Friday, December 30, 2011

A few good men - RIP

Another Qld Flood hero has died.

The good man who skippered the ferry, saving the boardwalk from crashing into the Gateway Bridge, the good man who saved countless lives whilst risking his own in a helicopter in thrashing rain, rescuing people stranded on rooftops, and now the good man in Theodore who helped so many in his own community.

Thank you for your selfless gifts to us, to Queensland, to your community.

Rest now, in Peace.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Qld Floods - almost a year later

It was my mother in law's home.

I blogged and photographed the event and over 16,000 readers have shared my story. It's all here, in fact reading parts of it and seeing the photos has set off my tears again. Still distressing. It must be deeply hidden.

The house was my mother in laws: she had to have it bulldozed, and the land is still vacant, covered in weeds. I asked her about it over Christmas.

“Have you been back Gwen? Have you seen the land? Taken photos?"

She just shook her head, and said later: “It's too sad. I can't look at it.”

Her mouth tries to smile, but for a moment her chin wavers. I held her hand briefly, just a squeeze. I am here for you. I know. I understand.

It's heartbreaking stuff at 77, nearly 78, to start again, by yourself.

Brisbane City Council have given her a lot of grief, too. Too long to go into here, but she does hope to start building in January 2012.

"That house would have seen me out" she says. Squeeze. "I have to make so many decisions, I just don't know anymore." Squeeze.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Xmas Thoughts

Christmas was easier this year.

I did less, expected less. Wrote no cards. My friend of 23 years comes over, flourishing a bottle of pink champagne, begs me to make her card, as I have done each year, for the past 10 years. She doesn’t even send me one in the mail. I make no online Christmas profiles, not even for me, until the digital card.

Sent it out and received only 2 responses. I expected less. My mind was caught daydreaming: between walking to the South Pole with Cas and Jonesy, and planning dinner parties that didn’t happen. Blowing the dead leaves from the courtyard, and watching possums hang upside down in the starlight, when I did have friends over for dinner. They spend 30 minutes photographing it. Mostly, the images don’t come out, their cameras cannot focus in the semi-darkness, so I aim my little Canon *snap, *snap, and there, job is done.

I fall into the habit of eating Jaffas after breakfast, my treat for the day.

This year has exhausted us all; it is enough to simply be here, in the present, accounted for. No floods nor cyclone nor earthquake or tsunami has stopped us yet. Slowed us down, sure, but we are still here, survivors. Tireder, older, somewhat wiser - and here. There is little joy this Christmas, no kisses, no hugs, no exclamations of gift giving. In fact I had to ask if my husband even received a particular gift from me. He had. Little joy, but we are here and accounted for.

I wash my lead crystal champagne flutes in the dishwasher, and don’t even flinch when they come out cloudy. I am grateful to have used them, grateful to find an excuse to drink champs with friends and family over breakfast bowls of fresh fruit; gleaming strawberries and purple blackberries against the gold of mangoes and red blushing watermelon. The sweet tang of passionfruit coats each mouthful. The cat sleeps at my feet, follows me around like a faithful dog. I cook fresh chicken, stuffing its cavity with dried apricots, pine nuts, grained bread pulled apart roughly, basting its skin until golden. We don’t eat it until the next day, but knowing it’s there, gives me comfort. Roasting pans of baked potatoes and pumpkin cooked in duck fat line our stomachs. It’s all we can do to flick the remote control. Mostly, we lay on the bed, radio off, reading. No need for conversation, we are alone in our thoughts and only a brushed hand away from each other.

We are content.


This year, without consultation, my husband decides we are to spend Christmas here in the city. For a man that has spent every Christmas covered in sand and heat at the beach since he was two years old, this is a huge leap. I don’t mind, I’m grateful (that word again!) for the change, and the air conditioning. Although our beach house was built for sea breezes and not air conditioning, over the years buildings and development have choked our lovely easterly night breeze, and we usually lay on top of the bed, listless with heat, lacking energy, the whirr of the fan our only company.

Another new change this year was meeting my dear old Rockhampton school friend Sue for morning tea, and some light Christmas shopping. We buy a bird bath, walking around the plant nursery inspecting the various designs. A carved column or a twisted stand? Deep with a rim or shallow and embossed? Finally, decision made, we hump it puffing from the car to her guest room, giggling like schoolgirls - hiding it beside the double bed. Shopping again, I park underneath the centre, in case of rain. We buy so much our arms struggle to hold the bags, stuffed with last minute panicked buying. Grog. Food. Santa stuffers for my 25 year old son.
Standing at Myers, I buy two pairs of earrings; white pearly drops for me, and sparkling blue sapphires for her, to match the intensity of her eyes. ‘Look surprised’ I joke, and she feigns mock shock as a rehearsal. We both laugh, kids again, students in our daggy drab grey uniforms and moppy ties around our necks. Outside the rain belts down, and my stomach tightens, just a little.


Christmas Eve champagne drinks in our front courtyard, only the second time it has ever been used. Years ago I hosted a party for my sister for her 50th birthday there, hovering between the guests and scanning the road for expected Thursday Island Dancers, who never showed. I have slaved over the garden for this night, this Christmas Eve, and our friends and neighbours arrive with bottles to be opened, and plates of food to share. Carols sing out from the new CD player we have bought, and not once does it jump or scratch or repeat. Heaven! The humidity threatens to sap us of all energy, the occasional spot of rain sending our eyes searching skywards. Friends from Innisfail arrive and we feast on glazed ham, Bangalow roast pork, salads and vegetables, sparking Shiraz. In the morning we’ll drive his car back over to the house they are staying in, and admire the view over Brisbane, and the elegance of a freshly renovated home for a single professional woman. She’s done well for herself, I try to push the envy urge down and be happy for her. It’s Christmas Day; I am happy for her, for us all. New ideas, new customs for us this year.


My brother in law arrives with his family, having flown from Cairns at 5.30am. It’s been a long night and an early start for them all; they are exhausted, and sit slumped in the chairs, catching up on family news and events. We are so happy to be together and chatting that I totally forget to put out the Bon bons. No matter. We feast on fruit salad and champagne and my offer to cook salmon scrambled eggs will have to wait until tomorrow. Now it’s almost lunchtime. My mother in law shuffles off to join other family members for Christmas lunch, coughing and hacking so badly we advise her to take some antibiotics. She stays with us for the next two nights so we can keep an eye on her health. We eat so much it’s as much as we can do to shovel shortbread into our mouth for dinner. In the morning I wake with a heavy head cold, courtesy of my mother-in-law.

Our city Christmas has been a great success. Hope yours was too.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Limpet/oyster/glass (Writing exercise)

Take my love; she sang to the waiting shore
He clung like a limpet to her breast.

Placed an oyster, ripe with sea, into her open mouth; sealed it with a kiss.

They toasted their lives in wine glasses - pure: each sip,
Another kiss,
A declaration of eternity.

Long ago.

I stoop to collect the memories in my hand.

Chinese hats/houses for pearls/jagged glass now smooth

It is this I remember, not their kiss or heart-love.
It is this I hold in my hand.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A life of gratitude – a conversation with Ian (Skip) Skippen

Skippen has been with Austereo for 23 years. In September Triple M decided to cancel The Cage, a breakfast show Skippen had anchored since January 2006.

We meet, sitting in the quiet garden behind the Black Cat Bookshop.

Ian Skippen ponders a leaf that has fallen on him. “Why did that just happen?” he says in a moment of reflection, and as he faces day 45 of unemployment, he accepts whatever future his life holds for him.

“I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m so comfortable with the decision,” he says, gazing to the sky. His face shines with not only optimism, but gratitude, a daily thanks for everything around him.
“In the end, it was a job, and I’ve been in a position where I could do a lot of stuff, and help a lot of people, but it was still just a job. If that’s the worst that will happen to me; hello, no one’s died here. There are people dealing with some very heavy duty stuff in life, and all around me. Put into perspective, this is nothing.”

