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Launching Mini-Doc of the Week

Photo of the Week Challenge

Last week I finished up a full year of a Photo of the Week challenge. In the spirit of adventure, I am going to morph this into a video challenge. I am challenging myself to create a short (1 – 5 minute) mini-documentary each week. Or as I like to call them Chookumentaries! (It makes me laugh!)

To get a head start I will use some archival footage I have shot “on location”. Some clips will have already appeared on my Facebook page, so apologies to those who have already seen them!

I will most likely knock them together with my iPhone and iMovie so they may be rough and ready. I’ll use it as an excuse to experiment with a few other video creation apps as well.

Wish me luck! The theory is that I’ll get better with practice! Oh and I’ll make a new graphic for Week 2, I wanted to use the same one for this week before heralding the change in format.

Week 1: Ashes in the Sand. Smoke in the Sky

This clip was filmed in Narooma while I was on deployment for the State Emergency Service to support the local Rural Fire Service. This area, the Eurobadalla Shire, had been badly hit by fires on New Year’s Eve and was facing ongoing issues from falling trees.

Active fires were still burning in some areas.

 

 

Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da: bringing up memories

It’s funny how your memory gets sparked and where that memory will take you. Down rabbits holes of forgotten actions, people and secrets.

When I saw words Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da tattooed on the arm of a colleague, it made me fly back to 1969 when I was in Year 3, eight years old, blond and tiny. It took me back to the time when eighty students crowded around a  TV borrowed from the local department store to watch the moon landing. It took me back to playing elastics and jacks. To skipping ropes and sour milk.

roby n on a scooter
Scans of a scanned 35mm slide – terrible quality – but heh! It’s a pump-up scooter!!

Those particular words from that jaunty little Beatles tune brought back a mix of fun, embarrassment and guilt

The Fun Bit.

My class was preparing to sing Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da for the weekly assembly. This was a BIG deal! We had been rehearsing with our hip and gorgeous teacher Mr Chinner for weeks and weeks. Our class, 3A, were doing a new song! A chart-topper! Not a choir of screeching descant recorders, but a grooooovy Beatles hit! It was a top-secret mission. We were not allowed to tell anyone! We were asked to bring a towel to wear around our shoulders like a Mexican poncho.

The Embarrassing bit.

Because I was small, I was scheduled to be in the front row. Because we were sworn to secrecy, I didn’t tell my mum why we needed the towel. Thinking it was for art clean-ups, and without a better explanation from me, she gave me a faded tatter of a towel. When Groovy Mr Chinner saw my faded rag, I got relegated to the back row. I couldn’t see over the tops of the bigger kids. My bubble was well and truly burst. I felt humiliated by my family’s lack of bright Mexican-like towels.

The Guilty Bit

In the same class, but in a different episode, I am simultaneously ashamed and amused to confess that I committed a fraudulent act. Our class had been chosen to go on an excursion to the Herald’s newspaper printing factory. Only 25 could go although our class had 43 students. In the spirit of fairness, Mr Chinner decided to pull the names out of a hat.  As the names were called out, the lucky ones were clapping their little hands with glee. In the middle of all the excitement, the end of the day bell rang and the draw was not completed. It was declared that it would continue the next school day – Monday. I was heartbroken that my name had not yet been called out and even back then I realised the odds were not looking good.

When we returned after the weekend, Mr Chinner admitted he had forgotten to write down the names of the children who had been pulled out and no longer had the strips of paper. He asked us to raise our hands if we had been selected.

A few classmates put their hands up confidently. As I looked around at the remaining faces of my peers and saw them faltering.  They either couldn’t remember or they didn’t seem too fussed about whether they went or not. I took my chance, I shot my hand in the air. Mr Chinner wrote my name on the list.

robyn on water
Again a scanned scan – from around 1969

For the next few days, I expected to be challenged. For someone to remember that my name had never been called out and that I was a fraud, that I had lied. No one did. I went on the excursion and had a fabulous time. This is only the second time I have revealed this story! The first time was to the tattoo owner! (Sorry mum another thing you didn’t know!)


I guess Mr Chinner could still be out there. I have never forgotten him. He was young in 1969. Perhaps he’s out there, somewhere between 80-100 years old, thinking about his time as a teacher. I know he won’t remember me. There are too many children that pass through a teacher’s life. Even so, Mr Chinner, I apologize for my deceit.

As I look back on him and the lessons he taught us, I realize I don’t remember the specifics of one single scrap of the maths or spelling or grammar he may have taught us.

But I do remember the moon landing.

I do remember his laugh.

And I remember being a faded Mexican con man.

How to reduce your reliance on fossil fuel.

People Power, not Petrol Power!

An off-schedule post today to add to the theme of reducing your reliance on fossil fuel. It might become a regular feature; it might not! I am very mindful of being that annoying blogger who is always pushing things into your inbox. It might just morph into my regular Friday posts, but I felt the need to share this today.


A few months ago, I found a video from Liziqi Art of Cooking in my Facebook feed.  After five minutes of being mesmerised by the process of making silk by hand, I hit that follow button. Today another came into my feed about making cotton doonas.

Amazing!

