June 27, 2012

Fresh footage from inside the Christchurch central red zone

I have found it increasingly overwhelming lately to cope with all the demolition. I drove down the newly opened Durham St this week and wanted to cry. It was so hard to see the gaps, many filled with memories, but struggling to work out what had gone, what was left, what was going, and drive without tailgating anyone. I really need to go back and walk it properly. The city looks like a hive of activity, with cranes busy on the high rise buildings. It still takes a while to accept that they are busy taking things down, not building them up, and that many of those left, as you can see in this video, are marked for deconstruction.

Adrienne Rewi put up some great pictures tonight of the state of the city. Definitely worth a look.

June 23, 2012

NZ Veterinary Conference meets the All Blacks

It has been a great week in Hamilton at the conference... despite the wet weather earlier in the week, we got to enjoy some quality catch up time, learning and fun, with the sun appearing for the last two days.  A great show by the NZ Veterinary and Veterinary Nursing Associations at Claudelands Event Centre.  And not one earthquake :)

Some of us got to stay at the Novotel - which was very comfortable, and we were particularly pleased to be joined by some great company as they prepared for their third test match up there,  against Ireland, tonight.  I think we all made the effort to eat breakfast with them downstairs, and hang around the bar whenever we could to see the boys... as one of my older friends commented - "I got Dan Carter's autograph for my grandsons". Her husband caught my eye with a smile, as we both know they have no grandchildren!  The caption on the photo leads to a link of the photo taken of them training in Hamilton.  Fingers crossed for a great game this evening.


It was also wonderful for me to catch up with some friends from Queenstown. We have not been in the same city for 15 years but made time this week for lunch in town and a quick visit to see their new home on the way to Cambridge. Thanks Lou and Mike for a lovely time!

Back to reality today - Poppy was suitably excited to see me and has been hovering close today, while I cleaned and tidied and washed clothes.  Scott would like to but he is off working with the Christchurch Symphony Orchesta instead at Wigram Air Museum, one of their more unusual post earthquake performance venues.

As well as the game later, I am going to help another friend, Trudi, celebrate her 40th. She was one of my students in 2000, and is now finishing her nursing degree. I was away and missed the party for her 30th, but will be making up for it tonight! Despite some trawling and many happy memories I cant find a photo she will thank me for to put on here... but I will say Happy Birthday Trudi xxx

In fact it has been a week of birthdays because while I was away, Jess and Kirsty both had theirs, and we celebrated them before I left with a family gathering... and Tiramisu Mousse cake...

Really a fabulous week all round :)

June 15, 2012

Alex's Yellow Brick Road

Alex had an Italian 21st Birthday - complete with kiwifruit, plenty of cakes and surrounded by nice people.. so if he couldn't be here, I am glad he was there, in that place, celebrating with friends.
A big thank you to the wonderful people who made such an effort to make it memorable and enjoyable for him and those of us watching from way down here...

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Will Harvie: Canterbury's 475th serious quake | Stuff.co.nz


Sometime in coming months, Canterbury will pass an important milestone that readers and policymakers outside the province should note.

Canterbury will soon experience its 475th significant earthquake since September 4, 2010.

Ha, you read stories recently that Canterbury had been shaken 10,000 times and we're fast closing in on 11,000.

As far as it goes, Friday's total of 10,958 (about noon) was precisely correct. But it doesn't mean anybody in Christchurch has experienced anything like that number of shakes.

That's because a huge majority (7386) measured magnitude 2.9 and less. Magnitude 3.0 is about the lowest level at which humans can detect earth movement.

So the foundation number of shakes is 3518, not almost 11,000. Even then, nobody has felt all 3518.

Being generous, let's say an average resident has felt half, or 1759. Even then, a 3.3 shake out towards Darfield is often no more frightening or disruptive to, say, eastern Christchurch residents than flatulence. And vice versa.

If we want figures on quakes that are disruptive and frightening, then we should select only those quakes magnitude 4.0 and greater. That number is 472.

By any measure, that's a remarkably high number and something to brag about to the rest of New Zealand and the world.

I'm not intending to diminish anyone's experiences of bad quakes that measure less than 4.0 (I've been scared, too), but I am arguing in a less-is-more way - that 475 packs more punch than 11,000.

Of course, Canterbury buildings are affected by quakes starting at about magnitude 3.0. This unusual wear and tear will be addressed by repairs. And I'm happy for scientists to continue recording every last shake, because they need the data for research purposes.

The main point is that 11,000 hyperbole isn't helpful to the Canterbury cause.

