Friday, February 27, 2009

And still it continues...

Another day of high fire alert today.
After a brief stint at home during the week, Clare has returned to Mum and Dad's. Everyone there is monitoring the situation and if it worsens they'll all leave and probably go to my brother's (who, btw, is having a birthday today. Happy Birthday Pete!!).

I heard a scary stat on the radio this morning - in the 3 weeks since this all started, there have been 3500 fires across Victoria. 70 plus towns have been affected in one way or another - the worst, obviously, being places like Marysville which has been completely wiped out.

And I'm moving to Hoddles Creek tomorrow.

From the CFA website, the latest update, posted at 10am this morning - about an hour ago.
Awareness Message - Yarra Valley, Warburton Valley and surrounding areas

Incident Information

Local, national and international firefighting crews from CFA, DSE, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water, NSW Rural Fire Service, Tasmanian Fire Service, Western Australian DEC and Fire and Emergency Services, NSW National Parks and Wildlife, New Zealand, Canada and the USA are deployed in anticipation of today's testing conditions.

Residents in the Yarra Valley including communities in the vicinity of Toolangi, Castella, Fernshaw, Healesville, Don Valley, Mount Toolebewong, Badger Creek, Woori Yallock, Seville, Wandin, Coldstream, Yarra Glen, Yeringberg, Gruyere, Dixons Creek, Steels Creek, Chum Creek, Arthurs Creek, Christmas Hills, Smiths Gully, St Andrews, Strathewen, Yan Yean and Whittlesea need to be aware that fire activity continues in the area. No properties are under threat at this time.

Residents in the Warburton Valley including communities in the vicinity of Launching Place, Yarra Junction, Wesburn, Millgrove, Warburton, Warburton East, McMahons Creek, Reefton, Gladysdale, Hoddles Creek, Yellingbo and Big Pats Creek need to be aware that fire activity continues in the area. No properties are under threat at this time.

DSE and CFA are reminding communities in the areas surrounding the fires to activate their bushfire survival plans. If you are going to leave, leave early.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Safe and sound

For the moment.
Yesterday's threat came and went without causing any more damage in the Valley. There was, however, another fire which started in Upwey and Belgrave, in the Dandenongs, which destroyed one house and caused a fair amount of panic. James and Rosie left their house, as it's quite close to Belgrave, and spent the night at his parents' (ie., Paula and Phil). They're able to go home today though as it's all under control now.
Clare is also going home to Warburton today. The fires up that way are staying within containment lines and the wind is posing no threat now. There is another threat warning out for Friday (it really does never end!) and she'll go back to Mum's then. The main problem is, if it's hot and windy, flying embers start spot fires outside the containment lines - it's the fear that these will spread and cause further havoc that keeps everyone on edge. The terrain makes it very difficult for firefighters to reach these outbreaks easily. The fire at Wilson's Prom, for example, is largely being left to burn itself out as, apart from aerial water bombing, they just can't get in there to fight it on the ground. (That fire is down on the coast and no threat to us up here.)
At this stage things seem to be quite calm so here's hoping they stay that way.

My main worry now is Mum. The stress of it all is really getting to her and she's not coping with that very well at all. She's extremely fragile at the moment.

I wish it would rain.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It never ends

Fire authorities are warning of dangerous fire conditions in Victoria on Monday.
Temperatures in the 30s, northerly winds and a late change are expected.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment and CFA are particularly concerned about the Warburton Valley, east of Melbourne.
They say residents in the valley are most at risk after the wind change due late in the afternoon on Monday and should have their fire plans ready.
ABC News
That's Clare's place.

