Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surviving the 2011 Brisbane Flood a lucky bastard's droll account part 2.

January 2011 and the floods that had engulfed town after town and city after city in the North and Central East and Central West of Queensland suddenly hit the South East with ferocious flash floods in Toowoomba and in the rich farming land of the Lockyer Valley; forty and sixty minutes drive from the capital city of Brisbane and my pretty, riverside suburb of Jindalee.

The ferocity of the near floods had killed many people in the Lockyer Valley which lay beneath The Range. The flood waters from the Bremer River were rising in the nearby city of Ipswich.

The Wivenhoe Dam had been built with a view to mitigating flooding post 1974 and had recently been increased in flood mitigation capacity It was now almost brim full after being woefully low during the drought years. The controlled Wivenhoe releases of water to the Brisbane River could act as shock absorbers in regulating flow to the Brisbane, but could do nothing about the waters from the Lockyer and Bremer Rivers which lay below its walls and also fed into Brisbane River. The Brisbane River ran past our house at less than a 100 metres distance.

Unknown to us on the Monday the brim full capacity of this great dam also led to some possible scenarios that could dwarf any natural disaster to be-fall Australia since European settlement.

The local library in which I work was not open on Mondays so the family and I went to look at the great waters of the nearby Brisbane River; hopeful that this flood would not be as bad as 1974 which had almost reached the ceilings in the house in which we now lived. There was no indication to us at that time that the flood would be that bad. Our house would surely not be too badly affected.

By Tuesday morning it was obvious that the flood on the Brisbane River would be a pretty big one but nothing to indicate that our house would be in danger. There were some confusing figures as to how many
metres the River would rise in the city of Brisbane with figures like 4 metres quoted, but up-stream near our house this would equate to 16 metres, not that we really heard how many metres it was likely to rise to near our house. There was no broadcast of any necessity to evacuate our house.

So on the Tuesday morning being the devoted public servant, borrowing some devotion to duty from my late father, pictured here in a rather haunted post-war picture and also rather accurately in a mid-war picture I headed for work at the nearby library.
My dear wife Quyen was driving the limo and my 18 month old son and and nine year old in the back. Quyen had been drowned in a bomb crater filled with water when a child in Viet Nam but had been rescued by a boy called Quyet whose name our youngest son now bears.

As we drove up the incline towards the Mt Ommaney Library we looked to
our left to the local golf course which was to my great surprise a great lake of water. This lake was to my irrational mind in an area of ground above the level of our dear little house. "F xxxark!! Fxxxxxaahhrk!" I expleted when I saw this great body of water.
Oh well I'd better at least show up to work. I'll say I would be going home to see what I could do about saving my house's contents from the impending flood.

For about five hours I found myself at the library. Grimly I swore and swallowed as I fielded calls from people who were looking for Nora Roberts' texts for which they had forgotten the inglorious title. The temper flayed a little as I placated the rage and indignation of patrons who had incurred fines of some few cents. I was, of course, the ever pleasant, helpful almost charming gentleman. But on this day I certainly could not be accused of being "unnecessarily cheerful", as my father had once rather taciturnly observed a waitress to be .

I had the feeling that I was in the grip of a disastrous situation and realised that the thing was about a disaster is that one has no control over the situation. The news rolled in that the flood was going to be a pretty bad one. The council flood maps online went down; people at work decided to go home and look after their houses. Reports from library patrons told us of sites now under water. I was stuck at work, the wife had the limo. One of the patrons of the library who I deemed as one of the new friends I had made at the library had studied at Duntroon Military Academy in Canberra while I was studying at the nearby College of Knowledge and the ANU some thirty odd years before. We would often share jokes about our different political and historical perspectives all those years ago and he said he would check on my house and see what was happening. Interestingly another of my friends from the library was another character who would have seen life from a different perspective from my lucky, bourgeois self as a young man. He now found himself going grey as a senior sergeant of police.