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June 12, 2012

Turning 21 far, far away

Happy Birthday Alex

Wherever you are, I think somewhere in Florence, certainly in Italy, it is officially your birthday here in New Zealand, which makes you 21.
It is hard to think of you so far away,  but we have been planning how to celebrate this event and I can assure you, the cake, the champagne and the party happened here over the weekend.... I think you will enjoy seeing it! We enjoyed having it :)

Hard to believe that you, my youngest child, have reached 21. It has been a pleasure, most of the time at least as like all kids you had your moments,  but the engaging, smiling,  beautiful baby has grown into a young man I am very proud of.

I have had fun putting some memories of that journey together. I picked the music because I always loved it when you played it on the cello and I miss hearing it.

I hope you have a chance to celebrate, wherever you are.
Much love and hugs
Mum xx

June 8, 2012

Clearing the train tracks in Arthurs Pass

Amazing - deep snow on a sunny day... love it when it gets into the deeper snow later!

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Terrace on the Park Apartments | Timelapse Video... | Stuff.co.nz

Joe Morgan

Time-lapse video showing the demolition of the Terrace on the park apartment complex.

Many people probably imagine all the demolitions of the high rises here in Christchurch are like you see on tv... a few well placed sticks of explosive and a controlled fall to the ground. In reality, none have been done this way. The doomed building has a thick layer of dirt laid around the bottom to protect the roads, ( the carpet of death) and then the diggers get to work. The first towers in this apartment complex were "dirty demolitions", too unsafe to be stripped out, and for days peoples possessions were laid open to view. Gym equipment, electronic goods, furniture. They had been unable to enter to salvage it all, although I suspect a few had returned and grabbed what they could of the smaller possessions immediately post-quake.

This final tower was finally condemned recently, but it has obviously been cleaned out and anything possible to be will be recycled.

Six days of careful deconstruction captured in time-lapse, and made more personal by the final footage taken from a camera strapped to the crane near the claw. A birds eye view.

I can't imagine watching my home or office laid bare this way. Sadly, a large percentage of the high rise towers in the city are destined to be, or have already been, done.

Hope the movie shows up - if not , go to this link:

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June 7, 2012

Coldest Day in 130 years of record keeping

Still really cold and icy
Riverdance was wonderful :)
House was toasty warm when we got home.

MetService New Zealand- Snow of June 2012....

A great photo of the cold gripping the country. Today we are basking in sunshine after a bitterly cold -5C night here in Christchurch. It was even colder in Hanmer Springs at -10C.

The trees were broken and bowed, so we have a few branches to clean up again, but they are now dripping in a steady shower of melted snow. The ice caused a lot of damage for those who braved the roads this morning, evident by the number of crushed cars on the roadside when we ventured out mid afternoon. Many schools and businesses remained closed today, including polytech, so I spent most of the day sorting out student queries and writing assessments while trying to keep warm.. I do miss a roaring log fire and of course, our gas cylinders ran out so no flickering flames. The heat pump is great, except for its habt of entering a defrost mode, even with regular checking for ice on it, so we have hauled out the old oil heater too. Poor James and Jess spent a cold night with no power, which is really hard for Jess as she has to sleep sitting up because of her broken arm. Luckily the power came back on this morning....

Off to see Riverdance tonight :) So glad the roads are all cleared and we should get there with no problems - thanks Alex, Avenues Magazine and The Press for the tickets :)

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June 6, 2012

A snow day in Christchurch

Yes - another day off this week - well, working from home, but polytech is closed and we are safely home beside the fire.  I set off for work at 7.30 am, but the thickening snow made me realise that returning home would become an issue, so I turned back. Shortly after, work closed....buses stopped and the city ground to a halt in a blanket of huge, gentle snowflakes.

The garden soon vanished.....

Poppy has been out snow dancing - kicking up flurries and delighting in the wet loveliness of the snow... she wanted me to join her outside..

She came in a bit bedraggled...

But soon made herself at home by the fire.

No playing with her friends today....

Meanwhile Phoebe discovers snow for the first time.....

And these were taken by a friend looking out of our work high rise just before they closed for the day... looking over the Basilica and Barbadoes St..

Out to the North - cranes and ruins galore.

In Christchurch, snow from the cold blast has hampered power supplies, crippled the airport, closed bus services, schools and the university, and prompted workers to head home early.
Christchurch airport was running off a generator at the request of power supplier Orion, in a bid to free up supplies for the city.
Public transport operator Metro pulled its buses off the road at 11am, after earlier curtailing services at the foothills, rather than risk the slippery snow-covered roads higher up.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said most Christchurch workers had turned up to their jobs, with only some people living in hill suburbs being forced by the snow to stay home.
By late morning it was still snowing and some employers were sending staff home, with others planning to finish early.
"It's absolutely pelting down at the moment," he said shortly after 11am.
Problems with power supply were made worse when a falling tree and car crashing into a power pole cut power to hundreds of homes in Bexley, Prebbleton, West Melton, Harewood and McLeans Island.
Schools, kindergartens, the courts, Canterbury University and many rural roads were closed across Christchurch and Canterbury, and power was off in Hanmer Springs, where the snow was even heavier.
Scott just took these round the house.

