What I Did on My Holidays: Part the First – Brisbane Airport and Oslo

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version

This is a record of the slow-moving things I saw on my trip to Oslo and England for (among other things) the World Fantasy Convention 2013.

My flight out of Brisbane was delayed by 6 hours. Parts had to be flown up from Sydney twice.

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Raced through Changi airport (which is very long) and still made the connection! This is my confused impression of the flight. The part where I’m holding the blanket over my face is when I was watching Tarantino movies on too little sleep.

Scattered impressions: Flight

More sketches of the delay. But I and my luggage reached Oslo, via Helsinki (Helsinki airport is full of Moomins), as planned! I arrived in Norway as a blank slate, only having a few days and planning on spending that visiting an old friend. We had a lovely visit but Oslo, as it turns out, is also wonderful! We went to the Vigeland sculpture park, famous from lists of unintentionally terrifying statues. The inclusion on that list is unjust (also the least alarming of the statues). It is unsettling and beautiful – vast, weighty, humanist, nebulously meaningful and Giger-esque in the sense not of darkness but of belonging to a visual language which is almost but not-quite intelligible.

Also: Viking ships! A spare, dignified museum, with lines and artistic language utterly intelligible, but astonishing for scale and fluidity.

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It was getting cold and late, so my sketches from the Norse folk museum are merely “remember-to-come-back-here” sketches. But oh, that museum! It is acres of outdoor paths – a museum of buildings and streets, relocated entire. It was like walking through an Eyewitness Guide in the 20th century part, and back into East of the Sun, West of the Moon everywhere else.

The next day we went to the city hall. In my experience, civic buildings are usually either ancient and weighty or modern and utilitarian. This was 20th century and pregnant with meaning and detail – norse myths, World War II, vikings, mid-century art, painted ceilings, murals, mosaics. It reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’ technologically developed fantasy worlds – deep, foreign and familiar.

Then some photography students asked us to pose for an assignment.

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It was too short a stay, (although quite a long time to have “To Noroway, to Noroway, to Noroway o’er the foam” stuck in my head) but I had to fly again – this time to England.

Next stop: Dartmoor.

Brisbane Writers Festival 2013 – Artist-at-large

And I’m back from my stint as artist-at-large at the Brisbane Writers Festival! The final fate of the sketchbook is yet to be decided – in the meantime, photos of most of the pages may be viewed on the album on the BrisWritersFest Facebook page (I don’t think you need to be logged in to see them).

Here is the book in progress on a copy of the program:
BWF - book

It was a little Moleskine Japanese Album (accordion fold) sketchbook. The drawings are with Pitt Artist Pens and a 0.05 Staedtler. I had free rein to run upstairs and down, in and out of panels, perching at the edge of workshops, hanging out in the green room and the cafe, an excuse to talk to anyone and to meet – oh, so many people, watch Briony Stewart (artist-in-residence) construct a dragon, rave about topics and then find a conversation partner had written the book on it, hang out in the festival tent telling ghost stories and reading tales printed on pillows…

I sketched watching panels:
BWF - panel

And watching from above:
BWF - perch

Dragons:
BWF - dragon

And sights sights more familiar to habitués of the State Library:
BWF - pigeon

There are some observations on (rather than of) life:
BWF - observation

And here is the book opened up (also the new blog header), although there are a few more pages not shown here:
BWF - book extended

The last hurrah of the festival was “Glitter and Dust”, where those left standing talked (read, recited, praised) for two minutes each. Sarah Wendell graciously was my assistant, and I opened out the sketchbook listing (as it could not be seen in detail, only in length), some key images from each page. I have reconstructed it as follows, as my notes were written in the pink twilight of the tent and adapted as I went:

