locations unknown. A quick scan of the house showed we were all intact, and nothing on fire nearby. The neighbour over the road lost their fence, and a power pole was at a new and jaunty angle up a long driveway, so at this point we were in a honeymoon period. That was a mighty big shake, but it seems to have been fairly harmless.

As we located batteries and filled water bottles, we started to hear about the damage to the city. Our experience of this quake was not the same for all. Many buildings in the city had received extensive damage, in fact there were reports of dramatic rips in the roads, burst watermains and flooding throughout the city. We had checked with as many friends and family as we could, and were reassured that all were OK, but some were coming back with reports on the damage in their areas, and some of it was bad. Very bad indeed.

Debbie (from Sezn, and last nights quiz) had told us she and Jimmy and the rest of the household were all fine and they were heading out to see what damage had happened to their restaurant. Later in the day we got word that their restaurant had not stood up well. The roof in the bar area had come down, destroying their restaurant. We grabbed some coffees and headed over to offer whatever support we could. As we travelled through the city we saw an increasing amount of destruction. Some small things, like fallen fences. Some were more serious - like fallen chimneys. Some were dramatic and catastrophic - like entire buildings collapsed into themselves. We saw a lot of it. There was a lot of destruction, lots of roads cordoned off, a lot of people all looking dazed with blank stares and faraway looks. We did however see a wedding car, showing that some people won't let a mere earthquake stop their biggest day!

When we arrived at Sezn, it was dramatic indeed. The story above the bar had come down, destroying the whole room. Most of the front windows had blown out so we stepped through and went back to the courtyard where Debbie and others were sitting in the sunshine. Debbie was on the phone with the insurance company, not discussing damage to the property, her restaurant, her livelihood, but about wages for her staff. Once she was assured they would be paid (that's why insurance is so important) she chatted with us. She was upbeat, smiling, joking and resigned to the fact that Sezn was no more. In her place I would be a wreck. I would want someone to blame, someone to rage against, someone to take the brunt of my anger and frustration. Debbie however is thinking of others, something anyone who has dined at Sezn will know all about. Several of the staff members arrive while we're there, all emerge into the courtyard with jaws dropped, eyes wide and shocked expressions. They are quickly reassured by Debbie and depart a short time later with their retrieved possessions under their arms and disbelief still on their faces.

Discussion turns to others and their loss. We hear that UTRV has lost their windows but seems otherwise OK. Saggio de Vino was located close to several buildings that suffered extensive damage, but they were still standing. We left feeling helpless and wishing we could do more, but there is nothing we can say or do that will make it better. Debbie has it under control. We just have to wait and see if Sezn MK II rises from the ashes, and by God I hope it does!

Since then we have seen and heard about other restaurants in the city that have also suffered. I hope the reports about Lone Star are exaggerated! It was one of the first places I dined in Christchurch, just before I moved here, and is a Christchurch legend. The city is shut down and cordoned off, so getting reports on other inner city establishments is tough, but it would be a safe bet that most, if not all of them have suffered damage between minor and severe, and the brick buildings seem to have suffered more than the rest. The CCC have posted information for the restaurants to follow in the coming days, but for the rest of us, the possibility of dining out in the coming weeks is looking quite limited.

What do we need to do? Well, some will call for fundraising, others will claim survival of the fittest, but I say support. Those who have survived need you to buy coffees, meals and weekend brunches. They have to survive and your custom will do more than any insurance payment will. For those poor people who have lost their entire restaurant, what they need right now is your future custom. Head to their website, find their contact page and send them an email saying that when they open their doors again, you want to be there. These people have lost their venue, but not their staff, their passion or their skills. Everyone survived (a bloody miracle!) and once the clean up has been completed, some of those 'For Lease' signs will come down, and new restaurants will emerge with familiar names. When they do, head on back. Give them your support by giving them your custom. A re-opened restaurant with a full house will confirm to the owners that their decision was the right one.

We'd also like to say a huge thanks to the people that, after the big shake, ensured their families were OK then left them to head out into the mess to look after the city. From our emergency services and civil defence, medical staff, and those charged with restoring our infrastructure through to tradespeople, those who work in supermarkets, service stations, dairies, all the volunteers, and all the folks at home who checked on their neighbours, took in families less fortunate, or just rolled up their sleeves and leant a hand. There was a sense of community on the streets of Christchurch that had not been apparent for a long time.

Keep safe, keep strong, keep smiling.


Your Comments

Girls Night Out

Mon 6th Sep 2010 12:31am

It seems unbelievable that Chch should have such a bad earthquake, for so many buildings to be semi-demolished, yet for so many people to escape physically unharmed.

I think such events bring out the best and the worst in some people and it is when you get to see their true character.

Bouquet: To those people who stepped up and helped others less fortunate. To those who protect us on a daily basis; the police, the firemen & women, the ambulance officers and everyone else keeping us safe.

Brickbats: The looters and those who rushed to the supermarket to buy more than their share and more than they needed.



Fri 10th Sep 2010 08:34am

Agree, we need to get out and get dining - I have got a group of girlfriends heading out for a catch up & wine on Tuesday next week plus on 24 September our work have set a date for end of quarter after work drinks so I'll be sorting a bar in town for that. I'd also like to suggest that (& I plan to email them) CCT revisit the resident promotion they had the other year to encourage residents to get out to local businesses back to brunches and enjoying all our great cafes and restaurants. I see BPC have emailed to say they are open tonight.


coffee freak

Sun 19th Sep 2010 08:57pm

Wow .. it still all seems so surreal. I have had one customer ring me up on the monday after the quake neally in tears because her business has to be destroyed... but she said she would be back! bigger and better than ever!
I would like to also thank Dine out for their list that they have put up to let people know if customers are open or not! I have done all of my customers on the list. I think that is a great idea. xx


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