In other news,  Alex has won tickets to the show Riverdance that is on here tomorrow night, and as he is off enjoying the heat and ground trembles of Northern Italy, he has given them to me. Just hope the tickets make it to us in the mail tomorrow as no mail deliveries today in the snow, and of course, that we can get there! I am really looking forward to it - and especially nice as it is his 21st on the 12th and I get the present!  Hard to think of him celebrating so far away....  
Stay warm and safe everyone

June 3, 2012

James Herriot's ongoing influence on the veterinary profession


I read his first book when I was 15, because I already wanted to be a vet, which was a good enough reason to spend hard earned pocket money on a newly released, hard cover version of "If Only They Could Talk".  It was the first of many of his books I read, reread, and years later I got the children some of his short stories paperbacks . I still have copies of all of his books and dip in and out for a laugh or a cry regularly.  

His legacy to Yorkshire tourism has been huge - but worldwide, a generation of vets and pet owners formed a lasting impression of what rural practice was like in the thirties when he graduated. As a piece of UK history, a slice of life in those times, that had gone by the time he even wrote about them, it is wonderful. 

A fellow blogger, recently visited Thirsk ( better known as the fictional Darrowby) in Yorkshire and saw the museum dedicated to the man and his life.  Some great photos galleries of it and a web page are available. 


Mieke put up some great pictures of it inside and wrote about it  and I got to thinking about the urban legend among the profession that he had committed suicide after a lifelong battle with depression.  I know he battled "Brucellosis" which cause fevers and sweating, joint pain and depression.

It was also mentioned in All Things Bright and Beautiful, one volume in the memoirs of James Herriot, the pen name of Scottish veterinarian James Alfred Wight. In this case, the disease ruined an aspiring dairy farmer's herd and forced him to abandon the business. Wight also describes the effect of brucellosis on himself, referring to it as having "funny turns," in his fifth volume of memoirs, "Every Living Thing."  http://military.wikia.com/wiki/Brucellosis

He definitely did have depression throughout his life: You can read about that here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1314863/James-Herriots-private-hell-The-shocking-truth-man-TVs-famous-vet.html

I did some googling yesterday and the urban legend was partly correct. It was Donald Sinclair, the inspiration for Siegreid Farnon, who overdosed on barbiturates, two weeks after the death of his wife of 53 years, and four months after Alf Wight died of prostate cancer.  Another statistic. I have written before of the high suicide rat for vets - mainly due to the ease of obtaining the drugs to do it. In this case grief was more the cause than the stress and burnout of the professional demands of this career. 


Meanwhile, millions of copies of his books have sold; the tv series ran for many years and two movies were made. While at vet school at Massey in Palmerston North we had no television and were all annoyed at missing the programme we only saw in the holidays. One day my flatmate acquired a radio cassette player that had a 2 inch tv screen in it, and with careful placement on a chair in front of us, five people could lie face down on a bed and watch the show. Just listening to the theme music brings it all back so clearly. 

Times have changed.


" One swallow does not make a summer, nor does one lady with exceptional physical endowments prove that the veterinary profession is suitable for women." So said The Field in 1922.

Eighty years on, it is hard to believe that such a statement could ever have been made in earnest. In my final year at veterinary school, I am surrounded by 52 women students in a class of 76. They are bright, determined and they have studied hard for five years for the toughest degree exams there are. It is no longer a question of whether the profession is suitable for woman, but of what the profession will become now it has so few men.

Veterinary medicine is undoubtedly the girls' choice. As Maureen Aitken, a former Royal Veterinary College women's representative, puts it: "It's a caring profession, demanding intelligence and dedication. It is one to which woman are well suited."

This is just as well. A recent poll of girls aged 11 to 16 found that becoming a vet was their top ambition. Female applicants to veterinary schools outnumber males by more than three to one - the highest ratio for any professional degree subject. This year, Ucas received 4,868 applications from females: 77 per cent of the total.

The trend is not new. If every applicant had been accepted, 70 per cent of vets would have been female as far back as 1949, and the male-dominated novels of James Herriot would have been very different.

The association doesn't seem to know why there are so few male vets today. "It is not so much that boys aren't applying, as that more girls are gaining places," it says. But Ucas figures show that the same percentage of male applicants is accepted every year, while absolute numbers of male applications have fallen sharply since 1998.

Isn't it alarming, then, that that the association's president should say he is "quite frankly not sure that there is anything the BVA can do, or needs to do, to encourage more males to apply to vet schools"?

The profession can and must do something. It must go out to schools and advertise itself as a serious career option for talented young men. It must encourage boys who are capable of making the grade to buckle down and do the necessary work.

