Tag Archives: Quaama

Aftermath

Our neighbour Hanno finds the walk to school arduous. So when he goes to pick up his big sister Eve in the afternoon, Jens takes him in the wheelbarrow. And sometimes after a big day at kindy, Eve hops in too for a lift home.

Jens and Tash used to have one of those Dutch bicycles with a child capsule on the front of it. Both kids fitted, side by side. But they lost it in the fire when their house burned down.

The fire happened six days after Christmas and four days after Eve’s birthday. Tash tells me that sometimes they remember presents that were in the house. ‘Burnt?’ says Eve. ‘Yes,’ says Tash, sad face. ‘Burnt.’

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Anzac Day, Covid-style

I wheeled down to the road at 5.30 am, moved by the concept of the ‘driveway dawn service’. I wasn’t sure if my Bermaguee Street neighbours would be partaking, and when I reached the street, mine was the only light. So I headed up to the cenotaph in case there’d been a social-distancing rebellion – no-one. But I knew that Helen and Peter Taylor would be out the front of their place in Bega Street with candles and wreath – and a radio. The ABC was broadcasting live the service at the War Memorial in Canberra.

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‘Keep rain where it falls’: Michael Mobbs, the ‘Off the Grid Guy’

After Council connected Quaama to the Brogo Dam supply in 1984, they sent a truck through the village collecting everyone’s rainwater tanks. ‘You won’t be needing these anymore—let us do you a favour and remove them for you!’ They needed people to pay for household water now—the last thing they wanted was people collecting their own.

But by the time we built our new house in 2008, the NSW Government was offering rebates for every new tank connected to toilets or washing machines. And development approval relied on such environmental features too.

Many Quaama residents collect rainwater from their roofs now. For those who don’t, their share soaks into their garden, or runs off into the channels that Council digs along the roadsides, breeding mosquitoes and frogs until it seeps into the ground or evaporates. But at least the rain ‘stays where it falls’—one of the main tenets of Michael Mobbs’s presentation to the Bermagui Institute in February. Mobbs, the ‘Off the Grid Guy‘, has disconnected his inner-Sydney home from mains water and sewer (and electricity) and promotes sustainable living.

Continue reading ‘Keep rain where it falls’: Michael Mobbs, the ‘Off the Grid Guy’

The writer, stripped bare.

Write what you know, they say—and I know night.

Jet black, dark of the moon night. Crisp shadows on bright, silvered lawn night. Still night of hush and mopoke hoot. Howling night of seethe and crash.

Doona-burrowing, extra blanket, bed-beanie night. Night of sweat and swelter, sheet-tangle, turn and tumble.

On a steamy summer night, 4.12 gleams greenly at the bedside. Blackbird song, else silent. Then a creaking, then a tearing, a ripping, a shearing, a shredding … the crackling subsides, then silence again. Re-enter the blackbird. Later I awake and step outside to rolls of pink bark and new, smooth, fragrant, pale trunk exposed. A gum, stripped bare.

I started writing my memoir nineteen years ago—unknowingly. In a cosy sharing of Quaama women writers, I jotted down vignettes. Longhand pieces, dislodged from memory’s dim corners to briefly breathe fresh air, then closed tight again in notebooks. Fifteen years on, I wrestled with a novel but the memories, old and new, kept breaking through. Refocus.

Two years of filling the gaps, explaining, considering, blaming, absolving, reckoning. Pain, fear, confusion, exposure, realisation, understanding. Relief.

The writer, stripped bare.

Long Road to Dry River will be launched by Jack Miller at Well Thumbed Books in Cobargo at 10.30 am on Saturday 7 March. Then I’ll be in conversation with publishing industry icon Mary Cunnane, there’ll be a couple of readings, then we’ll hoe into one of WTB’s renowned morning teas. If you’re around these parts, it would be wonderful to see you there.

In the line of fire

1.30 am, New Year’s Eve. The FiresNearMe text: Put your plan into action. I hear a vehicle down on the road, coming in from the forest. Then another. Soon, a constant stream.

2 am. We’re backing down the driveway, in two cars. I have the dogs, food for them, water, my walker, and the Mechanic has my scooter, our documents bag and the go-bag, which has been sitting in a corner for weeks.

Down at the Quaama fire shed an RFS guy stops us.
Do you know anyone out at Verona? he says.
Plenty, why?
Lots of homes are threatened. We can’t get out there, not enough of us.
Later, too late, I wondered if he wanted us to ring and warn them.

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Quaama Express

dogs

You’d laugh to see us on the street
The scooter, me, my doggies dear
The small one, Wookie, leads the way
The big one, Rudy, in the rear.

They’re both tied up, I’m sad to say,
Can’t trust either not to stray,
Rudy cos he hunts down chooks.
That’s cost me dearly. As for Wook,

Abandoned in Kiama town,
He learned to live upon his wits,
And feasted daily on remains
Of battered fish and salty chips.

And now when winds of freedom stir
His shaggy coat, this ratbag cur,
Don’t bother chasing. If you do,
He’ll grin, ‘Oh, good, you’re coming too!’

But as for Rudy, ridgeback hound,
Sixty kilos go to ground.
Unless his sights are on a chook,
He’ll plod and give the lead to Wook.

‘You hardly need a battery!’
Some wit will call, reliably.
I muster up a laugh. I’m sure
I’ve heard it ninety times or more.

To: Tim Winton. Re: Island Home

island-homeTim, I live in Yuin country on the East coast. The black and white communities here keep to themselves, in the main, and my contact with the locals is fleeting and superficial—a nod exchanged with the group who drink at a picnic table beside the carpark in Bega; a closer yet single-themed half hour a week I used to spend with kids in the literacy program at the school.

My strongest awakening, till now, was reading Kate Grenville’s The Secret River then stepping outside into an altered light, wondering for the first time what bloody events of dispossession may have occurred on my own half acre.

Continue reading To: Tim Winton. Re: Island Home

An open letter to author Sara Baume

BOOKS_Baume_05_web-ex_COVER_July-AugDear Sara Baume,

When I heard about Spill Simmer Falter Wither I thought, lovely, a book I’ll enjoy, then lend to all my dog-loving friends.

It’s not a long book. I finished it, breathed for a while, and went to scratch the heads of my own two dogs—both reprobates. The larger one has gained notoriety as the local chook killer and must now be kept on the lead at all times when off the property. Lucky it was only chooks, I guess. The other one, a terrier of some sort, once returned exhilarated from a run in the bush, snout and bib drenched in blood. We had to rinse him off at the tap in the cemetery before we could walk him back through the village.

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To sleep, perchance.

Photo: Lachlan MacDonald
Photo: Lachlan MacDonald

Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman … And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wet-nosed yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.

Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep.

Dylan Thomas could have written the opening of Under Milkwood for me, prowling around the house at two, three, four o’clock in the morning, while the gentlefolk—and stock, and pets—of Quaama village slumber on. Or maybe not the cats. I hear them prowling too, and yowling their territorial warnings.

Continue reading To sleep, perchance.