A radio veteran of 42 years, he sees nothing but happiness and a beckoning future for himself.

As a teenager, he sent in tapes to radio stations, reading aloud from magazines; a motivated youngster who knew what he wanted. Not for him following his father’s footsteps into the funeral industry, and not for him a life of football, although it was a great love. He could have been the original Glee character, torn between singing soprano and playing hard on the footy field. The pull of music and speaking with people were greater, and so a radio career was born. “I’ve always been a performer,” he says, “I really wanted to be a disc jockey.”

You’d find him each year at the Ekka, nose pressed against the glass booth, watching every move the DJ’s made in the broadcast caravan.
A shower singer and frustrated drummer and guitarist, radio has given Ian his career and fed his passion. As a former scout involved in the annual Gang Show, Ian attributes his appreciation of cooking, his love of people, and doing things for people; to scouting, and the people who influenced him at the time. A life of service, freely given.

“It’s just something you do, the idea of being there for others.”
Although now living on acreage, he is city bred, and occasionally daydreams of working in the country again. He loves the creative process and copywriting part of radio, but for now is enjoying his free time, staying up later each night; waking and rising at a more reasonable hour than 2.30am. Each morning he finishes his shower with a brace of cold water. Health is important. It’s the one thing he fears, illness and a failing body. His dad is 91 and in reasonable condition for a man who has just had a recent pacemaker inserted.

In his new freedom, he has loosely embraced Social Media, Facebook in particular, although he’s still not convinced it’s necessary. “Why am I doing this” he questions. He can’t see the point of Twitter: perhaps one day? He still hasn’t worked out what he wants to do when he grows up, but a tell-all book is definitely out. “There’s nothing to tell.” he says with a shrug and a smile.

As a parent he questions his skills as a father; writes his sons notes. “Oh dad, you’re such a dag,” they laugh. He beams with pride recalling when his son won a sports award. “Never bring shame on the family” is one of the mottos they live with. “Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Always be passionate. I don’t care what you do, you have to be passionate, whether you are driving a dozer, or making a coffee. Be passionate.”

The days are filled pottering around the house, working his way through a long list. Trimming hedges, getting stuck into the garden. Painting, staining, carpentry. “Being a part of the morning. Having more time and not being always being tired, feels pretty damn good. Not being a slave to the alarm clock is a great thing.”

“I’ve been sanguine about the whole thing. I’ve no animosity towards anyone, it’s not my thing anyway; I’ve had a great run, doing what I’ve done. It’s never happened to me before. This is the first time in 42 years I haven’t had a contract to go to, and it feels okay, although I miss interacting with people the most, chatting to them on the phone and on the radio.”

“Everything happens for a reason. I was speaking with my wife Helen, and our routines are changing with our growing sons. They are off to uni, and playing sport each weekend, and suddenly here we are, Darby and Joan. All of this has happened at a time of our lives, where strange things are happening anyway. I’m very peaceful.”

Ian believes there’s something for all of us, something pushing us forward, be it God or whatever you see. He’s big on karma. “What you put out, you get back”, but not in a spiteful revengeful way. In a rewarding way. It’s his dad’s family motto: Nice to be nice.

There’s always room in Ian’s life for a God. “I speak to Him every morning - to Someone - and I have done for years and years and years.” It’s a heritage still lived by his uncle, a Methodist Minister, and his own strict Anglican/Methodist upbringing. Singing hymns can still get Ian misty eyed, especially How Great Thou Art, although his favourite song of all time would be the New Zealand National Anthem. “I just love that song! I love the words, and the melody, it’s so emotive. For a disc jockey that has spun all the latest and greatest hits for the past few decades, this comes as a surprise, but it’s the music and the words that get to him.

“As you grow in life, you come to realise there is something. People come into my life and I wonder why. Where did you come from? How did that happen? I could instance many, many things in my life, and I am grateful. Thank you.”

Living a thankful life of gratitude, Ian ponders his future. He’s not in a hurry to do anything, and yet he’s not ready to retire either. “My passion is life; I just love what is here, and what’s next. I love to get out of bed in the morning, and sniff, and look around.

“Something’s coming,” he says as he sips his coffee. “There is something there, which I now have this downtime to pursue. My grandmother always said: Don’t you worry about what others are doing. Everyone finds their nitch in life, and you’ll find yours.”

For now Ian wonders at the physics of flight, maths problems in newspapers, and the true value of spelling.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Parrot, or two?

Once again I am in Rockhampton, the sleepy hot town of my childhood, but not my birth. I am a Saltwater woman; a beach girl, an ocean spirit who lived her teenage years trapped between the inland humidity of Mt Archer’s shadow, and the closed, tired minds of Rockhampton people.

It’s not true to say nothing changes here. It does, but it takes its time. Nothing changes in a hurry.

The Fitzroy River still ambles its sluggish way to the sea. Boats still glide and turn with the incoming tide; their bows facing the current pushing upstream, turning their backs to the bridge. Trains still shuffle along 'the main street of Rocky' – written once by a travelling writer, and often repeated, whether it’s true, or not.

It’s become folklore; people love to tell tales against this city, and sometimes its deserved, often not.

One thing that has changed with my latest visit is only one parrot hanging off the back door. Usually there are two clowns, gaily decked out wearing their feathered outfits, befitting their silly behaviour. Today there is only one, and he shrieks upside down from the red flowering bottlebrush tree in the front garden.

I wonder where his mate is, as they have almost become family pets, greeting my mother and sister each morning with hungry cries for bread and honey. Mum grew native plants for three decades, and flowering trees and shrubs for the birds to feed upon surround the house; so although there are a lot of natural bush foods here for them to eat, they adore their honey, wiping their sticky beaks of the side of flowering pot plants and sneezing with delight!

It’s almost irresistible to not put my hand out to stroke their colourful feathers. Today there is only one parrot. Perhaps tonight his mate will come, stomping his pigeon-toed parrot feet amongst the parsley, chasing the butcherbirds who come to feed on titbits of mince. I’ll watch for him, and rouse on him, scolding him in a motherly way, before placing bread and honey before his feet.


In my mother’s arms, lying across the bed, laying across her chest, I feel her arms wrap strongly around me. She holds me tightly. “I love you Mrs Warby,” I say softly.

She speaks with a strong voice, empowered.

“Some people want to live to 100,and receive the letter from the Queen. I am not one of those people. Enough’s enough.”

She repeats this.

Enough’s enough.

“I am simply being maintained, that’s all you can do at my age. It’s not like I can go to a hospital and have an operation and come out skipping. I’m simply being maintained, and enough is enough.”

There’s nothing more to add to that, and we sit in the cool darkness of her blue bedroom, and hold hands. We don’t speak, but we both sob silently with rage against time, and life and death to come.


“I don’t water the lawn”, my sister says, as she leaves for work. I know why she doesn’t. It’s all time, and money and effort. She has enough to do, enough to think about, more than enough to occupy her time and goodwill. I water the lawn for her, moving the leaking hose (did I say leaking? It’s a bloody fountain, twice over!) every 20 minutes, giving each patch a good soaking. Yes, it’s time and effort and water bills, but shows a generous spirit, saying to the neighbours: “Look, I care. I share this planet and this town with you, and I care.”

The birds chatter with delight; a solo peewee struts within the garden, a picture perfect image of military design in his crisp black and white uniform. A large ant marches backwards and forwards across the top of the stairs, halting and then turning and repeating the action. He’s either keeping the baddies out, or we are all going to be overrun by an army of insects. Whatever, will be.


My mother carries within her red walker; a racing guide, the crossword, and the telephone; all packed neatly with the seat up, in sight. Her silver hair has the permanent crease of bed-hair, no matter how much I comb it for her.

Her gait is slower, and more considered. As we speak, her eyes search for the right word. She grasps and stabs the air with her arthritic finger, digging out the right phrase, the correct word, and the ultimate answer.


