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» It's Not What It Looks Like!

Accidental Indecent Exposure ...
"There is a perfectly innocent explanation Officer." quoth I as I stepped out of my car, butt naked and freezing on the A1 just south of Newcastle.

So let's wibble those lines way back to 2002 when my husband and I, full of youthful enthusiasm and naiviety, bought an abandoned CofE church to renovate. Oh what fools we were.

We would work our 9-5 jobs and then drive out to the church and usually work until midnight or whenever we fell over.

To set the scene; it was 2:00am, and I was trying to finish the external rendering. Hubby had helped out until he had to leave to catch his flight for a conference and I stupidly thought I could finish the job myself. It was so very late. I was tired and I was rushing and I was NOT wearing any special protective clothing, so I have no one but myself to blame for what happened next.

I was handling a highly corrosive substance called quicklime when a gust of wind blew some of the powder up onto me. I felt like someone had thrown a colony of fire ants at me. My clothes quickly started to dissolve, so I followed the most sensible course of action at the time. This involved screaming loudly, flailing about wildly, ripping off my clothes and rolling around in a muddy puddle.

"Right!" I shouted into the empty night, "I've had enough! I'm going home!" So that was how I came to be driving down the A1 in the wee small hours, butt naked and covered in mud.

But the most disastrous night of my life did not stop there, oh no. When I had been flailing about ripping off my rapidly dissolving clothing, I had knocked the lights that I was using into the back of my car, breaking the tail light.

And yes, you guessed it, I hear a siren and there's the blues and twos behind me. "Oh please let it be a copper with a sense of humour." I silently prayed as I pulled over. I opened my window just a fraction. Nope, a young lass who looked like she'd been on the job for about 20 minutes.

"Step out of the car please."
"I can't do that."
"Why not then?"
"I'm naked."
"Wot!"

Rinse and repeat for a bit until I finally stepped out of the car and demonstrated my state of undress and need for medical attention. Did she laugh and point? Did she let me go? Did she BAH! I was cuffed, placed in the back of the police car, taken to Durham Police Station, where I was given a handsome forensic jumpsuit, charged and bailed.

Even the Desk Sergeant didn't want to book me. You could see it on his face.

A few weeks later, I was summonsed to appear in a Magistrate Court on a charge of Indecent Exposure. Yay me. Thankfully, the beak did have a sense of humour. He pointed out that the act of Indecent Exposure did not occur until I stepped out of my car at the direction of a police officer. Therefore, I had no case to answer. Phew.
(Mon 13th Dec 2010, 6:06, More)

» The Apocalypse

Drought breaks with Flood ...
Here in sunny Brisbane, Australia, we don't often have much to complain about weatherwise.

Four years ago, the worst problem was how lovely and sunny it was. All the fucking time. No rain worth mentioning for almost two years. Wivenhoe Dam, our supply of drinking water, got down to 14% capacity spawning a God awful bum splat plague because the last few percent of drinking water was little better than mud.

Water restrictions were introduced. They started off with;

Level 1 water restrictions: Don't water your garden during the heat of the day. Why not? Because all the fucking water will evaporate you fool! That's why! Pardon me B3tans, but first generation Brits (of which I am one) were the worst offenders. No concept of a drought at all.

The restrictions quickly escalated through to Level 6: Each household restricted to 140 litres per person per day with a ruinous fine and supply cut off for a day in punishment. To put that in perspective, a load of washing was 160 litres. The joke at the time was under Level 7 restrictions you could only water the garden with your own tears.

The odd thing about this Apocalyse was the slow burn effect. Unlike earthquakes, tsunamis and bush fires, there was no PANIC PANIC PANIC! Grab the kids, the photo albums and find the fucking cat! Things were just steadily getting worse and we were all saying loudly with forced cheer that the Rains will be along any day now and quietly wondering just how much longer we could hold out.

And then, the Rains came! It was early December 2010. We ran about in the backyard chasing our naked giggling children drenched to the skin. We were wet, warm and perfectly happy. Oh the joy! The sweet relief! The IMPENDING DOOM!

