What a shocker of a night. I had to get up at 5.00am this morning to be ready for a Skype work chat with a New York colleague at 6.00am. So I went to bed around 11.00pm but….who could sleep? The winds were howling and rattling every window in the house. Gales and heavy rain have been battering New Zealand over the last day or so.

The Canterbury region is well-known for its Nor’ Westers – hot, dry strong winds. You know a Nor’ Wester is coming when you look up in the sky and see the Nor’ West or Canterbury arch. We’ve only experienced one awful Nor’Wester and that was in September 2010. It was either the day before or the day after the first Christchurch earthquake on September 4. We’d only been in NZ for a couple of months. Welcome to New Zealand!

We cowered in a corridor of the house and I was certain it was going to come crashing down around our ears. But it didn’t. In fact, it’s withstood two harsh rattles at the hands of Mother Nature with the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. And last night, the house faced down the strongest winds I’ve ever lived through. All through the night, the winds carried on like raving banshees: screaming, howling, whistling. Windows and shutters trembled whilst we tried to sleep. Yeah, right. That didn’t work. I bolted upright in bed with each loud hurtling gust as it savagely hit the house and surrounding trees.

I looked outside at one stage to see Saffy and her dad, Muff, running around the race like wild maniacs. At least they need no exercise today! I later saw Rosie taking shelter in the gully near the race, which has a small stream. Karma had her four chunky legs very solidly placed on the ground – no strong wind could budge this mare! Danny was very stoic with his back to the gale force winds, calmly waiting it out. I did think of taking them all up to the stables but then looked at the eucalyptus trees behind the stables thrashing and bending. Didn’t really want my horses to be flattened thanks.

I think I managed one hour of sleep before the 5.00am alarm shrilled. And guess what? My New York colleague never showed up for the 6.00am Skype meeting due to being dragged off to an unexpected meeting.

As daylight broke, we surveyed the damage. Sadly, my favourite tree – the large weeping willow in the front garden – had its trunk split and a large chunk of this magnificent tree was lying forlornly on the front lawn. The chestnut tree was also split in two and the glass on our outdoor coffee table was shattered. Branches from other trees were strewn everywhere but the horses struck it lucky – many of these branches are from willow trees and horses LOVE willow (it’s a great anti-inflammatory and like taking aspirin).

We rang a tree surgeon who came bolting out this morning. He says there’s a 50/50 chance of saving the willow tree. It’s leaning heavily to one side and further winds could destroy it. 80km/h winds are predicted for this coming Sunday and next Tuesday. Great. He reckons the chestnut tree just needs a prune to within an inch of its life and it should be fine. So he’ll be back over the weekend to work his magic. I just hope he can save the fragile weeping willow.


The chestnut tree with its trunk split in half.


A large branch from the beautiful weeping willow.


Another branch of the weeping willow broken off.


Zsa Zsa inspects the huge chunk of weeping willow now on the ground.