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Still here

Sorry to be so absent. I’m buried in PhD land at the moment. I’m hoping to get a break from it next week, when I send this draft up the line. There will be other drafts, but not as rushed as this. My supervisor is going on long service leave so I have a deadline. Covid19 sent me into a bit of a tizz and I couldn’t focus and so on.

I’m behind on saying things. Black lives matter!

I’m experimenting with different methods of sourdough, which is fun.

I’m staying home as much as I can. I was going to go to Ikea on Sunday to check out kitchens and then rethought that move. It would be crowded and so I postponed.

My major sin this week is forgetting my older sister’s birthday. First time in my life!

I hope to catch up with meaningful content soon.

Keep well.

I haven’t done a review in a while and those that I have done for other websites and magazines over the years are gone  from the web. I did download a whole lot of them with the view to put them here but I haven’t got around to it.

I enjoyed The Interdependency Trilogy a lot. I’m sort of writing this as a form or procrastination from working on my Phd exegesis. Here goes.

The Last Emperox (Audible Edition)

By John Scalzi

Performed by Wil Wheaton

I had been hanging out for this third book in the Interdependency Trilogy so I was keen to listen to it. Published in April, 2020, I was entertained by the Audible Version. Wil Wheaton was excellent as the narrator and performer of the characters. I enjoyed listening to the Last Emperox so much that I immediately went back to listen to the whole series again. Combined, Scalzi’s words and Wheaton’s performance was so good that I want to buy the print versions as well to add to my collection, just so I can savour this series.

Scalzi has outdone himself. I understand that the MRAs (The men’s rights activists) the sad and very sad puppies, are against Scalzi’s stand as a feminist, as a social justice warrior and as an science fiction author. Well he has stuck it to them with this series with the content as it contains a lot of things that those detractors hate and apparently he earned big bucks from it. I feel like cheering here.

The Interdependency Trilogy is a critique of the globalised Neo-liberal capitalist society. At least that is what I thought it was. In addition, it is feminist or at least I read it that way. The heroes are female and the dastardly baddy is a female. Also, most of these leading characters are descended from people of colour. Cardinia Wu-Fitzpatrick’s paternal line is from China originally. She is Emperox Grayland II, a shy, sensitive and passionate leader, thrust into power and who unlike the rest of the court, cares about the everyday people. Feisty, sweary Kiva Lagos’s family were from West Africa and she just powers through the narrative, starting out a little self centred and self serving and focussed on profit but then learning how to try monogamy and developing a social conscience. I’m not sure where the villainess, Nadashe Nohamapeten’s family descend from but the name sounds exotic enough to complete the picture. There are male characters in the series but they aren’t the big characters sketched by Scalzi in the starring roles. There’s Lord Marce, the mathematician, sensitive and normal and Grenny (sp) Nohamapeten, the arch villain who is barely competent and the puppet of his sister, Nadashe. He’s stuck on the planet End in the last part of the trilogy.

The Last Emperox was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. To my mind, Scalzi has some great ideas and also great characterisations combined with narrative grace. His work is accessbile. He’s does not appear to be trying to dazzle the reader with heavily constructed or artistic prose, but rather telling a fast paced narrative, with lots of reminders of key events so the reader doesn’t have to remember too hard about what happened. At times, these reminders serve a dramatic purpose, even comedic, when the baddy, for example, doesn’t understand why someone doesn’t want to join the new scheme.

With the Interdependency, Scalzi has built a system of interconnected systems that depend on ‘the Flow,’ a naturally occurring space/time phenomenon to interact, trade and so on. A number of times, Scalzi points out in the series that you can’t go faster than the speed of light, but the Flow allows this travel. Not a worm hole, but maybe something like a series of them, but not just allowing passage between different points in the systems, but also playing around with time as well. The crunch is that the Flows are collapsing and that these systems that are so interdependent won’t be able to continue as normal but they will die out as the various worlds are in systems that can’t support life, except for the planet End.

I was listening to The Last Emperox and the whole series in April/May while in social isolation. It was really profound. In The Last Emperox, the interdependency is going through a crisis, on the verge on the collapse and the leaders of the great houses were in denial, more denial and even more denial and then they panicked. When Scalzi wrote this there wasn’t a hint of pandemic and that our globalized economy would suffer from a major disruption. So in the real world that denial, more denial and then the powers that be trying to keep their money and economies going juxtaposed with keeping people safe resonated between the novel and real life. I actually laughed when I heard that in the story. The societal elements of the science fiction were coming true.

