Thursday, January 13, 2011

What day is it? A perfect day for a flood.

It’s been such a long day I keep forgetting which day it is I’ve forgotten. Is it Tuesday? Did we do Tuesday already? Perhaps it’s Friday? Apparently, I’m told with authority, it’s Thursday. Wednesday has slipped away, unnoticed.

At the front door of my home sits my birthday present from my sister. I already know what it is; she’s recycled the toasting grill I gave her daughter for Christmas. Families, eh? I haven’t had time to unwrap it yet, all heck broke loose this week, it’s been…well… you know what it’s been like, right?

I unwrap it today for our lunch and try to look surprised. My son uses it to makes me ham sandwiches with English mustard (it reminds me of my dad, short bursts of fiery passion that takes your breath away!)

I had almost forgotten that it was only this morning that I stood in a long queue to pay for my petrol. Half the pumps were out of order, but I was happy to wait, what was the alternative? A young man in front of me turns around and with a sneer says to me: ” Ya wouldn’t wanna be in a hurry, hey?”

He snorts his contempt and swaggers in the line in front of me.

I simply smiled at him as I didn’t have a quick retort, my mind was elsewhere. I stood there stewing over his remarks, trying to drum up a witty, snappy response, but nothing came to me at that hour.

As he went to pay for his fuel, he said to the operator: “I’m expecting my pay in the bank by 6am. What time is it now?”


“Oh no! What am I gonna do now, hey?” From an over confidant bloke to a snivelling mess in 0.2 seconds. Hilarious! His face crumples in embarrassment.

He scratches his head, he’s obviously a disorganised person and now he’s in real trouble. No money, and ironically; a huge queue waiting for him to finish his business. He scoots out the door after a quick chat, in order to get his identification for the service station.

“How much does he owe you?” I ask the bloke behind the counter, who has seen it all too often.

“Fifteen dollars” he said.

“I’ll pay, put it on my bill” I tell him.

“Are you sure? No, he’ll get his identification, and we’ll sort it out later, you don’t have to pay.”

“I want to. Put his petrol on my bill please.”

I waggle my card. Sure enough, the young man in his twenties rushes back, apologetic, sweating, harassed, embarrassed. I pat him on the back and tell him in a motherly way: “I’ve got this.”

I wish I had my camera with me; there are some moments in life when you just want to take the shot so you can look at it later and have a good belly laugh.

“Are you sure? Oh man, this has never happened to me before, oh man, are you sure?” He is gob smacked, and I happily pay his account (thank goodness it was only $15!)

As I leave I smile at him again. “Some times it really pays to be patient.”

What a great lesson for him in life, and a bargain price too!


This morning began at 4.15am for me, stumbling still deep with sleep; I fall out of bed to begin my day. Hurriedly dress, no shower, no cuppa tea, a comb roughly pulled through my hair and I’m driving through the dark suburbs, watching the night release her hold on the dawn. I’m on the way to my mother-in-laws house, the car practically knows its own way by now. I imagine the water to be up to the roof, up to the ceiling. Up, anyway, way up!

When I arrive, my lights are on high beam. What’s this? Where’s the water? Yes, there’s a muddy line just below the window sill, but what happened to all the water I was expecting? Already I can see the tide is going out. I take photographs, and note the grass to my right seems to be moving and tickling. I realize that the floodwaters are indeed retreating; I can almost see it for myself.

My mobile rings just on 5am, it’s the producer of the Sydney 2 Day FM Radio station ready to interview me on my flood experience. I go live to air for a few minutes, making sure I get across a few points.

• We are all pulling together and helping each other, strangers, families, neighbours.

• We are in serious trouble in Queensland but have strong hearts.

• Premier Anna Bligh should be painted in gold, for her dignified, intelligent and common sense approach to the flood.

“How do you keep such a great sense of humour” he asks.

“What else do I do, I can’t change anything. My mother-in-law’s house is muddy and ruined, but her home is safe. I have her home packed in boxes, safe and ready when she is.


After the interview, I make a note to drive to photograph the FM Radio producer’s parent’s home. He’s stressed out and feeling helpless in Sydney, it’s the very least I can do. On the way I can hear Spencer Howson from 612 Brisbane ABC Radio with a live report. He’s speaking from the Indooroopilly Bridge, just as I am crossing it to Chelmer.

I hold my camera up and snap him in his bright red shirt, and continue on my way, finding the parents house. They’ve copped a lot of water; clearly it’s flooded in the lower section of the home. Dazed and exhausted neighbours stand in the street, chatting, swapping stories. I take a few images and reverse out of there; I feel intrusive. Later, I email him the pictures, and am delighted I took the trouble to do so.

“Jeez! That's pretty bloody flooded!!! Thank you so much for those pics!”

On the drive home I bump into Spencer Howson again. He leans into my car.

“Are you going to give me fifty dollars again Patty? “

I used to be Spencer’s Roving Reporter and we worked together for a while at ABC 612 Brisbane. I’m a bit taken aback, it wasn’t the expected greeting.

“Fifty dollars? What do you mean?”

“The last time we met, you donated fifty dollars to {charity name} (I didn’t catch it, sorry)

I just look at him blankly, like an idiot. I have no memory of that at all. I offer to retake his photo on the bridge, but he’s good, he’s tired and wants to keep moving. Me too. Later, at home, I tell my husband the fifty dollar story. I love that I don’t remember it. I love that I don’t look at Spencer and think “I gave you fifty dollars.”

And so dear reader to bed. It’s been a long day, a good day; with my flood photo going viral on twitpic, also being shown on the BBC site, 2 radio interviews (2UE as well) an article in, photographing Grant Denyer in the suburbs as he went live to air on Sunrise.

And always above, the soft scream of sirens, the dull murmur of helicopters.



beachut777 said...

Love it... I was thinking! what is worse
The power of water or the power of wind!! Floods or Cyclones?

Anonymous said...

jesus wept : (

Peter xoxo

Neilius said...

Great story, Patty :)

That's the best value for money $15 I've heard about for ages.

Nettie said...

Pure gold!