Black Tuesday 50th Anniversary

Tuesday 7th February 2017 – Today marks 50 years since fires ravaged southern Tasmania, for the first time entering suburbia and coming within two kilometres of the Hobart Post Office. Like Canberra in 2003, people still had the idea that bush fires only happened in the bush. Indeed, other fires like the Black Friday fires of 1939, whilst destroying 5 townships, was confined to the alpine and bushland areas of the mountains.

The winter and spring of 1966 had been wet, meaning that there was an unusual amount of plant growth. Come November however, Tasmania was treated to the hottest and driest summer since 1885. February 1967 arrived, with high temperatures, low humidity and very strong winds from the north west. One hundred separate fires were burning by the 7th February, eighty eight of which – it was determined – were started deliberately.

line-of-fire

 

“…the report prepared by the Solicitor-General of the day, DM Chambers, and the Master of the Supreme Court said that many of these fires were caused by escapes from incinerators, breakaways from rubbish dumps, arson or landowners burning off without permission from a fire warden or in defiance of a permit being refused.” 1

It took just 5 hours for the fire to go through 652,360 acres; 1,293 homes; more than 1,700 other buildings, 80 bridges, 4,800 sections of power lines, 1,500 motor vehicles, at least 62,000 farm animals and more than 100 other structures. The total damage bill was $40 million in 1967 values.

aftermath

In 2007, on the 40th anniversary, Christine Milne addressed parliament: “It was a trauma for Tasmania. It is a small community and everybody knew someone who was in some way affected.”
That includes my family. My grandparents and my father were actively involved in fighting fires, trying to survive and losing material possessions.

pic-of-chimneys

As a teen I was inspired by this tale of our history to write the story. I’m not sure what caught my interest back then, but I know that when Dad wrote his memories of that day for the Channel Heritage Centre a couple of years ago, what caught me was the realisation of what a close thing it was. Dad coming home and finding the house full of smoke, not knowing where his mother was – I can just imagine the anxiety and dread. I can only imagine what Grandma, Dad and one of their neighbours sheltering on the edge of the dam, went through. Everything but the orchard burning. The smoke would have hung over them, the roar of the fire and the massive explosion of the newly filled fuel drums exploding would have filled their ears.

The 62 deaths represent the greatest number to perish as a result of a one-day natural disaster in Australian history. But as evidenced by the Australian people’s response in other tragedy’s before and since 1967, the generosity of Tasmanians and also mainlanders, was significant.
“Tasmanians faced with a large natural disaster…are incredibly generous, and at that time we were supported by the generosity of many people from the mainland. …We were overwhelmed by people sending clothes and the necessities of life. People gave up their shacks and any other accommodation they might have had to house people in the interim while they rebuilt their properties. I also want to acknowledge the fantastic efforts that community members and volunteers generally made, risking their own lives in many cases to help others.”2

I am pleased to say that I have been able to publish the story of my family in this event. It is a story that children can enjoy and I love that while it is about the grey Ferguson tractor, it is a true story. A story that brings to life an event that is fading into the mists of last century’s history.

Whilst the tractor has passed from our family’s hands, he has found a great owner in the Reardon family at Lymington. And he is still employed harrowing and plowing.

https://www.facebook.com/TheLittleGreyTractor/?ref=bookmarks

1. Christine Milne, 7 February 2007, Address to parliament
2. Christine Milne, 7 February 2007, Address to parliament
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Project Quilting Challenge #8

I have recently stumbled across a quilting challenge from Persimmon Dreams (www.http://persimondreams.blogspot.com.au) . The premise is to follow a couple of rules and finish it within a week. This week the challenge was to create something based on the Carolina Lily.

carolina-lily

I sketched my design in Koorong West Ryde’s Cafe whilst escaping the heat wave here in Sydney (Australia). When I first planned it, I thought it would be great for a coaster. However, not having ever done piecing in this manner before, I think I underestimated the fiddly natural of it. I completed the coaster, but decided I could do much better!

