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Coffee shop? Really?

February 13, 2011 6 comments

Imagine my surprise, when my new boss led me in between and behind old buildings and under a boom gate for our first team meeting over coffee. Coffee shop? Where? Is this some peculiar initiation ceremony for writers?

Squeeze through a little gap to get around it, or just go under it. All in the name of coffee...

What was even more surprising, was that we couldn’t get a seat. It was packed.

Wooden bench seats & tables inside and coffee machines screaming their own happy tune. Brisbane's hip new place for caffeine.

What does this say about Brisbane’s sophisticated coffee-drinking set? Would you like to get mugged with your coffee, or would you like your coffee in a mug?

Now that I’m back in the city working, after a long stint in the burbs, I’d appreciate any tips on places to go. Do you know of any cool places?

P.S. This place is somewhere around Elizabeth St Brisbane. Have fun trying to find it!

Australia Day. And no, Sir Parkinson, we’re no British mini-me

January 26, 2011 2 comments

Happy Australia Day everyone!

I hope today is the day that everyone who’s lucky enough to be here, sends up a thought or prayer of gratitude. It’s the day we celebrate our “Lucky Country” status. Even those who’ve recently been down on their luck know that if you had to be in a natural disaster, better here than just about anywhere else: more than 22,000 flood-cleanup volunteers in Brisbane on one Saturday alone would suggest this.

Australia has always been a country of droughts, floods and fires. But it’s also the place where no matter who you are, you can roll up your sleeves and make something of yourself. Even convicts who were sent to the much maligned Port Arthur convict settlement had the opportunity to work off their crimes and sins and be released into the most beautiful country, to start life anew.

British tv personality, Sir Michael Parkinson, gave this year’s Australia Day address, being the first non-Aussie to do so. If it works, so what, is the Australian attitude to most things, and this was no different. Having a whinging Pom address us as a nation on our special day? So what, turn the meat on the barbie, darl. But, after his speech, he told reporters,

Why should Australia not be a republic? “It’s its own country, its own man. I find it incomprehensible that it’s not that now.

The dear man jumped on the trendy Republic bandwagon, without fully appreciating the Australian psyche, which is a shame, given that Parky’s insightfulness is supposedly legendary.

What Parkinson missed is this.

In Australia, we’re a practical bunch. If it works, it works. We’ll fix just about anything with a coat-hanger and superglue. We don’t care what you do or how you look, as long as you try to join in and carry your own weight – except when you absolutely can’t – then we’ll carry you. We recognise that we were once a colonial outpost, but while the rest of the world was preoccupied, something happened – we grew up.

Parkinson, like many others, insists on painting Australia as a pre-teen (tween) who should move on and become a surly teenager – that, to establish its identity, it needs to deny its past (especially the good bits and harp on about the bad bits) – and move away from its roots. This is sad. It’s also a misjudgment of character. Worse still, instead of letting us celebrate who we are, Parky tells us what we should be. If the Republic rant had to be included, it could have been more thoughtful, like…

Australia is its own country. It wouldn’t be surprising if it became a Republic, but then, that’s up to the Australian people. It’s not for me to say it should be the case, because that would be me assuming some sort of colonial authority, which would be highly ironic on Australia Day.

Parky, over here, you should know, that just because we love you, doesn’t mean we’ll listen to you, particularly if you preach. So it is with the Queen. Except that she has the good grace to know her place. If we want to become a Republic and we have nothing else to spend millions upon millions of dollars upon, we’ll give you a call. Thanks, mate. Remember, we’re a practical bunch and spending millions of dollars to remove references to the Queen in all our statues, and chucking out all the dinnerware and cutlery and stationery in Parliament House and our embassies… well, it doesn’t seem that practical, does it?

So, Happy Australia Day, fellow travelers. Or, Orstraya Day. ‘Cos we don’t need to say it like Parky, to know what it means to us.

Brisbane floods: Another day in paradise

January 17, 2011 2 comments

Just a quick update. Must be day 4 of relocating the bookshop from the flood zone and everything hurts.

Maybe this is why.

Moved 3 rooms like this one, with bookshelves on all 4 walls...