For me, I see another piece of popular culture responding to the issues in society and discussing them. It is ironic that The Last Emperox landed during a pandemic, which shut of most of the travel between nations, gutted world economies, required dollars from governments to support workers and had a strong right wing agitation to get back to work and make money and some left leaning government support to keep people going.

With a deft hand at intrigue and political machinations, Scalzi had me on a roller coaster ride. There are secrets, lies, mathematics, coups, murder, scheming and betrayal all so Nadashe can become the Emperox. It’s a kind of fixation for this character, a goal without a good understanding of what that means–just power, give me power. Nadashe sort of represents those right wing elements in society who are out for the money and power and damn the rest of the world. Emperox Grayland II is trying to save everybody and her enemies think this is: one not possible; and two crazy as they just want to get to End with their money and their lives and leave everyone else for dead. Meanwhile, with the support of Grayland II, Lord Marse is trying to find a way to save everyone or as much of everyone as possible, and he has an idea, but how can anyone get anything done when there are coups, assassination attempts, murder and so on.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I want to assure you that this is a fast and satisfying ride. It made me think deeply about things and I guess that makes it a great book, but I also laughed with along with this story and hung on every word.

In a talk last year in Australia, Scalzi said that Old Man’s War was a response to Starship Troopers by Heinlein, which was in turn a response to War of the Worlds by H G Wells, the first of its kind. I’ve been trying to think what the Interdependency Trilogy is in response to on the literature side, possibly The Expanse (TV series name), in part, but the novels by James S. A Corey. Why I say this is that Corey’s series discusses capitalism and exploitation and differences in wealth also known as the human condition. It has the sweary older woman of Indian descent, Belters who live substandard lives, multiple races and an alien invasion that upsets the status quo. There is also a hint of Iain Banks Culture series in there too. Whether this is conscious or unconscious or not, this response to the previous works has made something exciting and new.

The books in the series are reasonably succinct too. The Audible versions were under ten hours. I like this aspect too because I’m not committing 20 to 30 hours into a narrative which can at times make me guilty. Thank you John Scalzi.

 

PS this review is by no means as thinky and analytical as it was in my head. I blame real life on that and my brain.

It’s now May 11.

I’ve been marking assignments and have another two weeks, at least, of marking. All the tutorials for this semester for me are done and I’m relieved. Teaching online is not the same as in person. These were drastic measures for drastic times and getting up to speed was stressful.

So things though have proven okay. I sat in on some seminars and they were good and apparently the attendance rate was better than the face to face ones. So maybe I should withhold judgement. I also got some ideas about my redraft of my exegesis. Also because of said marking I don’t have much brain power to tackle it. I am positive though and that’s a good thing.

It’s getting close to Winter here. It was one degree C this morning. Lucky our Tesla battery had some charge and I could run the heater to get out of bed. We are trying to minimise using the gas central heating as it costs thousands to run and I’m the only one home and I’m not usually home so it will cost thousands more than the usual thousands. Lucky we have reverse cycle in most rooms and that runs off the solar if it is sunny and cold.

I’m a bit stiff from filling the skip with rubbish. We are doing the home isolation clearing up and landscaping the yard thing. I’ve sort of given over baking mostly although I’m still baking sourdough regularly as I have been doing for over a year. The impetus to landscape the yard is mainly coming from my daughters. My younger daughter pledged 6 hours yard work for my birthday and she’s nearly fulfilled that. My granddaughter Y also pledged time and she did a bit of work yesterday too.

Next step is getting the skip removed and ordering in a mountain of soil, mulching and garden edging. I look into my crystal ball and see lots of work on the horizon but a nice garden come spring.

In other pandemic news, my son is coming back to Australia. He’s been hold up in Edinburgh as he couldn’t get back to his job in Asia. He had to do two weeks quarantine in Melbourne and the he’s coming here to stay in June.  I see the potential for an extra pair of hands.

I have been saving for my half of a Tesla 3 EV car but production has stopped and I don’t know when we can or will buy one. Maybe 2021 now or later. So I want do use some of the $ to remodel the kitchen. You tube is great for this stuff.