An accountant’s shining silver boots
Ibises stalk, possessive, on the grass,
Fingers clutch coffee like a rope to safety
And writers stare into a glowing void.
Twinned, rabbit-headed children.
A dawn of sunflowers,
Cerulean platform shoes,
A Blyton-novel’s worth of uniforms.
The self-abandoned intensity of browsers in bookstores.
Writers eating, holding forks like pens.
Wallace Stevens’ poem of pineapples,
Fishing rods with a catch of ferns,
New friends, hands raised, exclaiming over books,
Professional pigeon-harriers of the library cafe.
Steve Kilbey’s hands.
The Green Lantern impersonating Marianne Dashwood,
Small boys rolling laboriously downhill.
Fairytales peopling the long night,
Fashions glowing in the field.
Tigon, the literary hound, sits pensively.
Serious study in the high green room,
Graeme Simsion marches dully for a point.
Ibises swoop, delighted, on the lawn,
And Red Crow sets a stage for coming night.
[And folding the sketchbook in again] A tickertape of greeting and goodbye.

It is not a poem, but I like to think the tremor in my voice extended the syllables in the shorter lines to create a consistent pattern.

And of course it doesn’t include Elizabeth Wein’s Spitfire necklace and how that directly led to my current emotional fragility on finishing reading Code Name Verity, or how Kate de Goldi’s editing workshop took a detour into poetry recommendations, or discussions of first-person accounts of mastectomies without anaesthetic in 1812, or how Rob Spillman has caused me to now read Elizabeth Bishop’s “An Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore” out to anyone who will hold still long enough, or, or, or…

Brisbane Writers Festival

BWF 2013 Logo

The Brisbane Writers Festival is on, and I am the Illustrator at Large (in contrast to Briony Stewart who is the Illustrator in Residence, and is building a dragon). This pretty much means I wander the State Library grounds sketching, drinking coffee and talking to people, and I am happy with my lot. I am also on a panel on Sunday afternoon with Gary Crew, Gus Gordon and Briony Stewart, discussing visual storytelling.

Here is the beginning of the sketchbook (accordion fold this time, which opens nicely but is also easily caught by the wind and blown about like ticker tape). BWF will be putting it up on their Facebook page as they get the chance, but posting more frequently to their twitter account (briswritersfest).

BWF 2013 sketchbook

 

Brisbane Writers Festival 2013

www.bwf.org.au I 4-8 September 2013
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/briswritersfest
twitter: #bwf13 / @briswritersfest

 

Brisbane Writers Festival brings a page-turning experience to Brisbane from 4-8 September.

Delight in the books and writers you love, and discover new ones, as you share in conversations ranging from fiction to politics, science to sport and everything in between. Join in fervent discussion and the ardent exchange of ideas at The Great Debate. Festival highlights include Inspire, remarkable and thought-provoking presentations to make you think, feel and act; Well-Drawn, celebrating and exploring comics, graphic narrative and illustration; and Good Thinking: Public Lectures, when Australia’s leading intellectuals will ask the big questions and present new ideas for the future.

Let the kids loose to play with words at Alphabet Zoo while you indulge your inner-wordsmith at Author+ Masterclasses and, at the end of the day, relax with a drink in the Festival Club to the soulful strains of singer/songwriters and bands.

Browse the program and book your tickets now at www.bwf.org.au.

 

Catching up on sketchbook uploads!

It’s been a little while, I know! But here is the second half of my last sketchbook, for posterity etc. As usual, clicking on a picture will take you through to Flickr where you can see larger versions.

First, shoppers in Mount Ommaney shopping centre last October – note the durable popularity of maxidresses. It was a hot October, like this one.

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Continue reading

Brisbane Fashion (sketchbook update)

This is the tail end of the Brisbane floods sketchbook (the full set is here).

By February life was already returning to normal, superficially, and girls were strolling through Queen Street Mall in maxi-dresses:

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And not so maxi-dresses:

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Session musicians were playing at the Irish Club:

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Boys were shamefacedly carrying bright pink shopping bags:

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I kept trying to draw beer, beards and bodhrans:

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There was jewelry to buy at twilight markets:

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There were free plants to acquire in King George Square, and vintage fashion to buy at Mount Gravatt showgrounds:

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And coffee to drink in cafes attached to bookstores which are now gone:

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Ekka 2011

On Wednesday, People’s Day, I went to the Ekka armed with my sketchbook and the intention of eating all the wonderful/awful things. It was a very satisfactory day.