Finally my boss, for whom I shared the joy of being a reader of his short stories, to whom I suggested wicked allusions to Lucifer which his publisher rejected, gave me a lift home only to find access from Jindalee to one of the city's major highways cut by the flood water.
"Pack your bags as if you are going to Vietnam! And we'll start to put things up higher in the house!" I told the wife and kids. My niece Josephine, a medical researcher from the Streptococcus Lab at the Qld Institute of Medical Research had arrived at the house. My brother Peter who as a youth had imagined himself the re-incarnation of St Francis of Assissi and who lived on the highest piece of ground in central Brisbane Red Hill couldn't get through.
My boss, Robert, from the library said I could store things at the library if I needed. Josephine's husband Luke who had grown up on a sheep and cattle property in Muttaburra in Central western Queensland, home of the Muttaburrasaurus, also arrived at the house with his ute. The rain continued to fall. We started packing. Josephine made decisions about things that needed to be saved. The strong little baby Albert squirmed in my arms.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Surviving the 2011 Brisbane Flood a lucky bastard's droll account part 1.

The Spring of 2010 was the wettest Spring in the hundred and eighty odd years since records have been kept in South East Queensland; that big river district which wedges to the sea from a sub-tropical corner of the Great Dividing Range.

February 3 of 2011 would end the Lunar Year of the Tiger.
My wife and I had planned to go to Viet Nam to celebrate the new Lunar Year with our two young children, my wife's parents, her dad's clan and our friends in the city of Nha Trang. Nha Trang is Viet Nam's equivalent of Australia's Gold Coast where you might find every man and their dog on holidays. It would be the Year of the Cat in Viet Nam, the Year of the Rabbit in China.
After the wet Spring in South East Queensland came a wet Summer, so wet so as to wash away the memories of a decade of drought. I was at work in the library, sheltered from the teeming rain and keeping an eye on the weather through the Bureau Of Meteorology site on December 23, and I noticed that a fortnight's more rain was forecast. I decided to buy my wife a clothes dryer as a Christmas present; imagine how grateful she would be despite my reckless spending; even through till January!

The children seemed to be enjoying the Big Wet as they call the Monsoon seasons Up North in places like Cairns, Tully and Innisfail.

I had engaged Lord Byron one of my son's nine year old friends from down the street to work on the little creeks that ran under my house. I named one of the rivulets that he helped me resuscitate the Lord Byron Canal. Lord Byron's dad was away in Afghanistan working in the Australian Army but Lord Byron was the most keen of my son's friends to engage with me in the adventure of my house and garden.

Huge floods hit town after town and city after city round Queensland and finally after a terrible torrent burled down the Range from the Darling Downs through the silt rich Lockyer Valley the flood waters visited South East Queensland.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Footnote to Fruits of Jindalee

I've recently been entertained via blogspot by nursemyra's reports about Steve McQueen's envy of Yul Brynner's pearl handled pistol and his larger horse in the Magnificent Seven as well as the posting of what the nurse claims is an Alaskan tattoo on what appears to be a naked but unacknowledged Sara Palin.
In my previous post I put an asterisk next the word "a-dult" meaning to footnote same with a story from my more youthful days in Canberra.
I think I was nearing completion of a bachelor's degree in that fair city (only about ten years after I began the degree) and I met a rather bold, young, italo-american woman from the Bronx.
I forget where we met but suffice to say there was some attraction between the pair of us and a red hot date was arranged. (I'm not sure if I was living in my tent in the woods at this time or in some other less than stable dwelling somewhere within walking distance of Gus's coffeehouse, the ANU Bar and the Chifley Library.)
The afternoon of the date I travelled to her house in the outer suburbs by bus instead of my usual form of transport in that city; the push-byke. (I had worked for Action Buses at times carrying suitcases of cash to pay the drivers. I knew the routes that these buses followed. I knew they were regular and reliable.)
I presented myself at the front door of what was probably the homestay of the brazen lass from the Bronx who reminded me a little of Sophia Loren, and Raquel Welch all rolled into one. I remember she was far more curvaceous and posty legged than the thinner local girls who I must admit I did adore. Maggie asked me, (oh what was her name?) as I darkened her door: "Where's your motor-car?"
I told her I didn't have one, to which the lady from the Bronx replied:
"What? You're an A-Dult male and you don't own a motor ve-hicle?"
I can't remember what happened next but I can tell you that it wasn't much.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

fruits of jindalee

I tell people at my local library where I work how fantastic the blogspot medium is. Although I only really follow one person's blog; or at least I think I follow it; indeed I just look at frequently. But it does give me pleasure seeing the literary rambles of a dear old friend who like me is nostalgic and likes to keep printed artefacts and is inclined to go out into irrational adventures within the confines of their own intellect and enjoys whispering the entertainment of these adventures to their friends. And I must admit I do enjoy viewing some of the pearls of knowledge exhibited by some of her blog's contributors. I tell people that the medium of the blogspot carries the new literary magazines.