We got over our celebrations pretty darn quick when the Rains settled in for six long weeks.

The Wivenhoe dam was back up to 100% within a week. And then 125%. And then 150%. My husband works in the electricity industry (much of Brisbane's electricity is supplied by the dam) so he was privy to the growing concern in the industry. Would the dam hold? What was it's maximum capacity? The dam was built in the 1970's and had never been tested by this volume of water.

After three weeks of rain we were at 175% and rising fast.

The greatest problem was the mindset entrenched by the severity of the water restrictions only a few weeks ago. As a result, water releases from the dam were considered Sacrilege.

It's water! More precious than gold! Must keep!

And then it was Christmas. Most senior management went off on two weeks holiday. This seemed quite reasonable at the time. Unfortunately, there were precious few junior staff left guarding the switch and no instruction on how to cope with what happened next. My husband would return home each night after that Christmas looking grimmer and grimmer. He quietly let me in on his concerns and asked me where I would go with the kids if the dam burst. I told him he was being melodramatic. But I did stock up on batteries, toilet paper and casks of drinking water (oh the irony!)

Five weeks of rain and one week after Christmas. Dam was at 200% capacity. Water releases are ordered. The spotlight of attention from the media and the State Government was (quite rightly) on the north of the state where the Rains had already translated into Floods and massive relief efforts were underway.

I felt so safe here in Brisbane. We lasted through the Drought. The Rains will stop soon. It's okay.

3... 2... 1! Happy New Year 2011!! Yay. Drink champagne, make a few calls, go to sleep with the rain hammering on the roof. When will it stop raining!

The first indication that the floodgates of Hell had opened came on Tuesday 11 January 2011 in the sixth week of the Rains. It started like any other day. It was fucking raining! The first sign that something was wrong was a lack of signal on my mobile phone when I tried to check in with my husband.

Odd, I thought.

Then I overheard a whispered conversation between two shop employees. "The city has been evacuated."

Which city? I wondered. I assumed they had family in one of the many cities in the flooded North.

I got home, the phone rang. It was my mother. She told me that the city being evacuated was Brisbane. She was heading home. I wished her luck and told her to call me as soon as she could. I called my husband at his office. No answer. I tried his mobile. No signal. I checked the email. Nothing.

I turned on the news. Fuck. Me. Devastation on an indescribable scale. I heard the words of the Hindenburg announcer. "Oh the humanity." So sudden and so devastating.

Acts of stupidity and bravery abounded. A car park in Toowoomba was rapidly flooding. One guy waded through fast flowing shin deep water to save his car. His fucking car. The water was covering its wheels as he started the motor and the car was being shunted by the floodwaters as he drove off just in time. Fucking leave it! I was shouting at the TV. It's insured! Just get out!

A 12 year old boy was one of the first to die. He was trapped on the roof of a car and insisted that the rescuers take his mother and 8 year old brother first.

The piers along the Brisbane River used by the city's Rivercats (public transport catamarans) broke loose and were heading out to sea. The Storey Bridge, biggest bridge in Brisbane, was right in their way. I watched the bravest man in the world, a tugboat captain, damn near burn out the engine on his livelihood by skilfully nudging these twenty tonne pieces of wreckage so that they turned sideways and speared out to sea, sparing the bridge and the thousands of people trapped on it. I never found out his name.

The next five hours were the longest of my life. This Atheist briefly found God and prayed earnestly for the safe return of her beloved husband. "Oh, and if you've got time God, please try and help out my Mum too".

When my husband arrived at the door, drookit, solemn and exhausted, I felt the most intense sensation of relief of my life. He had walked 15 kilometers to get home, some of it through fast running water.

His story was of an entire city's rapid descent into chaos. He saw people punching each other for a place in a queue 150 deep waiting for buses and trains that never came. The Army was on the ground. Evacuation centers were being established. We offered to put up a family who had lost their home.