I watched hours of Youtube tutorials on repairing or refurbishing the BBQ grill. I did all those things suggested and the damn thing is still blowing flames out of the air hole and not the actual burner. Last ditch effort is to use a brush and then look at the valves. OR throw the damn thing away and buy a new one. The only thing I can think of is that maybe the burner/valve got damaged when we moved as it hasn’t worked since we moved here. We had to be a new cheap bbq for the housewarming. But then, the new grill did the same thing. Flames came out the dial instead of the burner. Perhaps I’m cursed. It was enjoyable however in learning about the BBQ as it was like a car engine for me-I knew it was there, didn’t know how it worked and didn’t want to. Now I feel a little liberated and less scared for all the bits. The actual grill looks great and is much cleaner. I still hold hope that it will work.

The kitchen is more like a pipe dream because of the floors. I need to do the floors and we want to do the whole ground floor so that $$$ and TIME and backbreaking work no matter which way you look. If we do wood we have to move all the furniture out into the garage and you can’t walk on it while you are varnishing for at least a week, maybe two. If we do floating that is easier but they need to be replaced more often. If we do tile then it’s more durable, but cold and we’d need a tiler as I know from experience I can’t tile anymore. It kills the knees, the back and the hands and I’m not that young anymore.

Anyway, I may just be social isolation crazy. I’m still staying home as much as possible. No vaccine. No mixing. Lucky for us in Australia we have only a little of the virus and I’m hoping it will stay that way.

In other news, I’m still weaving. I finished these and it was hard. I totally stuffed the winding and didn’t realise until it was being warped. I tried to just adjust things without taking the unwanted threads away, then when I wound it up I couldn’t unwind the threads as the unused ones went round and round, so I had to undo it all (way fiddly) and then rewarp. The actual weaving part was very quick.

New project is a plain weave, cream and green checks for my son. But I have ideas for new projects!!

I have graduated from jaw pain from clenching my teeth.

I’ve gotten over the stress induced weird diet thing, where I couldn’t stomach the thought of meat.

I’m a little less anxious than I was and sleeping better.

I have come to an understanding with myself that I’ll be home for the foreseeable future and that I probably won’t get to campus again, except maybe with a mask and to clean out my desk. I have developed some better habits for staying at home. I’ve progressed to reading novels until my eyes feel like they will fall out of my head.

I have finally sorted out the big mess I made when I was warping the loom and and now in a happy space. Evidence here.

I think I have improved with my smocking project and didn’t unpick it all last time (yesterday).

I am giving away food I bake and prepare. The gyoza I made were amazing and we were able to deliver some to a friend. Well my partner did.

I also made sourdough pizza, which we ate and did not give away (although I have some dough frozen). I also made peanut butter and choc chip cookies but they are all gone.

 

I have received the feedback on my draft (cough) exegesis and have printed it out! Amazing as I had to use my own printer and that hurt me…I get free printing on campus. I will be going through the comments (all bad) and then I’ll start working on the next draft. At least I have a suggested structure to help. I mean it is all there, but it’s buried in the detail or too much information and well…you know at wet mess.

It’s my birthday on Tuesday. A big one, but the restaurant is cancelled and I’ll be hanging with friends on Zoom and I’m having a social distanced high tea with my daughter tomorrow. This is a picture of me a week out from my 60th.

 

Current status treading water on my life.

And signing off I will say that I feel for you out there in countries with lots of community transmission, high death rates and hospitalisations and economic downturn.

The first thing I made with my new stand mixer was caramel slice. I made peppermint slice too but it didn’t need the mixer. I’ve given some of the spoils away but there are more plans. I want to make peanut butter and choc chip cookies!

I have a Thermomix, too, but the weighing function isn’t working properly which caused an issue with my hot cross buns. The first batch tasted great but were useful for killing chickens-so dense! The second batch had way too much flour and I ended up with huge Hot Cross buns and 14 instead of the supposed 12. They tasted great though so that’s fine.

The Artisan Kitchen Aid machine is smaller than I thought so I’m guessing it’s smaller than the original. I loved the colour of this machine too. I have yet to renovate my kitchen so it doesn’t matter that colour is different to everything else.

Anyway, here are a few pictures. Note the engraving.

And here is a picture of the monster hot cross buns.

IMG_1175

With regard to pandemic dreaming, well that’s an interesting thing. My anxiety levels have increased. I wake up at 3 am and then go back to sleep after I check the news. I know it’s counter productive but I’m awake. I’ve had a headache and nausea for about four days and I can’t think of eating meat. Just weird. I think it’s the anxiety but I’ve booked to do a tele health appointment on Friday so I can get a blood test and maybe talk about the stress. I have raised liver enzymes and my doctor increased the dosage of my statins and well we should check that out as well. Last time the new statin had made no difference to my cholesterol levels and they actually increased. This is an old brand because I react to the others. A last ditch effort by the doc.

