Banana bread is baking in the oven, my cat sits beside contently purring, outside the birds are singing an opera, and all is well with the world. Uh, wait, there’s the flood, and the mess to clean up. Yesterday I drove over to begin a most horrific task, cleaning out the mud whilst it was still wet and pliable in my mother-in-laws home at Indooroopilly.
It’s impossible to know where to start, so I begin by photographing everything. For me, for the insurers, for my mother-in-law (who is staying at the beach house) and to share with anyone who is interested.
Someone has already been here; small footprints lead into the lounge, turn around, and come out. I don’t blame them! I feel like doing the same. In the 2 inch thick mud, small crabs have spun in circles, birds have left their imprints, and over here, in the family room, a cricket swims for his life to higher ground on the tree which floated into the family room.
Walking as carefully as I can so I don’t slip, I tread carefully though my husbands childhood home. I wonder what they did on Saturday afternoons? How they spent their time, as a family? There’s no doubt they were loved, and cherished. Childhood blackboards still hang outside, ready for a chalk drawing.
They say it’s the smell of the mud that gets to everyone. The stench of it all. For me, I am delighted, as the smell reminds me of my own childhood, happily exploring the muddy creeks of Pumpkin Creek at Keppel Sands, up to my knees in the thick sludge, laughing at a crab tickling my toes. The smell embraces me and protects me from the unfolding horror of cleaning the sludge off, before it dried like concrete.
I upload a few images to Twitter, I am a sharer, and have always been an open book in the cyber world. I am doing nothing different than I do every other day, it’s such a part of me the routine gives me comfort.
I begin to hose a walkway around the house; as we’ll need to access certain areas, and we don’t want to break our necks. By “we”, I really mean me, although I keep turning around hopefully imagining someone walking down the long driveway.
After two hours of solid hosing, I can see the house emerging, from under it’s new skin. On Twitter, offers of help come via my Blackberry, and I organise for someone's assistance tomorrow, (thanks Darryl King aka @ireckon!) but the reality is the mud must come off today.
And then it happened.
Two ladies walk down my driveway, introducing themselves as my neighbours, and asking if I needed help.
“That would be great!” I stammer, “Yes please!”
The thing you need to know about me is that I am a Capricorn, a no nonsense girl who just gets along with it. On my profile I say I am a do-it-now gal, and I am. It's not really for me the tetanus shots: (Dr didn't answer) or the trendy gumboots: (mine are in Maleny) - I just prefer to roll up my sleeves and get on with the task at hand. Perhaps it's my Rockhampton upbringing, but I have common sense in abundance; what a blessing.
They tell me how much of practical help my sister-in-laws were to them, helping them pack solidly for 4 hours after we had cleaned out their own house. It’s time to return the favour. As their house was slightly higher up, the water damage to them is minimal, in fact, they were hoping to move back into the downstairs family room that afternoon.
I’m shocked but happy for them. This house is going to take months of work. Months!
They leave, smiling. I continue to hose. Within three minutes, a band of eight yellow-vested men walk down my driveway, grinning.
They may as well have had 8-foot white angel wings attached, and walked in slow motion. I am having a small weep even typing this, I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was to see them.
I begin to sing in my head the Abba hit, "I believe in Angels" and it becomes my earworm for the day.
They are part of the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, the ones we mock and hide from when they come knocking on our doors. I’m ashamed of my previous attitude to them, especially for me, as the youngest daughter of an Anglican priest. No one in my own family, my sons; or my husband has rung. No one from my in-laws has phoned me. To see these happy, strong able-bodies was such a joy.
Things have to be done before the mud dries. Carpets need to come out (so heavy, so full of mud), rubbish needs to be moved to the footpath (so far away, argh!) and mud needs to be shoved, swept, hosed, gurneyed.
They arrive already filming on video, (my camera is with my sister-in-law) and bring 200 metre power cords for the two water gurneys they have brought. Soon there is the sound of hard work, and I begin to relax, just a little bit. Two women, June and a younger girl, begin to hose out the kitchen and hallway. Now this is housework on steroids, and I love it. I start with another hose on the bathroom; built only last year, it’s spanking new and the reality is, we’ll need to pee at some time!
By the time I finish the two rooms, I’m happily shocked to see some rooms already stripped bare: nothing remains. Carpets and underlay are crumpled wetly around the garden like a war zone, to be dragged up the hill, inch by painful heaving inch, and dumped on the footpath.
At lunch they leave with an invitation for me to join them, but I keep working, giving them some peace. Within minutes another yellow-vested man walks towards me grinning; holding a pizza box and a full, unopened packet of TimTam biscuits.
“Here’s your lunch Patty. Make sure you wash your hands really well.”
In the afternoon, Telstra arrives to transfer and divert the phone to a mobile number, and the work continues. My husband sends down a larger gurney which doesn’t need power, and this makes short work of the carpet samples we have to keep for the insurance bloke.
Later, I drive home, a little shell-shocked, but delighted at our progress. Today we must do the pool area, remove green rubbish and tree branches, and pull out some built-in cupboards which haven’t’ survived.
There’s banana bread in the oven, our morning tea. It’s the least I can do to say thankyou to my yellow angels.