My Mum's still caught in that, I thought.

Two hours later, the phone rang. It was Mum, almost hysterical with relief. Her house was fine. Her cat was pissed at her. All was well. For us at least.

And after all that, I realise that we were very lucky. Wivenhoe Dam peaked at 225% capacity. If it had burst, Moses himself couldn't have parted those waters. Brisbane would have been washed away. Like vast swathes of Japan only a few months later. We lost 35 people. Mostly folks trapped in their cars by the rising floodwaters. Some were children ripped from their parent's arms by Mother Nature at her most merciless and indifferent.

And there were sharks. Mother fucking bull sharks heading upstream, eating the dead and dying. God I love Australia.
(Tue 19th Jun 2012, 2:34, More)

» House Guests

Houseguests? How many, I wonder?
Hello from the flooded wastelands of Queensland. I live in Brisbane and yesterday was the worst day of my life.

It started like any other day in the past month. I dropped my husband off at the bus station and spent the morning running errands, dragging two grumbling kids, in the torrential downpour that has become a regular fixture in our lives of late. The first sign that something was seriously wrong was a lack of signal on my mobile phone when I tried to check in with my husband.

Odd, I thought.

The next sign was when I overheard a whispered conversation between two shop employees. "The city has been evacuated."

Which city? I wondered. I assumed the two people had family in one of the many cities in the North which is being evacuated by the Army.

I get home, and the phone rings. It's my mother. She tells me that the city being evacuated is Brisbane. She's heading home. I wish her luck and tell her to call me as soon as she can. I call my husband at his office. No answer. I try his mobile. No signal. I check the email. Nothing.

I turn on the news. Fuck. Me. Devastation on a scale that I cannot summon the talent to describe to you. I heard the words of the Hindenburg announcer. "Oh the humanity." So sudden and so devastating.

The next five hours were the longest of my life. When my husband arrived at the door, drookit and with a solemn face, I felt the most intense sensation of relief of my life. He had walked 15 kilometers to get home, some of it through fast running water.

His story was of an entire city's rapid descent into chaos. He saw people punching each other for a place in a public transport queue that was 150 deep waiting for buses and trains that never came. The Army was on the ground. Evacuation centers have been established.

My Mum's still caught in that, I thought.

Two hours later, the phone rings. It's Mum. She's almost hysterical with relief. Her house is fine. Her cat is pissed at her. All is well.

So now we all knuckle down and see just how big this flood is going to be. The flood waters will probably peak in two days time.

So back to the house guests. We are on a hill. Our nearby family will be coming to us if they have to evacuate. We have 140 litres of drinking water, 3000 litres of rainwater and pool which will soon be used as our laundry and bathroom. I just hope it's enough.

I am caught between dreading the influx of reluctant house guests and welcoming the added manpower to see off looters.

The power is probably going to be shut off soon. Wish us luck.

UPDATE: Power just came back on. Yay! Brisbane river peaked today. Hopefully it's just a wait-and-see job and then a massive cleanup. Thanks for your support people. It means a lot.
(Wed 12th Jan 2011, 0:48, More)

» What was I thinking?

Just because a confidence isn't whispered ...
doesn't make it any less of a confidence.

Back story; my dad is one of eight kids born on a Glaswegian sink estate to a washer woman in the 40s. His childhood was four kids to a bed, cabbage soup for supper and 'one bath on Saturday to be clean for the Sabbath whether you need it or not' kinda poverty.

He and three of his siblings migrated to Australia in the 60s to seek a better life. They found a white working class man’s paradise. Good work, decent schools, cheap beer and smokes.

I am the family rebel. I am the first and only of my extended family to go to University. I got a great job, married a nice fella, had my kids in wedlock and don’t have a single tattoo. On the scale of Chavness I am an Epic Fail.

I moved back to Old Blighty 15 years ago and thought I’d introduce myself to my Glaswegian cousins. Sadly, I found that the kids of the siblings who stayed in Glasgow were living on the same estate as their folks in a slightly elevated level of poverty than that which their parents endured.

