Wednesday, February 23

Customs confirmation

We've heard today that Customs will be inspecting our household contents this Saturday or Monday next week. Assuming there are no complications we're hope to have it delivered to our apartment by the middle of the week.

Our refresh continues apace. Garry finished painting all of the doors on the top floor of our apartment today. He's only got the kitchen ceiling and staircase balustrade to do and the entire place will have been completely. We could have a complete home within seven days.

On less positive note, we've discovered that the driver who collected our car for shipment to Australia drove through London's congestion charging zone and never paid the standard fee for doing so. As a result, while we were travelling back to Australia a penalty notice was sent to our former address, followed by a further fine when we failed to respond to this notice.

It seems that the matter has been handed to the county court and baliffs are now involved. We're understandably furious that this happened and are waiting for our removal company to resolve the matter. The entire incident has left us wondering if our UK credit record has now been trashed.

New Zealand's "darkest day"

Another terrible tragedy has struck New Zealand today. A second major earthquake rocked the city of Christchurch at 12.51pm this afternoon. Today's tremor, registering magnitude 6.3 jolted the city at the worst possible time with the central city packed with lunch-hour shoppers, office workers and school children. While less severe than the 7.1 quake that struck on September 4, its epicenter was relatively shallow and located closer to the city centre.

As a result, the quake’s destructive force has proven far greater. Buildings have collapsed around the city killing at least 65 people. This toll is expected to rise as at least 100 remain trapped in the rubble tonight. Many fear that the final toll will exceed 200 people. The nation’s prime minister has described today’s tragedy as possibly New Zealand's "darkest day.

My mother was born in the city and so many extended family members still live in the area. Over the course of day we’ve been able to make contact with all of them. I’m relieved to report that all are safe but badly shaken. As you can imagine this destructive quake has trashed the contents of their respective homes, toppling furniture and throwing the contents of cupboards onto the floor. My Aunt whose house was condemned after last year’s quake has now been impacted by liquefaction. Her garage was flooded and her yard has been smothered by layers of mud. While the damage is heart-breaking it seems she may have been relatively lucky.

In town, one of the destroyed office blocks, the Pyne Gould Corp building, was occupied by my brother’s employer. While he’s based in Auckland much of the company’s IT infrastructure resides in Christchurch. He’s now working tirelessly through the night rebuilding their network. The media is reporting that up to 30 people are trapped in ruins of this building; roughly half work for my brother's company. Understandably there are grave fears for their safety as one death has already been confirmed on site.

UPDATE: February 23
My aunt has had to abandon her home as the area is still without water, sewerage and power. She's now staying with my cousin. My brother finally got home at 3pm today after working 36 hours non-stop. At least five people have been rescued from the PCG building overnight. However,the official death toll has climbed to 75 and is expected to rise further. At least another 80 bodies are believed to be buried at the site of the CTV building that also collapsed yesterday. Other news reports claim 22 people have died in the rubble of Christchurch Cathedral.

All day today new images of the earthquake's devastation have poured into newsrooms showing unbeliveable scenes of damage across the city. Christchurch has been seriously battered. Unfortunately the worst may not be over. Regular aftershocks continue to rattle the city, inflicting further damage. Tonight one of Christchurch's tallest buildings, the Grand Chancellor Hotel, is on the verge of collapse.

UPDATE: March 10
The official death toll in Christchurch now stands at 166 people. Authorities are still saying the final toll is likely to come in close to 200. As the last two weeks have unfolded the scenes of utter destruction across the city have begun to reveal the true extend of the quake's damage. Large sections of the inner city are literally in ruins and hundreds of building will have to be demolished.

Photo source: The New Zealand Herald

Monday, February 21

Mission accomplished (almost)!

Last weekend we broke the back on our floor to ceiling refresh of the apartment. As you can see from the photo above it’s been chaos in the living room for most of the week. However, I can now report that we’ve all but finished painting the top floor of our apartment. I’m also relieved to report that our chosen colour palette seems to have worked. Incredibly, even the original (and rather cheap looking) kitchen finish now looks somewhat smarter. Garry has a few minor paint jobs to complete such as painting the doors and the kitchen ceiling. We’ll then be ready for our furniture. There’s no word yet as to when Customs will release our household contents. We remain hopeful it’ll be sometime this week.

Temperatures hit 30C in Sydney on Sunday. Unfortunately the air-conditioning unit for the top floor broke down last Thursday and no repairman was available until today. As a result, our final painting blitz had to be conducted in the sweltering heat. We sweated buckets the entire day. I’m hoping we’ve also lost a few extra pounds in the process. Since our return to Australia I’ve been forced to take my belt in two notches. A few more months of daily exercise and healthy eating should see us trying on clothes we’ve not worn for years.