It’s worth watching for the hand-driven technology. This is the way we need to go to save the planet. Use people power, not petrol power. Except for the fact it has been videoed and subsequently uploaded to social media, not one bit of fossil fuel can be seen in use.  Of course, there is a lot of wood-burning happening. Perhaps you could replace that with solar or wind-generated electricity?

Her cooking videos are amazing. Her life hacks and kitchen tips are great too.

I could, unfortunately, watch for hours and hours! I’d love to spend a couple of weeks living like this! Without a radical change to my existing life, it would be impossible for me to replicate, but it is absorbing. I can dream about such a simple life filled with hard and satisfying manual labour. I bet Liziqi doesn’t have to worry about counting calories and scheduling gym sessions!

The mix of excellent camera work, social media presence and traditional lifestyle show that these people are not living in the past, but savvy entrepreneurs. She has an online shop and fashion brand as well.

She has a huge following, and I am sure many of you know of her already. Even if it is only 50% “real” and 50% marketing it’s still a delight!

If you have an hour to spare dive in!

 

See my other posts about planet-saving!

The smell of coffee in the morning

A cappuccino in a green cup.

When I first started writing, I was part of a Writers’ Group. We would get together once a month for a “meeting” hosted by members in turn. We would discuss our own projects, give some constructive criticism to each other and generally give support and encouragement.

At the end of each two-hour meeting we would have a fifteen-minute creative writing challenge based on a prompt suggested by the host.  I wrote this short fictional piece in response to the prompt to write something from  the point of view of a single sense. This one is based in the sense of smell. I have only done a light edit. Not bad for a fifteen-minute burst in my opinion! I might go back and have a go at the other senses as well.

The coffee welled up inside my head. Deep, rich earthy and warm. It smelt like a morning. A late morning, but a morning no less. It was time to get up. Time to start the day.

I pulled back the sheets and the raw aroma of the previous night’s sex wafted up from the linen. Sweaty, slightly fishy, not yet unpleasant. I thought about the time we had spent entwined in each other’s arms. Hesitant at first, then with reckless abandon that seemed embarrassing now in the coffee rich morning. He had smelt of rum. Rum with coke. Sweet, spicy and heady. The very thought of it made me quiver again.

The hot water took a long time to emerge from the tap. The chlorine, pungent and clean, drowned out the fresh citrusy bursts from the soap. It was like this in the winter. The chlorine did not have the energy to evaporate and clung to the water like a silver coat; lazy and slow.

I washed the sex away reluctantly. It had been a long time. A long time since I had smelt a man on me and in me. I lingered a little longer than necessary on the folds of my body and began to relive the passion.

The knock on the bathroom door snapped me back to the now.

Oh, that’s right! I wasn’t alone this morning. Not like the years of mornings that strung together in an endless stream before this morning. That’s why it smelt like coffee! There was another somebody in the house and he was making the coffee. Deep, rich and earthy.

How would it be now that the beer goggles were smashed by sobriety and the harsh winter light.

In my mind, I always saw myself as 27. That was a good year. Slim, tanned, lithe and strong.  But 27 was 27 years ago. A marriage ago.

What would I say? How would I act? This was worse than the first time! At 15 I had all the confidence of a goddess who bestowed precious gifts on the lucky. Now it was I who felt lucky – that this rum-soaked man had seen me despite the invisibility cloak of menopause and maturity.

I slid the door open a crack. There he was, coffee in hand, in trousers but no shirt. He was older than I had thought. Grey speckled hair, his skin half a size too big for the muscles underneath. But he smiled and his eyes shone. He handed me the coffee. He looked awkward and shy.

“Have you finished? He asked pulling a face “I have to pee!”

That’s how it was going to be – relaxed and friendly. I remember this. It was a start. Perhaps there’d be more coffee in the mornings.

 

How you can reduce your climate change impact?

Earlier this week I dashed off a rather prickly post about getting angry with yourself about climate change flavoured heavily by the current bushfire situation in Australia. It was, in part, a reaction to the fact that I was going out for the 8th day straight to help the NSW Rural Fire Service as an SES volunteer. I was up to 100 % days for the year! While my role is in support and I am never in any real danger, it has been stressful and tiring, albeit overwhelmingly self-affirming. I am proud of myself that I am ABLE to be helpful in a second-line role.

I challenged you to make a contribution to reduce your impact on the climate. These actions will, of course, be too late for this particular crisis, but we need to start somewhere!

Here are a few suggestions.

Get politically active

As individuals, we can make changes to our life that will have an impact, but the big guns are held by the government.  They are the ones who decide whether we keep digging up coal and burning it or invest in renewables.  You, however, have the power to decide who is in government, so my first suggestion is to become more politically active. In Australia, we have a working democracy, and we get who we vote for. But unlike America and other places, we don’t vote for our Prime Minister. We vote for the party they represent.The Prime Minister can be removed without a change of government.