I laughed the other day when my blogspot friend mentioned how her brother wondered why Colonel Gaddafi had still portrayed himself a Colonel and not gone onto some more glorious rank. The same thought had crossed my mind a few weeks before. Maybe he liks being a Colonel. Like the Gilbert and Sullivan character liked being the "very model of a modern Major-Gener-al"..."He is the very model of a modern Major-General" cried the chorus. I must admit when I saw some of the bling on the head of the AFP that he did look a bit like a Spanish or Italian gendarme.

I don't think I've worked out how to "follow" a blog nor "comment" with ease and haven't quite got the computing nouse to work out how to really rev around the medium. Scanning is still a bit of a struggle for me. I'm not exactly a whizz at the mechanical processes and find it difficult to work out which hotplate is which from the diagrams afforded us on our stove cook-tops. And I was never a wiz at spelling and the ability to write in a legible manner has always been beyond me. Striking a nail into wood is also a challenge. But I am working on improving my skills in these areas!

Above are some bananas from my garden which I just could not resist posting in response to my friend's posting of her aubergines. My wife sometimes cooks up aubergine (egg-plant) in some sort of Vietnamese dish; the recipe of which I would attempt to post if it wasn't one of the things that my dear wife keeps locked in the closet of her imperturbable intellect as she does the secrets of her first language. Below is a picture of the paw-paws in our garden.

Splicing sound tape, editing either film or video tape or even digital motion pictures on computer is also beyond me.

For years I couldn't even turn a computer on till one day about ten years ago I attended an Introduction to Computers class at the local library where I now work. I now teach the same class to people many of whom have difficulty grasping the mouse. (I must admit I did do some "post-graduate" computer learning work at TAFE with a group of people who had literacy problems or english as a second language. (I did let on I could read but made it known I was a computer illiterate) and I did attend a session in Viet Nam where the monitor seemed to be repeating regularly "A a driver" and "C a driver". I am still appalled by the language of computer functions. What has the word Firefox got to do with a thing that accesses the internet, what is an Outlook Express and what is microsoft!! How could they savage meanings the way they do?

Each time I come across another abomination of the english language tagged onto a computer function I feel sick (as does my friend z when she comes across a word which I immediately expunge from my memory banks because of it's lack of regard for the way things should be in our lovely language.) Computer manuals are unreadable.

Here at the house attached to the garden above I've convened a number of tutorials aimed at improving my computer literacy.
One of the tricks I've found is never allow the tutor to hold the mouse; another trick is to provide the tutor with a pointing stick.

My first tutor here at the place I like to think of as the Bangalee St Bibliotheque ( a branch of the Jindalee College of Advanced Education) (whatever was the matter with the idea of a College of Advanced Education) was my nephew who I had to train to do something else like whistle a tune or go out and make a cup of tea while the I, the student, bumbled through something. Eventually my nephew, Nicholas, had to leave the torture of having to teach his slightly slow Uncle about computers to work as a meteorologist in Tasmania; a position for which he'd spent decades studying.

The latest tutorial we have here involves three or four adults*. One is an I.T.master and the other two are learners. One of the learners is the wife of the I.T. master who the I.T. master would find difficult teaching at their home. Each person gets a turn at holding the mouse and the lesson starts with me as the prime student asking the tutor how things work or can work better on my computer an Imac (etym. shudder!). We also swap chairs as each learner teacher takes their turn at the mouse. And also enjoy nice lunches and morning or afternoon teas. Sometimes Albert, pictured below tries to muscle in on the class and push the buttons on the keyboard.
We do our best to resist his hedonism.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cheer

Off to work in my local Bibliotheque in a couple of hours where I'll be entertaining the crowds till 8 pm with various shuffles and pleasant remarks.
In his semi-retirement my father used spend a bit of time in his local library. A rather severe character who harboured a lot of memories of blood and guts he once commented to a daughter in law after ordering a meal that the waitress was "unnecessarily cheerful".
I remember him smiling and laughing only a few times; once when one of his sons who had difficulty reading as a child married the niece of the heavy weight boxing champion of New South Wales.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Arthur's photo