We’ve also made progress on a number of other apartment refresh activities. Here are a few highlights:

  • While the air-con repairman was here today Garry arranged for a new, modern control panel to be installed. The panel downstairs was replaced a couple of years ago when the downstairs unit failed. It makes the original panels look rather cheap and nasty. Our new panel will be installed this Friday.
  • Today we had the carpet deep cleaned upstairs. It’s made an incredible difference. I’ve gone from hating the carpet to feeling I can live with it for a couple of year.
  • Tonight Garry’s surfing the web looking for new colour coordinated faceplates for our light switches and power points.
  • I also want to tile the chipped and worn splash back in the kitchen. This should also give the kitchen a slightly smarter look. We’ve yet to find the right tiles so this job hasn’t progressed.
  • Last Friday I had a joiner come in to quote for minor alterations to the base of our staircase. Hopefully this will all be in place before the end of March.
  • Last week I placed an order for new blinds throughout the property. They should be also here some time towards the end of March.
  • Finally, the cable guy came in on Friday and connected us to the network.

Piece by piece we’re slowly getting the house in order.

Once our furniture arrives the next project we’ve lined up is the purchase of some modern outdoor furniture. We saw some impressive dining suites several years ago just prior to our move to London. We’ve no idea if the warehouse we visited is still in business. As for outdoor seating, three years ago while walking the streets of Berlin I saw a stunning sofa and chair suite. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t make a note of the brand or the store it was in.

However, I had a brainwave a couple of weeks ago. Using the magic of Google Maps and Google Street View I located the store in question, surveyed its website and finally tracked down the missing brand name. As luck would have it there are two retailers in Sydney that sell this product. The power of the Internet is amazing. I’m now dying to see if this furniture really is as perfect as I’ve been fantasizing all these years. I’ll let you the verdict.

Monday, February 14

Refreshing news

Four weeks after arriving back in Australia Customs remains in possession of our household contents. We heard early last week that it began processing shipments that landed a week before our own. With a little luck our house lot may be released next week.

The delay is proving very fortuitous. It’s given us plenty of time to give the entire apartment a through refresh. Two weeks ago Garry boldly took on the project of repainting the entire apartment; both stories from ceiling to floor. We completed work on the lower floor last Monday, just in time for the carpet layers to install new carpet the following day. It looks stunning.

Attention has now shifted to the top floor. Over the weekend Garry finished the final coat of paint on the master bedroom and today he had a go at putting a final coat on our new feature wall. We’ve painted the stairwell wall that links both floors a stunning terracotta colour; a British Paints shade called Outback Sunset. The effect is impressive. Garry also gave the main balcony a thorough clean yesterday and so this space is also starting to come together again.

Later this week we’ll start work on the final two rooms; the living room and the kitchen. It’ll be a mammoth job as both rooms have high ceilings and plenty of surface area to paint. Tomorrow we getting the windows in this space measured for some stunning modern blinds we’ve discovered. The bedrooms are being dressed in the Luxaflex Luminette Privacy Sheers while the living area will receive a new Luxaflex range called Pirouette. They’ll take five weeks to arrive and are guaranteed to bankrupt us for months.

To complete our refresh I’ve arranged for a joiner to come in on Wednesday and quote for minor cosmetic improvements to the base of the staircase. Garry is also ordering some slim-line light switch covers and new down light covers to add the finishing touches to his repainted walls. Once it’s all in place we can take our time drawing up plans for a more extensive renovation in 18-14 month’s time. We reckon it’ll take us at least that long to agree on the design, secure body corporate and council approval and finally book the relevant tradesmen.

We moved back into the apartment on Friday morning. The move was totally unplanned. The night before our move we discovered we’d forgotten to extend our service apartment booking. A quick check with reception confirmed that the apartment had been booked and none other were available. We were left with little choice but to move out.

We spent Friday morning shifting gear into our apartment and shopping at K-Mart for a list of living essentials. We’re now living in one room downstairs, sleeping on a couple of air mattresses. We’re now patting ourselves on the back for saving at least one week of fees in the serviced apartment, even after paying for cheap crockery and cutlery.

We’ve using a $12 saucepan and frypan set for cooking and even found a perfectly decent good steam iron for $14. Fortunately we’d left an old table in the apartment and our new washing machine had been delivered earlier in the month, along with a TV I’d bought for the bedroom. We have everything we need to set up a temporary home until our household effects are released.

Hopefully life will almost be back to normal by the end of February.