I then decided that I would do it as a heat pad – utilising the thermal wadding I have recently purchased and again never used before.

It is 220mm x 220mm, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.

20170120_094744

The Little Grey Tractor

In just twenty days, on the 7th February, it will be the 50 year anniversary of Black Tuesday. Bushfires that claimed 62 lives, injured over 900, and burnt through over half a million acres of land in Southern Tasmania. Over 3000 homes and buildings, 1500 motor vehicles and 80 bridges were destroyed, and at least 62,000 farm animals killed.

There was 110 fires burning prior to this date, and many of them joined up to become an inferno. The worst of them was the Hobart one, which came within two kilometres of the CBD. It was a catastrophe of mammoth proportions both economically and personally. The total damage amounted to $40M in 1967 Australian dollar values. Seven thousand people were left homeless; including my father, his parents and siblings.

As a child I had heard the family story and as a teenager I wrote a childrens story for an English assignment, using this event as the background.

2017-01-18-16-54-37

In 2015 we had an extended family reunion, for which I had been reworking the twenty-six year old story. Dad gave a 10 minute telling of his experiences there, and then a year later was asked to write his memories of that day by the Channel Heritage Centre in Margate, which has a special section devoted to the Black Tuesday fires.
Some details of the story were new to me – or I had forgotten about them. Either way, they were written into the story, which has only added to the drama and poignancy.

Last week, TOLL hand-delivered to me, the first copy of this book. Initially I was going to have an artist illustrate the story, but it became something I took on to save a little money. Drawing, when you haven’t been in the flow of it, doesn’t come easily. However once I started the pictures seemed to flow from the pencil, far easier than I expected. Dealing with the publisher has given me some stress and annoyance. Needless to say there were many lessons learnt.
I am so pleased that the sometimes fraught, often challenging journey to publish this essentially family story, is complete.
2017-01-18-16-54-05

In a few weeks, I hope to have copies of the book available for those who wish to purchase it.

Masters Home Improvement

The 24th August 2016 – 5 years to the exact date of Braybrooks opening (Masters first store) – Woolworths announced that it was closing down and selling the assets of the Masters business.

It was devastating to realise that no one recognised the potential of this business or had the passion to take it on. For 6 and a half years I, and a few thousand employees, have been sweating, stressing, bleeding and crying over creating and operating one of the best businesses to open in this country. We may not have been able to turn a profit, and hindsight is a wonderful thing to enable us and our critics to see where things could have been done better, but this business was widely appreciated by consumers.

Not only did Masters customers appreciate the warm, engaging service, but our foray into the market forced the Big Green Box to improve the service offered by their own people. Hardware customers everywhere benefited. I can only hope that Metcash’s procurement of the HTH Company will serve to maintain these higher standards.

I have been touched by messages left on my Facebook announcement. Messages that make me realise that business savvy people around Australia, understand the passion, effort and quality of the Masters team. The lack of a buyer who could see the potential of the business, made me think that no one understood or appreciated what we had been trying to achieve. These comments let me know that there were people out there who did see, did appreciate, and were going to mourn our passing with us.

I want to personally thank those who have supported me on my journey with Masters – my family, my friends and my work colleagues. It has been at turns, a stressful, a fun, a wild and a scary ride. It has also been an immense privilege to be part of a start-up company of this magnitude. I have been on steep learning curves, some that I took with style, others that I crashed and burned on.

Through it all, the culture of this company has meant that Masters employees have been supportive of each other. This has enabled us to handle with grace the devastating announcement back on the 18th January (2016), that Woolworths no longer had the stomach to continue pushing into the Home Improvement market (at least 4 years shy of our potential break even date). The Store Environment Team, of which I have been a part for over 6 years, was the best team to have landed in this situation with. The support that each member has given to their fellow, will remain in my memories as legendary. I may never meet this culture and atmosphere ever again, but I will cherish the sweetness of friendships with work colleagues.

