So many enquiries as to our wetness and safety makes me want to write this down.
It is a horrendous situation here in SE Queensland. On Monday I was chatting to a colleague on the Toowoomba campus of USQ when another colleage sent around the pics I tried to embed in the previous blog. Hard to imagine the effects of that but worse was to come. That wall of water moved on gathering strength and volume and wiped out Grantham in minutes, many didn’t have time to get onto their roofs before the water swept their homes off their stumps into the torrent. Then the water continued down the valley into the Brisbane system and then Ipswich ‘went under’ as they say on Tuesday and then we watched the news footage of Brisbane’s turn.
Biblical proportions except that an ark would have been destroyed in Grantham. The rising water here and in Brisbane has been more gradual but so steady it is scary. We are fine. Al remembers the 1974 floods and our conversation is often peppered with comments “See that place was completely under water in 1974. They shouldn’t be there, it will go under again.” He was so right. News commentators tell us that we are looking at blocks of new units near places that were inundated in 1974. The Rocklea markets are completely trashed, the source of all Brisbane and surrounds fresh produce. In 74 they moved to another venue to keep the area fed… one wonders why they went back there.
Lots of talk on the media about ‘the Aussie way’, people looking out for each other, being stoical in the face of this disaster, ‘this is life in Oz’, volunteering their vehicles and time to assist with cleaning up. All very commendable and admirable. And I am not knocking it, indeed admire it and have to reflect and compare with my SA experiences and Oman experience and I don’t see anything much different – people are like that because short of instantly committing suicide what else is there to do other than the next thing… get on with rebuilding, repairing, cleaning up…. I must say though that the SES – State Emergency Services – are fantastic. It all swung into action so fast and so decisively that I was amazed. No rumours of bungling at all and immediate offers of financial aid to those stricken, with instructions as to how to apply for it.
Well our livelihood has been completely compromised by this extraordinary ‘weather event’ as it is described. But because my income is exactly the disqualifying amount Alan does not qualify! Story of my life.
Still one of the other qualities being described in the media as Aussie, is that even those worst off are saying but what about those other poor b…. so much worse off than us. That is generosity of spirit – I cannot imagine better reason for allowing oneself to indulge in self-pity than the sort of losses and endurance of dangerous discomfort that has hit thousands of families. It is still raining west of the ranges and those communities are being inundated for the second time. Not fair when not long ago there was no rain and people watched their stock and crops die in the drought.
What about me in all of this? Having been stoical often and having rebuilt, revisioned and cleaned up a few times I know the cost of all this stoicism and am forgiving of my choices now. I am focussing on attempting to rescue our situation and keep myself functioning – I am mindful of how depressing all this destruction is likely to be, I remember some of the natural disasters in Cape Town especially in Khayelitsha when we were flooded there and when shack fires wiped out students’ homes and possessions and and… and then Gonu in Muscat in 2007 and the dreadfully depressing effect all that had on the communities… so where did this self-preservation and attempt to maintain some sort of focus take me yesterday – to my sewing machine. the last time I used a sewing machine was in Derbyshire when I was supporting a lad from Hong Kong and in the crafts class he had to use a sewing machine! I used to be pretty good with a sewing machine but it took me an hour yesterday to figure out why it wasn’t sewing properly. Anyway I got it going and now all the mending is done, buttons sewn on, crocheted table cloths repaired and saleable and the curtains for the van started.
This story is going all over the place but I am going to go back to home now and mention two poems; Al is fond of quoting this one Said Hanrahan, and the other one, My Country, is learnt by all Aussie primary school kids… links at the end… One starts to learn and understand something of the Aussie psyche that leads to the gritty approach to disaster shared by all Australians, settler and Indigenous. The poems don’t reflect an Indigenous perspective but in my working life I work with two wonderful Indigenous women who expand my perceptions in every encounter and I want to show that I am mindful that there is a separate but joined perspective.
With the flood disaster unfolding only a kilometre and a half away Al and I quietly puddled along with our lives getting ready for a market on Sunday that might not happen as Lismore might be cut off by the floods as the water has now proceeded to northern NSW and Grafton has been ‘under’ for a few days already. We will have to wait and see. And then of course people might still be in a state of shock and not want to spend on the sort of fun stuff we sell.
I will be in my office today catching up with students’ work, got a piece to read this morning and other stuff and Al will probably offer himself to the cause of restoring Ipswich, as a volunteer. So I leave you on that more positive note. Interesting also to hear that the dams in Gauteng, nostalgically remembered from boating expeditions with my folks, are all overfull. Must be something in the theory of changing weather patterns!
Here is Dorothea McKellar…