Like most working class Glaswegian extended households, my Clan is ruled with an iron fist by a fearsome Matriarch. She’s a 2 pack a day ex-mental health nurse. If she ever met Catherine Tate’s Nan, she’d spang her round the back of the head with her oxygen bottle. She’s well ‘ard.

I was round at her house one day when my 15yo cousin announces that she’s pregnant. To my surprise, the womenfolk were all ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘well that’s a good way to leave home’. No questions such as; ‘Who’s the father?’ or ‘Are you sure this is what you want?’ or ‘What about school?’. I sighed and kept my disapproval to myself.

The conversation rolled on and went to put on the kettle. I returned to hear my 15yo cousin moan 'I suppose I'll have to quit the fags now'. At this point the Matriarch pipes up. 'Don't you believe any of that shite love! I smoked through all my pregnancies and never had any bother at all.'

My bullshit tether broke.

'Really? All four of them?' I said into a room containing her THREE adult children. What was I thinking?

The conversation stopped dead as icicles started to form. The red hot glare of hatred from the Matriarch made it clear that I was never to darken her doorstep again.

I learned that day that Aspiration, the expectation that your children will do better than you, is a peculiarly middle class thing.
(Tue 28th Sep 2010, 6:06, More)

» The Police II

Honestly officer, there's an innocent explanation ...
A lovingly roasted pea presented for your entertainment.

I was once arrested, charged but not convicted of Indecent Exposure but those fine lads and lasses in blue of County Durham.

So let's wibble those lines way back to 2002 when my husband and I, full of youthful enthusiasm and naiviety, bought an abandoned CofE church to renovate. Oh what fools we were.

We would work our 9-5 jobs and then drive out to the church and usually work until midnight or whenever we fell over.

To set the scene; it was 2:00am, and I was trying to finish the external rendering. Hubby had helped out until he had to leave to catch his flight for a conference and I stupidly thought I could finish the job myself. It was so very late. I was tired and I was rushing and I was NOT wearing any special protective clothing, so I have no one but myself to blame for what happened next.

I was handling a highly corrosive substance called quicklime when a gust of wind blew some of the powder up onto me. I felt like someone had thrown a colony of fire ants at me. My clothes quickly started to dissolve, so I followed the most sensible course of action at the time. This involved screaming loudly, flailing about wildly, ripping off my clothes and rolling around in a muddy puddle.

"Right!" I shouted into the empty night, "I've had enough! I'm going home!" So that was how I came to be driving down the A1 in the wee small hours, butt naked and covered in mud.

But the most disastrous night of my life did not stop there, oh no. When I had been flailing about ripping off my rapidly dissolving clothing, I had knocked the lights that I was using into the back of my car, breaking the tail light.

And yes, you guessed it, I hear a siren and there's the blues and twos behind me. "Oh please let it be a copper with a sense of humour." I silently prayed as I pulled over. I opened my window just a fraction. Nope, a young lass who looked like she'd been on the job for about 20 minutes.

"Step out of the car please."
"I can't do that."
"Why not then?"
"I'm naked."
"Wot!"

Rinse and repeat for a bit until I finally stepped out of the car and demonstrated my state of undress and need for medical attention. Did she laugh and point? Did she let me go? Did she BAH! I was cuffed, placed in the back of the police car, taken to Durham Police Station, where I was given a handsome forensic jumpsuit, left in a filthy freezing cell for 3 hours until they got around to the charge and bail bit.

Even the Desk Sergeant didn't want to book me. You could see it on his face.

A few weeks later, I was summonsed to appear in a Magistrate Court on a charge of Indecent Exposure. Yay me. Thankfully, the beak did have a sense of humour. He pointed out that the act of Indecent Exposure did not occur until I stepped out of my car at the direction of a police officer. Therefore, I had no case to answer. Phew.
(Thu 12th May 2011, 0:58, More)
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