And then tomorrow I start back doing online tutorials, which I find rather stressful. I can’t pinpoint why just that they are for me. Teaching online is way different than in person. Lucky the topic is not too difficult. I have to think up what I will teach for Creative Writing this week. I’ve some ideas and I hope my students are okay.

This week was an extra week off so I decided to have a holiday. Last week I was marking stories and doing things.

In February, I was lucky enough to interview Darynda Jones in Melbourne at the ARRA signing. I had started reading her Charlie Davidson series. One book came and I read it in a day. The other is taking its time. Due to quarantine etc posted books from overseas are taking much longer to get here due to less air travel. I was looking around for a substitute and remembered my JD Robb collection. I had read the first 14 books last time, some were rereads, so I picked up where I left off. You know, JD Robb (Nora Roberts) brought tears to my eyes twice in Portrait in Death. Once with Roarke and the situation with his mother and then with Crack and his sister. Well done! And the writing is great. Sometimes the world building is slightly thin in the in Death series but I still think JD Robb is clever and the books are smart and absorbing. I have Imitation in Death next up. I’ve also written down the gaps in my collection and put in some more orders. She just keeps writing them and I’ll never keep up. Over 40 books and I have like 35 of them. Book Depository is getting pricey, probably due to the shit Australian dollar. So I’ve tried to order from the local Dymocks. They are slightly more pricey but if they have them I don’t have to wait and maybe they will deliver.

I’m also hoping to focus more on the PhD this week as I think I’m going to be in isolation for a while so I need to pull up my big girl panties and get on with it.

 

Yesterday, I started writing a blog post called Kitchen Goddess and although I talked about sourdough as an aside I didn’t really get to the point.

My birthday is this month and because of the Pandemic I had to cancel my planned birthday party at a local Ethiopian Restaurant. My big 60th. I was going to shout family and friends for a meal and feed them cake and fill their glasses with wine and/or lemonade!

While there is no party, I’m still having a birthday and I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted for a present. My daughters asked me and well… I couldn’t think of anything until I was sitting around in bed on Thursday afternoon. It was one of the those days when it was raining outside and I’d played with the toddler for a few hours and was knackered and world events are just overwhelming at times. Then, an idea hit me. I’ve always wanted a decent stand mixer. Years ago, I bought this absolutely cheap, crap one from Big W or KMart and the beaters don’t even hit the bottom of the bowl and I have to put tea towels underneath to lift the bowl and scrap and basically get cranky.

I watched a few YouTube videos to pass the time and my favourite cupcake place did a review of three types of stand mixer. Previously, I had read Choice Magazine as well so I knew what was in my sights. So after about five seconds consideration and years of lusting, I went on an online hunt for a Kitchen Aid, Stand Mixer. Locally there was a sale of 40 per cent off at Kitchen Aid. Still, they were way pricey. I started talking to my partner and he agreed to go halves.

A special deal was free engraving. On my new stand mixer in almond shade will be my name ‘Donna Maree’ and the line underneath says ‘Kitchen Goddess’! Hence the title of my previous post. I don’t have photos yet as it has not been delivered. Obtaining a new stand mixer goes against the ‘I must stop baking pledge’ and minimal socialisation means it is hard to share product if I do. Yet, I can’t help thinking about what I would bake first. I usually do all my sour dough bread by hand but the Kitchen Aid stand mixer has a dough hook. My Thermomix does knead too but it’s not quite big enough for the double loaves I make. And I like to do it by hand over the space of a day as there is something very calming about the process of making sourdough. But there are other things to bake! And there’s cinnamon rolls! Absolutely deadly!

Here is a picture from Amazon.com.au of the almond colour.  It is listed there for $629 AU. If you are interested, here is the Linkstandmixer

The prices in the USA are half this. As they are made there it makes sense. USA Amazon has the red one for $279 US link is here.

