“This is as bad as it gets”


I’ve been faced with what most of us in the Blue Mountains have had to deal with this last week – what will I take with me if the fires get to us.

They had spent a few days terrorising us about what was coming, as both the weather and the mood  turned apocalyptic.  “This will be as bad as it gets,” the authorities and the media were screaming at us.

Tuesday was ominous, like being in the eye of the hurricane: still, smoky, full of dire warnings, but no disasters.

Wednesday was going to be the “horror day”, when they had us primed to believe that the conditions would be so bad that fires burning 15 and 20 kilometres away would join together into a biblical conflagration and sweep down upon Katoomba and Leura.  “If you don’t need to be here, you should leave and leave early”.

A large number or residents and visitors did just that.  We weren’t in that number.  Brigitte was scheduled on duty at the pharmacy, and without her there it wasn’t allowed to operate.  Among other things she was busy doling out free puffers donated by a drug company for people whose breathing was suffering from the air quality.  The pharmacy ended up being one of only three shops open in the whole village, along with the bottle shop and the newsagency – how comfortingly Australian.

Those of us who stayed, while perhaps sceptical about the immediacy and the enormity of what was being predicted, nevertheless did what our survival plans dictated.  Our gutters were clean, the hoses were on the taps, and we had ready whatever we would throw in the car should we really have to flee.

I don’t know how it was for other people, but our piles weren’t very big:

  • the mobile phones and their chargers
  • a stack of those old non-digital photos albums
  • the contents of the safe – Brigitte’s pearls, my watches, the deeds of the houses, the passports
  • a couple of suspension files with personal documents
  • the jade horse on the mantlepiece, by special request from Brigitte
  • 10 years worth of my handwritten journals
  • the computers and their back-ups
  • the little red leather covered book about what the kids might need to know about me if any shit ever happened
  • a change of clothes and some underwear
  • Spike the cat, if I can find the elusive little bugger.

It’s revealing what, in extremis, is precious or irreplaceable.  It turns out that there probably aren’t that many.  It turns out that some of the most important things aren’t so tangible, so able to be thrown in the boot of the car.  Many are stored digitally somewhere, in the cloud even – photos, music, email addresses, those phone numbers you have been collecting for years in your contacts and been reluctant to delete just in case.

Unsurprising, I guess, that in the end you have to be faced with the worst to know what’s really important.

David White

(Image courtesy of SMH)

  1. Well done to Brigitte for staying to run the show in the pharmacy. And knowing what her priorities are!

  2. David left out the most vital item on my list o take should we have to leave in a hurry – can’t believe he forgot it! My baby hair straightener for my fringe – couldn’t even go a day without it!! Brigitte

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