I love to drive northwards - crossing the Fitzroy River over the new bridge - whilst watching the wrought iron train bridge to my left. Its elegance, leaping between black rock and black rock, always gives me hope, that one day – with thoughtful planning and an unbounded leap of energy and good faith, others can also escape the monotony of living in Rockhampton. And in leaving, they also leave their gilded footprint of the city and its people. Just saying.


Monday, September 26, 2011

(Re) Birth Day

Lockie’s eyes crinkle with his laugh; it is one of his most lovable features. His ginger beard muffles a wide smile but it’s his brown almond shaped eyes that hold my full attention. My 23 year old son and I are travelling to Sydney to see the Archibald’s; (we are an art-loving family) and to spend time together in re-discovering each other, after 5 years apart as mother and son.

Well, that’s probably not quite true, but it does seem like I haven’t seen my son for the past five years. His fulltime work, uni studies, and his currant gal-pal Val, demand his time and mind. I have to stop myself from hugging him too much. Restraint is not my second name. Passion is.
On the plane we discuss the concept of a god, aliens, and conspiracies. He discusses Socrates. The dead philosopher is Lockie’s latest passion, (he’s reading the book of Apologies) and later that night – at the musical show Wicked - Socrates is mentioned in passing. I nudge and wink. “See, he’s still relevant” says Lockie. We grin.

I am in my parent’s town. I am walking the streets my father walked, before the war. I am looking at cathedrals and dead Kings that my mother saw. Her town. Her Sydney. My mother’s culture. I walk the streets with my eldest son, my bearded, chatty, laughing son who’s eyes wrinkle and crinkle with humour.

Over lunch and Rock oysters, he speaks. His hands keep time to his voice; knitting the air. Entranced by his perfect nose, I marvel at my own handiwork. As a natural birth consumer, his celebrated arrival was long and joyous; my birth cry of “I have a son, I have a son” echoing the corridor.
Sometimes, we are so busy bringing each other up as a parent and a child, we forget to simply revel in the uniqueness and beauty of each other. I stare away his conversation, nodding when I remember. His straight, no-nonsense nose. His generous, talking mouth. I mentally trim a stray hair of his moustache as he eats his Kilpatrick oysters. An unknown tourist takes our photo.

We are in the foreground, and the Bridge yawns behind us as a dozen climbers tickle it’s back. Later, our photograph will be placed carefully in a blue covered album entitled “My Trip To Australia Down Under” and placed on the middle shelf of the American snapper’s bookcase.
Circular Quay is a whorehouse for tourists. Have camera, will click. It doesn’t matter to us though; we too are tourists, to each other’s lives, and this sparkling city. I bite into my oyster and its creaminess. An angel’s full-mouth kiss.

Within the hour we will be seated 3 rows from the top of the Opera House, to see the ballet. For now though, it’s a talk-fest of information, swapping lives and experiences, embellishing stories of family, honed and polished, to be retold to unborn children.

We dream of unplanned joy, and share the rebirth of our lives, together, as adults.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ask me

Hugging my pillow, eyes closed, feeling the white linen against my skin.
Ask me.
Ask me!
I will him in my mind to Ask me.
Am I happy?
I want him to roll over and look at me and ask me if I am happy, because the answer would be yes! Yes! Yes!
Today I am happy with my life, my family, my bloke.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hamitlon Island - thoughts

People have to swim quietly here, this is not a place for kidding around or chiacking, indeed, the inner child is so suppressed we swim like ballerinas en point, delicately, with precision, and as little rippling as possible.
It’s a wonderful thing to be worn out from usefulness.
The thing about Rockhampton is, that it taught me resilience and initiative.
I am sharing the pool with men. Men who's thighs have grown soft and flabby like a woman. From too much work. Desk work, mind work. Not physical work. A man who works hard physically, say as a road repairer or gardener, has thighs like tree trunks, strong, thick and made of iron, if that were possible of human flesh.
My thoughts barely have time to form before they disappear like fog, leaving only the memory of confusion.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter in the Barossa 2011

We wanted some family time together, so spent five glorious days in Adelaide and the beautiful Barossa. Wonderful to see the autumn leaves and changing seasons. Thanks to eveyone for making us all feel so welcome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today arrives. Funeral day.

They touch her head when they hug her, rubbing her short cropped hair with their stubby men’s fingers.

They hug with such intimacy and emotion that I feel like an intruder, watching. Eventually they release their hold, pull apart and look each other straight in the eye, and repeat the embrace. It’s like they want to climb into her skin, with grief and love.

Talk about a transfer of energy! So powerful to witness.

With each friend and mateship embrace, I can see Ann’s back grow straighter, as if they are feeding her with their own strength.

It’s working, Ann’s face is red-eyed and tearful, but her smile is straight and genuine, her stance strong and hopeful, her body, ready for the next assault of emotions, whatever they may be.
I know her as Ann Marie. A couple of weeks ago she called me Pat. No, I corrected her, it’s Patty, now. I like to be called just Ann, she replied. So just Ann it was.

At the funeral, meeting her friends, they call her Annie, not Ann. It’s a friendly affectionate name, borne over three decades of card-playing, late night talks on the dark verandas, line-dancing evenings, and many, shared holidays.


She smiles and grins with delight in their company. Old friendships are like our favourite jeans, we can slip them on and immediately feel at home where we belong. She belongs in these arms of company that surround her today. Thanks for being my friend Ann’s friend, your friend Annie’s mate.
Driving to the Nambour funeral, I pass country I haven’t driven through for years, not since the kids were little, and only then, some. Bli Bli castle, sitting proudly on the hill, boasting ‘Opera in the Castle” coming soon. It’s up for sale, looking for not only a buyer, but some loving.

Low lying cane fields sit in puddles of rainwater; the country had had torrential downpours here overnight, and the cane looks tired and fed up.

Mentally I run my hand over the tops of the grass as I drive past, windows up, singing.
After introducing myself to Dean, the Funeral Director, we both enter the Chapel. Ann has requested I photograph Colin, and so I shall. There is to be a viewing before the Service but I want to film him now, quietly, by myself.

Dean removes the casket lid and places it upright, standing to one side.

Hello Colin, I say softly, and wait for Dean to leave us.

He lays there, a smile on his large ruddy face. He’s holding a photograph of a card with a smiling woman on it. I wonder if this is his Irish friend. I raise my camera, and begin.

Really, he could be sleeping. I could almost shake him awake, with a cheery you-hoo!


His hands. Click.

His face. Click.

His beautiful Funeral corsage of orange flowers: happy geraniums, thoughtful, elegant white lilies, sweet, dear little orange roses, sophisticated white orchids, and simple white daisies. Click.

An orange and black Go Tigers! Flag is placed on the casket, it’s his wish.

I place my white ceramic box of his favourite yellow roses near his casket. The card reads: To my dear friend Ann’s gentle man, Rest in Peace now. Be still, my Soul, Patty.
When I arrive at Ann’s home, I am greeted by the familiar faces of her good friends from the Hunter Valley. They have been staying with her for the past few days, I am so grateful to them, and very pleased for her.

Cups of tea, buttered hot cross buns, chat and phone calls. Eventually Ann comes out of the bedroom, after speaking to his only brother, about certain funeral arrangements. Her face is red and blotchy, and she throws her arms around me and sobs: I never would have thought I’d be asking you to do this for me Patty.

We both shed tears, but quickly compose ourselves. It’s all good. We are adults now, and we can do this, one step, one tissue, one song at a time.

To be continued…

When tomorrow comes…

Tomorrow I am going to help my old school friend bury her husband.

After decades of pain and depression, he finally ended it all with a brand new white rope.

She found him.

She has asked me to bring my video camera to record the Service, as she explains: “Patty, I always remember you saying, that you might not want to view the images now, or even next week, but one day you will come to a place in your life where it might be good to view the funeral, and the DVD will be there, quietly waiting for you.”

So, tomorrow, I will help my old school friend bury her husband, who loved her, but depression and constant chronic pain won out.

Rest in Peace.