And, I just found out, my best friend's daughter's boyfriend was killed today in a diving accident.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Fill-ins

1. Give me money and I'll spend it.

2. Whenever whatever.

3. I wish yes I do, frequently.

4. Roast lamb was the last thing I ate that was utterly delicious.

5. To live in this world is our fate.

6. Other than this one, Peromyscus is the last blog I commented on.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Farewelling Holly who's off to the UK for 12 months, tomorrow my plans include packing and Sunday, I want to finish packing!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Devil's Brood

by Sharon Penman.
The third book in Penman's trilogy about the lives and times of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
The first book - When Christ And His Saints Slept - dealt primarily with the civil war between Stephen and his cousin Maude (daughter of Henry I) over which of them should have the English crown. After nearly 20 years of bloodshed Maude finally gave up the fight and struck an agreement with Stephen - that she would bow to him as King of England as long as he made her son, Henry, his lawful heir. On the death of Stephen Henry became Henry II, one of England's greatest kings.
The second book - Time and Chance - deals with Henry II's consolidation of his kingdom and empire, his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine and his relationship with his trusted friend and Chancellor, Thomas Becket. Henry and Eleanor is one of the great love stories of history, encompassing soaring love, unbounded ambition, unrivalled power, and, ultimately, conspiracy and betrayal. Henry's relationship with Becket soured remarkably once he elevated his Chancellor to the Archbishopric of Canterbury. Becket transformed from a worldy, intensely political animal into a devout, though still highly political, man of the Church, who's main interest became preserving the independence of that Church. An enormous power struggle between the two men destroyed their relationship and eventually resulted in the murder of Becket at the hands of some of Henry's knights.

Devil's Brood continues the saga and focuses on Henry's struggles to hold his empire intact in the face of increasing rebellion on the part of his wife and sons, willingly aided by the kings of France.
Henry II had forged an enormous empire, due largely to his imposing will, charisma and military and political brilliance. He ruled over England, Normandy, Brittany, Anjou and, through his equally brilliant wife, Aquitaine.
His big mistake was to give his sons titles befitting their rank but no real power to go with them.
The eldest, Hal, is anointed as King of England (to take effect on Henry's death) but has no lands, income or real power of his own. He is portrayed as a rather vacuous, duplicitous show pony with no real understanding of what it takes to be a ruler.
Richard, the second son, is to inherit Aquitaine from his mother.
Geoffrey, the third son, is given the Dukedom of Brittany through his marriage to Constance, the only child of the dead Duke. He is promised Nantes and Richmond but his father never seems to find the right time to hand over the reins.
John, the fourth son, is left with nothing much - although he is made King of Ireland by Henry, with disastrous results. He too had no clue.

Hal is the first to openly rebel, becoming tired of his father's promises to give him real power. These promises are never acted upon as the time is never right. Ultimately it seems that Henry just didn't trust Hal to do the job properly and so kept stalling him.
At various times one or all of his sons are in open rebellion but Henry always seems to find a way to make peace. At other times the sons are fighting amongst themselves and it is Henry who manages to patch things up between them. He also manages to unconditionally forgive them each time.
Above all the intrigue and mayhem, Henry is a father who loves his children. He is constantly betrayed by them but each time the betrayal comes as a shock to him. He can never understand why they rebel. He believes he is doing the right thing for the long term future of his empire and cannot understand why they don't see things as he does. He is also a man who doesn't share power easily and is blind to the effects this has on the sons.
The only person he cannot forgive is Eleanor when he finds out that she has encouraged her sons in their various rebellions. As a result she spends the last sixteen or so years of their marriage as Henry's prisoner, under house (or castle) arrest in England - far from her beloved Aquitaine.
Both Hal and Geoffrey die while in a state of rebellion with their father. Henry does get the chance to reconcile with Hal but not with Geoffrey. Their deaths have a huge effect on Henry, both psychological and physical. His struggle then is centred around Richard and the latter's hostility towards his father, largely due to the treatment of Eleanor. Richard allies himself more and more with Phillipe, King of France, and this is almost more than Henry can bear. As a result he refuses to formally acknowledge Richard, his eldest living son, as his heir.
As he gets older Henry succumbs more and more to physical ailments. These lessen his abilities to impose himself and his support gradually diminishes. He is eventually forced to agree to a humiliating truce (almost a surrender) with Phillipe and Richard. He dies, at the age of 56, not long after.

This is a story of love, power, intrigue, betrayal, forgiveness, trust, distrust, war and family. At 736 pages it's not a quick read. But it's an immensely satisfying one.

I first fell in love with Penman's writing when I read Sunne In Splendour, many years ago. That book is her take on the story of Richard III. It is still one of my favourite books. She has also written a trilogy on the struggles of the Welsh to retain, unsuccessfully in the long run, their independence from England in Medieval times.
Her books are thoroughly researched and so well written. It's hard not to become personally involved with the various characters as their stories unfold.
Her next book will continue the story of Eleanor and Richard. I can't wait!

