Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"PASSING ROUND THE HAT" ON AUSTRALIA DAY

What better way to show our solidarity with those who have suffered so much over the past few weeks through the disruption such widespread flooding has caused, than to pass round the hat at Tassie’s Northern Midlands Australia Day celebration held this year at Poatina. We have an Australia Day festival here each year which is always well patronised, but it was great to see our numbers swell even more as official Australia Day awards were presented by the mayor and local politicians.

While all the activities rolled on, from kid’s games to the Hole in One, Karaoke, Gumboot tossing, always a favourite and a laugh to watch, sausage sizzle, face painting, wind tunnel, jumping castle, bubble blowing, cake stall, and the gruelling Great Wheelbarrow Race, the donation buckets kept filling. By the end of the day $2000 had been raised for flood victims, a wonderful result and a great way to support those affected.

“Sunflower” the clown came into the office where I was stationed to take a break between entertaining the kids, and of course, what do you do at the end of a long tiring day. Put your feet up? Nah! Keep on goin’ and have a good old bush dance. At that point I made my exit and headed home, didn’t have quite that much energy.

I love seeing families come out on these occasions, watching the adults warm to the occasion and join in the fun as their children get excited, discovering you really can have a good day out just doing simple things together. With all activities free, parents find it a nice change from having to shell out copious amounts of cash to keep the kids amused.

The amazing generosity of spirit which has come to the fore during the floods has been a delight to see. For those in dire straits and those feeling overwhelmed, it has kept them going knowing that so many care about their plight. It’s a shame it takes such a disaster to bring it home, but there is a lot of goodwill out there. Looking beyond our own needs will always reap benefits, not only for those around us but for us as well.

Aussie mateship is alive and well, and has been shown, given extraordinary circumstances, that it is not only reserved for those close to us, but can also be shared with those whom we don’t even know through incredible acts of courage and compassion.

Happy Australia Day!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"REMARKABLE BIRD.....BEAUTIFUL PLUMAGE"

Was jolted awake this morning by a loud “thwack,” the telltale sound of a bird hitting a window somewhere in the house. Happens fairly often so I didn’t go to investigate, but as I headed out the back door for my morning walk there he was, prostrate at the foot of the steps, looking for all the world like he’d stopped for a breather and was enjoying soaking up the morning sun.

But not so. Poor Polly had met his match, window 1, parrot 0, in fact parrot -1. There wasn’t a mark on him, and as sad as it was to see such a lovely creature meet his demise in such an undignified manner, I couldn’t help but bring the Monty Python parrot sketch to mind.

“That parrot is definitely deceased.”

“No, no, he’s not dead, he’s restin’!”

Friday, January 14, 2011

JUST A SMALL TASTE

After two weeks of watching graphic pictures come out of Queensland as the statewide flood continued its incessant movement southwards into the outlying regions of Brisbane and into the city centre itself, wreaking havoc and leaving heartbreak in its wake, it was inevitable those south of the border would finally get a taste of this relentless beast which refused to be held back.

As the weather pattern shifted south, so did the rain, and with it the accumulated volumes of water pouring down the river systems. Parts of New South Wales and Victoria have experienced flooding like they’ve never seen before, and in the last two days it finally arrived down here in Tassie.

The east coast copped it yesterday, and the north west bore the brunt of it today, and listening to the ABC to keep abreast of road conditions as I headed to Launceston this morning, the broadcast simply informing people of flooded areas and road closures due to flooding went on for nearly half an hour. Even though conditions were fine when I left, knowing what the road is like in my neck of the woods I toyed with the idea of not returning if the rain persisted all day.

Dropping the car off for a checkup, not sure how many times I got wet and half dry as I headed off in pouring rain into the heart of town, did what I needed to do, in pouring rain, then headed back to get the car several hours later, still in pouring rain. Umbrella turned itself inside out a few times as the wind tried to snatch it away, but there was no way I was going to be a sook and catch a taxi. Should’ve worn my pedometer, despite the rain I must have squooshed along for about 8km.

Weather finally cleared up late afternoon so thought I’d risk heading home, and sure enough, as I came to the turnoff to head towards the mountain there was the truck with flashing lights and the guys flagging me down. Yes, there was some water over the road they said, but I should be fine where I was going. Apparently up the mountain somewhere things weren’t so good, with a landslide taking out a section of road.

I’d made sure I headed home while it was still light in case the road was flooded, have negotiated it before in the dark and didn’t like it one little bit, and glad I did as the road was underwater in quite a few places and running at quite a pace. Nothing dangerous though, apart from the tiger snake I ran over as I went through one stretch of water. Anxious to make sure he hadn’t latched on to the underside of the car as a means of escape, I checked the rear view mirror and was surprised to see him thrashing about in the water. I hadn’t meant to actually run over him, but at least I knew where he was.

Sorry there’s no pictures, had the camera but it wasn’t really safe to stop anywhere, and quite frankly, when you’re out there on the road instead of watching it on TV, all you want to do is get out of it and get home.

The disasters of the weather variety we experience round here are usually the windy kind. Gale force winds rip through here every few months and do their share of damage, but to face what the flood victims have to deal with in terms of the physical cleanup and rebuilding of their homes and communities, as well as the burden of putting their lives back together and grieving for those who were lost, I can’t begin to imagine the long and hard road it will be for many.

