Sunday, February 27, 2011

Elizabeth Jenkins Earthquake Story The Victorian Gate House

The Gate House Fendalton 2011

My great friend and colleague Elizabeth Jenkins lived in this old Victorian Gate House in Fendalton Christchurch, about one kilometer from the centre of Christchurch and this is her story of the Second Earthquake. Elizabeth has asked me to write it down for all her friends whom she has been unable to contact so they can have some idea of what happened on that fateful Tuesday in February 2011.

The Gate House had just survived the first earthquake. It was damaged but repairable. Elizabeth joked that it was only the wallpaper that was holding it together. On a trip to Auckland Elizabeth had said how terrified everyone was of another big shake because of the problem of liquefaction. Christchurch, it seemed was now built on a jelly. She was right. The shock came sooner than she thought.

Elizabeth had just returned from Auckland and that Tuesday morning had a migraine and had stayed in bed. At about ten am she decided to get up, dressed and tackle the filing. At lunch time she made lunch and unusually ate it in the dining room when without any warning the ground gave the most enormous jolt and the brick house started to shake. She knew it was not another after shock because of its ferocity.

She jumped up and made her way to the kitchen and hung on to the butler sink. She looked around to see a balloon of dust coming from the dining room. The ground was still moving  and heaving, far worse than the previous 7.4 shake. She knew she had to get out of the house. She went to the front door but could not get it to open, all the time the house was falling to bits but somehow she got over all the glass and wallpaper that was coming down like snow and got to the back door. The house was still shaking itself to bits as she reached the safety of the lawn.

She made her way to a friends house, collecting two elderly residents of an rest home who had left clutching their napkins. Her friends were concerned as there was a cloud of smoke  arising from her house and thought it was on fire but as it cleared she could see that one chimney had fallen. Just as they were all about to have a medicinal brandy a second shock as strong as the first hit and the second chimney fell into her dining room.  The river just below the lawn on which they were all standing rose alarmingly. As they stood in shock and out of nowhere a huge tree suddenly popped out of the earth and fell over the railway line. he root was as large as her house. Elizabeth said this was the most bizarre event of the day.

The beautiful Gate House is in ruins but Elizabeth is alive and in one piece. Like all artists of the theatre, who are used to panic situations, she is good in emergencies  and as she joked. 'I no longer have to do the filing'. It is this sense of humour that gets us through.

Fortunately she has been able to salvage some of her belongings and is staying with her daughter Amanda.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Christchurch a Living Disaster Movie

The whole of New Zealand seems to be in shock since the earthquake struck last Tuesday. I don't think it is possible today to imagine exactly the magnitude of the disaster and it has effected everyone as New Zealand has a small population.

Normally I do not write about my family but my daughter Chloe and her husband Spence and my granddaughter Alice have been caught in the thick of it. Spence was in the Central Business District in a 60's building next door to the CTV building that collapsed. He took the full shock. He said it was terrifying. He left and collected his daughter.

New Brighton, east of the city the area where they live  has been hard hit with liquefaction, a word of which I was unaware four days ago but has dreadful ramifications. The water and sewage systems have been destroyed. The ground becomes like a jelly and fowl smelling silt oozes out.With a one year old child and no water or sewage facilities in the immediate future, this is not a one day fix, there was nothing for it but to abandon their home for a couple of days. Fortunately they have a cousin who lives in Banks Peninsula but Chloe said the drive out of Christchurch was like being in a living disaster movie. The road was filled with others fleeing the mayhem. It is the only sensible thing to do as the less people for the infracstucture to cope with the better. Life depends on water. Without it life is impossible.

They are very brave and sensible and fortunate to escape to relative luxury. Chloe said she has one suitcase and her computer and the rest is only 'Things'. Sometimes I am very proud of my daughter.

Another dear friend has lost her beautiful Victorian Gate House home. The previous shock had meant that really only the wallpaper was holding it together but this time the chimney has fallen into her dining room. The house is a right off.

She had visited me in Auckland and was clearly traumatized. She said it was wonderful not having to cope with the after shocks. Evidently the whole of Christchurch has liquefaction that means the ground beneath is like a jelly with a crust. I thought she was being over dramatic. I was wrong!

Her house is destroyed. Another lovely old building bits the dust along with her life's possessions. She has two daughter's one of which has lost her house too but they are all alive. A tragedy.

So a dreadful week. One bright spot is the watching the amazing TV coverage which has followed the recovery. It has been inspiring and riveting to see the way NZ'ers have risen to the challenge  but this is one reality TV production we could all have done without.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Elderly and the World Wide Web

My First Flower Power Mac  Janette Miller 

The past few days have made me aware once again just how lucky I am to be alive and able to enjoy the World Wide Web. Although I had to be dragged kicking and screaming by my daughter to give her computer houseroom while she took off to live in Italy. I spent the first six weeks trying to get the security application to work, four days attempting to print an envelope, and hours attempting to 'defrag' but when she came back I cried as she removed her computer. I had to have one.

