The cats have found a bolthole - but we're still here

19:38, Dec 27 2011

All Thursday night Benecio had been pestering me, wanting to get me out of bed and feed him, and he was in my face for most of the morning. I fed him once, twice, three times. I found his brush, which usually seems to calm him down, and the combing drew huge clumps of fur.

Miriam, who is nearly as obsessed as I am about the boy, came over. I said: "Thank God you're here to sort out the lad. He's being very intense. I do hope that doesn't mean there's another quake coming."

"Don't say that," she said.

By the time she left he was curled up on the couch sleeping like a baby and I was banging away on the keyboard, trying to get all the work done before Friday ended - when Old Bucky did his block and threw his first wobbly.

Benecio shot outside. I staggered after him.

It felt as violent as the February earthquake and then there was a smaller one. I went to the garage, wrenched the door open, got the bike out and was just about to leave when I saw Lorraine walk up the drive. Her face was the colour of white enamel so I dropped the bike and went to her.


I dragged chairs from wherever I could and more people arrived and sat down around the front lawn. The good thing was there was plenty of liquor in the house in preparation for Christmas so we broke it open and had the mandatory stiff one before the next big one hit.

Usually when you sit outside during the aftershocks you don't feel them as much. Not this time. This time it felt biblical, as if the earth was going to open up and we were going to fall in it. A lot of whites were being shown in everyone's eyes as we rocked and rolled with the beast before it unclenched its grasp and drew breath again.

The power went out and came back on again. I filled up watering cans and milk bottles, even though I had plenty in reserve and a stream has opened up under the house and been re-routed into a drain we can access in time of need.

The staff from down at Beat Street cafe drifted past the fence, leant over and said there'd been a bit of damage. We invited them in. More chairs were found and I went and got the laptop and seemed to walk round with it in stunned mullet fashion, poking at the on switch, not able to get it going.

The landlord and landlady and one of their adult offspring arrived and with more numbers there was more strength. Some of us grew silent, some of us had flashbacks to February, some talked maniacally, some of us wept.

I went to bed with Benecio next to me. I got up in the dark and sat in Dad's old chair and stared at the skew-whiffery of the walls and mess on the floors, and Benecio came through and hid under the desk.

There was a knock at the door and I was pleased to see Eve there. We sat and debriefed, going through the terrors of the afternoon.

After she left I went back to bed avec cat but when the 5.1 hit at 7.30am he bolted and hasn't been seen since, and neither have the other cats in the compound.

Whatever secret cat bolthole they go to, I just wish they'd come back.

I stayed in bed late and thought, "What's the point of getting up?" Normally after a shock I want to get in the shower in case it's my last for a while but not on Saturday. To state the bleeding obvious, this has completely done in what little we had left of our munted heads.

I tried to find my Australian- based brother's phone number in my book and got into a frenzied panic when I couldn't locate it. Scrambled eggs for brains, I registered it as I saw it staring at me, right in front of my fat face.

Come back Benecio, normal transmission has been restored. We live to fight another Old Bucky another day.

The Press