It is early days yet, but regardless of what the future holds for each of us, or wherever we end up, we are forever bonded through fires of adversity.

 

Apricot Towel

I wrote this earlier in the month, but am only now getting it loaded. It’s just a very busy time of the year, and I still enjoy hand writing my posts first.

Some years ago I had a significant birthday. You know the one with the key. A birthday that a few centuries before would’ve seen me labelled with the ‘spinster’ title.
I was given many lovely gifts some of which i still have to this day. One of the gifts was a towel with my name embroidered on it. An apricot towel. It was all good until the gift giver told me that they always tried to match the colour of the towel to the recipient. Who, hold on, me? Apricot?

I mean, my daily wardrobe consisted of red, blue, purple, fluro, black…bright colours, out-there combinations. I was (and still am to a certain extent) an outgoing, realistic, unsentimental, often brash person. Where the heck did apricot come in? Apricot represents old-fashioned, traditional, lady-like. Everything I was not. I thought “This person doesn’t know me” and got offended.

Fast forward a number of years (the number is irrelevant). I am less out-going, still a realist and often brash, but now I am abundantly sentimental! I still like bright colours but my combinations and ways of using them have become more understated and classic in leaning. I love reading older novels. Much of what is written today is full of the nasty side of life; superficial and dysfunctional relationships and/or sex. It’s not that the older novels are not realistic, it’s just that the focus is not on the darker side of life, but on the better.

I relish older movies too – and the newer animated ones – for their simple, uncomplicated enjoyment.

I will tear up at sad stories, happy stories and my heart strings are pulled by frail elderly. Sad TV adverts will get me teary. People dying in real life, on TV or in books make me cry.

I may not get emotional enough to cry about anything in my own life (once in a blue moon); but others can move me to tears very quickly.

Apricot is not a bad colour. My towel is faded now, only a hint of the apricot colour remains. Yet I still look at that towel and remember the indignation I felt. It has however been borne in me over the last year or two, that maybe it was not the gift giver who did not know me. Maybe I did not know myself.

#21st #towel #apricot

On My Worst Day, You Still Love Me

I was listening to Mercy Me’s Welcome To The New album this week while travelling to and from work. It is not the first time I have listened to it – nor will it be the last. Song number 8 Wishful Thinking starts with these lines: “Lord is it possible, to get this far and just now understand who You are”.

Every so often I am struck anew by Gods awesomeness. Or maybe it’s His immense grace, His faithfulness or His never ending love.

Do you know the feeling? When it’s like you see it for the first time? I do. For the most part I’m usually hit by something that I already know. The chorus in Wishful Thinking has these lines: “Could it be that on my worst day, how you love me still will not change.”

Driving home this week (a week in which I have felt on edge and not dealt well with others), I was struck by the truth in these words.

God’s love for me is not bound up in how good a person I am.

I know this. I knew this.

Yet it felt so new an idea.

Why?

I think that Satan loves to distract us from the wonder of what God has done for us, the beauty of His love and grace.

Casting Crowns has a song (Waiting on the Night to Fall) about the ‘old man’ living out the back, who we’ve forgotten about. “He knows he’ll never have your soul, but he will gladly rob you blind. While you’re feasting at his table, He’ll tie your hands and numb your mind”. We need to be constantly reminded of God’s goodness – well I know I do. The further into the world I stray – dipping that toe into the night life – the more I ‘forget’ the generous privilege I have as one of God’s children. Hang on, it’s just a toe! I’m not wading….“He’ll take you further than you want to go”…then a wave comes in splashing to my knees…”He’ll keep you longer than you want to stay”…Suddenly the it’s not just a toe, it’s half a leg. “And it will cost you more than you ever thought you’d pay”.