If you're a fan of historical fiction, you can do a lot worse than pick up a Sharon Penman book.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fire and Rain

Fires are still burning across the state but most are under control now. The death toll has risen to 200 as they start searching burnt out houses (approx 1800 of those) - so far only open ground and cars have been searched. What a horrible job that must be! *Shudder*

Clare is still at Mum and Dad's - fires are still burning out her way but her house is not in any real danger at the moment. The reason she hasn't gone back is because her car broke down - I convinced her that it wouldn't be a good idea to be up there without transport!

On average, Melbourne should have had 77mm of rain so far this year.
Actual rainfall so far this year: 2.2mm.

Meanwhile, far north Queensland, parts of NSW and some areas of WA are flooded and completely cut off from the outside world. Crazy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Be mine :: be yours

  2. Ecstatic :: over the moon

  3. Orderly :: disciplined

  4. Sebastian :: Johann Sebastian Bach

  5. Sore :: hurt

  6. Don’t need :: no thought control

  7. Rockstar :: Jimmy!!

  8. Tinfoil :: alfoil

  9. Addiction :: heroin

  10. Where? :: in the world is Carmen Sandiago?

from here

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Saints' first game of the year - NAB Pre-season Cup. They're getting clobbered. *sigh*

Full-time: a much better second half by the Saints but they lost by 9 points. They won this comp last year so not such a promising start.

The real season starts at the end of March.

Saturday Photo Hunt

This week's theme is "nautical". Here's a submarine exhibit in Holbrook, NSW. The HMAS Otway, an Oberon class submarine commissioned for the Royal Australian Navy.

IMG_1107, originally uploaded by jsarcadia.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Red sun tonight

Red sun, originally uploaded by jsarcadia.

Friday Fill-ins

1. It seems like Victoria will never be the same again.

2. Turn everything off when you're done, please?

3. If I thought you meant it I'd believe you!

4. Why are you reading this rubbish is what I think of most when I think of you.

5. To me, Valentine's Day means another day set aside for profiteering.

6. The sheer force of will to carry on shown by bushfire survivors gives me strength.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching football on TV - it's back, yay!!, tomorrow my plans include watching the Saints' first game of the year. Go Saints! and Sunday, I want to finish packing. But who knows when I'll be moving as the house I'm going to has been evacuated!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some improvement

The threat has eased overnight. There was even some rain, believe it or not. Not a lot, but enough to help a little bit.
There are still fears that higher temperatures and northerly winds, expected next week, could see a resurgence of fire actvity - and once again, place Clare's place under threat.
I'm going out to her place today, with her, to check it all out. She's thinking of moving back home, at least for a few days. At the moment it seems safe enough to do so but she won't decide until we've had a look. If she decides to stay at Mum and Dad's then we'll just pick up some more of her stuff.
Keep your fingers crossed that the worst is over.

At present, this is what much of Victoria looks like.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fire update

To date there are 181 confirmed deaths and approx 7,000 people with no homes to go to. About 350,000 hectares of land are on fire. Some fires are under control, some are not.
The fire that was near Mum and Dad's, and Paula and Phil's, is no longer a problem so they are safe and well. The Valley is shrouded in smoke though, so it's not pleasant to be out and about.
The fires around Warburton are still listed as "going" - ie, not under control - and so Clare's place is still not safe to go home to. It's unlikely that her immediate area will be in any real danger but it's better to be safe than sorry. A wind change could change that situation at any time. Clare's house is not defendable so it's best that she's not there for the duration.
People I know in Kinglake, which has been all but wiped out, have lost their home but are alive and well.
The devastation is almost unbelievable. Whole towns have been destroyed, they just don't exist anymore.
God only knows what the animal, domestic and wildlife, toll is. I guess we'll never know that.
The worst aspect of all this is that some of these fires have been deliberately lit, particularly in Gippsland to the east. That is unforgivable. Totally unforgivable. I really hope the people responsible spend eternity in Hell, burning forever. It's the very least they deserve.
The positive aspect is the unconditional support the affected people are receiving from the whole Australian population. Donations are pouring in from everywhere, even from overseas. Millions of dollars have been donated already. Charities are overloaded with donations of clothing and other material goods and food.
That sort of spirit and sense of community is uplifting and gives some hope for the future.

