Thursday, 13 January 2011


Today was a completely normal summer holiday day. I did five loads of laundry and pegged them in succession on the line. I weeded the garden and planted some cuttings I brought back from the holidays. The tomatoes, basil and chives are thriving and I laid out another tranche of lettuce. Mr Blithe mowed. The children played with toys and pets and squabbled intermittently. We shared cafe lattes and gingerbread after lunch. We made phone calls, checked email, browsed the web, listened to music and watched television.

Nothing in particular stood out other than that it is a lovely day. The sky is blue and powder puffed with clouds. A cool breeze blows and military helicopters pass low overhead. The heavy thunk of the rotors and the grass bending in their passing is the only sour note. I wonder if they look down and see us here on our hilltop going about our very ordinary, everyday activities? Does it comfort them or bother them? Or do they notice nothing in their focus on their grim mission?

For these helicopters are combing the countryside looking for bodies -- preferably survivors but at this stage, they're girded to find victims. Upstream heading west into the Lockyer Valley and the Darling Downs, communities are devastated by the wall of water that came down the creeks and rivers. Downstream heading east into Brisbane, the city watches the river rising and falling with the tide and inflows from further west. Ipswich tries to clean up its CBD while Brisbane waits for a final peak before starting the effort.

We had heavy rain and 36 hours without electricity. Our road washed out. The water found a few new pathways into our house. The valley flooded and roads were cut. But we are lucky.

I thought today that in some ways our experience has been similar to those surviving the 1893 deluge. Perched high on the hill, unable to go anywhere, we simply went on with our lives. We played cards, read, peered down the valley, cooked and ate by candlelight and went to bed early. In many ways we are more fortunate than those more dependent on an urban infrastructure. We have our own water and sewage. We have a generator to run the essentials. I'm used to the fact that a supermarket isn't just around the corner and keep the store cupboard full. At some point we'll have to descend from our aerie and return to the realities of a working life.

But for now, ordinary is good.

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