Geek 1: Fear 0

I was in Christchurch for an all-day workshop on Saturday. The closest all-day parking was in the Art Gallery carpark. I resisted the idea of parking there. I never liked basement carparks, even before the 2010-2011 earthquakes, and I like them even less now.

Stupid, I thought. Time to get over this fear. Thousands of people park in multi-storey and basement carparks every day in this city. I can do it for one day.

I dove into the carpark, leapt out of my car, and practically sprinted to the exit. I was dismayed to find the pedestrian exit was through a couple of doors, down a corridor, and up a flight of stairs.

But just as I was about to climb the stairs, I noticed one of the seismic base isolators the building is equipped with. The geek in me overrode the scaredy cat, and I had to stop to snap a photo.

These isolation units are a cool piece of technology. They essentially decouple the building from the ground, so that when the earth shakes, the building stays still. In a quake, the top and bottom plates of the unit slide contrary to one another—the building’s inertia keeps the top plate relatively still while the lower plate jiggles around.

The isolation units were retrofitted to the art gallery (along with lots of other repairs) after the 2010-2011 earthquakes.

According to the manufacturer’s website, the Triple Pendulum Bearings like those installed in the Art Gallery are designed to dampen the wide range of lateral vibrations from small, medium, and large quakes. They don’t make the building completely quake-proof, but they did make me more comfortable leaving my car there for the day.

You can take me out, but you can’t dress me up

I laced up my shoes to go to town yesterday and thought to myself, “Gosh, these shoes are comfortable.” My next thought was, “Gee these shoes are looking a bit rough for town wear.”

Truth is, I’m a bit rough for town wear. I feel it every time I go for groceries. Other women arrive at the store in high heels and skirts, with flouncy scarves and jewellery. I rock up in my hiking boots, still dusty from my last trip. My clothes are clean, well-made and tailored perfectly for me (because I make the myself), but that’s just it—they’re tailored for me, and not just in the fit. Denim, cotton, lots of pockets, and comfortable enough to walk five kilometres in (because I never know when I’ll have the need or urge to take a brisk walk).

Even my ‘town’ shoes—the ones I wear when I’m trying to look at least somewhat professional—are wide, clunky affairs that are, quite frankly, ugly (but really comfortable).

Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me to be the unfashionable slob in town, but it doesn’t mean I don’t notice my wardrobe is wildly different from others’.

I could theoretically dress up to go to town. Somewhere, deep in the closet is one outfit that could count as marginally dressy. It would pass for normal in the grocery store. I expect it will last the rest of my life, given how seldom it comes out.

You can take me out, but you can’t dress me up.

Author Jam–mark your calendars!

Tickets have just gone on sale for Wham Bam Author Jam on 24 November in Christchurch. Lots of authors, and lots of books–what more can you want? It’s a great chance to meet NZ authors (and a few from farther afield), buy their books, and support the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand at the same time.

Be sure to stop by my table and say hello!

The Sound of a Story

I sit down at my desk and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s quiet here, in my office. Not like the noisy library where I worked yesterday.

But, no, that’s not true. I hear the roar of the surf in the distance. The trickle of the artificial stream in the garden overlays the sound of the ocean. When I step to the office door, a goat greets me with a maa. Starlings mutter in the treetops, magpies warble on the fenceposts, and a fantail chitters in the shed. A plover’s percussive call is underlain by the chirping of a thousand crickets.

The neighbour rumbles past in his tractor, carrying a bale of silage. I can hear his son in the paddock shouting and whistling at his five barking sheep dogs.

It is far from quiet.

And yet …

Somehow, the sounds here caress my thoughts, rather than intruding upon them like the horrible Muzak from the library cafe, or the screams of tired children, or the drone of the automatic returns machine—please place the item on the trolly.

The fantail flits in and out of the story I’m writing without knocking over my coffee. The goats and sheep graze beside me without barging across the keyboard. The crickets keep to the grass. The tractor rumbles along without leaving tire tracks on my manuscript. The ocean doesn’t even wet my toes.

But somehow, I’m certain these sounds end up in my stories, caught up in the weave of plot and characters. The fantail is there, in the flick of a character’s fingers. The ocean is the relentless sound of the plot line. The tractor is the rumble of disaster bearing down on my protagonist. The goats’ deep maa is the voice of wisdom, and the crickets’ chirping lightens the mood.