Today I am going to help my old school friend bury her husband. I’ll be the oldest friendship there to support her, and although her nursing friends and old bridesmaids will be there, although her small family consisting of her only brother and his wife and kids will be there, I will be the one with the oldest memories of her; memories of a single girl, a carefree, happy redheaded blue-eyed school girl, in the school hallway bent over laughing at my jokes.

We both travelled to Cooktown together in our senior year, keeping a watchful eye on the young boys as we were plunged into a series of small train tunnels, pitch black and groping hands, to emerge in the blinking daylight, slightly dishevelled with smug teenagers sitting opposite us, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth. It was a game and we played along, much fun.

Over the years we kept in loose touch. If I was staying in the Hunter Valley helping my old wine-maker friend Jim Roberts pick his grapes, I would stay with her and her husband.

Her husband was a soft, gentle man, a large man, a lumbering giant heaving an unworkable broken body around the best he could. In those days he drove a taxi, and could get around a little bit, but the passing years were unkind to him, and gradually depression began to taint his world and the shutters closed in.
Today my husband was showering early, and I heard him yelp from where I was in the kitchen. I called out: Are you alright? Darl? Are you ok? And with his silence my footsteps quickened to reach him.
He stood there, water droplets from the shower covering the paddocks of his back and shoulders. On Sunday he had spent most of the day changing over 45 fluorescent light tubes at his work, and one of the tubes had cut his finger deeply. It was this sore finger that had banged against the towel rail, and it had silenced him with sudden pain.

I gently took the white towel and slowly, tenderly, wiped his back, his legs, his chest. “There you go, the rest is up to you” I said, and left him to finish the job.

Some days marriage is like that, you have to be there and step forward.
“When you first told me what you did, I couldn’t understand it, I thought ‘A funeral photographer? What the hell?’ but now I totally get it.” We speak softly, the phone nuzzles into my neck, and I close my eyes and imagine we are once again sitting in the spa we shared only weeks ago. “I want you to photograph him, and film the funeral, in fact I want to take the DVD over to Ireland and share it with his old friend. She can’t make it over for the funeral. I’ll take it to her.”

Already in her mind, she is moving forward, seeing a fresh day, a new start, a different tomorrow.

A fortnight ago we stayed at O’Reilly’s in the Gold Coast hinterland, the four of us women coming together in solidarity of having some time to ourselves. I spoke to her about everything but her husband. She needed the break, and I made it clear that the topic was always there if she needed to, wanted to speak about him; I was all ears and arms; to wrap around her. We watched an opera DVD, Cecilia Botoli. Eventually, she leaps to her feet, and begins to move to the music.

This is the first time I ever lined-danced to opera she says. I try to keep up with her steps, but it’s not for me, the set routine and boredom of repeating movements. I lash out and wobble my bits in joy, dancing for a moment in the rainforest. We laugh and giggle, like the old schoolgirls we still are.

Neither of us then imagined that we would be arranging his funeral. My friend is my old schoolgirl mate, childless, now widowed. She’ll rise above this, and move forward, and I’ll be there to help if I am needed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

O'Reilly's - Through Ann's Eyes

Beach Writing – Maroochydore

Observations by Patty Beecham

The tide takes its time to fill the mud holes and stingray hides of Maroochy River. As the silver coloured water eases past, unseen children scream with delight. It’s a gimmick to see the sun shine, and a day without rain – or clouds – exhilarates us all. Couples walk hand in hand, slurping milkshakes to the soft beat of their thongs slapping on the concrete walkway. A child drifts in a green kayak, intently watching the sea life below the waterline through the clear window of the hull. Dogs bark. Children question. A skateboard man rides a black, high-handlebar bike, his posture slouched into the seat and spreading.

On the flat river, someone attempts to stand on his paddle board. Behind me a middle-aged man checks his helmet; he looks like an echidna, long plastic tabs protruding skywards. This is supposed to keep away the magpies. It must be working; I can see no magpies following him.

A woman with a tattoo ‘sleeve’ walks alongside a bald man, together they are walking two white miniature poodles. One of the dogs wears pink socks, I kid you not. In front of me, a speedboat pulls up, landing with a metallic thud onto the beach, as it's anchor chain moves. Further north, past the sandbars hosting seagulls as they rest, three kayaks in a neat row make a uniformed tour of the waterways. Walking past me, couples argue whether its “July or August”.

A man in a flat-hulled punt casts a net next to the jetty pylons, hoping for baitfish or prawns. He catches neither.

A not-so-small girl of eight is wheeled by her parents, one either side, as she attempts to learn to ride her pushbike. Her father stares straight ahead. Her mother cannot take her eyes off the child. Her new pink and white bike sparkles in the sun. She wears an enormous pink sunhat with a broad brim, and an equally large pink Barbie helmet, the look is comical; making you turn your head twice to confirm what you are really seeing.

A red Virgin plane growls overhead, its passengers reluctantly leaving beautiful Queensland life behind for a week of work. A black helicopter, a yellow-winged plane, and a small grey plane take turns to clutter the sky with noise.

Two crows race the wind.

The not-so-little girl with the helicopter parents rides her bike past, the mother running beside her, breathless with excitement. She’s ready at any moment to grab the handle bars. This could end badly so I begin to watch intently, knowing I am privy to that sweet eureka day of childhood when you finally master learning to ride a bike.

Eventually she stops riding and stands beside her pink bike; and with outstretched arms she hugs the air in exhilaration. Her first ride!

Two pigeons in red socks strut towards me, turning away from me as one if I move.


Friday, March 18, 2011

White chocolate and raspberry muffins


2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
90g. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any, used 1 cup milk)
1/2 cup milk (see above)
1/2 cup white choc chips
150g. frozen raspberries (1/2 box)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


1. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg.C.
Grease a muffin tin well with butter or spray oil.
2. Sift flour into a large bowl and stir in the sugars to mix evenly.
In another bowl mix together the egg, lemon zest, butter, buttermilk, milk and choc chips and add to the flour mixture with the raspberries.

Spoon into muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes (less for mini muffins) or until golden. The last batch I added some coconut.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Simon & Garfunkel- Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream (2:11)

E. McCurdy, 1950

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

Peace, man.

I grew up in the love and peace attitude of the seventies. John Lennon had sung about it, the radio played songs with beautiful, innocent lyrics: "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair".
We listened to Simon and Garfunkle tell us:

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

Everywhere I turned as a young teenager, was love, and peace. We wore the peace symbol on our Levi jeans back pocket, we made the sign when our photos were taken. I still do.

My hair was waist-long, straight and golden. My skin was tight and brown, tanned from hours spent running on the beach with my dog. Freedom was endless, and as the days blurred into years, my cheesecloth shirts grew holes, and my leather handmade sandals grew thin, but still the message was the same. Love one another.

Peace, man.

I wore no makeup, I ate healthy food; apples, mostly! Slogans like free love, and stickers telling us to “Save water! Shower with a friend” only reinforced the society attitudes that everyone should love one another. My dad was a priest, and would tell me solemnly, with his hand on my shoulder; Jesus said Love one another. That’s all. Just love one another.

I totally got it.

Now as an adult, I don’t get why this generation of spoilt, over indulged, over educated kids, hate each other so much. Why are they so full of aggression, and depression? What happened? What the hell happened? We brought them up, so wouldn’t we have passed on our values to them? The internet happened. That’s what. Violent video games, so called ‘friends’ you never met, or saw, happened.

Your opinion on everything and anything was able to be ‘out there’ in cyberspace, your thoughts and ideas were blogged and broadcast on social media sites. And then trolls began; strangers bagging your ideas, slagging off with contempt and hatred and over-reaction to your opinions. So we stopped giving them. We withdrew.

Although we might reach out even further with other social networking, we are now expected to be totally available at any given point in time; on mobile phones, and the net. We don’t have any special place for ourselves. We haven’t the time, or the energy to honour our own selves. Instead of running along the beach with the wind dancing in their hair, my sons sit in front of their computer screens, chatting, working, studying to get ahead. Where is their freedom?

