Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hey, how about that dust storm???

The night before the storm, Baz up the road looks down at the sunset with a rheumy eye and proclaims "Big dust storm tomorrow."

At that stage, we had no news of Sydney's dust storm approaching and were a trifle sceptical of Baz's pronouncement.

Still, I wandered down the road to take a few photos of the sunset. Mmmm, different ... but probably due to smoke from bush fires, I thought.
Great effects! I really must try to capture these colours on canvas.

The storm was the worst in 70 years, I believe. At its fiercest, it reportedly dumped 16,000 tonnes of dirt every hour over South-East Queensland. I also believe most of that finished up on the floors of our house.
This shot was taken Wednesday morning. At this stage we couldn't see the mainland or Garden Island.

These two pics show how thick the dust was ... On the left you can't see the land beneath the dust and the photo on the right shows the dust being blown across the Tasman to NZ.

At the Sailing School down at the Boat Club, there was no sailing on Wednesday! Apart from the visibility factor, the wind whipped up some one metre swell that would have deterred even a hardened sailor.
There is talk of another dust storm coming up this weekend. Is that a good enough excuse not to do any housework?

Friday, September 25, 2009

People with too much time on their hands

Just been over to Russell Island. The Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services decided he needed to up his profile so we were awarded our FM1 certificates and epaulettes for the Rural Fire Brigade. This, I might add, some three to four months after actually receiving them.

But no matter. Six of us hopped on the water taxi, together with First Officer Ross and Branch Secretary Chrissie. All very smartly turned out in our new yellows with polished boots. This gave us a chance to sneer at the Russell Island Brigade who received their certificates in old dirty yellows and no jackets.
(Pic shows 1st officer Ross, Alene and Guy)

Having gained cred for thinking of the award day, the Minister found better things to do with his time and sent a newly appointed member of parliament, Mr Steve Kilpurn, in his stead. Stevo presented us with our certificates and epaulettes and told us what a great job we were doing. Thanks, mate!
(pics of Stevo presenting Guy and Alene with their certificates)

After the speeches were over and the mixing and mingling had taken place, food was placed on the table and we could all get down and dirty, so to speak. Wow! We do have to give RI credit for a good feed. They turned on a feast!! Heaps of freshly made sandwiches (including my fave of egg and lettuce), mini chicken kievs, sausage rolls and pies, quiche, pigs in a blanket, cheese and bikkies, olives, lamingtons, apple turnovers with fresh cream ... the list is endless.

At which point comes the point of this post: there were pink boiled eggs on offer. Somebody had taken the time and effort to boil eggs in something pink (beetroot? cochineal?) to produce halved hard boiled pink eggs.
There are people with too much time on their hands.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fire in the Night

It had to happen sooner or later. A firebug has returned to the island.

The first grass fire started at about 9.45pm, just after we had returned home from the Friday night dinner at the Boat Club. Tumbling into our yellows, we got to the station just in time to catch a ride on 61, our largest fire truck.

Driving up High Central Road, I was wondering what the night would bring. It was my first actual uncontrolled fire. I had attended several controlled burns, had checked on fires lit by people which neighbours had complained about, a vehicle smash and several ambo calls but this was a first. How would I react to a fire burning out of control? There was only one way to find out.

We turned into Baramundi Street and there it was on the corner. Just a tiny little fire about 5 metres square and certainly not out of control. Jumping out of the cab, Guy and Jamie used the two Case 1 hoses to douse the flames. A case 1 hose is the smallest we use, permanently attached to the truck by reels at the back. What did I do? Not much ... just backed Guy up on the hose, standing behind him helping the hose through the bush.

Within half an hour it was all out and we returned, first to the station and then back home. The adrenalin rush faded and suddenly I was extremely tired. It had to be bedtime. A quick shower and then an early night, for Saturday was a big day. Guy was photographing an island wedding, starting at 9.30am and I was back to the Fire Brigade, as there was a large controlled burn on the books. This was a privately owned 10 acre block, very close to the grass fire we had just attended.


When you're tired, it takes you a while to realise that the ringing in your ears isn't tinnitus, it's the fire brigade pager going off. Yes, again! But now it's 1.45am. Wearily, we climb out of bed and back into the yellows. I'm not quite so keen this time and neither of us speaks as we make our way downstairs and pull on our boots. Grabbing our gloves, goggles and helmet, we drive up the street in silence.

This time we must have taken a little longer because the truck had left the station. (I swear some of the firies sleep in their uniforms because we are only a few hundred metres from the station.)