The worst is probably over (I hope) but the bushfires continue to burn and will for some time to come. February is traditionally "bushfire season" and, with more hot weather forecast for the coming week, more fires are bound to occur. I can only hope that they do not add to the overwhelming devastation and tragedy that has engulfed Victoria in the last few days. It truly has been the most awful time.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Officially the worst bushfires in the State's history

There are currently 22 fires burning out of control across the state. 25 people are confirmed dead so far and there are plenty of areas where firefighters and rescue workers haven't been able to reach yet. Approximately 400 homes have been lost in the last 24 hours. Kinglake, at the western end of the Yarra Valley, has been extremely hard hit; Marysville, a bit further north, is reported to have been wiped out. The Kilmore fire, north west of Melbourne (and the source of the Kinglake/Yarra Valley fires) is still raging out of control. In Gippsland, in the east of the state, the Bunyip and Churchill fires are still out of control. Many communities are threatened by these fires. In the north east, a large fire is threatening Beechworth and other major centres. Bendigo, a major city in the state's centre, has seen extensive property loss. The list goes on. And on.

Mum and Dad, and Paula and Phil, appear to be okay in Seville. However, there is a fire burning on the south side of the highway at Warburton - as long as it doesn't jump the river I think Clare's place will be safe.

The cool change hasn't helped either - the winds have been so strong that, instead of bringing relief, they've just fanned the flames and sent them off in different directions.

God only knows what the wildlife toll will be.

Praying for rain....

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Horrible horrible day

Copied from the Country Fire Authority website:

Yarra Valley Fire Alert, 5.10pm

Alert Message for residents of the Yarra Valley

Incident Information

There is a fire burning in the Yarra Valley and residents are advised that they may come under direct ember attack.

Core Advice

* People in the area need to remain alert as there may not be a warning should conditions change unexpectedly. Continue to listen to ABC or local radio for updates on this fire.
* Be prepared to activate your bushfire survival plan if necessary.
* Decide now if you are going to stay or go. Remember that it is very dangerous to leave late with a fire in the area. Road use in the area will be extremely hazardous due to low visibility from smoke. Watch out for fallen trees, power lines, abandoned cars, wildlife and emergency services vehicles.
* If you plan to stay, remember to seek shelter from radiant heat. Should the fire reach your property, close all doors and windows and stay inside the house while the fire passes. Remain alert, extinguish any small fires and if necessary, move outside to burnt ground once the fire has passed.
* Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Clare and Georgia (and animals) are already at Mum and Dad's and the whole lot of them are ready to leave at a moment's notice. I've just had a rather panicky Mum on the phone - the sky is black up there and there's a real threat of ember attack. A cool change has hit here already - the temperature has dropped from mid-40s to about 30. No rain though. It hasn't reached the Valley yet though. Keep your fingers crossed, okay.

Saturday Photo Hunt

This week's theme is "bridge/s".

Puffing Billy's trestle bridge at Selby, Dandenong Ranges:

trestle bridge at Selby

Swanston Street Bridge, Melbourne:

Swanston Street Bridge

Pedestrian bridge over the Yarra, Melbourne:

River traffic

Phillip Island Bridge:

Thomas finds a rail

Typical country bridge - this one over a (non-existent) creek at Tatong, north-east Victoria:

Wooden bridge

The bridge on my guitar:

Bridge of Dots

London Bridge. Great Ocean Road, Victoria:

London Bridge

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Fill-ins

1. Please don't tell me lies.

2. Can you make me coffee in the morning?

3. The color of the ocean makes me want to float away!

4. I have a craving for nothing right now.

5. If my life had a pause button, I'd pause it about 30 years ago.

6. Eyes are the true indicators of intent, not words.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to trying to keep cool enough to sleep, tomorrow my plans include probably going to Warburton and soak in the river - it's going to be 43C and Sunday, I want to go to the family dinner to farewell Holly - she's off to England for 12 months!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Your Energy Level is Very Low

You're so low energy that you don't even have the strength to be chill.

