For all Christchurch homes and businesses, life changed forever on 4th September 2010 when an earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale hit just outside the city.
Luckily damage to the Sydenham Bakery was limited and they learned to live with the aftershocks that continued in the following months but nothing could have prepared anyone in the region for the horrific events of 22nd February 2011 when just after lunch a 6.3 quake hit the bulls-eye with an epicentre almost exactly on the city centre.
Although there were luckily no fatalities in the bakery and all staff and customers were safely evacuated, the building needed to be structurally checked and repaired and so baking was temporarily suspended whilst the building underwent emergency repairs. From what I understand a large part of Colombo Street was also cordoned off because of damage or collapse of many nearby buildings the the bakery was not publicly accessible by the front entrance.
The Sydenham Bakery was quickly back on it’s feet, trading from a temporary shop “front” from the rear of the premises and even with the problems of assess and constant aftershocks, I heard from friends and read on message boards from Christchurch residents that all businesses who managed to take this kind of action were hugely, massively and deeply appreciated.
It wasn’t just that fact that people were relieved that their favourite places were back trading and in business, it was also the underlying reassurance that these businesses were here to stay, that they were in it for the long haul and were not going to abandon the city.
It was also a sign that “normal life” might just be around the corner… everywhere people looked, there was damage and destruction, seeing businesses working hard to bounce back as soon as possible meant people keeping their jobs, it meant hope and reassurance like a light at the end of the tunnel that “normal” might be actually be possible again.
For many in Christchurch and for Kiwi’s everywhere, these events signalled the days that life as we knew it changed forever. Like the Sydenham Bakery machinery, we all have scars of some sort or another, but we pick ourselves up and carry on.
That sentiment, and the gratitude for it has been a reoccurring theme that I’ve heard a lot when speaking to friends and family in Christchurch this trip, so clearly it means as much to them as it does to me.
Celia said that most of the quake damage is no longer visible, the bakery floor was completely re-done because of cracks and liquefaction damage, but everyone worked long hours to make sure they were back on track as soon as possible.
She showed me their pastry rolling machine… it’s a massive piece of kit and clearly exceedingly heavy, but the February quake heaved it back and forward with ease, leaving scars where it hit the wall at one end and a large dent in the end of the roller bed where it connected repeatedly with a thick metal pipe at the other.
It’s a shocking reminder that even if we perceive our man-made machinery to be solid and strong, they are no match for the forces of Mother Nature.
Given too that the quake was big enough to push something this big around with ease, it then becomes a wonder that more people were not killed or injured in that quake. The strong New Zealand building code and a healthy dose of sheer luck all have a role to play there in my opinion.
And another thing… a machine that rolls pastry!!! Ooooh I soooooo want one!
Forget shoes and handbags, this is the kind of toy I’d have on my wish list! (sadly for me we live way too far away so I’ll have to stick to my humble wooden rolling pin… but oh, a gal can dream !)