Why do I have to be fearful when they go to the city at night? That they might be glassed, or stabbed, or punched. I am sure my sons are quite capable of looking after themselves, but neverless, I do worry and fret. Young people at university are on anti depressants. Why? Why aren’t they coping?

Why are young girls called Princesses? Why do they have a birthday party I can’t even afford, at age five? What on earth do you do for their birthday when they become teenagers, or *gasp, an adult?

Why do we as a society so easily complain? Why is my city full of whingers and knockers?

Why are we so intolerant of each other?

Love one another. It’s a really simple message.

A worldwide Day Of Peace has been suggested, for Friday March 4, 2011.

It’s a really simple message. Peace.

The young man behind this idea, Stephen Danger Shoemaker says:
"I have an idea... for a day of peace. Wouldn't it be amazing?
Just one day in the year where we all held our tongues.
A day where we ignored others' shortcomings and made a valiant effort to be kind and understanding.
A day where we all got along. It's sad that we are all at a point where we should do this, but it's even sadder to know that we easily could every day, but refuse to do so.

My proposition is simple:
One day, March 4th, we all stick to three simple rules that will make the world a little bit more bearable. Feel free to partake in this before and long after then; the only reason I have the event set that far into the future is because I want word to spread and allow this to have as big of an impact as possible.
This event is to take place everywhere we go in the world, preferably all the time.
Rule #1.Say not a single unkind thing about anyone or anything. If at all possible, try not to even think a nasty thought. If we do, reflect on why it was that we thought to say it in the first place.
Rule #2.Show everyone we cross paths with some genuine human compassion. Be it with a smile or kind words, just spread some love.
Rule #3.Make not one person the exception to the rule. Not everyone deserves to have roses thrown at their feet and have a holiday in their honor, but nobody deserves to feel alone. Reach out. Talk to someone new. Care about them, and we will be cared for in return.

Peace, man.

Space Shuttle Discovery - Nasa's Final Launch 2011

My childhood was spent watching NASA shoot rockets into the sky. I watched as man walked on the moon; a small black and white TV placed under Berserker Street State School in Rockhampton, and 350 kids, smelling of sweat and slight fear and apprehension, holding our breath to listen to Neil Armstrong speak.

Later, the Space Shuttle was launched, and I gasped as it glided home and landed like a 'normal' plane.

My youngest son - desperate to be an astronaut as a child, now studies aerospace engineering, in the hope of redesigning planes and one day, perhaps space rockets. Will he? No one can see the future, but I love that he is reaching for the stars.

This is a recording of the last Discovery Space Shuttle, and I must admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed as I watched the marriage of science and physics come into play with man's imagination and desire. Good luck. Safe home.
PS: Make sure you see 5.00 minutes into clip, for debris.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flash Mob for Flash Floods!

At Karrinyup Shopping Centre (Western Australia) the Variety Club Youth Choir organized a FLASH MOB where they all were incognito in the Food Hall, and started standing up in groups singing "We are Australian" -
The purpose it to raise money for the QLD floods. Each time it is clicked on, money is raised thru google ads, SO PLEASE WATCH! It is a beaut way of suppporting Aussies.

Hoping tomorrow never comes

Another week, another tragedy at our doorstep. 

I even joked with my husband that this week would be free of any drama, natural or man made, and yet here I sit with the TV remote glued to my hand, flicking between each station and news reporter. 

 I finally turned it off when I saw a deceased person being carried out of the rubble that was their office, their workplace. Although I am a funeral photographer, there are some images I don’t wish to see. I’m tired, exhausted emotionally, the same as every other Queenslander.

Tomorrow the images will still be there.  I’ll look again tomorrow, but not now, not today. My candle burns for the hearts of each New Zealander.

I’ll blow it out at sunset, and re-light it tomorrow. Meanwhile, stay safe, and hug your Loved Ones.

Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Polm for Murphys.

Anonymous said...

such a sad story but true could u make a polm for the town please


If I were to draw a map of my Murphy’s

In the old days

I would be kissed here.

        And there - high on the hill.

My poetry would follow the terrain of the land,

Each sonnet a hill,

        Each song - a contour.

A bath of red rose petals is drawn,

further along the road, to the left.

        It seemed nice - but it wasn’t.

Cups of tea and conversations lay to the lower place,

Across the dusty paddocks of thistle and cactus,

        Taking bags of carrots - for the horse.

On my Murphy’s map, is a tree.

A huge gum, shading the water

        As it glides - beneath.

My old cat is buried there,

Wrapped in a green shirt,

         He dreams - of mice.

On my landscape is the road I rolled my car.

Driving backwards to the tune of Oh! My! God!

It was never going to end well.

        And yet - it did.

My world of Murphy’s contains the valleys and the crests,

A meandering effort tracing across the page

Where everything seemed so important

        And yet - it wasn’t.

Today’s map would be different, drawn in a shaking hand

Containing rips and scars,

Lumps of land would be missing,

Chunks of lives would be smashed and splintered

        Against - the edge of the page.

If I were to redraw the Murphy’s map today

I would hesitate to put pen to paper.

I would scribble in purple, a healing softness.

        A purple map of love - and hope.

But I’m not a map maker or a person that can

Hold a pen with such precision

        As to redress the past.

I can only guide a hand towards the future

Whatever that will be.

We are all architects

        Of our own - life.


...and so I did.


Memories of Murphy’s Creek past.

I stand, legs spread, arms out wide, straight; like a starfish. The water reaches to just below my nose, allowing me to breathe.

The swimming pool reflects my outside world. Tall buildings, palm trees, clouds like frozen steam are solemnly reflected in the smooth water. I am weightless, suspended in space and time. The outside world slows to each breath in and out. At times the water barely moves but the smallest movement disturbs the surface tension and my aqua world rollicks and sways in discord.

My husband and his mother chat quietly in the far corner of the swimming pool. I am happily lost in my own universe of water and reflections.

Is the world any easier to fathom upside down? In part, as it becomes blocks of shape and colour. The apartment block wobbles like jelly in front of me, stripes of blue zoom in and out; now there, now not there. So, the question is begged. Are they really there, or not? Did recent events really happen, or not? The flood, mud, destruction, cleanup, mess, the cyclone, the winds, the rains, the bloody rain.


Sitting in the Murphy’s Creek Pub, my friend CJ asks: Did this pub go under water? Did it flood?

Staring at the rising bubbles of my beer, my mouth tightens. I shake my head; I don’t know, and I don’t want to ask. I want to walk gently in this landscape. If they did go under which was highly likely, as it’s just down the road from the primary school (“I looked up from my class preparation to see cars floating away” says the teacher to the media) then they’ve made a wonderful recovery. It’s not my place to ask such impertinent questions. If they have recovered, then I don’t want to disturb their newly made memories by trolling through the muddy, distressing past. Let bygones be bygones.

I do, however, ask how long the pub has been there.

Three months. So young. So fresh.

Three men in suits and a woman dressed for serious business stride past outside. They stop, consult folders, and continue walking. Detectives? Forensic? Government officials? Locals gather to talk, perhaps about anything but the inland tsunami, perhaps to discuss each step; each day by day; minute by horrifying minute.

Rows of army tents flap silently across the road. Army water trucks rumble past. On the way home we pass the road crews who have put in a massive effort in the short time we have been away. Kilometres of road have been resealed, resurfaced, smoothed and are now open the travelling public.


The following night I phone my mother and my sister in Rockhampton. “I read your piece on Murphy’s Creek” she says. There’s a short silence, and we both begin to cry in the soft way women do when we don’t want to disturb menfolk. Our voices break when we speak again.

“Do you remember buying Naughty Toby James from Murphy’s?” mum asks.

Do I? How could I forget! Toby James was the bitiest, barkiest puppy . As my family were previous cocker spaniel breeders, I had hesitated in buying him, as he wasn’t a purebred. Someone had gotten to the bitch so the father was an unknown. I bought him anyway, glad of the company. I took him everywhere. My advertising clients soon fell in love with my puppy, as I arrived in my girly pink pearl buttoned blouse, jeans and short white gum boots, pup firmly tucked under my arm. Bet they’d never seen anything like it in their life!