Note: You can see larger versions of these sketches by clicking on them to go through to their Flickr page.

Here are people at the train station, and one of my favourite events to sketch: the woodchop. It is a very fast competition, which turns sketching into a race. This year there was a bonus Lord Mayor.

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I wandered through the cattle pavilions making myself homesick, but I can rarely find anywhere good to sketch there – they are very popular, and because the exhibitors camp out there as well, it feels like walking into someone’s living room and drawing them. If people kept cows in their living rooms.

I like sitting in the stands watching the working dog trials as well, although the dogs are so tiny and far away. The crowd gets incredibly tense – and on the right, below, are some of the beautiful adoption greyhounds. Every year I almost convince myself I need a dog.

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But who could choose just one? The giant Schnauzers and the Belgian shepherds were the prettiest to draw, but that’s a tough call. In the blacksmith’s and farrier’s tent it smelled like burning hair, and was full of enormous hairy cart horses, and lounging men wearing leather aprons.

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Ducks!

Page 18Then I met up with K and C and rode the CarnEvil ride, and walked back into the valley to sketch with Shayna at Kerbside, and had a very satisfactory view of the fireworks from the footpath.

Flood Diary – January 2011

If you go to NearMaps here, you can see our street. The photo was taken after the flood had gone a long way down, but you can still see the high-tide mark on Campana Street (you might have to zoom in so the street map disappears). Some of the houses at the right went completely under, and if you look at the houses on Colwell Street you can see where the water came to on some of their roofs.

Below are some extracts from my diary. Rather self centred, but it is a diary, and in general I keep mine so that I can answer if the police ever ask, “Where were you on the night of the 27th”. I had also decided (before the floods) to memorise Psalm 46 this week, which contains such lines as “though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” which, in light of subsequent events, seemed very appropriate.

All the flood sketches are from Thursday – on Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy stressing (and carrying other people’s furniture) and on Friday, Saturday & Sunday there were too many other things to do.

I’ve included this sketch because it is at Eagle Street Pier and West End, which were both flooded:

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Tuesday 11.1.11

Can’t quite credit we’re in a natural disaster. People at the end of the street are emptying their house. People are dying. Usual start [to the day]… Parts of CBD being evacuated & parts of Oxley Road were over this morning. Left [work] at 12. Very crowded train. Home via Coles – many people. No batteries. C. 4ish B & I went for a walk – floods over Colwell (street), walkway, mayfly roundabout, floodplains, golf club, on & off ramps for highway city-side of Ipswich/Oxley Rds roundabout & Super Amart carpark… Watched My Generation because it wasn’t about the floods & I made a 1/3 batch of red velvet cupcakes. Diesel [my sister’s dog] is under the house making an unholy noise in key w the sirens… After 11 I walked down street – met S & C [neighbours from next door]. Stars, but waters rising – a foot or two below wooden park fence-rail. Worried/restless/surreal. Finally to bed a bit before midnight. Don’t know if tomorrow holds work or packing. Am restless, listening for wind or rain… Just went out & checked. Still a few stars. Mind you, thought of hot summer sun is worrying [i.e. hot sun after heavy rain] but long-term far better than alternative.

Wednesday 12.1.11

1.50-ishpm. I am sitting in the car listening to the radio & thought I should start on today’s entry since – if we are here tonight – we don’t have power. Up at 6 after a poor night’s sleep. Walked down to see how water had risen – just over Campana-Bannerman corner. Walked w D from acrsso the road around to Oxley Road and the traffic circle – water on the highway from the roundabout stretching out to the city. The water had gone into Amart. A snake went swimming past, head held high… Power went out while I was in the bathroom. B & I helped carry things from a house on Colwell, through the school. Some of the houses on the other side [of Colwell] were up to near the tops of their windows. Acquired C’s fish (Louie) and D’s bird (Charlie) & a number of C’s books. Am a bit burned. Alternating sun & rain… People down the street are evacuating – 6 or 8 to a piece of furniture. I’m going to go in after the news & finish putting together my emergency backpack. Helicopters are flying over. DE called to tell me to put things up high… [Manager at work] said it was only to be essential staff today & power would be going.