This is one heavy beast so Matthew and I had to decide where we would put it given our limited bench space. We decided to move the air fryer because that’s light and can be moved easily.

https://www.amazon.com.au/KitchenAid-KSM160-Stand-Mixer-Almond/dp/B077NTX8RY

In the previous post, I also put up a picture of an award. Now I can share the news as it has been announced. Our short film ‘Implanted’ won the People’s Choice award at the Lights! Canberra! Action! film festival. The film is about nerdy, cat-loving Nigel who is accidentally implanted with a microchip and starts behaving strangely. It’s a rom com. And we need something uplifting these days. At the time it was post bushfires and bushfire smoke and we wanted to take people’s mind of that.

This is the team, my daughter, me and my partner Matthew. A huge thank you to the team, lead actors Michael Slater and Amelia Forsyth-Smith, the crew and to Executive Producer and teacher extraordinaire, Dan Sanguineti from Sanguineti Media, where we did an intensive film making course in February.

Implanted Team Award pic (1 of 1)

Right now I’m in the process of making sourdough bread. It’s part of my usual routine so not a pandemic hobby. Not that there is anything wrong with baking while you are stuck at home. I find it reduces stress. It’s just that too much baking makes one fat.

To combat this I am trying to increase my exercise. Twice this week I have walked to the local shopping centre-a least 25 minutes away on foot and back again with my little granny trolley. I don’t feel too scared by this as there are all these markers in the little shopping centre showing where to stand to keep your social distancing up and it’s not very crowded.

Today I went to pick up a parcel from the post office and then thought I’d get a few things from the supermarket. There was a queue to getting into the supermarket. It wasn’t long and I was inside in good time. We had to wash our hands with sanitiser and keep our distance. I headed straight to the toilet paper aisle and was victorious. I also scored two small bags of flour and a dozen eggs. I feel like beating my chest and crying out like a victorious Tarzan.

I was surprised by how much food was available and I had this queer feeling. One part of me just wanted to buy stuff because it was there and this is a pandemic and the other part was like all this food doesn’t make it seem like a pandemic. I had to tell myself that the food would be there next time. A lizard brain reaction maybe. Of course, some shelves were low or empty but now that people can’t panic buy there’s plenty. I should also say all the staff were very nice and polite and helpful. Ideally though I leave the shopping to Matthew.

My greatest challenge over the next few months besides not contracting Covid-19 and dying is not to get fat while housebound. So trying not to bake! However, my family are asking for homemade English muffins and hot cross buns and Anzac biscuits (oatmeal cookies) as well as sour dough bread.

We get Youfoodz meals delivered for most of the week and they are calorie controlled and then we cook or do something else-usually a freezer dive as we have frozen left overs meals. That helps a bit because if I totally got into cooking mode I’d cook heaps of things that I love to eat and my self-restraint ? Well there is no such thing!

However, I contrast this with many, many people in the world right now who don’t have food, or shelter or decent medical care. I might be stressed. I might be finding it hard to concentrate but I’m not in a bad way at all.

That might or might not be helpful thinking. My usual life and expectations have changed.

I’m still trying to work on the PhD (difficult) and keep my mental health in a good space. I try not to think of my publishing career and what will happen to the industry. My creativity has been squashed into a plastic bag and tossed into the back of the cupboard.

However, for those of you without books. There is a promotion of free dragon books on Bookfunnel Link

So go help yourself.

I just had a Darynda Jones book delivered this morning. I’m very tempted to start reading it right now. I was lucky enough to meet Darynda in early March as part of the ARRA signings. I like how she puts real life into her urban fantasy and her sassy lead, Charlie.

The other impediment to productivity is Gin the cat. He just plonked himself down on my lap after walking across the keyboard and wouldn’t shift. He just looked at me with those enormous eyes and stared. He also had his claws out so hugging him was like hugging a rose bush. I think it is revenge because the other day I accidentally locked him on the deck for the whole night and it rained.

IMG_1096Next this turned up in the mail. I’ll talk about this next time…

IMG_1095

World events are just moving so fast in this unprecedented times. Ten days ago I was teaching my classes face to face. This week gone it was online. It’s a time of adaption, perseverance and hope.

I try to have hope that things will get better as the pandemic passes but one thing for sure is that life is going to be different now and for the months to come. Who knows how the world will be when this is over?

I feel for those who are under lock down and have lost loved ones and jobs. I’m doing okay at the moment. I applaud the heroes and heroines of this crisis, the health workers-doctors, nurses, first responders. I have to drag myself away from the news as it is overwhelming.

