Friday, February 20, 2009

Office space

I've got a great home office set-up. After initially creating my office in the spare room, I found that I felt totally alienated, sitting and working in the little room off the corridor through the middle of the house. After a while, I moved the computer desk out here, next to the kitchen bench on the right and facing a view of the backyard to the left. I put the printer on the kitchen bench, and left all the files and boring stuff back in the spare room.
Now this is really ridiculous, because at that time I didn't have anyone else living with me, and there was no reason to feel isolated in the spare room, but I did. Now I feel connected, I can watch the news on telly while I work, watch all the little birds in the garden and think about what to plant next. It's not procrastinating, just an enjoyable work environment.
I put an old microwave down by the garden shed, waiting for the next hard rubbish collection. A little black and white plover has discovered his image in the glass door and has kept me amused all day as he has busily come back and forth, doing beautiful courting dances trying to win over his lady love. I haven't been down to see what condition the microwave is in!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

mobile workplace

Had a rough nite, my right shoulder has been giving me curry since I came off the bike, 3 weeks before Xmas. I've pretty much been using pain killers so that I can get to sleep since then. Yesterday I was feeling quite exhausted and put it down to having commuter ridden to work. So I went to bed early at 9.30, taking 2 nurofen and 1 panadol. I woke at 4am in pain and with a low blood sugar, so I ate and took 2 more panadol & went back to bed - no good :-( The alarm went at 5.30 and I felt like crap, so I decided to `work from home'. Didn't do me much good, I've been feeling awful most of the day & have a sore throat, earache and a stiff neck, so I'm guessing the shoulder & back pain is probably emphasised because I've got some sort of virus.
But how about the capapcity of technology to allow me to do my email, set up files, check online quality control stuff and so on! I love the fact that when I'm not able to go into the office, I can still contribute productively to my workplace.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

10 Days out

10 days out, the impact recedes. Everyone is saturated with media stories. ABC 774 is doing an incredible job of community networking. They have reporters and mobile studios in every major centre of the fire damage. In the evening as I drive home, they air snapshots of stories their reporters have filed. Sad little vignettes, heroic recountings, renewal of faith, loss of memory. Tonight I hear for the first time, what sounded like a government related `Community broadcast' with notes on how to prove identity, get financial help, get help to remove toxic waste, claim funding and so on.
In the city we are past the first wave of shock and are moving into or on with our lives. Unless we have a direct connection, we are preparing to forget. I hear counsellors on the radio talking about the stages of emotion victims feel, and I think to myself, it will be years. He's talking about how some people will react by rebuildingtheir house exactly as per the original plans, but hten one day they open their cupboard in the new house, expectign to pick up something they had before the fire, and it's not there. Dissonance, disconnect sets in and grief follows. I feel for them. It's going to be a long road.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Shock and horror has left a prevailing trail of sadness. The death toll was, this morning, 181 and the authroities are predicting it will go higher. We are surrounded by a sea of public grief and it is hard to maintain an even keel. But today has marked some kind of turning point. I noticed that on Monday and Tuesday people at work simply weren't talking about it excepting in hushed whispers or brief hurried tones, and I had to remove the newspapers from the lunch room table yesterday because we weren't coping with the pictures or the headlines. Today people are starting to talk about their emotional reactions, exchanging stories about crying as they heard one horrible story or another. Today also the fundraising and donating has really kicked in. It started late yesterday afternoon as various people sent emails around the office about donation collection points and fundraising ideas. For those of us not personally connected, yet still grieving for others, it brings a welcome opportunity to `do something'.

The newspapers are now full of stories of miraculous escapes or extraordinary reunions of people who had thought they had lost each other. I think about what triggers the ability to move through the tidal wave of emotion from shock, horror, grief, sadness and I wonder what on earth is going to help some of the people who have witnessed too much. As a nation we must talk about it or we will become mired in grief.
I feel for the people who by nature aren't talkers and who just shut down and keep it inside.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


after my innocent post yesterday, I am in shock as is the whole state, over the toll of the fires on Friday. This evening we are hearing 66 confirmed dead, 640 houses lost. 2 incidents where whole families were incinerated in their cars as they tried to flee. I thought yesterday as I watched the wind destroying my garden, that it was an evil wind and I knew even then that it would be an horrendous day for fires.
Many of these areas burnt have, since my childhood, grown from `bush' towns to `tree change' towns. Whether this has a bearing on on people's preparedness, I don't know. I heard one man on the radio this morning, saying, "They should have told us, they should have let us know about the fear, nothing has prepared us for the fear as it approaches." I look at my own situation, a nice little suburban house that backs onto a creek reserve, mainly grass, with its few scrappy gums, and inside my fenceline, deep leaf litter mulch... and a howling northwesterly wind, so dry that it burns the leaves off plants in the shade of the verandah, and burns the tips of the tomatos in the vegetable patch. It could happen here, leaf litter in the gutters, embers blowing up to 20 k ahead of the fire front. I have made my mind up already, I would go, but how do you know when the fire front is still 20k away?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Heat and the garden

Can't believe how hot it has been. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is saying it. I took the car out to go to the supermarket at 12:30 today and when I started it up in the carport, the temperature on the digital dash was reading 48 deg. C. I drove to the supermarket and it was reading 49 deg. C. Later standing at my kitchen window, watching the wind tearing across my yard, I was distressed to see my plants all withering before my eyes. Even the sage bush looked as if it would dessicate under the howling northerly. I've got a large veranda along the back of the house, which faces North West, getting the full belt of the summer sun, here in the southern hemisphere. The house is low slung, almost american `ranch style', 3 bedroom brick veneer, built in the 1980's. Thankfully, the bedrooms are on the southern end, so that as soon as we get a southerly wind change, I can open up the windows and vent the hot air from the house. They get a bit cold in winter, though. I'm in the south western suburbs and the area is renowned for its harsh micro-climate. Wind is constant and the natural landscape is rivermouth, salt marshes and wetlands - low, flat, brooding under a grey sky, harsh under the summer sun. I moved here in April last year and one of the things that pleased me, was that the garden was non-existant. The rear of the property and the kitchen window, faces an open reserve which lies along a creek. It has a bike path which runs down to the rivermouth then all along the coast trail for over 2o klms into the heart of the city. I intend to convert the barren yard into native vegetation, ultimately blending with the vegetation along the creek, which is grassland, scrappy gums and

river reeds. These photos show it on a cool winter morning, and then in flood two months ago. Of course I have also established a vegetable garden, and the veranda has a collection of plants in pots, and it was the vegetables and the plants in pots that I watched in despair as the 90kp/hr northerly winds scorched everything today. I've never seen the growing tips of tomato plants burn off, before but I did today. The tuberous begonias on the veranda, in the shade, lost all their leaves. The stems simply collapsed in the middle, under the extreme conditions. Even some of the indigenous plants in the front garden have simply burnt off. The wonderful stem of new flowers on my Blandifordia (Christmas Bells) has burnt, all its buds are dessicated. Here is a photo of how it looked last year.