Great news, is that everything’s out and safely in another location. So now, it’s just re-shelving. Re-cataloguing is something entirely else and isn’t a priority.

Some books weren’t so lucky.

Just a few of the books that didn't make it...

There was no time for fussing. With rain threatening and mud waiting to be cleaned out…

Packing on the run ...




Just another load

This part of New Farm is looking great now. Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman was even on the beat collecting kerbside rubbish yesterday (Sunday) – hats off to him, he’s working hard. There are muddy reminders on the roads, but with the rubbish gone, you could be forgiven for not noticing there was a disaster here. But that’s only in some streets, in this particular suburb, which has pulled up remarkably well.

Volunteers who packed onto council busses recently, however, have sometimes been frustrated by the lack of co-ordination, resulting in the wasting of hundreds of man hours (person hours, if you must). One bus, for example, had volunteers lining up from 7am, but didn’t take off until after 10am. It drove around for half an hour, then deposited volunteers in an area of New Farm where people were coping well and turning away help (no-one accepts help unless they really need it & assume that someone needs it more). So, that whole bus load of people, who’d given a whole day, were told to wait by the bus to be taken back to the depot – where the next bus load of keen volunteers was being loaded up, again, to an unknown destination.

Overall, the recovery operation has been great, but the volunteers need to be co-ordinated better. Also, someone needs to better think through how to manage donations of goods instead of turning them away and demanding cash. Not everyone has cash to donate. The argument that the cash can then be spent in the region itself is a bit of a furphy also, because those shops are under water, unable to resume normal supplies etc.

It’s taken me the better part of a week just to help one household in one street in one suburb. Happily, the house is now liveable, and subject to wrangling with insurance, life goes on. However, there are so many others who are still pushing mud out of their front doors, and volunteers are being mismanaged. It’s maddening.

Brisbane Floods: Catching concrete, saving fish

January 14, 2011 1 comment

Dear Friends,

On Thursday, 13th January, 2011, at about 4 a.m. the Brisbane River peaked.

Reliable sources tell me (without compromising photographic evidence) that New Farm was party central the night before the Brisbane River peaked. Residents, sick of waiting for the inevitable, took to the only store that was open … the Brunswick Hotel. The bottlo did a brisk trade, with a queue ten cars long into the evening. That would be the convict spirit (pun intended) coming through – if you’re stuffed, you may as well quit worrying about it.

The morning of the 13th, when the river peaked and started receding, residents could barely recognise their neighbourhood.

A local rescued a fish from a gutter in Villiers St, New Farm. Happily, for the fish, it was returned to the river. The fish’s name was “Max”, if you must know. We think it was a Whiting.

Andy rescues a fish from Villiers St

The Auntie-who-thinks-of-everything provided me with a bunch of photos which she took for you, Dear Readers. Auntie lives in the now-swamp of New Farm. I’ll be out there cleaning stinky, burping mud with her shortly.

I’ve put the images into a slideshow (below), to the haunting sounds of La Spina – Brisbane pop princess Anna-Maria La Spina & opera-singing brother, Rosario. You might want to check out their first album together, La Spina: Always You. I reviewed it here. Thanks Anna-Maria & Rosario. I know you both care a lot about your hometown.

As mentioned in my post yesterday, Brisbane has lost its Riverwalk to the flood. It was due to be dismantled during the night, but eye-witness Auntie was saying her last goodbye to it at about midnight when it started making loud pinging, snapping and cracking noises, as if it were being detonated into pieces. The police present radioed it in – next thing we knew, two bits (one around 7m, the other around 70m) broke free and caused much stress – should they have knocked into a bridge, it would’ve been done for. In the morning, just before one such piece was due to collide with a bridge, a brave little tug boat came out and bumped it under safely.

One wonders how much concrete now lies at the bottom of Morton Bay and precisely where. One minute, fish are swimming on concrete; next, the concrete comes to them. Very confusing times, indeed.

Here are the New Farm-centric images from Thursday.

Please keep Queensland in your thoughts and prayers.

Article & links to volunteering here.

UPDATE: Reader Lee suggests that our fish may in fact be a Bream – thanks Lee!

