Peter Bromhead: Anxious and shaky

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

People sometimes ask the daftest questions.

"Why on earth are you standing under the Victoria Park Market chimney, nervously staring at your cellphone?" asked a curious bystander recently.

Pointing upwards at the towering edifice, I explained that I'm a chronic worrywart, always seeking new ways to hone my anxiety levels.

"I like to come down here and open the GeoNet quake update on my mobile, just to scare the living daylights out of myself.

"There's nothing more intimidating than standing under a 38m brick chimney built around 1906 and saying to yourself ... What if?"

"But we don't get earthquakes in Auckland," retorted the bystander, giving me that pitying look reserved for silly old worrywarts.

"Ah!" I replied. "I thought that too, until I downloaded the GeoNet quake app on my cellphone. To my surprise, I discovered earthquakes are happening all the time - just about every hour in the day, many of them locally.

"Look!" I said, showing him some activity in the Karaka area, south of Auckland.

As we stared at the screen a new quake was recorded, with a magnitude of 3.1 somewhere northeast of Whitianga, quickly followed by more seismic disturbances near Stratford.

"We're living on a couple of very shaky islands," I uneasily concluded. "Thanks to GeoNet, which sets off an alarm every time there's a tremor, I've got a fresh zing back in my anxiety levels."

"But this structure looks pretty safe and solid to me," the bystander exclaimed, staring upwards and patting the bricks.

"I don't think when they built this chimney back in Edwardian days that seismic restraints had been invented, or were even a twinkle in the eye of the architects and bricklayers," I suggested.

"Hang on, hang on," protested the bystander, "this whole complex has had millions spent on it recently - modernising everything and I know for a fact that the Historic Places Trust and the Auckland City Heritage Department co-operated with the developers to return the complex to its former glory. Our city fathers wouldn't allow anything to operate if it wasn't safe!" he concluded firmly.

"I think that's what they call maudlin sentimentality getting in the way of geo-physical reality. A problem even quake-shocked Christchurch citizens have difficulty grasping," I caustically suggested, returning to my precarious location - standing next to tonnes of old bricks, hopefully held together with something more adhesive than faith.

- NZ Herald

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