The address of the latest grass fire was given on our pagers so we drove up High Central Road again, this time to Wirralee Street, which is the street just before Baramundi. This was the block we were assigned to burn off at 8am on Saturday morning. Looked like we were getting an early start!!

This time the fire was very impressive, reaching several metres into the air and spreading rapidly through the dry tinder of the undergrowth. Luckily, the owner of the block had cleared fire breaks all along the edges of his block. Otherwise the houses which clung to the sides of the block would have been in much greater danger than they were. The occupants were all out on the street, huddled in groups and watching the flames with apprehension. For once, the firies were welcomed with open arms, even by the greenies who hate to see us burn any bush, no matter how dangerous.

This time I found myself minding the pump. Not exactly the most exciting job. You stand there and watch the man with the hose. When he raises his arm, you turn on the water. When he signals stop, you close it off. Woohoo!

But I should have been grateful for that break because within half an hour, we were moving down the street to keep up with the fire. This meant finding another hydrant to fill the truck up with water. The hydrant sign was easy to spot and we walked over to the edge of the road to check it out. Well, there was the sign but where was the hydrant? The hydrant cover is usually a metre in front of the post so I dug around in the dirt with the hydrant tool until I felt metal. Then it was back to the truck for a shovel and twenty minutes of serious digging before we could lift the plate and get the hydrant stand in place. Hooking up the hoses was easy in comparison and we soon had water streaming up to the firies at the front.

Around this stage, it was decided we might as well start backburning to prevent the fire getting out of control near the houses. And we might as well let the whole block burn, saving us from coming back in the morning to do the controlled burn we had promised.

Drip torches were lit and taken up to the brush to light the edges. The wind then burns the flames back into the centre, causing an updraft which sucks the flames in rather than spreading them out. Wonderful to watch!!

Which is what I did, once again relegated to the pump. Darn! I wanted to get up there with a hose!!

And so the night progressed. We moved the truck from place to place, set up the hydrant, connected the hoses and directed the water flow. And manned the pump.

Once things were under control, Helen and I were given a break and allowed up near the flames to check out the fire. I wish I'd taken a camera. It was quite spectacular. The flames would start about one metre high until they caught a banksia tree and then cartwheels of fire would appear as the banksia cones burst into sparks.

We spotted a 7' carpet snake desperately climbing a tiny gum sapling to avoid the heat of the forest floor. It was no longer than he was but he managed to curl his way around the branches, as they dipped and swayed under his weight. He seemed fine so we left him to his shaky perch.

The night progressed, smokily. We spent ages gazing up at the errant sparks which drifted across into neighbouring yards. So easy for one small spark to start a conflagration! But luckily, the wind was kind and nothing happened.

Eventually, it was time to clear up. That's the hard part. Making up hoses. Yuk!!! First of all,you have to carry metres and metres of canvas hose and duraline (rubber) hose back to the truck, emptying them of water as you go. Then you have to roll them up. PROPERLY!!! None of this "near enough is good enough" for the Rural Fire Brigade!!

The last straw was the 64 hose attached to the last hydrant. It was full of water and lying uphill when I found it. The others were elsewhere, bringing in other hoses, so it was up to me to empty this monster and have it ready to roll when they returned.

Getting the water out entailed having the two ends facing downhill so I had to drag them. Aaaaah, my shoulders sag at the memory. I would not have believed anything could be so heavy, so difficult to handle and so muddy!!! There were moments when I was sure I wouldn't get it done. But eventually there it was, lying in the road, ready for my partner to help me roll it up.

The joy of that last completed hose roll. Back screaming from all the bending, shoulders screaming from the lifting, legs just plain cramped. Ah! What luxury to sink back into the truck and announce "Firecom Brisbane, this is Macleay Island 61. We are Code 4."

Finished and going home, with the dawn rising over Stradbroke as we drove down the road.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Aaah Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next

It’s been a strange day today. Melbourne weather.

Opening my eyes this morning, the sun was blazing above my head. The gum trees were swaying against the impossible blue of the sky and the magpies and lorikeets were doing battle of the bands. Definitely a perfect day in Queensland.

As the day progressed, showers came over and scattered a few teasing drops on the lawn. Would it rain? I rushed to bring in the washing, almost dry, and hung it on the line inside the carport. Where did the sun go? I put on a hoodie and perched myself on my computer, prepared to sit out the afternoon storm in the office.

The hoodie came off as the sun burnt a hole in the clouds and dried up the rain spots in an instant. You could almost see the humidity in the air and feel the steam off your skin. Time to leave the office and do a little weeding in the vegie patch, brushing off the host of mosquitoes anxious to make my blood’s acquaintance.