Queensland Floods: city-crabs, runaway restaurants & goodbye Riverwalk

January 12, 2011 34 comments

More than 75 percent of Queensland is under water. The flood has reached Brisbane, with the peak of 5.25m expected at 4am tomorrow (and again at 4pm tomorrow).

Milk, bread and fruit/veg shelves are bare. Inner city supermarkets were emptied out yesterday. Today, this spread to suburban shops which are nowhere near the inundation. I took this photo this afternoon at the Aspley Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket (Coles).

Fruit, veg, bread, milk, torches, bottled water - empty shelves

Because I didn’t engage in pre-emptive panic buying, my kids will be eating brussel sprouts, squash and organic zucchini. They’ll be so pleased (not). They should be, at $11/kg, $10/kg & $11/kg respectively. Not to mention the $7 for half a loaf of bread (the only one left, which happened to be made of bricks and gumboots for the gluten-free market).

This afternoon, Oxley’s restaurant floated down the Brisbane River in pieces, with stacked chairs and tables still on it, until it hit Brekky Creek.

Oxley's Restaurant broken up & floating down Brisbane River

A strange sight near the Riverwalk today, when crabs were found between New Farm and Teneriffe.

Crabs on the grass near the Riverwalk between New Farm & Teneriffe!

Fortunately, the rain stopped today. It was sunny and humid, but still the river rose.

Sunny & humid: a day without rain

A few more photos around New Farm and inner Brisbane.

Alford St New Farm

Brunswick St New Farm flooded

James St New Farm flooded

Lower end Brunswick St flooded, view from Merthyr Rd

Nandos New Farm, sandbagged

River Walk to Power House

Riverwalk

Boats on pontoons were drifting down the river at about 10 knots. There’s so much wreckage in the Brisbane River – it looks like a moving dump-site. The Moggill Ferry has broken a guide rope – a massive anchor will be helicoptered to it at first light. The Island barge might have to be scuttled (sunk), to prevent it from tearing away from its moorings and destroying infrastructure like bridges (to be decided tonight). The floating walkway around New Farm (being a heavy concrete object) is to be broken up into sections and disposed of during tonight.

There are currently about 127,000 people without power and 3,600 people in evacuation centres. Current estimates are looking at 2 years to rebuild Brisbane. And, the worst is still ahead of us.

What’s moving, is how people are chipping in and helping, friends, family and complete strangers alike. Nick Earls writes about Aussie stoicism here.

Summary:
The peak (revised down to 5.25m) is expected around 3-4 am
Over 50 suburbs in Brisbane expected to flood
12 confirmed dead (another likely)
43 missing
9 feared dead
Chinchilla water is contaminated with e-coli
7,500 properties are already affected by water in Brisbane
20,000-30,000 people will be affected
the peak in Brisbane, will last up to 16hrs
water treatment plants in Brisbane are suffering under the strain …
we’re being asked to conserve water (oh, the irony) for the clean up.

Crime Stoppers (to report looters) ph 1800 333 000
Red Cross National Reporting & Inquiry Line: ph 1800 727 077
Police (non urgent) ph 131 444
Donations Flood Appeal ph 1800 219 028
Check out my earlier posts for further info.

[Many thanks to Reader Joanna for the photos. The 850m of walkway, 5.5m wide known as the Riverwalk – is being broken up tonight – so the photos Joanna has provided are probably the last ones. So sad. People lurvz the Riverwalk and it’ll be no more.]

UPDATE: The Rocklea Markets have flooded, so our fresh fruit & vegetable supplies are devastated. This isn’t good. Not a lot of point buying frozen either, with uncertain power supplies. Tinned food, here we come.
UPDATE: check out these photos from the other side of the river.

Queensland Floods: Update

January 11, 2011 6 comments

The area under water is now like France, Germany and Britain (thanks, Reader Sarah). It’s set to get a lot worse. Worse even, than the infamous 1974 flood.

New Farm Park, Brisbane, Tuesday 12/1/10, 3pm. With thanks, Reader Joanna.

For international readers, it’s like this.

It’s storming across most of the state. It’s been raining for about 6 weeks – as if someone had canceled summer – the ground is boggy and refusing to take any more.

