Tag Archives: fire


Coming up to Christmas the media fills up with list articles. Top Tens of this and that. Bests and Worsts. Most memorable. The Season/Year/Decade/Century in Review and so on. It will be even more rife this year as we’re ending a decade.

Why do so many of these get published? Because they’re easy to write. Because people like them and argue over them. And because they’re usually a great filler at a time of year when less newsworthy stuff happens.

I indulged in lists here last year. This year I’m so befuddled I’m listing sideways myself. Better to be listing than listless, I guess. Here be some recommendations from me:

Favourite things I read in 2009, (old or new)

A Beginner’s Guide to Living – Lia Hills
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
Henrietta – Martine Murray
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns – John Green
Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy
Ten Mile River – Paul Griffin

Picture books:
Mannie & The Long Brave Day – Martine Murray & Sally Rippin
Isabella’s Garden – Glenda Millard

2009 favourite listens

It’s been an odd year for my iPod. Normally I buy albums. This year I purchased individual tracks and largely sat with favourite albums from 2008 – or delved into the past to discover Tom Waits, John Coltrane and retro Wilco.

Of the few new albums that have had regular rotations, my favourites have been Smoking Gun from Lady of the Sunshine, Wilco from Wilco and White Lies for Dark Times from Ben Harper & Relentless7.

2009 favourite films

Man, there were so many flicks I wanted to see this year but didn’t get to in time (District 9, Samson & Delilah, Balibo, Blessed, The Changeling, Coraline). I’ll catch some of these on video over the silly season. Of those I did get to, I really enjoyed Ponyo, Watchmen, The Reader and The Hangover. I saw the latter with a bunch of mates on a boys’ night out. Laughed until my jaw hurt.

Given my aforementioned befuddlement, I know there will be things I’ve forgotten.

Personal highlights from the year have included finding a passionate publisher for Five Parts Dead, some of the workshops I conducted with students around the state and getting to know several other authors … and then realising we all struggle with the same stuff.

Every year has its tough times too. My thoughts are with those whose lives were altered forever by the February 7 inferno, along with those confronted by cancer or mental illness. Hang tough.


Personal challenges aside, one reason for tackling the big ride on Sunday was to visit the areas devastated by fire on February 7 – places I know reasonably well, as my folks used to live in this district. Viewing the wildfire zones first-hand left me with the following impressions:

– The blaze came perilously close to outer suburban areas of Melbourne. The toll was horrific but could have been much worse.

– Wildfire is brutally random. There might be three dwellings sitting in a row, only metres apart. Two burn and one is spared, seemingly without rhyme or reason.

– Parts of the forest have been scorched so badly the soil is still bare. Heavy rain will cause massive erosion. In other areas moss and weeds are emerging. Eucalypts are being reborn from the ground up.

– I didn’t hear any birds. (Possibly because it was raining and windy and I was panting…)

– These roads, winding and steep, must have been terrifying with the forest burning either side of the bitumen. There are no quick ways out of any of these towns. It’s no wonder so many died in their cars, trapped between fallen trees.

– Humans are resilient. Many people are defiantly starting again. House frames are rising while families defy the cold, living in small shacks, sheds or caravans. Rebuilding entire towns.

– Some families are too broken to do this. I spoke to a teacher recently who said she had a new student whose family had moved away from the fire zone. He lost his best mate, his home and his community. He doesn’t mingle at the new school. Just exists.

After the shock, the surge of “she’ll be right” determination, the bustle and energy of others supporting and assisting, the trauma comes like an extended winter. My thoughts are with those scarred by the summer past and grappling with grief.


I’m struggling to focus today as much of my home state of Victoria is either smouldering or still in flames. Places I have lived, visited, holidayed, gone four-wheel driving, cycled and camped are devastated, damaged or remain under siege.

More than 170 people are dead. Entire towns have been razed. It might be close to 1000 homes destroyed by the time the counting is done. Countless families have been traumatised. Schools, churches, police stations, post offices and small businesses are gone.

I’ve had a few close calls with fire in my lifetime and it scares me silly. My best mate lost his home on Ash Wednesday, 1983. Yesterday he described some of the memories that will never leave him: the rumbling roar of the firefront charging toward him, the high-pitched scream of eucalyptus oils sizzling and popping, the desperation to flee while his family was intact, the policeman tearing into their driveway and yelling at them to “get out of here”, the frantic journey with burning branches and even a flaming hay shed being blown into their path.

Today’s newspapers tell me a former colleague has lost his home (and nearly his life). Other friends have been within a wind gust of losing theirs. I’m worried about several others.

I spent two years at Braemar College, Mt Macedon, where many of the students lost their homes on Ash Wednesday. Most families recover from losing homes and property, horrible as it is. I don’t believe families ever recover from losing loved ones. There are a lot of people out there who need our prayers and practical support right now.