As time progressed and my husband and I set up house together, Toby James left his yappy indelible mark on us both, and the front door which even now still bears the scars from his sharp claws.

“I came back covered in so many scratches,” my mother says with a laugh.

“And how about the time you came down to visit me, mum, and Toby was shitting eight poos a night. We went to move the mattress you and dad had been sleeping on, and I shoved once too hard. You went flying across the room, to land within a bee’s dick of a huge turd.” We both laugh heartily at the memory.

Neither of us has even seen a bee’s dick, but we know how small it is. Sorry bees.

As it became more apparent to both my husband and I that it was either me or the dog, Toby James went to live in Rockhampton with my parents. An ideal match, as Toby barked at everything, and dad was deaf. One day as dad was walking Toby along our street, the local ex- Police inspector came rushing out of his house. He lived across the road.

“Shut that bloody dog up or I’ll shoot it!” he demanded.

Dad’s heckles rose, and he bristled with fury. His normally gentle priest’s voice became a deep menacing growl.

“Touch my dog and I’ll have you, ya bastard!” snarled dad, and with that he turned and shuffled back home. It became a battle of wits, the former copper, the ex-priest, and Toby, always barking madly in the middle.

Toby! Lie down! So there it was: two old men, their careers and philosophies forgotten in the streets of Rockhampton. One barking, yapping, happy gold and white spaniel, dad’s best mate.

Sadly they are both gone now, and I like to imagine Toby James, the barkiest, bitiest puppy, running along the beach, yapping at the seagulls and at nothing, his short golden ears flapping in the sea breeze; my dad quietly walking behind him, grinning. Such freedom, heaven must hold.


“Hmm, I remember so much,” I say to mum. “I’ve forgotten heaps, but gradually the memories are becoming refreshed.”

Suddenly the image of black and white photos comes to my mind.

“Do you remember me taking beautiful photos of my sister’s hair” I ask excitedly. “You were both visiting, and we were sitting on the pristine white sand banks of Murphy’s Creek. The afternoon sun made my sister’s hair resemble spun gold.” I can still see her now, yellow dandelion flowers in her fingers, as I clicked away, heart pounding.

“Don’t move, don’t move sis! Look up a bit, now turn your head away a little, and stay still!” I snapped away on The Land’s work camera. Her blonde hair glistened with health and sunshine.

I’ll never forget. However my sister marches up to the telephone in Rockhampton, interrupting my reminiscing. “I only remember some old flasher, giving us all an eyeful!” she snorts. “And there wasn’t much to see!”


Yes, I do slightly remember that, but it’s only 5% of my memory of that day. She, on the other hand, has no memory of my photographing her hair. “We bolted as soon as we saw him” she reminds me.

Did we? Fair enough.

But I don’t remember the bad, or ugly, only the sunshine, the glossy loveliness of it all, and the yellow dandelions, waiting to burst upon the world.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Thoughts of Murphy’s Creek

Kilometre after kilometre of fence lines with debris and brown grass clinging like dead skin to the barbed wire.


Driving past a crumpled something. It’s not until I am beside it, I realise it is a car. Was a car. Looks like a crushed tissue. I gasp so deeply momentarily my car wobbles as my hands shake.


Driving past homes and front gates with a sad flapping piece of police tape. In some areas it’s blue and white. Other places have the same tape, as well as orange and white. I don’t know what it means, and I love that I am protected from the horror.


Noting wordlessly another police tape on a letterbox. A gate. We try not to look, to pry.

The further along the road I drive, looking for a safe U-turn place, the tighter my stomach draws into a knot. I feel physically sick, and can't wait to throw the car into a tight right-hand lock and swing it towards home. Hurry!



The army are everywhere at Murphy’s Creek. Row upon row of enormous tents sit in a paddock, across the road opposite the pub.  The old shop is next door, where I bought my 8 chooks from Lois, and I recall how we used to enjoy our Saturday afternoon chats across the shop counter.  The road is full of water trucks dampening down the dust and gravel; heavy machinery. 
Traffic-control men spray their tired faces with water bottles as we drive past. They lean on the STOP SLOW signs with a determined grimness.

The countryside so green. Such a high price to pay for the rain.

Return to Murphy’s Creek 2011

Now that I’m home, in the safe confines of my own house, I can write. Even now as I sit here, my fingers hesitate over each keystroke. What to say, and how to say it? How to write about returning to Murphy’s Creek - my home for a year – and to put down on paper what I saw, and how I felt. Be patient with me, I’ll do my best for you.

I filled 2 books of poetry living at Murphy's Creek.

“I returned to the creek/listened to the spring to come/felt the grass grow tall.
And look, there/Darling/still the yellow flowers are bursting!”

I lived in a single skin, round one-bedroom house at Murphy’s for a year, when I was a single girl; weighed down only by 8 chooks, a rooster, and various wildlife and animals. I loved that house. It was isolated, innovative, interesting and unique. Once I had turned on all the outside lights, at night it looked like a UFO about to fly off into the darkness. The owls would swoop on the insects the floodlights attracted, and I spent most of my time there writing poetry, feeding open mouths and working hard as an Advertising Rep for The Land and Qld Country Life. Gumboots and field days were a wonderful part of my life, I enjoyed mixing it with the menfolk, and I loved being back in Queensland, my home state; closer to my parents in Rockhampton.

It was only a full days drive away!

When you live at Murphys, you cop a lot of criticism from the Toowoomba community. “You live at Murphy’s Creek? Why?” they demanded. “You have to go up and down the range, all that way!”

Well, yes, that’s true, but it’s not like I had to walk, I had a car for crying out loud. What was wrong with these people that they were not only so disinterested in living down there (too hot, too cold) but so against the whole concept of driving “The Range.”

Me? I’ve always loved to drive. I marched into the Rockhampton Police Station on the morning of my 17th birthday and got my drivers licence. I had already sat for and passed my written test, the rest was easy. I have always loved my road trips, and I married a car enthusiast, so yeah, me and cars go hand in hand, but I digress.

Murphy’s Creek, as you may recall was the flashpoint for so much destruction recently with the floods, beginning first in Toowoomba (who hasn’t seen the you tube clip of the blue car floating nose-first down the street?) and making their way to Murphy’s Creek, Grantham, and eventually to Brisbane, the waters included in the flooding river and as they say, the rest is history.

My dear friend CJ is with me today. I have work to do in Toowoomba for my client, and she has personal effects to drop off to a young girl who lives here. We head to Toowoomba, an early start; along the amazingly easy but complicated new highway, out to Ipswich, past the flooded paddocks and scoured-out creeks, past the road-work gangs mopping their foreheads in the 30c heat, and past the numerous Police Camera radar sites. So many!

We drive, and chat, and as we slow for road works at the most damaged community, we point. First me. Then CJ. We point, and mouths open and close slowly, we are speechless. Really, there’s nothing say either; nothing more to add to the media and the commentators and the blame being apportioned for the flood.

Our work done in Toowoomba, we spend ten minutes trying to locate the grave of my grandmother, Minnie.

I drive slowly along the old road of the Drayton Cemetery, calling her name. Minnie? Minnie? Min? Minnie! We get out in the scorching heat. The graves lie baking like gingerbread men. We can’t find her. This will have to be another road trip and we make our way home, first discussing if we should drive to Murphy’s, or not.

We should go, it's history, and relevant to me. We shouldn’t go, it’s ghoulish. I need to get CJ back to Brissy by 3.30pm so she can clean her church.

Eventually we decide that we should go and see, to witness for ourselves, and to check out my old home. At first, it’s shocking, the carnage. Then it becomes appalling. At times we gasp together, and then the silence settles again, and we point.

Here. There. At once I want to turn my head, look away. At the same time I need to stare, to absorb it all.

