I am beginning this without being able to come up with a suitable title! On December 20th I wrote about the fire north of my home. My fears for my daughter and her family. The awfulness/awefilled-ness of my world which had turned orange and air that was acrid with the smell of burning bush! My daughter and her family are safe but the threat continues.
My son and his family travelled from their home down south, in another state, to be with us for Christmas. It was marvellous. They ventured north to be with my daughter and had lovely days filled with the joy of watching their children laugh and play and connect. They do not see each other often. My younger daughter and her family were with us for Christmas. The “babies” of the grandchildren gaggle. My youngest grand daughter, a ball of energy and inquisitiveness, stilled in her Uncle’s arms, listening intently for such a long time, while I played my piano. I haven’t been able to play for some time. Rare days.Blessed days. Days that will live on in the telling across the generations!
Its the second day of the new decade. I remember the first time I wrote in the margin of my exercise book, pondering with all the trepidation I could muster as an almost 9 year old, “1960”. My life was changing even then. My older brother had left home in 1958 and my next brother was about to leave home. I remember thinking that if it was already 1960, how old must Mum and Dad be?
My Dad was a journalist so keeping up with the news was in my blood even then. Mr Menzies was the PM. Pattie was his wife. What an impressive bloke he was to a nearly nine year old. Hardly ever seen on tele. Often in the paper. His face like a carved image of authority. He looked like he was in charge and knew what he might have been on about! Royalist to his bone marrow as was most of the rest of Australia.
I remember hot summers. Burning footpaths. Melting tar. Perspiration running down the back of the legs in hot classrooms. “Heat waves “ brought into submission by “Southerly busters”! Sitting on the back steps in the afternoon and waiting for the approaching sound of the roar, a bit like the starting of the Electrolux vacuum cleaner on a Saturday morning. When the “Buster” arrived it sucked away humidity, flies, mosquitos and lethargy!
My brother was in Rome in the 1960s and sometimes we would make an audio tape to send to him in addition to the weekly aerograms. One Christmas my Mum, who was very self conscious about the sound of her voice was describing the festive table . Using her most posh enunciation she explained, “And it’s ninety nine in the dining room”. Sweltering day! On the return tape my brother told of the great glee expressed by his British and American friends on hearing what he referred to as “Mums flattened vowel sounds”, doing a slightly disrespectful rendition of them himself!
But that’s all gone. Times were frequently tough but they were not the first tough times generations of families had lived through. Yes, there were fires and floods and droughts. We knew when the seasons started and when we could expect them to end. I always loved the time of year when the westerly breeze in the morning morphed into and easterly heralding that Autumn was on the horizon. Wild winds in August! Freezing blasts that gave me the chance to experience chill blains for the first and only time in my life as a boarder in the Hunter Valley. Winds that cut mercilessly through layers of clothes straight to bones, making teeth chatter on the way to Mass each morning at 7.00am.
It seems that too has just about gone. Where I live the leaves on my frangipani trees barely hit the ground before new leaves are shooting. My husband’s Grandmother used to describe those trees in their winter dress as “maiden’s nightmares”. I remember being scandalised by the description. I hardly have time to blush now because they are covering themselves up within days of shedding!
I am sick, in my heart and in my head ,by what I see now. 2020. Day two. Four thousand people taking shelter on a beach waiting for the Navy to rescue those who need to be rescued and bringing water because there is none. I think of images of refugee camps in countries torn by war.
People whose houses, livelihoods, irreplaceable possessions have melted! People whose family members have died. Mothers whose children are without Fathers. A young woman anticipating the birth of their child alone now that her husband is dead. Husband, wives, lovers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who wait for their loved ones to return from volunteering as front line fire fighters. I ponder the fact that the tragedy of all of this is in no way unique to the majority of the rest of the world.
My son’s sister in law who taught English in Cambodia and is there at the moment, lost her home and all her possessions in the fire that decimated Club Terrace in Victoria. She will return to nothing! She will return to love.
Uncertainty. Fear. Hopelessness. Dismay. Powerlessness. Brokenness. Anger,
And the most puzzling thought that I have been pondering is about the rest of the “western world”. When there is a shooting in America, a bombing in London, a terrorist attack in Paris our news programs bombard us with information. All the details. Daily, sometimes hourly updates. I have seen only one reference on line to the fires in a London publication. Of course there may have been others.
Truth is, to the power brokers of the world we are small fry! We ARE expendable! The thinking nations of the rest of the world cannot understand our government’s climate change denial policy! Slogans, jingoism, the tools of the advertising industry are not good enough!”She’ll right, Mate” does not apply! “Thoughts and Prayers” are not love and compassion or practical help!
The power brokers of the world covet our coal and other natural resources. They purchase them and our water and our farm land assisted by our so called leaders in the name of the economy. “We” do not matter! Its true! I cringe at the thought of the latest offering from the Department of Tourism inviting the poor old POMs who are suffering Post Brexit Stress Disorder and who might arrive in Perth looking for Nirvana only to find Hades. Catastrophic fire condition forecast there for tomorrow. Perhaps action needs to be taken there to turn back THOSE “boats”!
Our Leader went MIA. He’s back now but he may as well not be. Bombastic and patronising. The “Could have been Leader’ has been at least a bit more visible and realistic but always there is the waiting for the moment when it all gets back to “you didn’t win” “you only just won” argy bargy.
The saying I remember from days when I was even more cynical that I am now is “if you can’t dazzle the with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit!” Well there’s nothing dazzling or baffling going on really – just an awful lot of bullshit!