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Now about a quarter to 7. Spent afternoon packing backpack & filing & being incredibly tense in my jaw – kept ducking out to see what was going on & what other people were doing. Before 6 B & I went out for a walk w Diesel, liberally aeroguarded. Water just over road above Amart, up past crosswalk at Oxley, up nearly to top of doors at Bunnings. Some boats out. Up over Colwell side of oval. When we came back water was fully over road above Amart, & over our street sign @ the end of Campana. We only have a few small decorative candles. I’m out in the yard at the moment in the car, listening to the radio. c. 5ish I think they said the max will be less than ’74, but a helicopter was flying over at the time. Plan to… get up at 4 to see the peak. Had a message from [manager] that building is closed until the end of the week… Taking notes from radio…. (just remembered – lights in the car!). 4.3 & rising in CBD. Peak of 5.2 expected at high tide 4am below ’74 [peak] of 5.5.


13.1.11 Thurs?

I’m writing this by the light of a wind up torch [B-next-door] gave me – it also recharges phones! This makes my phone show a screen which says “happy day”. It is awesome & I love it. Also it is 10.50pm & I woke up at 3.30am, rigid with nerves, my toes cold & my scalp clenched. Lay there, stomach churning & gurgling, then eventually put one foot on the floor. It was dry. Got up a little before 4 when I heard B’s alarm. We walked down to the water… Now, last night B & I had cold-pasta-and-tuna-fish (flavoured), with wine, by candlelight (double wicked scented candle Mommy gave us for Christmas, on top of the upside-down colander, so that its light would get into the bowls. Then we went over to S&C’s [downhill neighbours] with C&B [uphill neighbours] for drinks & general talk. Very pleasant. I was stressed & I think S was too, but we talked about music & then wound up all quoting The Castle… Before bed we went down to the water & could see it creeping up. Not the slow up&down wind-ripples of the day before, when if you kept your eye on a particular piece of gravel long enough the water would eventually work its way around it, but a gentle, trickling crawl up the street, which seemed gentle & inexorable & was terrifying. I went to bed thinking – my neighbours are not hydrologists, my neighbours are not hydrologists. It isn’t the potential loss – as B said, we could walk away – but not knowing what to do, if we should worry, how much effort to give to what, what the risks are, that it will be our fault if we don’t do something but no-one on our street can get cars out &c &c... So, up at 4, expecting it to be at least at the bottom of S’s [downhill neighbour], where he said it was in ’74 & it was only about 1m (horizontally) further up the street, at the second power pole. Much, much relief. No one else seemed to be around (apparently S was out every hour).

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B & I sat in her car & listened to 612ABC until 4.30ish. Then… I walked up to the circle & watched the sky get light, then came back to the street & ended up at F&G’s [neighbours 2 doors up] having tea & toast… F gave me a thermos of hot water… Cut the belled elephant off a bag from Thailand A had given me [sorry A – it was really really noisy] & put my sketchbook etc in there. Walked up to the traffic circle & sketched. Came back… Houses on far side [of Colwell] – just peak of roof showing. Sketched & talked, in & out of house, putting Charlie in & out with the weather…  F came around collecting onions & looking for mince. Her daughter came through the road block… with some supplies incl. fresh bread! At 2pm we took our meat from the freezer over… & so did others, & we had a big bbq lunch on their balcony… I’d also taken Sarah Lee apricot danish & chocolate pie, so we had those cold w custard. Then tea…

Played guitar to Charlie – just picking out the tunes of songs about rivers… K, “the biker from the end of the street” is a real raconteur. In the evening, we put chairs in front of  our house [for assorted neighbours]. Lots of laughter – S & K had seen a potential looter, there were stories of the neighbourhood, of high tree-houses, of K frightening the local kids w tales of “the Creek Freak”, with the head of a dog & the body of a turtle, & webbed claws & a cry much like fighting bats, & it’s claimed lives & even the cops don’t like to talk about it b/c they’ve lost someone to it – & how [the story] kept kids away from the creek for 8 months. Marijuana in the back lots. Amateur film makers causing police hunts for [non-existent] bodies &c. .. Came home by torchlight c10.30.