I can’t concentrate, I can’t write and I can only stumble from moment to moment. But I am going to fix that as best I can. I’m going to focus and do something besides bake, eat, clean and watch Star Trek Next Generation! From tomorrow I’m going to have a schedule but I will give myself a break if I falter.

But for some cheer! Baking results. Hot cross buns and my regular seeded sourdough bread.

One hero in all this on the political side Andrew Cuomo, Governor on New York State and Jacinta Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who both give clear, sound and emotionally sensitive advice to their people.

Here is my isolation buddy, Gin the cat, who is part Maine Coon.

To help out in the only way I can, I have updated my front page to promote the links to my free novella, Vorn and the First Comers. I have also sent a link to my short story collection, Beneath the Floating City, to my newsletter subscribers.

Yes, I know. I should be all gloom and doom. Things are not as bad as they could be. I’m not going to say they are not as bad as they seem because that’s a different kettle of fish.

I’ve studied pandemic preparedness for my work as an auditor a while ago when bird flu was considered a threat. We got the Swine Flu instead. However, under those scenarios the ‘flu’ was going to be devastating and take a lot of people out thereby disrupting critical supplies such as food and rubbish removal and so on. However, this does not appear to be the case. This is not a widespread failure of everything we know. Food deliveries are still being made etc, food is still be produced and grown. This is not like Stephen King’s The Stand or the movie Contagion. Praise the universe for that small mercy.

The big impact here is on imported food and exported food and medicines. These disruptions to air travel etc have consequences there is no denying. However, I am convinced we will still have baked beans on the shelf. And as toilet paper is made in Australia no potential shortage. I’d like to see people not hoard that stuff. I have plenty of loo paper but I bought it one pack at a time and then found a great big packet from before Christmas in our laundry hidden under guff. As people aren’t going to be visiting in the time of social distancing and social isolation I think we are good–for a while.

We should be alert but not alarmed.

I will be delivering all my tutorials online from now and probably for the rest of the semester. I think this is doable but I’m sure going to miss my face to face classes. I have such a great group of students and I’ve been so impressed by them this year. I feel bad that their first year of university (most of them) is marred by this pandemic outbreak. In one course we have been discussing ‘adaptability’, which is not always easy.

I am also low level scared. It has been on my mind that I might die. But I’m not alarmed by that thought. I think this is because since Matthew’s dad died in December, life has been full of challenges. Bushfire smoke, bushfires and now the Covid-19 outbreak. These events have put a lot of pressure on me personally, although I did not lose my home, it did make me understand that I am not as resilient as I thought I was and that I’m mortal.

So where is the upside here? I think there’s a chance to slow down and connect with ourselves and those closest to us. There is a chance to catch up on books and movies. Social media, often called a bane, might be the only contact people have and for that I think we have to be grateful for technology. We live in a connected world–that helped the virus spread but it will also keep us together.

Today I am baking sourdough bread, an activity I find relaxing and centering. I’m also trying to work out how to put together a half lecture using different technology that is going to be delivered online. A bit of a learning curve.

Stay safe everyone.

 

Life has been a bit tough around here, NSW and Canberra.

First, in December, we had a death in the family and that was sad and stressful and then the bushfire smoke came in thick. It seemed like for days on end you couldn’t go outside, you had to tape the doors to stop the smoke getting in and you needed a mask to go outside. This, as you can imagine, impacted on my mental health. People I knew lost houses. I haven’t lost my house so I’ve no excuse to feel so affected. Maybe.

It was hot too and I felt like it was another summer that I wasn’t going to experience, that I was going to be stuck inside with the airconditioning. We’d built up our deck furniture but there was no point in going onto the deck, there was too much smoke.

But going outside, going to university or just out and not being able to see for more than 300 metres I started to ask myself, is this it, is this what life is going to be?

Then one day we had mustard coloured smoke. It was thick, pervasive and threatening. It was then I began to believe that I wasn’t really set up to survive the apocalypse. I’d been optimistic before about that, about surviving, about seeing humans living beyond.

At New Year we escaped the smoke and headed to Melbourne. It was great to see blue skies for a change. However, at home the smoke was getting worse. Canberra had run out of P2 masks. When we got messages about that we decided to buy a supply in Melbourne and by air purifiers. We had so many orders we really couldn’t buy more as there was no room in the car. We can back with seven of them. As we were leaving the smoke was heading to Melbourne and that big city got to experience the downside of the most massive array of fires ever.

We had a few days where the smoke haze was less and maybe life could be normal. We still took masks with us everywhere in case the wind changed and it got bad.

