Saturday, February 21, 2009

Australia - tragedy and humour

Everyone has heard about the bushfires, now 208 dead including a fireman who had travelled to Victoria from Canberra to volunteer and help and was killed by a falling tree.
We have also had extensive flooding in three states and two shark attacks here in Sydney which has left one navy diver without a hand and a leg. The politics has continued as normal, thankfully the damage this week has been to the Opposition which means no tears from this one eyed blogger.
However this comment by Rick Feneley in the Sydney Morning Herald says it all.

It must have been even more eye-opening for first-time visitors to Australia, who've had a baptism of fire, flood, sharks and, if they could bear to watch, backstabbing politics. Surely the most treacherous place on earth, this sodden, sunburnt country.

But if visitors looked again they would have discovered, too, a big-hearted nation that responds to its grief with astonishing generosity; a can-do, soldier-on country whose people can cry with candour but who temper their mourning with good humour and even comic relief.

Steve Nash is one of 10 volunteers with the Kinglake Country Fire Authority whose own homes burnt down while they were out saving others'. When he found his still-burning house, what did he do? He took the clothes off the line.

"They were untouched," he said. "We've still got some underwear and socks. If I'd known it was going to come through I would have done a bigger load of washing."

Visitors should understand that this is the quintessence of our humour. Understated. Stoic. Matter-of-fact. Downright funny and heartbreaking all at once.

Probably our most famous poem by Dorothea Mackellar is 'My Country'.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!


Fran said...

Oh my - what a story, that is amazing.

Cany said...

Having lived through fires here, this is very touching.

I have a friend and her husband are both from Austrailia. Their families were not touched. But she certainly was, having gone through the fires, like me.

Humor is always a blessing, and I love the laundry story.

When we evacuated, I took NOTHING. I was doing laundry, at the time, and left with no underwear on.

When someone asked what I learned from my experience, I wrote this: Never have so few pairs of underwear that you leave yourself without.

One of the first things I did, after the fire, was buy more underwear.


Brian R said...

Yes, Cany, Possessing underwear is very important. Due to rain, holiday and procrastination, I had to wash nearly all my underwear this morning. A thunderstorm this afternoon has meant it is all drying inside the house now.

Birdie said...

My in-laws were evacuated when California fires came within a thousand yards of their home. After three days they were permitted to return, and their small neighborhood was still standing, surrounded by black ash of nearby homes. If you live in an endangered area, pack all important papers and medicines and leave them by your front door. Authorities give you exactly five minutes to evacuate.