Boats went by occasionally at the bottom of the street. Apparently the police arrested & took away a few people on body boards who may or may not have been looting from affected houses. In the afternoon I was with C&B for part of the walk – we went around Bannerman – some houses still deep. Road free of water but such a mess. Even a dead mouse (I saw an ibis eating one at the school). 2 guys from Booth Mechanics were loading up a borrowed canoe onto their car – they’d been out to workplace, told us about moving trucks to overpass etc, showed us photo of them posing with the Wanless plane [light plane on a pole outside a wreckers along the motorway], just w its nose at the water.

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Greyish mud on things. Strong smell of fuel & oil. Quiet. No power. Voices & dynamo torches & the tick of the clock & of course the regular helicopters are very, startlingly loud. We are a bit wistful at missing the television coverage of it all. News is… passed on & garbled & rumoured. We aren’t completely stranded – just can’t get cars out & many roads are cut. I think we could get to Aldis on Blunder Road via Rudd Street. Frogs are noisy during the day. I saw a spoonbill… Also this evening before dark people from Oxley Uniting [church] came around with bags of ice. Lovely!

14.1.11 Fri

Up at 7… there was just enough room [at the end of the street] to get out so we took my car – very exciting! Blunder Rd was still closed & so was the Mway after the circle – went via Rudd St to the Aldi – had pastries & coffee at the bakery… Then we went to Inala shops were life went on unaffected. We went to Woolies for gloves, dettol &c, couldn’t find any candles… Distinctive smell of spices from Vietnamese shops… We both felt a bit shell shocked… Home… I went to C&C’s [the people we helped evacuate]. Water had been maybe 20cm above the floorboards. The men had a gurney & mothers in law were scrubbing windows (not flood!) etc. I helped the girls move furniture from rom to room for mopping purposes, until friends arrived with lunch & I left. The mailman came down Colwell St while I was there! And the post (everyone got some)? Water bills! I also saw a drowned gecko. People are piling their rubbish by the road & it all looks desaturated, almost greyscale… I hung my cap on gates as I went so B would see it if she went looking for me. At F’s I helped butter bread & then she took sandwishes & Lions Christmas cake down to the people (Amart staff!) helping clean out the house at the bottom of the school… Talked with F & J about life on the street when they had to wheel prams along Colwell St when it was a dirt road & G carried planks across Oxley Rd to build the house, turning sideways to let traffic by when it came along.


I pumped up the bike tyres b/c I thought it might be good to keep off the roads, then cycled down to Colwell. Didn’t know where B was & people don’t know names of helpers. I went to the end of the street – many worms in the gutters, curled & dead – & a bit along Oxley [Road] but of course the sidewalks were impassable [due to contents of houses]. Came back… drove back roads to Oxley… The FoodWorks was open, although it had no power. It didn’t have saucepans or candles either. You had to say what you wanted & one of the two girls would take you there so they could write down the price. (There is a mosquito near my head – I was reluctant to chase it away b/c its wings mad a slight, cool breeze). .. The street from the station to the BP on Oxley Road had been roughed up preparatory to roadworks just before the flood. Then there had been heavy rain, then it had been a major entry point when Oxley Rd was cut there, then it had been flooded. The houses either side had put everything in big piles on the curb. Now, approaching it, you can see a big haze of dust over it. .. Sherwood Woolies was open & had power! I bought a scented candle (they were out of the ordinary sort), a cold coke & a bag of ice… Did laundry in a bucket out the back. Diesel was doing his best to lok neglected. M from down the street dropped off bread & milk & sausages. I took the rolls up to F for feeding people. B arrived muddy & tired from shovelling gyprock that had been a ceiling… [It was] good to be useful. It would feel wrong to stop & read or draw. There are things I will miss when the power comes back – peace, quiet, talking, society, usefulness, simplicity. It makes sense now to be outside, have less, eate well & put things away where you won’t fall over them in the dark.