I am not going to describe what we saw, and I didn’t take one photograph. It wasn’t necessary, these images will be with me, and we have all seen too much in the past few weeks. Way too much. At Murphy’s Creek there is a new pub, where the locals and visiting officials have gathered.

We stop for a quick drink, to toast to the new pub, and the survivors of the horror.

We toast to the destruction; Mother Nature; and we toast to the dead, the missing; the lives torn and ripped apart by my beloved creek.

Do I feel betrayed by my meandering, pristine water course, the source of so much of my poetry. You bet. Will I be back? Of course, but for now, a community needs to heal, to settle. Homes need to be demolished and rebuilt. Trees need to be removed, boulders shifted, roads and bridges rebuilt.

Murphy’s Creek remains a strong resilient community, and I pray the scars heal, and quickly. Actually Murphy’s Creek, take your time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gotta love Qlders sense of humour - ABC TV News - Duck Hand

My husband and I saw this last night, and we burst out laughing.

Storm Chasers live web cam!

Watch now live images from Storm Chasers webcam. Read the live chat too.

Cyclone Yasi live webcam

Live video chat by Ustream

MTSAT IR Colorized Loop - Cycone Yasi

Australian National Loop

Click the link for the latest radar weather loops.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tuesday - Qld Floods

The night flees to darker places, and Tuesday arrives in a new dress of sunshine. Finally we are having the summer we were meant to have; the warmth and sunshine we dreamt of, as day after day of rain lashed at our holiday plans.
Today the Brisbane River lays flat as a mirror, until a small boat forges a V, and wrinkles its skin.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monday: Qld Floods

Ten pm and I’m almost asleep; just a few threads of consciousness remain, snapping off one by one allowing me to slowly sink into the arms of the night. My mouth relaxes, and begins to fall open when I hear it. The noise. A rattling, glassware-tinging sound. Someone is in the kitchen! Expecting any minute to hear the sound of breaking glasses, I rush naked out of the bedroom and tread cautiously up the hallway, only to be confronted by a very large possum, which seems just as equally surprised to see me.

We both freeze.

He dives down the stairs with me in full pursuit; trying to find an escape. Opening the front glass door, I stand back, there’s no way I want him running up my leg, but I tell myself this is Australia, and it’s a possum, not a squirrel. I think I’ve watched too many Holiday Vacation movies. Still, it pays to be wary, and I keep an eye on the cats, who sit nearby watching with disinterest.

Oh, good on you, cats! A big help!

After a few more bangs on the glass door, the possum heads back upstairs. Uh oh, this could go on all bloody bight, and I’m now worried about the state of my house! Fortunately, he ran onto the deck and scampered down the tree to safety. Repeat the same act at midnight. I’ll have to cut that tree branch off that extends over to the deck.
Today we have the assessors report on the house. To build again, to renovate, time will tell.
School returns, and a new normal will glide into place throughout the suburbs. Mums will kiss their children a little more, and hold them a little longer, today. Across the city, children will recount their flood adventures. Let’s face it; no one really had a holiday: too much rain, too much wet, too much flood and mud. Teachers will open fresh books that smell of hope, and students will sit awkwardly in knotted ties and new shoes, a squirming picture of duty and the future.

Love you Queensland

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday - all day.

We had a day off from the flood yesterday. My dear mate Johnno arrived last week from Townsville, to help his brother in the truck accessories shop, cleaning down the muck. He wanted to talk about anything but the flood. On the way to collect him from the train station, a fat white Qantas plane glided above. Resisting the urge to run my hand down its firm, hard flanks and tickle its smooth underbelly; the plane went on its way, as silent as an overhead shark at UnderWaterWorld.

Phone calls to neighbours and friends, come, share, enjoy; and then I’m making dinner for eight of us; and I can’t wait to hug them all and laugh loudly at nothing. I do love my house to be filled with friends, and strangers; chatting, embracing, eating and making memoires; it makes our house, a home.


On the deck, with Johnno: the orange waning moon is so exquisite it hurts my eyes to look at it. There is always something so melancholy about it. I have been, seen, and now its time to leave, my pinnacle is over, until the next time. It’s like watching a retreating wave on the beach, its only when the water recedes that the real beauty of the sand and her treasure of crushed shells is fully exposed. We sit in the dark loud night-silence and hear the possums and the neighbour’s birthday party. There’s something so wonderful about old mates; we can sit and just be in each others presence – no need for words or unnecessary chatter – and we submerge ourselves to the summers night sky, and feel embraced.


Today I have edited three video clips – I am behind in my work and need to catch up. It’s good to be back in the saddle, to do what I love and know so well. The rhythm of work and the creativeness of the projects engages me, I commit to sitting here for the next seven hours and working. My ebony cat climbs onto my workbench, looks at me, and flops on his side; already asleep. The day screams at me to join it outside, but my mind is made up. I must work, I must! Sunshine washes over my garden, teasing me; I have to stare at the screen with all my will. Insert, copy, paste, edit, render. Repeat.


My sons ring me excitedly from the Melbourne pub, Young and Jackson. Together with their partners, they are toasting to Chloe. It has become our family tradition each time in Melbourne to honour her with champagne and a toast. To Chloe!

Poor, statuesque, dead Chloe; so beautiful in her painted glory; so silent, watching the American-cruise tourists and interstate visitors, sit and gossip below her. She never blinks.


My husband takes Johnno for a spin in his blue Lotus. He hasn’t driven it for over a year, and I wave them off with a sigh of relief. It gives me time to edit, and I know they will enjoy each others company. It’s going to be a boy’s day, and its no place for me. I resist the urge to click my heels, but I do grin all the way back up the stairs to my computer screen.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I yawn open-mouthed like a hippo. Again and again, until finally the nice young man sitting at the table next to us turns his head and looks. I don’t care, I can’t stop the yawning and the over-whelming tiredness; I’m exhausted and I can’t be bothered hiding it any longer.

My husband folds his hand over mine protectively, and we eat our steaks in silence, punctuated by grunts of happiness and hunger.


Last night 10,000 men dreamt of mud, and 10,000 women dreamt of their homes and family. Possums mated above our home, hissing and chiacking under the waning moon. My cat checks in on me at 3.10am, to see if I am still sleeping; batting my hand with his love. I stroke him until the dreams come again.


My blog at is receiving some amazing comments. It’s humbling to be privy to some readers own stories, in the private inbox. Thankyou for sharing your stories, and remember to keep a little piece of your heart flood-free, and visit it often.


Waving off my sister-in-law as they drive north to unpack yet another furniture truck of mother-in-laws life, my legs suddenly buckle and collapse from under me, and I crash awkwardly to the footpath. Someone has pulled the string on my puppet legs, and I bruise my shins, knees, hands.


Today my old mate from Townsville arrives. We’ll drink too much and talk too much, enjoying each other’s rare company, face-to-face. He has been in Brisbane scrubbing his brother’s shop in Archerfield – all week – and is clearly ready to go home. He’s had enough. We’ve all had enough.


Thank you for my strength Patty

One readers heartfelt response to my blog.  Thankyou, *deep respect*

My Dear Patty,

You have taken us all on a journey of words that is repeated across our great State of QLD, your story times 10,000.

I give thanks for your awsome ability to write so well and to take us with you through your experience, for it is our experience, you write for us all.

You will never know just how much you have given each of us who read your memoirs. Not just a story to cry over but the gut and heart of us all.

I find myself nodding in agreement or acknowledging the same feelings in places as it could be our story too.

I live in Glenore Grove in The Lockyer Valley and the destruction, cleanup and pain is palpable. We too have our angels in abundence and tomorrow I head out with a group to Helidon and Murphy's Creek and later to Granthem if they will allow us.

I must suck up my emotions for this cleanup as they have lost so much and so many of their small community. I will need strength and endurance as you have done and keep my weeping to myself in a quiet place.

I will take with me in my head your story to give me courage and keep me going emotionally and to ebb the tide of fatigue as it will surely come and I have already dug out my Simon & Garfunkle album for the drive there and my Bee Gee's for the drive home.