Yesterday, Toowoomba, which is on top of a mountain range (600m above sea level), suffered freak flash flooding. No weather models predicted it. Ten are confirmed dead and 78 missing (as at 7:30pm). There are very few breaks in the weather to allow for helicopter evacuations. More than forty-five people have been plucked from rooftops.

Imagine, a wall of water, up to 8 metres high (26 feet), coming out of nowhere, like an inland tsunami, stacking cars like toys in the main street, washing a house off its stumps, and creeks turning into raging torrents in ten minutes.

That water, an amount approximating the contents of Sydney Harbour, is on its way down the range, towards the capital city, Brisbane. Add to that the fact that Brisbane is built around a tidal river. And that we’ve been experiencing a whole bunch of king tides, with more to come. Pontoons are already drifting down river, north of Brisbane, and the water from inland hasn’t reached us yet (expected in the next 2 days).

Things are worsening minute by minute. For the first time ever, the Myer Centre has been evacuated. The Brisbane River has already broken its banks in several places (Bulimba this morning; West End this afternoon), despite sandbagging. In the centre of town, the Eagle Street Pier businesses have been evacuated, ditto government departments and other businesses. The State Library is expecting inundation.

People leaving work in Brisbane city are stuck in traffic (an hour to get from CBD to Albion). City evacuations aren’t mandatory yet, but recommended.

Some mobile phone services are down. We’re being told to not use phones unless necessary. We’re being told to get off the roads and stay home.

About 13,000 people are without power. Public transport services are being cut hour by hour (Citycat & ferry services aren’t running at all). Gympie Road Lawnton is cut in both directions. Caboolture is cut off – it’s canoe-land. Strathpine is being evacuated. Mums with kids in tow, are waiting 2.5hrs to get council issued sandbags to save their suburban homes.

Many mines are shut. Insurance stocks are being dumped in a hurry. Crops are ruined. Expected $1Billion a month in lost exports on commodities and farm products.

Milk is running out in the shops. Farmers are spilling milk by the truckload, as they can’t get it out of the farm because of flooded roads. Cotton growers haven’t only lost this crop (which is still under water & can’t be harvested), but it’s getting too late to plant next year’s crop.

Highways are cut, leaving people stranded – highways like carparks.

By 8:30am today, inner-city yuppies were buying trolley loads of bottled water. Think, Twilight Zone. People who’ve never had to queue for anything other than good concert tickets, scrambling to Coles for water.

The list of suburbs being evacuated is unbelievably long. Trendy Red Hill has experienced a landslide. There are pot holes and washed out roads, everywhere.

Looking north – the next few hours will bring a tropical storm and expected flash flooding to Cairns and surrounds.

And it’s still raining. Hard. Like, 150mm in 3hrs.

When we’re told not to cross flooded roads, it’s not just because the water could be deeper and faster than you think – but, because you don’t know what’s below the surface …

Don't cross flooded roads! What's beneath? - Goodwood Rd Childers (Photo from Bundy Floods 2010 Facebook Group).)


Leichhardt Highway near Wandoan by Tania W., (Bundy Floods 2010 Facebook Group)

The next two days will be telling as the water reaches Brisbane and major flooding worsens in northern New South Wales. Ipswich is next in line.

http://www.abc.net.au/news
SES ph 132 500
http://www.qld.gov.au/floods ph 1800 173 349
Road closures ph 131 940
Translink.com.au ph. 13 12 30
Flood Information ph 1300 993 191
Emergencies ph 000

4,000 Thank you’s

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment


This week, my little blog surprised me by clocking its 4000th visit, so I thought it a good time to say, thanks for swinging by (and coming back). I hope 2011 treats you well.
Smiles,
T.

Queensland Floods: an Underwater World story

January 4, 2011 4 comments

Bob Bonnell evacuating Jean from Chuan Huat Farm, Biloela. Photo, courtesy of Dominique Tan.

Local readers would know that my home state of Queensland is currently experiencing unprecedented flooding – the affected area is bigger than our neighbouring state of New South Wales. For international readers, it exceeds the combined area of Germany and France. The city of Rockhampton is now cut off, with the Fitzroy River still to peak.

While I’m fine and far away, friends in the country aren’t. On NYE, I received a humorous but heart-breaking email from the Tan family of Biloela. Read the email below (reprinted with permission), and you’ll understand what I love about the country (I lived there for >6 years) – it’s the indomitable spirit of the people.