As the emergency subsides and the TV crews move out, the real work will begin in earnest. Without the dramatic pictures being in front of us day in day out like they have this past week, it will be easy for those of us far removed from the disaster zones to forget how long the road to recovery is going to take.

It’s been fascinating to hear quite a few commentators compare this disaster with that of Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans, and the huge difference in the aftermath. Quite apart from comparisons with government response and relief, the community spirit which has turned strangers into friends has been the hallmark of these past few days. People putting their own lives on the line to rescue others, and the willingness to roll up the sleeves and join forces in a concerted effort to help people you don’t even know I find delightful to see.

None of us knows what disaster might confront us at some point in our lives, so let’s hang in there with them for the long haul, stay informed and let’s keep giving.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

As the unfolding tragedy and drama of the Queensland floods continues to shock us with its sheer magnitude and power and all consuming nature, it’s amazing how the petty things we turn into major concerns on a day to day basis, or the things we believe we simply can’t live without, pale into insignificance in the light of the trauma so many are experiencing at the moment.

The great Aussie spirit has risen again, as it always does in times of natural disaster in a determined effort to bring relief to those caught up in its fury. Between bushfires and drought around the country and now floods affecting so much of the State, police, council and state emergency workers, defense forces and volunteers go all out to bring about the best outcome from the worst of circumstances.

Neighbours helping neighbours, whether they know them or not, people in safe locations taking in family and friends which could be for significantly more than a few days, going out of their way to make sure all are accounted for. Who will be able to forget the image of the front end loader bringing a bucket full of people to safety through the rising waters.

The crisis is far from over, the cleanup in physical terms will take months, the rebuilding of homes, businesses and infrastructure will take years, but for many the emotional toll will be felt for even longer. The individual stories we have seen on television coverage are just a fraction of what has been experienced, for each person will have their own story to tell, one they will need someone to hear if they are to come to terms with such a catastrophic event.

Millions of dollars have already been raised for flood relief, but the appeal continues with this latest development adding to what was already a monumental disaster throughout regional Queensland. For those of us miles away who are safe and dry, the very least we could do would be to spare a few dollars to help someone get back on their feet.

So, spare a thought and prayer for those who I doubt will get very little sleep tonight. Pray for those who have lost loved ones, those who are missing and those who are awaiting news of those who are missing. It will be a long night to endure, and tomorrow’s prospects are far from good, with dawn I suspect only revealing more devastation as new pictures are brought to our screens.

And keep praying, this will be no easy fix.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

ANOTHER YEAR OVER, A NEW ONE JUST BEGUN

So, 1.1.11 has dawned. You won’t be able to write that date again for another century you realise (as well as some similar looking variations like 11.1.11 and 1.11.11 and 11.11.11 which also won’t come around again for a hundred years), and I wonder what’s in store. More of the same, or will I be brave enough to make some changes, take on new challenges or think outside the box.

Looking back at Jan 1st last year, and never one to usually make New Year resolutions, I had intended to exercise more in the hope of losing 5 kilos of unwanted spare tyres and associated misshapen bits. Well, the 5 kilos has now become 8, so that obviously didn’t work. Three run ins with reliving my back injury from years ago didn’t exactly help, but as they say, if you want to do something bad enough you’ll find a way, if not you’ll find an excuse.

My doc reckons Tai Chi would be a good way of helping my range of movement, so there’s something to explore. Won’t help the flabby bits, but anything that improves my body’s well being at this time in my life can only be a bonus. Trying new things to improve my physical agility is one thing, but how often do I challenge myself to strengthen my emotional and spiritual well being.

I recently turned 60, bit of a milestone, but I can’t see myself slowing down and reaching for the fluffy slippers just yet. I love coming across older people who still have that vital spark, who engage with others in community work or support charities in whatever way possible, who see that all of life is a journey, and that our learning years are not over once we leave school or work. Broadening our minds and horizons for the sheer heck of it, or because we feel called to serve others, will keep us alive in more ways than one.

John Lennon penned today’s blog title, with the added line of let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear. For some that would be expected, with no likelihood that anything out of the ordinary should come along to upset existence as they know it. For others, the expectation of the immediate future is anything but that. To be in a place where there is peace, where you are accepted and respected for who you are, where there is no likelihood of gunfire in the night, bombs raining down on you, attacks on your family or home or country, would for countless many be a totally foreign experience.

Without wanting to begin the year on what might sound like a depressing note, news reports which bring us the daily holiday road toll will already mean that for some families life as they know it has just changed forever. For me, family tragedies which occur around Christmas time have a particular poignancy, for they must inevitably affect the way family members view Christmas in the future. Though time heals the rawness of pain and loss, what is usually celebrated as a time of hope, peace and joy, of gathering the clan together, will always be tinged with sadness.

So, as 2011 kicks off, spare a thought for those whose year wasn’t brought in with fireworks, fun and laughter. Highs and lows, tragedies and triumphs are simply part of life, and how we face them or help others face them will be a mark of our true character. Resilience in the face of adversity is played out on our TV screens and in our lives every day, a trait much to be admired.

It’d be nice if we could all start with a clean slate come January 1st each year, to leave behind the unnecessary stuff which clogs up our lives and look ahead with renewed hope and vigour. Maybe we can’t wipe the slate clean as far as our past is concerned, but what is past is part of who we are, but not all of who we are. The potential for change is there, the prospect of something new is always out there waiting if we’re game.

Happy New Year…let’s do more than hope it’s a good one, let’s make it a good one.