If boys are not applying because they see the profession as too academic, too female dominated and too poorly remunerated, the profession must correct these perceptions. It must encourage teachers and parents to support boys who are capable of becoming vets but lack the discipline needed to achieve the required A-levels.

I know from experience that teacher support makes a huge difference. My first year A-level performance was so poor that I had to beg my chemistry teacher to predict me an A grade. Another teacher might not have relented and I could have lost my place, not because of a lack of ability but because of a lack of maturity. As it was, my teacher was willing to give me a chance. On the strength of my predicted grades, I was offered a place.

Veterinary medicine is a wonderful vocation, for both men and woman. Those who make the grade are highly sought-after, not just as vets, but in fields as diverse as research, industry and law.

It is time that the profession began to encourage more male applicants. Otherwise, many bright young men will lose out. The biggest loser, though, will be the profession itself. 

The problem is not that women don't make great vets. They do. But they work less years, need more time out for children, want more part time work, less after hours, and are less likely to want to purchase and run a practice so the profession is heading towards corporate ownership where ets are employed and only do clinical skills - a trend that is already happenign n human medical practice. It may even be a good thing,,, but the real problem is the shortage of vets to work in the rural animal side of food production, biosecurty etc


Jim Paice, the Agriculture Minister, warned that more vets than ever are needed in the countryside to stop outbreaks of animal diseases in intensive units like swine or bird flu.

But the latest statistics show that young vets are predominantly women who prefer to specialise in treating pets in cities or certain conditions like canine disease.

A study by the University of Newcastle found the proportion of time vets in private practice spend treating animals used for food halved between 1998 and 2006.

Mr Paice warned that the lack of country vets able to treat large animals and ensure farms are disease free could lead to food safety issues.

Mr Paice said: “The countryside needs vets with the right skills to help maintain a reliable supply of food. Farmers rely on vets to keep their animals and businesses healthy – that’s why we need the whole food chain from farmers to supermarkets to make sure their needs are clearly understood by the veterinary industry.”

Mr Locke said modern day vets can still be a pillar of the community but their job is quite different as farmers tend to be more educated and do a lot of treatment themselves. Instead of being called out in the night for lambing or a sick calf, vets spend a lot more time on preventive medicine. Vets within a practice tend to specialise and spend a lot more time looking at the farm as a whole rather than individual animals. This means carrying out more regular inspections and giving farmers advice rather than just being called out in emergency situations.


This is a great article on the realities of life as a country vet in Yorkshire today...



In two specific ways, Watkinson is a traditional country vet. The first is that he has a Y chromosome. In the past decade, 80 per cent of graduates from veterinary college have been women, drawn to the profession by its caring image as well as television docu-soaps and dramas such as Animal Hospital and Vets' School. This feminisation of the profession has meant a rapid decline in the number of vets willing to do farm work: only one in 10, compared to 50 per cent 20 years ago. That's the other way in which Watkinson is a traditionalist. He specialises in farm animals and, as such, belongs to a dying breed. The government was warned of an 'impending shortage' of large farm animal vets by a parliamentary committee five years ago, and though it pledged an 'urgent action plan', no action has been taken, urgent or otherwise. It is predicted that one in five remaining farm vets will quit within 10 years.

This guy wrote his own book about the veterinary profession.....



“James Herriot has a lot to answer for,” he says, glancing nervously around the crowded cafe at the National Museum of Scotland, as if expecting to be ambushed at any moment. “What most people don’t realise is that he suffered from depression, to some extent due to his job. Yet he still produced them rose-tinted stories that have shaped people’s idea of what being a vet is like.”

Whether it’s the genial country practitioner delivering newborn foals on his way home to a hearty lunch; or modern reality-TV heroes saving doe-eyed pets with the help of high-tech gadgetry, Artmeier believes romanticised portrayals are responsible for thousands of ill-prepared graduates entering a profession so endemically stressful that it might just be the death of them.

If that sounds like the overblown claim of a veterinary Victor Meldrew, the view is disturbingly bolstered by an industry report. Published last year in the journal of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the study found the suicide rate among vets to be a staggering four times the national average – and double that of doctors and dentists. The most common method of death was by injecting or swallowing poisonous chemicals intended for animal euthanasia. Long hours, emotional isolation and a lack of coping and communication skills have been seen as contributing factors.


The secret of the success of the James Herriot books is not the tales about the animals: it was the way he wrote so movingly about the people who own them. It takes a special vet to be able to care for the human side of the relationship. Passionate caring for animals is great, but alone, it is not enough for people working in this field and yet it is what attracts them to it, in droves. If you are thinking of being a vet or a vet nurse or vet technician, please stop and think about whether you can do both roles. After all, the public may be a pain in the neck at times, but your income relies on them, not the animals!


Whatever lies ahead for vets, I am so glad to have been a part of it for the last 33 years.

Thanks Mieke for reminding me of all this :)


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