Thank you again for your eloquent words, your story, our story, QLD's story of the Floods of 2011.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday - continued, Qld Floods, Continued...

I dream of loose teeth; of missing teeth. I have nightmares of being stuck, perched high above the earth, on a small rock ledge. Above and below me there are 1000 metre cliffs. I am doomed and I know it. Waking in sweat, I bump around the kitchen at night, fetching glasses of cold water to gulp down in the dull light of my computer monitor.
Meeting my old friend Nicky at our favourite haunt, the Black Cat Bookshop. We hug, and hold each other, arms locked in embrace. She offers to give me an oil treatment, a spiritual cleansing to which I readily agree. Three small bottles are placed in front of me. Choose one, Patty, she tells me.

One is a warm, sickly pink; this is for Relationships. It’s already half empty, there must be a great need out there for relationship healing? The middle bottle is a soft pink, the kind of gentleness you see on sunsets. It’s for Abundance. I shake my head, no, thanks; I already have abundance in my life. We move onto the third bottle, named El Moyra.

It means: Thy Will Be Done, and it’s this small sky-blue bottle of oil that I choose. I submit myself to the universe.

Placing three drops on my pulse points, we begin. Firstly a slow rubbing together of my wrists, then “angel wings” over my head and hovering over my heart charka. It’s all new to me, but this week I’ve learnt so much, this is one more thing to be engaged with and enjoy. Holding my arms crossed in front of me, Nicky begins: “Heal Patty and send her out into the universe,” and I close my eyes, instinctively pressing on my third eye as she speaks. I don’t even know if I believe in a third eye, but there I am, in the CafĂ© downstairs, being caught up in the emotion and stillness of this Blessing.

Tears come, and I can’t breathe. I am to slowly inhale the scent three times, but I can’t get past the first breath. It’s choked up inside of me, burning my throat. I’m almost gasping when the second breath hits me, washing my body with oxygen and love. This was something else! The third breath is completed, and the small ceremony is over. I figure it can’t hurt, and together we enjoyed a new aspect of our friendship. Thy will be done. Amen.
Last night, watched by an indulgent full moon, we unpacked the first of the neighbour’s garages, relieving them of my mother-in-laws contents. Hubby hired a small furniture truck, and after an hour and 5 adults carrying, packing, running the gauntlet up the steep steel ramp, the truck rumbled and lurched its way north, to safety and shelter. I drove my sister-in-laws car, the older 4wd whining and groaning with each gear change through the hills of Brisbane suburbs. Eventually, we growled our way home; to flop in front of television, computer screens, and to lie flat faced on white pillows, dreamlessly sleeping. Hubby and his sister and partner drove to Caboolture, to unpack and reload the truck, arriving home at midnight, exhausted. Today we repeat the whole thing another two times.
The night was thick with sleep, the city dull with rain. Banana bread is in the oven, and my sons’ old bedrooms are full of children sleeping. It’s beautiful to have kids within these walls, again. Today we pack, and drive, and unpack, repeat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Brisbane Flood of 2011

For full screen image please click here.

The Brisbane Flood of 2011

Thursday – Flood Cleanup

I dare not open my eyes for fear of the time. Will it be after two am? Three am? Please God, let me sleep for a bit longer; please God.

Dear God.

The bedroom is quiet except for the occasion wheeze from my husband; and as I am bargaining with the Big Fella upstairs, the reassuring thunk of my newspaper delivery told me it was 4.10am.

Today we need to organise a truck to carry mother-in-laws possessions out of a stranger’s garage, as he is travelling overseas. So we need a truck, and we need some heavy lifting men with strong bulging arms and cheery smiles.

I’m hoping the Brisbane City Council have moved the pile of rubbish that was once the contents of the house.

More later….

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wednesday – Qld Flood hump day

Soft, candle-smoke clouds snuggle into Mt Coot-tha’s folds, hiding from the sun. A smudgy fog hangs over Brisbane; as though we need the filmy protection from the grim reality. The mud is back; the stench; the storms have come, gone, and will return again; and still the clean up continues.

The other afternoon an engineer came to my mother-in-law’s house. My husband and I met him, and then Blisters (I always turn up after all the hard work is done) drove down the long driveway.

The men all walked around the house; pointing here, photographing this crack, measuring with a bright yellow metal tape, the heights, the lines of the house.

Basically, the flood broke her back; the slab has tilted and shifted and major damage has been done.

There isn’t a straight line in the building.

A laser tripod is brought out; it’s spinning laser beam giving proper levels, accurate readings of the structure. It’s grim, but we knew that.

Dried mud lies in permanent puddles of grim dirt where cream carpet once lay. Mud splatters the walls, and the pool is a stinking mess of brown. God knows what’s underneath the waters. A cane toad swims in circles in the corner, as a child’s toy floats in the muck.

There is one final pile of rubbish to be dumped on the street, and my husband and I begin the shovel loads of water damaged everything into plastic bags. So many of my mother-in-laws university books and papers; so many childhood books. I wonder if my husband lay on his bed in a winter’s afternoon, reading this story.

My little sis-in-laws fashion drawings. I photograph each one, to honour her memory. Sleeping bags (the one hubby used in New Zealand walking the Milford Track?) electric blankets and so on, a household and a lifetime of stuff.

Inside the cupboard, below where the tv used to be, below where the stereo played classical music, below where the numerous photo albums lived, the set of World Book Encyclopaedias sticks stubbornly within the cupboard.

Three days ago I watched one of my Mormon Angels (LDS a.k.a Latter Day Saints) try to wedge out the books with a shovel. It took me a while to work out what he was trying to do. Beginning carefully, he tried to prise the books out; but they were too swollen with Brisbane River mud. After a good ten minutes, he continued to use the shovel, but out had gone the carefulness, and into the room came sheer strength and muscle power . But it was no good, the books remained where they are, still.

So it’s true, the pen is mightier than the sword. Or shovel.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Before and during Brisbane Floods - satellite photo comparisons.

Before and During Brisbane Floods
Move your cursor across the black line n the screen to give you the before and after aerial views. - Click this link to view.

High-resolution aerial photos taken over Brisbane last week have revealed the scale of devastation across dozens of suburbs and tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

The aerial photos of the Brisbane floods were taken in flyovers on January 13 and January 14.

Hover over each photo to view the devastation caused by flooding.

This is part one of an ABC News special presentation showing before and after photos of the floods.

Blinking moments

Just a quick snapshot of moments that pass in the blink of an eye, but emerge for me later, to fondle as I sleep.

Watching the brown water swirl around my feet, as I stand open mouthed in the loungeroom, staring at the river that refuses to behave, knowing I can do nothing more.


My husband taking me to dinner at the local Tavern, determined to feed me a steak. ‘You looks so tired” he says, with such a tenderness that my heart squeezes with love for him.


A final prayer with my fifteen remaining Mormon Angels, standing on the street, heads bowed. The middle-aged woman bless us all, blesses my mother-in-laws home, and asks God to help them in their care and chores for the following house, who ever that may be. Such a selfless gift.


Watching a silver-domed motorcyclist tap his feet and hand to an unheard rhythm as he rides the northern highway, snaking it’s way out of the city. It reminded me that I always have my music. Thank you for the heads up.


Bursting into tears of distress, and sitting hunched on the edge of my bed, whimpering like a beaten dog. I am a shell, and I can almost feel my soul retreating within me.


Finding in the last pile of rubbish; two cheap water-stained Albert Namatjira prints of the outback; with its shocking reds and vivid blues, reminding me that the sun does indeed still shine in other places.

I just have to remember that.

My husband tells me they are part of a bank calendar, from the 1960’s but I don’t care, to me they are beautiful. Art is what makes us human, it’s nourishes our soul. You don’t see giraffes or dogs painting (although you do see cats and elephants!) and ever since mankind sheltered within a cave and painted bison, art is what defines us and shapes our world and records our history.

These prints are worthless; but they remind me of my in-laws travels to the outback and beyond; and the other world of Australia, the aboriginal world of nature and the Land.