**************

New Year’s Eve, 2010.
Ours is just one disaster story among many. I truly regret the loss of our cars – If only we had shifted them – if only we’d known the large volume of water that would come down from the town (this is not flooding from creeks but storm run-off from the town – our property is below the level of the town). Our downstairs was thigh-high in water and all we’d done was pile things to bed & bench-top height.

Ok – have to go. Have just fielded 5 phone calls – it’s been lovely to hear from friends during a difficult time.

Dominique

Attachment
From: Richard
Sent: Friday, 31 December 2010 7:20 AM

We are fine! (sob, sob)

The place stinks.
The grass is rotting, the earth is oozing.
Dead fish and dead pigeons & chooks everywhere.
We are into day 3 of cleaning up.
So far, we’ve taken 4 Toyota loads of dead stuff to the dump (our own dump on the farm is still under water).

Look at the bright side: I’ll know how to set up the farm to avoid flood damage in future.
Also, the bamboo is the brightest they have looked since coming out of the drought.

I had photos taken whilst the water was rising.
Then, I left the camera in the Lexus.
Overnight, the Lexus got drowned.
Now, I’m waiting to see if the memory card will work, when it dries out.

I just caught my chest freezer as it floated out the back door of the carport.
I hitched it to the stairs by the electrical chord, next to the dinghy.
Good thing I saved the freezer.
The freezer had my entire fishing catch from my November fishing trip.
(SES took fish into town) I bought a new freezer, now in a friend’s carport, up town.
We also retrieved a freezer full of meat (about 150 kg) from another freezer that was in another shed.
We had killed a young bull the week before Xmas.

Our plumber, a good friend, restored fresh water to the house yesterday.
Good to have first shower after 4 days (having ‘bird-baths’ before that).
A retired electrician restored power to one of my bore-pumps.
Our normal electrician was stranded at Byfield (see ByfieldGetaway.com)
This enabled to keep all my Soon Hock fish alive (small mercies).
Also, this supplied drinking water to my pigeons that have survived (about 3,000).
Our two builders (they built sheds, etc) and family members, came to help in the cleanup.
They helped to drain water away, went through cages pulling out dead birds, etc.

It’s amazing how everyone came to help.
The numbers of people ringing up to offer help was incredible.
We are just grateful that we are not as badly off as other towns.

We can survive.
It’ll soon be a memory.

Richard

***********
The full extent of the Queensland floods will be realised when insurance assessors (currently stranded in Rockhampton) come out to affected areas and determine that some people are covered; some partially covered; and some, not at all. Many producers didn’t or couldn’t insure their animals. Furthermore, insurance companies will be particular about who’s covered under flood or storm water run-off.

Many of the people badly affected by these floods put food on Australia’s table and keep the lights on. It’s perversely bad luck to suffer floods after surviving terrible drought.

Keep these communities in your thoughts. Help out, if you can. And let’s hope the state and federal governments get the assistance packages right and in a timely manner. Country folk aren’t prone to asking for outside help (Moura SES has already closed the donation line, citing the immense charity of nearby Biloela residents), but they’re certainly going to be needing it.

Do you have any photos or stories about the floods?
Please add your words of support for flood victims to the comments.

UPDATE: Reader Lee has a great TIP, which might help those with WATERLOGGED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT (Richard: maybe it’ll help your camera card?). ***Place water-affected electrical equipment into a sealed bag of uncooked rice for 3 days – the dry rice sucks out the moisture. DON’T turn on the camera/DS/phone until 3 days of drying, as you’ll fry the electricals.*** This has worked for a DS dropped into a toilet and a mobile phone that took a bath. Hope this helps.

LOL: The Origins of Smalltalk

December 19, 2010 Leave a comment

This time of year involves much socialising and smalltalk. For tips on how to do it effectively and how it originated, check out this clip. Enjoy!

Categories: Life, Social Commentary

LOL: Sacrifice the weatherman

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

With the unrelenting weather we’ve been experiencing lately (storms, Storms, STORMS), this little comedy skit strikes a chord. Stay dry & enjoy!