It seems so innocent, yet anything that drags you away from a deep intimate relationship with God the Father, is what Satan is aiming for. He hates God, and Gods love for us, His children, puts us squarely in Satan’s sight.

I need constant reminders – fickle human that I am – to ensure that I stay connected with God. Aaaand avoid putting my toes into situations where I can end up in far deeper than I intended to be.

Living with feeling a bit on the outside of the world looking in, is far better than feeling and living with regret.

Mercy Me Wishful Thinking  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUrUY6dEhuE

Casting Crowns Waiting on the Night to Fall  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQiydcNZhvw

My Adventure so far with Ross River Virus

Sunday, a week after returning from a trip to Townsville, (and the weekend before Easter) I woke up with aching joints and thought that I was coming down with the flu. There were no over symptoms, even the fevers weren’t that bad. So off to work I trotted the next day, joints still aching. A visit to the doctor that night meant that I took myself off for blood tests.

By Tuesday afternoon I had a pink rash forming on my forearms. Wednesday saw that rash move to my thighs and then to the lower part of my cheeks. I was initially thinking Dengue fever, and Thursday with the pain in my joints being worse I stayed at home.

After Easter the blood test results were back in and being still off work I went to the doctor to find out that I showed indicatory results for Ross River Virus. Unfortunately, to confirm that it is Ross River, you have to go through another round of blood tests later in the course of the illness. Which I have since done. Also, due to the potential of rheumatoid arthritis hanging around longer than the Ross River Virus, I had to book into see a joint doctor.

While ‘waiting’ for the appointment, I was resting and taking loads of vitamins, immune boosting Olive Leaf Extract & mum’s Astragalus balls. I’ve been including Probiotics, Echinacea, Vitamin C, Magnesium and sometimes a Hairy Lemon (like a Berocca but in my opinion much better tasting,). Hairy Lemon gives you B Complex Forte, Vitamin C, Guarana & Ginseng. Astralgalus is a herb. 

http://www.yourhealth.com.au/information-on-natural-medicine-herbs-detail.php?name=Astragalus

I shuffled around the house like an 80 year old woman and had to have help opening jars, doors and anything else that required wrist and finger strength. I would wake up half way through the night – sometimes earlier – and have to shift from my bed to my recliner to be able to get back to sleep.

On the day that I saw him, I also got the results of second blood test and it was positive for Ross River, this was at the end of week 4. The joint doctor has put me on a course of anti-inflammatories with another pill to stop the potential ulcers this may cause.

Yesterday, Wednesday of week 5, I drove for the first time since the Tuesday after Easter (a 30 minute trip, I got a very kind friend to drive home for me) and although my shoulders are not as sore as the last time, on Thursday I was feeling the shoulders again. Mind you, it could have also been the load of washing I did yesterday – I hung it on my airer inside, but again last time I did washing my wrists and finger joints suffered too.

I had thought that I was starting to get a bit better – maybe that is the fallacy of the anti-inflammatories taking away the pain – you feel okay but your body is not really ready to go forth and join the ranks of normality.

Thursday after lunch I took a short walk to the bank and back, ambling very slowly. With the stops at the bank, in the newsagent and the bakery, 1.6km was done in…drum roll…27 minutes. Talk about a tortoise.

Today is Friday, the end of week 5. I’ve got two shoulders that are sorer than yesterday, from my Wednesday drive. Also, Wednesday’s journal writing and yesterday typing this blog, have caused my finger joints to be very tender.

I am finding the decision-making to be difficult. Should I push through the niggles? Will they get worse if I do that? Should I rest more? I hope to make some of the those decisions over the weekend before I go back to work on Monday…if I should even.

 

If you want to know more about Ross River Virus, try one of these web sites.

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/ross-river-virus

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Ross-River-Fever.aspx

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcpdf.nsf/ByPDF/Ross_River_disease/$File/Ross_River_disease.pdf

http://medent.usyd.edu.au/fact/ross%20river%20&%20barmah%20forest.htm