The first report to come through was that the Cathedral had been badly damaged, and that fatalities were likely. My brain rejected the concept that anyone could have been killed, but early images of the collapsed spire brought me close to tears. Christchurch Cathedral, previously a symbol of Canterbury's will to survive and rebuild after the September quake, was now a ruin.
Soon enough we were told to go home. Traffic was crawling, bumper-to-bumper on any major road, as everyone else tried to do the same. Most unusually, drivers were extremely patient and courteous as they negotiated the packed streets. I stopped by Lauren and Tom's place to check for damage on my way home. As I shut the car door, I realised with a sinking feeling that I'd locked the keys inside. With no chance of getting the AA out, and no public transport, my only option was to smash a window to get back in.
I arrived home to find my house still standing. So far, so good. Not so good when I got inside, though - I was met with the sight of my bookcases and TV face-down on the lounge floor. Stepping gingerly around these, I took a look in the kitchen. Jars of my runny plum jam had fallen from the top cupboard and smashed. Jam and tiny shards of glass were splattered all over the kitchen: it looked like a murder scene.
The rest of the way to New Brighton offered more of the same. The roads became ever rougher; I was pushing my little Honda over cracks and holes that should only be attempted in a four-wheel drive. I had no option; neither did any of the hundreds of other drivers doing the same. Finally I reached the retirement village: It was flooded.
Picturing Nana standing alone in her villa, watching the floodwaters approach, I had to find a way to get to her. I took off my socks and shoes, rolled up my trousers and began to wade. The water was only knee-deep and I waded through it easily - too easily, as it turned out. Confidently forcing my way through the water, I couldn't see the crack that had opened in the surface of the driveway. I fell into it, getting myself soaking wet and smacking my shin hard on the edge of the crack.
The days since have been very long and tiring. I went into work on Friday, but apart from that, I've been at home, wondering what else I could be doing to help. Theoretically I know that just by staying put, looking after myself and helping my neighbours where I can, I'm doing my bit. I wish I could be doing more, but I don't know what.
I've now got power and a trickle of water back on, so things are starting to become a little easier. Since it's best to try to go on as normally as possible, I will continue to cook, and to write. I'm well aware that, since I still have my home, my belongings and above all, my life, I can consider myself extremely lucky. I only wish that everyone else could say the same.