Monday, 28 January 2013

Weather events - from one extreme to another.

As I write, news of the floods in Queensland and New South Wales fills my lounge room.  Poor Brisbane is going under again.  I lived there for twelve years and didn't see a flood.  Parents warned about checking the historical flood levels whenever a house move was contemplated.  Even in times of relentless rain and humidity, a flood seemed distant and unlikely.  My war was waged against mould.  Now it seems to be the time of year when Victoria suffers the threat and reality of bushfires while our northern neighbours are under water.

I try to steer clear of bad news.  I can not bear the saturation coverage.  My thoughts are with my friends and family who are affected, but I do not need to know every detail.  What's the new story anyway?  Every year, the stories are the same.  Journalists in high visibility vests interview people in evacuation shelters.  The questions are the same: "what did you lose?" "how did you get out?" "when was the last time you saw this much water?" And let's not forget the dreaded "how do you feel?"  Then the local business people community volunteers will be asked variations on the same questions and the additional ones: "how fast was the water moving?" "how many more times can you go through this?".

When this misery and despair has been paraded across the screens, they'll interview the politicians - everyone from the Prime Minister to the mayor and the President of the local Rotary Club.  They'll sprout the usual platitudes of sorrow and promise help which everyone knows will be gratefully received, despite its inadequacy.  Next will be meteorologists explaining the weather systems that have caused this "rain event" (when did rain become an "event"?).  Finally they'll tack on speculation about the links to climate change.  The editorial line will determine whether or not there is a link.  Days will pass and the stories will include news of disappointment and frustration with insurers.

I just heard the radio journalist ask a woman "How is the town now?"

The woman responded:  "Flooded," with the words "you idiot" implied.

The closest I have to come to experiencing a flood was when I was at university in Brisbane.  My family was living in western Queensland at the time (the late 1980's) and I travelled home for the Easter break.  I drove with a distant cousin who lived nearby.  It rained for the entire journey.  It was a race against the weather to see if we would get through.

It was dark and we were close to home.  The water was lapping across the road.  A vehicle was parked on the other side of the water with its headlights on.  My father appeared, wading across wearing his hat and oilskin coat.  He carried my luggage across and then carried me across.  It seemed thrilling and dangerous at the time.

I can't remember the details of the journey back to university but I know that it was delayed.  Queensland was under water.  Finally we heard that it was possible to get through and preparations were made that day to drive back immediately.

A couple of years later, we lived near Nyngan in NSW.  The town of Nyngan went completely under in the 1990 flood.  I wasn't there for that and my family home was far enough away to avoid being directly affected.  I was in  my third year of my journalism degree and looking for a story to write an extended piece about.  I wrote about the flood.  I gave away journalism - it seemed relentless and inane - but I was very proud of the piece I wrote.  I might even dig it out and publish it here.  It was actually shortlisted for the Independent Monthly's Young Writers Awards.  I wonder how my path would have been different if I had won.  Perhaps I'd be somewhere wearing a high visibility vest examining misfortune.

I've spent today culling.  I've just put a huge pile of clothes in one of the charity bins.  Perhaps some of the clothes will be useful for people who have lost theirs.

***My normal daily publication schedule has now recommenced.  Thanks for your patience while I've been on holidays.  Look forward to hearing from you.***

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