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January 11, 2020

Posted on 5 January

Welcome to 2020 everyone. The Year of the Eyeball?

2019 ended in a bit of rush for us: Sept/Oct – o/s to visit our brand new little granddaughter in KL (& their parents), twice, & a return to UK to see Ireland & Wales – BRILLIANT!

While o/s our longterm spiritual mentor, Adam, died in the Blue Mtns. We had a week at home before MA went up to the mtns to settle his estate. His home took longer & was much more arduous than expected. Plus the smoke, every day, from fires N, S & W of her, drifting ash & occasional drop of charred leaves. I joined her in mid-Dec & struggled to breathe in the heat & smoke as we worked. Yep, I’ve grown soft down here!

Thanks to Helen for her generous hospitality – again.

On Monday, relieved, we left for Canberra & Christmas with the Sheahams … only, the smoke was there too. After the day of flung wrapping paper & feasting with the Oldham clan, and the recovery in front of the cricket, we left on Friday to Gayle’s parents’ place on the south coast at Rosedale between Moruya and Batemans Bay.

Cautiously, we left on Sunday for our daughter’s home at Kinglake West near Melb, changing the plan to go south via Eden & Sale because of the possibility of being cut off by the fires. We bought a beautiful painting in Mogo on the way. Moruya – Bega – Cobargo – Cooma – Adaminaby – Talbingo – Tumut – Adelong: stayed the night with some of MA’s family in the Wondalga area. A great family night. Husband returned home at 9pm from the first day of the Ellerslie fire which, with the o/night backburns & all going well, might be OK. Next day, up to Batlow to visit MA’s parents in the cemetery, then down via Rosewood to Albury &, eventually, Kinglake on Monday evening. Away from the smoke & the tension of fire in proximity.

Then it was New Year’s Eve – Tuesday.

The home in Rosedale is a pile of ash & twisted metal. It is weird to see on the national news the beaches & streets you walked with the grandkids a few days ago, now razed. The gallery in Mogo is gone, along with  much of that wonderful little village.

The roads we drove on Sunday were all cut in the next couple of days. Cobargo’s main street in flames, the high country alight. Then the roads we drove on Monday down to the Hume, cut. The Ellerslie fire blew up to 130,000 hectares, & kept going to start threatening places like Batlow & Talbingo.

On Friday we sailed home on a day sail, finally leaving the smoke about 4pm. Relief! Home to Tassie! As we waited to be called down to our car, we noticed the smoke haze rising in the north.

On Saturday we woke to thick smoke. Bugger – back into the mask.

At 2pm we headed off for Swansea, 3 hrs away on the east coast to pick up our friend, Narelle, who was house-sitting a place on the edge of Swansea. She had picked up the alert to prepare to leave. The wind was getting under the Fingal fires to the north. She wanted out.

Today, the extent of damage in Batlow & the fate of the family home at Wondalga is uncertain. It feels like the fires have been following us. Silly, I know, but there it is. Some tiny parts of the catastrophe are deeply personal. I am intensely grateful that no-one I know has been hurt. I feel for the pain & grief of so many 1,000s.

We are home, safe, and everyone I know is safe from the fires. For that much I am grateful.