At four thirty, it’s back to the threat of rain and it’s cold enough for that hoodie once more. And I’ve returned to my desk.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Winning the Lottery

How fortunate am I!! This morning Mrs Stella Ellis advised me that I have won a cash prize of one million pounds in the British Lottery. She sent her heartiest congratulations.

How kind! Thanks, Stella!

The delightful Mr Fred Peters (who is not a Nigerian based in Lagos, she assures me) has been assigned to assist me.

Is this assisting me in spending my million dollars? Or spending what money I already have in my bank account?

Stella strongly advises me to keep my winning details and information from the public to avoid fraudulant claims. And I can't claim if I am under 18 or working for the British Lottery.

Ah, they even realise that teenagers are irresponsible and would spend the million on drugs and alcohol! (Come to think of it, I might do the same .......)

And I suppose working for the British Lottery might be a bit of insider trading, so to speak. Although they would certainly know a scam when they saw one.

I only have five days to contact my mate Freddy, otherwise I lose all this lovely money. Stella urged me to contact him today, giving my name, address, age, occupation, sex

And why is my gender relevant? Will I get preferential treatment for being female, or the opposite?

Aaaaah, it's so tempting! Should I send spurious information to the hard-working Freddy? Can I string this tired old scam along for a joke or would it merely become tiresome? Perhaps I will just daydream of the day I really do win the lottery.

In the words of Marlon Brando's Stan "Stella, Stella!!!"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Not the Halfwit Postie

"Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night will keep me from my appointed rounds"

Guy has got a new job. Part-time postie on Macleay Island.

He will be working three days a week, Monday, Thursday and Friday. This will certainly top up the coffers, which have been dwindling of late.
He delivers to roughly one third of the island on his trusty motorbike (courtesy of Australia Post). However, he had to buy his own helmet ... there goes the first week's pay!!

He told me NOT to call him the Halfwit Postie so he is .... Not the Halfwit Postie.

In the meantime, I am continuing to try to get islanders interested in, my information site. It's a long, slow process but I think I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I've actually had a couple of businesses advertise and my Google rating is rising daily.

I'm still painting too. I can't see that we will make any money out of my art, even after my death but hey ... it's all good fun. Here's two of the latest efforts:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Terrible Tick

The latest victim of the scourge of the Halfwit Sundays is Teisa. She has been bitten by a paralysis tick and is currently residing at Koala Park Veterinary Clinic on the mainland. (I have taken out a second mortgage to pay the expected bill.)
On going downstairs on Monday morning, I saw her reclining on the sofa. But when she didn't leap into the air and run for the food bowl, I was sure something was wrong. Examing her, I found that she couldn't stand up: her back legs were paralysed.

The evil paralysis tick had attacked my lovely Teisa.

Can you imagine a worse creature? It climbs up into trees and bushes and launches itself onto passing victims. Cats, dogs, even humans fall to its evil bite. Yes, even humans!

Once on board, it scuttles to a handy crevice and starts burrowing its way into the flesh, sucking blood as it goes. It generally takes two to three days to affect the animal, starting with excessive salivation and then paralysing the hind legs of the animal. This gradually proceeds up the spine unless the animal is treated.

We didn't know this! We found a tick on Teisa and removed it completely. No tick head was left on the cat, so we thought all was well. But apparently we should have taken her to the vet immediately. If treated then, she would have avoided the paralysis stage or it would not have been so severe.
The Vet on the island only comes on Tuesdays and Saturdays so it was a mad rush to the barge to see if we could get on to take her to the mainland. Luckily, there was an empty berth so we took her across to the vet, who saw her immediately. She was treated with anti-tick serum and there she will stay until she can stand, eat and urinate. (It's Thursday afternoon now and still no good news.)


With humans, the main problem is allergy. I've known people in the Halfwits having to be hellicoptered out due to tick bites. It swells up the airways and can cause severe breathing difficulties.

Even if you do find out and remove it, you will find yourself with an instant headache. The longer the tick has been on you, the more severe the headache will be. So beware!

Robert got bitten on the leg last week and his whole leg became swollen. He likened the headache to a long-lasting migraine. Another friend Guy has been doing bush work on nearby Russell Island and has had a dozen small ticks removed from various parts of his body. They had fallen on him whilst he was working under casuarina trees. He has taken to stripping the minute he gets home and having an all-over body search with the help of his Dad.

The Garden of Eden had the serpent: The Halfwits have the tick.