Then on Australia Day weekend, on the last day of a writing get together we got news of a fire starting in the Namadgi National Park, within Canberra’s borders. It came out that a defence helicopter had started the fire accidentally with its landing lights and poof up it went. The Orroral Valley Fire. Then next day it was 20,000 hectares big and we were on emergency warning level. I could see flames from my deck. I was freaked out. We evacuated ourselves early. I think the speed and the ferocity had the emergency services scrambling that first big day on Tuesday. There were regular updates about what was happening. The communication was great. Really great. We came home but we knew there was bad weather ahead. On Friday we had a record 42.7 degrees C. I evacuated us again, early. I was too stressed and freaked out to stay.

But the wind was in our favour. It didn’t come marching towards southern Canberra. Instead it spotted badly over the border into NSW, into the Clear Range. Matthew’s has a farm in the Clear Range and our suburb was on alert too. On Saturday though the wind was still favourable and predicted storms did not do any harm to the fire. We did house preparation in case there was an ember attack.

In the evening, emergency services broadcast that they had a plan. The fire was due to hit the grasslands and they said they could handle that. They bombarded with fire retardant and firebreaks and I went to bed less stressed and confident that they had it in hand. The first time in nearly a week. Sunday we listened to the emergency broadcasts and relaxed. The fire is still burning. It will burn for weeks, unless we have a week of rain. The farm is still in danger if the wind changes, but I feel better looking forward.

I write post apocalyptic fiction and I love reading it, but now I think I feel differently about it and my longer term outlook. If you aren’t prepared to survive, even a week of disrupted food and water supplies or leaving your house, then you aren’t likely to survive if society breaks down. I had a real think about this. Given my age…I turn 60 this year, maybe I shouldn’t try to survive. My efforts should go into helping my children and grand children survive. This is rather a profound thing for me. This brush with the apocalypse has shaped me, changed me.

Maybe when this crisis passes that will change, but I think not. My son lives in China with my granddaughter. With the coronavirus outbreak we were lucky that Madelyn had come here on a short holiday. She can’t go back. My son is stranded in the Phillipines where he was scuba diving. His flight was cancelled. The new flight was cancelled. His firm is thinking of sending him to Europe to an office there as who knows how long this crisis will last. My granddaughter was tested for the virus and is negative. They are not living in the the affected area and had recently moved from Shanghai.

Did I mention the hailstorm that sort of broke up the boredom of smoke filled days. Both our cars were damaged but still drivable. Thousands of cars locally damaged and undrivable.

 

And then there’s Brexit and Trump impeachment, like some sort of weird aperitif to make you vomit up your dinner instead of settling your stomach. Our own government is pretty shite!

This is a screen shot of the NSW Fire Services Fires Near Me app. You can see how many fires there are in NSW and around Canberra.

This next screen shot is near us taken last night. About fifty percent of the Namadgi National Park is gone and it’s burnt twenty percent of the land area of the ACT (Canberra). My house is near the B23 marker, about 12 kilometres from the edge of the fire. Orroral Valley fires is 56, 264 hectares in size as of today.

 

On Tuesday I left uni early because I started getting messages about offering me a place to go. I’d been working and didn’t realise the fire alert had been raised to emergency level. I started to cry on the bus seeing the fire smoke. The shot below is the smoke at the major shopping centre in Tuggeranong.

I was crying when I got off the bus. (By the way this shocks me that I totally lost it).

This was the view on Tuesday from my deck when I got home.

Later I could see flames and that’s when I decided I needed to evacuate and asked Matthew to come home from work. It was coming in fast and hard. I don’t think the emergency services were ready for this but they did a good job. And with the drought all that bush is bone dry.

The emergency services released a worst case scenario map for the weekend. It was pretty freaky. We didn’t know what the parameters were but obviously they didn’t eventuate. What did happen was the fire leaped over to NSW.

 

What started as a spot fire grew so quickly. Houses were lost and it’s still going but due to quiet winds not as badly as it could have done.

The shot below was Friday, when I was home alone and decided to get out of there. No magnification here.

 

The next is what the spot fires looked like on the app on Saturday.

It grew quickly.

Then it started to spread across the highway on Sunday. The Clear Range fire now listed as being 11,470 hectares.

 

This is why I have had a disrupted week and life. I am not sure when normal transmission will resume. It might be a new normal. I just don’t now.