On radio Campbell Newman [Lord Mayor] talked about the volunteer assembly centres (none near us) & said to organise people between the 2 shifts tomorrow to – seriously, he said, I am serious – flip a coin – heads 7am, tails afternoon… I want to join an organisation that, in a crisis, makes sandwiches.

This morning there was blood spattered around Charlie’s cage & all smeared on the perch & wires. Charlie not obviously the worse for wear. Maybe he killed a gecko.

15.1.11 Sat

I feel like I’m living a different life. I’m out & doing things & talking to neighbours & in bed early & eating a great deal & not using any of my things or doing my usual stuff. And I like many things about it. I wonder if I will ask myself, when I buy things in future, whether I will want to carry them out in a flood… I am in bed with a candle burning & a wind-up torch on my chest pointed at the page… Up at 6. cold shower – can only do a limb at a time. I went down to [house on Colwell behind S’s parent’s] before 8… was helping bag up the contents of linen cupboards. At 9 I took A [who has no car] to Inala shops & the lady at Lifeline [opshop] let me plug my phone in… I went down for the tail of the community meeting at the [school] hall… A BCC [Brisbane City Council] bus of volunteers had come down Colwell in the morning. Then I went back to [the house on Colwell]. I washed down kitchen counters & the bath – really just washing silt off… R – a merchandiser for DMC [embroidery threads] – was one of the volunteers and liked cleaning so I asked her to consider me another pair of hands so she set me to cleaning skirting boards. I was sitting on the floor & using a bucket of water so got very muddy & slimy… It is all such a huge job. I was wiping the tiles in the kitchen & they started coming off in my hands. They use crowbars to take up disintegrating lino & take off the fronts of cabinets where drawers are swollen closed. I sympathise with everyone putting everything – even salvageable things out as rubbish – just not to have to deal with it & to go to an empty shell which only has to be cleaned. Very appealling – at least until you start cleaning & realise how much there is to do – & then it is good to have just one task to concentrate on… Little brown lizards kept coming into the house when I was cleaning – it must have been too muddy & loud & crowded out there. I would catch them & put them back out. From C & B’s verandah we can see the streetlights on 17 Mile Rocks Road, which is surreal, although there are more generators etc on this street than before.

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16.1.11 Sun

Threw out blanched vegetables from laundry sink [they had been there with ice]. Had tea & fruit toast at F’s. Left c8ish & drove through destruction to Indro [Indooroopilly – most service stations out of petrol] & got petrol, then back to Jindalee. McDonalds (24 hours) wasn’t opening until 10.30. Went to church – sludge over grass on roads near golf course, wandered in back roads to get there, & plugged phone in before I talked to anyone. Ian preached on 2 Cor 1. [Minister’s family] only came back from Zimbabwe on Monday night – asked a taxi driver how much to get home & he said, “Well, under normal circumstances…”. The As were flooded out & weren’t there but apparently have a lot of help. They’d been trying to sell their house & had taken it off to wait for better market conditions. K&A were there playing music. They were flooded out, too. They did get some stuff out – were even able to hire a truck! – and a lot of people went over & helped clean yesterday. The landlord was impressed that their minister was manning the bbq. [Various friends including K&A] went to Mt Ommaney & had coffee. I bought a cake w pink icing… & kettle & frying pan & ice etc… Had tea & cake w F & G & talked about how they met & he used to take her home on the last tram & then walk home & fall asleep in a phone booth & get woken up & moved on by the milkman. They met when 15… They are both 79.  Road over to Blunder Rd but it is still mostly blocked, so I rode to Oxley – footpaths are largely cleared but some narrow paths between things – muddy, well, everythings… I was very tired today. Wanted to cry or sleep but didn’t want to waste daylight.


Postscript

I went back to work on Monday and the power came back that afternoon. Parts of the CBD are still evacuated. Few people can talk about anything except the flood. There are limited menus in restaurants and limited supplies of bread and milk in the grocery stores and there is a smell in the air which was dreadful until I recognised it as smelling exactly like a wet outdoor pig pen. And every afternoon there is a lightshow and another storm, and it makes us all twitchy.