I felt the first pangs of  computer withdrawal symptoms and now nine years later I am so grateful for all the riches it has given me. For my computer saved my life. It helped me to get through Clostridium Dificile by the aid of the wonderful  forums and the magnificent people who man them who get people they don't know through the horrors of Benzodiazepan withdrawal at 3 am in the morning. Many more would die without their help.

Then there is the wonderful which has taught me how to get the best out of my computer. The things I can do are truly mind boggling. I started from nothing but my computer skills have given me a new life. I can do the things I wanted to do in my youth and I have.  I have a SOArt web site I can manage, a commercially successful DVD series on Amazon, a CD on iTunes (not commercial!) a YouTube Channel, one mega YouTube - views over 100,000 and the chance to bore all my friends with my version of Wagner's Lohengrin and 'The Importance of Being Earnest' with me playing all the parts male and female. What more can a girl ask ?

Most importantly it has bought my past to life again from nowhere. That which I thought was lost forever has been miraculously restored to me just because of the internet. The TV Opera 'TheTurn of the Screw' and now my gorgeous Indian Room with its happy Hindu Gods  are mine again solely because I have not hidden myself away like so many of my peers do. People I do not know can and do get in touch with me.

I have always been a public person, if you make a career in the arts you have to be but I find this 'public persona'  puts the fear of God into my mature friends. Facebook scares them stiff! It is not as though they lead the most interesting lives. I mean what have they to hide? What are they afraid of?

Most of my peers cannot use the internet. They may just be able to manage an email but that is about it. Google, Wikipedia and YouTube seem to be written in Martian and what makes me so amused is that they are proud of it.  'I don't need a computer' I am accosted with when I try to point out what a wonderful tool it is for the elderly. They are proud of their ignorance. The frustrating part is that they won't even look. 'Oh I don't have the time to bother with that!'

Most are obsessively concerned about their privacy and guard their personal details as if the whole world was out to get them. I mean one should take sensible precautions.  I never use my actual birthdate which means I get two birthdays a year which confuses my Facebook Friends but will stop anyone using my personal details for fraud if they come across them by accident but who is going to bother. I might be unlucky but as my face is well known on line I am probably safer than they. Nobody knows what 'they' look like and it is easier to pinch their personality.

 Five minutes  and  a small monetary outlay and one can find anyone. It is hard to get noticed. Few strangers will ever read this blog and I am quite interesting! The local croquet club hated having a web site. One might get spotted in a photo. Every time they go to the supermarket their image is captured. Every time they use their credit card they are logged.

My peers are throwing away the most wonderful opportunity to start a new life. The computer has given me the chance to do everything that I wanted to do when I was eighteen and never dreamed that I could. This year I shall sing 'September' by Richard Strauss with a full symphony  orchestra, I shall publish myself my first novel based on a famous composer (Guess who!) and I shall continue to annoy the whole world on my blog. I have become a firm disciplinarian in my old age and I won't put up with patronizing comments anymore. I answer back, nicely, of course.

Also people are nicer to each other on line. I think I am more myself on line too. I should never talk like this to my friends as they would find it OTT but by reading about me they get to know the real me and that can only be for the good.

So come on 'wrinklies' get your fingers clicking away. Start a blog so that I can learn all about you too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Indian Room Wembley Exhibition 1924

The Indian Room Ceiling -Wembley Exhibition 1924

Today I had another surprise from the past. My early childhood turned up in a Danish Auction House after 64 years.

First, the first AR UK  TV 1959 production of Britten's 'Turn of the Screw' directed by Peter Morley, long hailed as the definitive version and destroyed in what was said to be the greatest act of artistic vandalism turns up after forty years  and now the Indian Room ceiling from the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley that I thought had been destroyed in 1954 is restored to me.

Here is the web page where I wrote about my 'strange life' with an Indian Room  and where I describe the Indian Room in detail and what it was like to live with it. Wonderful. I was so lucky. Not for me tortured men on crucifixes but colorful unknown Gods enjoying life. 

Here too is the page in the Danish Auction House offering it for sale on 1 March 2011. Price round £80,00 to £100,000. My aunts could not give it away. It was left  for destruction.   Like the 'Turn of the Screw' somebody unknown saved it. It was worth saving.

I never thought I should see it again in color and I am so delighted that it has survived. If I were young I should try to buy it back and build my house around it as my grandfather did. It was huge 18ft x 18ft so it needs  a special building. The pictures are in reality quite light and the black around gives quite the wrong impression. Too late!

Nevertheless seeing it again out of the blue was a shock. My web description was absolutely accurate even down to the little deer.  I certainly didn't have the conventional middle class childhood. I was in a class of my own.  I loved my unknown Hindu Gods especially the colored horses.

Life is full of surprises.

When looked at from below this God is always facing you. I used to walk around for hours trying to work out why this was. Maybe someone can explain.