There's a good chance that you're not naturally this way, but lately your resources have been drained.

Relax, rest, eat well, and use the energy you have for some light exercise.

It's all about building your mental and physical health up right now.

But this is better...

There Are 0 Gaps in Your Knowledge

Where you have gaps in your knowledge:

No Gaps!

Where you don't have gaps in your knowledge:








Momentous news...

After days of procrastination I have finally done my laundry.
Not momentous enough?
How about - I have 25% disk space left on the hard drive.
I just broke the law by watering the tomato plants.
Not that either?
I'm moving house. That's the one.
On, or about, the 14th of this month.
Since the landlord's girlfriend moved in about 6 months ago, this place hasn't been so much fun anymore. Somehow it's turned into her house and I'm surplus to requirements.
Kind of the story of my life in recent times.

I've found somewhere else, out in Hoddles Creek in the Yarra Valley. Quite close to Ma'n'Pa's and Paula's and much closer to Clare's. A bit out of the way in terms of job opportunities but places closer to town are just too expensive. The new place is affordable, just, and is on 5 acres so there'll be plenty of room to move.
I'll be renting two rooms that have been added on to the main house, which is occupied by a couple and one child. I'll have my own entrance and fridge but will have to share the bathroom and kitchen - I can live with that easily enough.
The couple seem nice enough - he's into photography and music, so there's common ground already. It'll be up to me how much I interact with them.
So, there you have it. Time to ramble on.
Now, if I could just find a job......

Monday, February 02, 2009

Aussie music #2 - (still asking the same question)

Once they stop playing and the MC starts talking - it's okay to hit the Stop button.

Aussie music #1 : Horror Movie

Some Aussie music for you - Skyhooks. A 70s band, local guys - I went to school with the bass player's brother (the bass player is the guy in the white suit). The biggest local band in Oz in the 70s. Yes, bigger than AC-DC.
Shirley (the singer) had a surname almost the same as mine, just a 'c' the difference, and people believed me when I said he was my brother - he wasn't. Sadly he died in a helicopter accident a few years ago.
Red Symons, the guy with the black Les Paul and red cape, was my fave. He does breakfast radio these days. I occasionally listen in.

This is from 1974 - the message hasn't changed at all!

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Take :: care

  2. 350 :: is a number

  3. Stand :: up and be counted

  4. Raspberry :: jam

  5. Turnstile :: entrance

  6. Infomercial :: switch off

  7. Dejected :: me

  8. What’s the word? :: dunno, what is it?

  9. Awestruck :: gobsmacked

  10. Smashed :: drunk

from here

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What a week!

Wednesday, 41C; Thursday, 44C; Friday 45C. 45C = 113F.
No wind, not even a breeze to move some air around. It was stifling. I've had so many cold showers I'm sure I've exceeded my water usage allotment for the next month! (We're supposed to be on a max of 150 litres per day.)

On Thursday I went to Mum and Dad's and just sat in front of their air-conditioner, because we don't have one here. Friday, I went to Clare's and we had a few dips in the river. That was lovely - a real life-saver!
Saturday was a relatively cool 39C and today is merely low 30s. Positively chilly!

The city has been in real meltdown mode, it's unbelievable.
100s of trains have been cancelled due to both lines buckling in the heat and the trains themselves breaking down. Up to half a million homes were without electricity on Friday due to the system being overloaded - all those air-conditioners running at full bore. Transformers, or whatever they are, on the power lines were just melting or bursting into flame. Mum and Dad lost their power on Friday and had to retreat to Paula's for the duration. The power's been out here too but, fortunately, I was up the valley at the time.

Bushfires are raging in Gippsland, in the state's east. About 30 homes have been lost so far but, fortunately, no human casualties. The lack of wind has been a blessing in that regard as it's helped contain the fires somewhat.

Total rainfall for January, for Melbourne, was 0.8mm. Hardly enough to brush your teeth in.

It's even worse in South Australia. Adelaide, the state capital there, has had (still has) 40+ temperatures for a full week so far.

The river - don't know what I'd have done without it on Friday!

A slightly saturated view of the Yarra