Arthur Shera took this photo of his daddy and his brother Albert who may have been watching too many Peter Greenaway films. Perhaps Albert has watched Once were Warriors one too many times.
In this photo Geoffrey was concerned, as he has been for some time, at the illegitimate secrecy of public servants/government employees in their pursuit of their public roles.
He is concerned that people who are supposed to be representing the people or serving the people are becoming less and less accountable and more and more secretive in the representation of their views and their actions in the name of their people.
The question should be asked of these public servants who are you representing?
Pork-barrelling slush funds for local councillors, trinket gifts which encourage the raffle and the gamble by constituents and cosy relationships with developers spring to mind as does the obfusticated view of public servants' functions and actions and the unreported employment of anonymous troops on foreign soils under the banner of his native land.
It's about time a few of these public servants mowed the poorly tended grass at the local park rather than engage in all manner of Heath Robinson schemes to justify, it seems mainly to themselves, their existence on the public tick.
As well as this sad state of public servants, including politicians, being opaque Geoffrey can't believe that the French politicians (almost without a dissenting voice from any of them!) have gone out of their way to discriminate against people because of the way they dress.
Geoffrey is aware that the french National anthem, which is a stirring number, can be translated to render some pretty dodgy sentiments regarding the purity of blood. He is happy that in the public library where he works that people can wear whatever head gear they like and that he likes it that way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Smart filtered by a dumb brown shirted computer

I work in a public community library which I find to be quite a joyful place where people come to learn, read and enjoy their community and one of its finer churches.
As librarians we seem to be valued as almost shamanistic care-takers of a public place which is safe and and interested in sharing knowledge, and literature and providing a happy venue in which the local community can feel at home and enjoy its public manifestation.
Naturally the best of us like to show off our almost psychic powers in being able to find the authors of books following the single clue that "it has a black cover."
The library is also a place which is not hell bent on relieving people of their money.
It has long been the mission of public librarians to allow people a freedom to read. We seem to value this.
We also keep such gems as Lolita and Henry Miller's The Tropic of Capricorn. These are two of the funniest books I have ever read.
Nowadays, I suppose as a salute to that great librarian from Hull (who spent a long time on the cull), Philip Larkin, we also keep Adult graphic novels and Mills and Boon and "Black Lace" fiction and various nordic updates on the Karma Sutra which seem to be favourites with the How to Get Pregnant Without Really Trying reader. These readers invariably show up later in the library with their chldren to hear my sage advice at children's storytime when I sing "If you're happy and you know it wash your hands; if you're happy and you know it clean your teeth". If they are lucky they will hear me read Dr Heinrich Hoffman's Little Tom SuckaThumb or Augustus.
(Augustus was a chubby lad, fat ruddy cheeks Augustus had and everybody saw with joy the plump, and healthy, hearty boy
But one day, one cold Winter's day he said oh take the nasty soup away I'll not have any soup today...
final line of the long poem and after a week's worth of whingeing:
the next day he was dead!)
Nowadays we librarians also have an interest in "information literacy" and literature and its evolving forms.
We have a professional interest in the nature of the new media such as blogspot, facebook etc as discussed in my previous blog where I have indicated a little disquiet about the censorious tendencies in these media.
(I notice that the father of the internet Tim Berners Lee has also expressed some disquiet as to the information silos of of the Facebook wide web in today's press.)
But imagine my surprise, dear reader, when I emailed a copy of my post on these issues that it was "smart filtered" by my work place "dumb filter". I was denied access to the email because, according to the my censor the dumb filter, it contained offensive material and profanities!!!
Jesus Christ!!!! Was it Henry the Eight who said "when I break wind all of Rome hears the news."
Naturally I pursued the censors which I know to be machines that look out for words that contain the letters "fukcing" and maybe "nude". I found this censor's minders turned out to be a pair of eighteen year old computer nerds whose duty it was to report the liberation of profane communications to "security" while at the same time relieved that at last there was something interesting for them to read.
Oh the rise and rise of the censorious and easy possibility of brown shirtism in our oh so clever electronic world.
What hope for Otto Dix?
What hope for Henry Miller, Raphael et al...