And fade to black...

Apologies for not writing since The Shakening.

For the first few weeks after February 22 it was a matter of heads down, finding beds for, feeding, watering and entertaining the 13 people who ended up at our house for an extended sleepover (soon down to a mere eight as we ate the non-essentials... I mean as the power and water came back on in other suburbs).

I spent a lot of time doing therapeutic baking and cooking for the multitudes. Oh, and boiling water (still doing that, it's my new hobby). And no time watching films. Hard to watch films when there's only one cinema open, and it's waaaay across town. (At time of writing, four cinemas are now open in Christchurch, with two more having opened on Saturday.)

Plus we'd been told not to travel for non-urgent reasons. (Not that you want to drive anywhere unless you absolutely have to - the traffic is so crazy on Christchurch's bumpy roads right now, with the CBD cordoned off. The traffic's at Auckland levels of obnoxiousness, but with added liquefaction speed bumps and dips. It took me 20 minutes to drive 1km this morning!)

The first film I've seen in weeks was on Saturday, March 12 - nearly three weeks film-less must be some sort of record for me - partly this was due to a desire to not travel unnecessarily (I have coined the phrase "rubble-necking" for the tourists who like to drive through disaster zones gawking), and partly because for a while there were no new films released here.

It's also understandable that some people, feeling a little sensitive and risk-averse after the aftershocks, would prefer not to sit in a dark room for a couple of hours at the mercy of unexpected tremors (even with well-lit EXIT signs). Indeed, we had a 4.1 while I was watching Tamara Drewe that night at Sumner's Hollywood cinema. I grabbed my sister's leg in terror like we were seeing a horror film.

New things I have experienced since the quake:

There's a new facial expression: soon after returning to work (out at the printing press near the airport since our deathtrap got red-stickered - we're freezing/sweltering in portacabin purgatory, but hey, at least we've still got jobs/lives...) I noticed whenever you met a workmate you hadn't seen since 22/2, there was a look of relief and happiness - essentially "Thank God, you're OK!" usually followed by a hug.

I've never hugged so many workmates. This started immediately after the 22/2 quake, as so many people were in shock and crying. A severe deadly earthquake is not a bonding experience I'd recommend, but  on another level, feeling more connected to people is nice.

People will surprise you - the people you might least expect turned out to be quite heroic in a life-threatening situation. (The opposite, sadly, may also be true...)

I've discovered a new (distinctly Christchurch) method of film rating - if there's a decent tremor during a screening, is the film absorbing enough that you stay seated and ride it out? Or do you seize the opportunity to flee the cinema?

Quake weight - the unwelcome extra roll you get from all that comfort eating;

The afore-mentioned "rubble-necking" - it's unavoidable that we all do it at some point. Just yesterday I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of St Elmo Courts (that pink building opposite the Dux, for those familiar with Christchurch) being demolished with a cartoon-like wrecking ball. Simultaneously freaky, fascinating and sad.

Joy at seeing my own car: yesterday, I was reunited with my trusty old Hyundai  - almost a month to the day after February 22, when I fled the CBD on foot, leaving my wheels in what soon became the forbidden red zone, under the shadow of a teetering hotel tower. The car also had my son's carseat and mountain buggy in it - luckily we could borrow a jeep (thanks Charlotte and Sheena!), a carseat (thanks, Liz!) and a pram (thanks Steph!). When Sgt Goodson rang, I felt like I'd won Lotto (a minor division, obviously).

While picking up my car, I also saw, for the first time in my obviously thus far sheltered life, a car being lifted by a small forklift. I guess this is how my car was moved too, but it just looks wrong (see pic).

Crushed cars are now commonplace. (see pic below - note brick rubble still in back window). How devastating if this was the car you'd come to collect!

However, the biggest lesson from the quake is: it's only stuff. People are what matters - especially those you care for - and that category covers a lot more people than you realise.

One thing a huge natural disaster does for you (aside from bringing you the new experience of feeling shock, grief, denial, anger, sadness, anxiety, relief, guilt and helplessness all at the same time) is it forces you to reflect on the essentials in life.

So it is with a sense of sadness, that I must at this time bid farewell to this film blog.

When I was first asked to write a film blog for the newfangled Stuff website, I was a newlywed chief film reviewer at a major metropolitan daily with (a little) time on her hands and opinions to burn.

Now, what feels like many years later, I'm the mother of an opinionated toddler (nature's revenge, and yes, I blogged all through that pregnancy and even met Keanu Reeves while heavily pregnant - he probably thought I was an escaped hippo that'd wandered in from the Taronga zoo). Since then I've lost about 60kg (I know!) I'm also now the editor of a couple of newspaper feature magazines and, while I still write film and DVD reviews, I have far less time on my hands these days. (I still have plenty of opinions, of course.)

One important lesson from writing the blog and reading people's comments is: never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. Obviously, there are some people who comment that make you wonder how they managed to turn on a computer (must have chewed through their restraints), but others restore your faith in humanity.

It's been a fascinating journey, and often a very emotional and educational one. I will still be writing - if you don't live in the shaky, quaky Press circulation zone, you can find my reviews and other features on or

Thanks to all my bloggy friends for reading, and please keep sending your best wishes to Christchurch (your support means more than you know - and I'm not just talking about the care packages of coffee, chocolate and candles and Denheath custard squares and DVDs, though those were absolutely splendid!)

Take care out there, remember to stock up your preparedness kit (especially drinking water!) and may all your films be above average.

Famous last movie lines... let's see: There are 400,000 stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.

"You see, this is my life. It always will be! There's nothing else - just us - and the cameras - and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up."

Or, in the eternal words of Ferris Bueller: "You're still here? It's over! Go home. Go!"