Make sure your local member knows what you think about their policies.  ALL of their policies. I am not going to tell you who to vote for because these fires have been a long time coming and are not the responsibility of one or the other of governments we have had. (Without going down too much of a rabbit hole when you think of it, it has been a growing issue ever since we placed more value on wealth than our environment… but that’s another story)

Ten things you can do to reduce your climate change impact

David Suzuki has been agitating for action in a moderate and persuasive way for a long time.  This site is easy to read and provides a very digestible listicle of the ten things you can do to make a start on reducing your impact on climate change.

Steel Street - Cringila
Stop and think about your impact

What’s the one ‘big’ thing you can do to reduce climate change impact?

The most useful thing you can do is not going to seem so palatable to many of you. It is to have one less child.  The per annum reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide by having one fewer child is estimated at 23,770 – 117,700 kg compared to 5 kg for using reusable shopping bags. (Source: Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024). Reducing the number of children reduces the number of resources they will use over their lifetime.

This article ranks personal actions as being high, moderate or low impact. 

It is an open-source, peer-reviewed article. You will need to download it to read the whole thing. I suggest you skip through to the tables that list the categories.

In summary, here are the high impact actions YOU can take

High Impact actions individuals can take for climate change reduction

  1. Have one less child
  2. Live car-free
  3. Avoid one flight
  4. Purchase green energy
  5. Reduce the effects of driving (eg with a more efficient car)
  6. Eat a plant-based diet

Moderate Impact actions individuals can take.

These moderate impact actions reduce carbon dioxide in the range of  0 – 370 kg/annum each. These actions are not painful at all. I bet you do some to a certain extent already but don’t sit on your hands, tackle some more!

  1. Home heating/cooling efficiency
  2. Install solar panels
  3. Use public transport or walk/bike as much as possible
  4. Buy energy-efficient products
  5. Conserve energy
  6. Reduce food waste
  7. Reduce consumption
  8. Reuse
  9. Recycle
  10. Eat local

Low Impact actions individuals can take.

These low impact actions reduce carbon dioxide in the range of  6 – 60 kg/annum each but if you do them all that’s a good start and if EVERYONE did them all that would be BIG!!!  For instance, if all 24 million Australian’s did these simple things it would add up to 1,440,000,000 kg of CO2!

  1. Conserve water – eg. run a full dishwasher
  2. Eliminate unnecessary travel
  3. Minimise waste
  4. Plant a tree
  5. Compost
  6. Purchase carbon credits
  7. Reduce lawn mowing
  8. Ecotourism
  9. Keep backyard chickens – I wish I could!! 🙂
  10. Buy bona fide eco-label products
  11. Calculate your home’s footprint (I’ll research this one some more to find out how and what they mean)

How many can you tick off? Even if you can tick off many of the things on these lists already, don’t get complacent.

Encourage others!

Conserve more!

Walk more!

Use less!

 

 

 

 

 

Australia is burning. What are you going to do about it?

Koalas and kangaroos are being incinerated in front of our eyes. Not to mention the snakes, birds, wombats and less “cuddly” creatures that call our bush home.

The sky is smoky. Sometimes it smells, other times it doesn’t.

Elton John donated a cool mill (in US dollars or pounds I hope!) Pink has chucked in $500K as well. Russell didn’t go to the Golden Globes because he was preparing his home for the onslaught of fire in the area where he lives.

“Scomo”, as we rather unfondly refer to our current Prime Minister smells more than the rotting carcasses of the animals trapped by the heat.

Meanwhile some of us are volunteering as front line fire fighters or as support to those front-liners. Some of us are making wraps for burnt animals. Some of us are donating physical goods, food and water. Schools are getting stationary packs together for the kids in communities that have been destroyed.

Many of us are angry at our politicians and their inaction. Many of us are angry at the media who are misleading us.  But we should be angry at ourselves too. We have a working democracy. We voted these people

in. We allowed them to change the media ownership rules. We allowed them to not fund NSWRFS or the NWPS by not voting them out.

Was it just complacency? Or were we swayed by the fact that we expect “others” to fix the climate. The climate is not going to change by government action alone. Of course, that is crucial but what are YOU going to do to do your bit?

It’s going to take a whole lot more than reusable shopping bags to fix this problem. What changes are you prepared to make?

 

 

 

 

Fires on the NSW South Coast (Part 2)

The day of the disaster

(Posted on location)

On Friday, I posted about my feeling of foreboding as we approached a weather day that would bring worst-case scenario conditions to the south coast of NSW. It was going to be hot, windy and with low humidity. I hoped that somehow, the (actually) reliable Bureau of Meteorology had got it wrong.

They didn’t.

The temperature on the fire ground near where I am stationed varied from 34 to 44C. The prediction for wind speed and humidity were on course. Penrith near Sydney, would, by the end of the day, record the highest temperature in the WORLD clocking up 48.9C (120F)

The mood in the EMC started off tense but confident. Calls came in at a steady but manageable pace. The Comms team had time to make coffee or grab a comfort break without interrupting the necessary logging of team movements. At 11:30 the pace began to speed up. The 000 call Centre began diverting two or three messages at a time, then four.

By 12:30 we were not keeping up with the computer logging system and it was causing frustration when it “refreshed” at frequent and more inconvenient intervals. By 13:15 it was totally unmanageable. Thank goodness for pen and paper!

The EMC staff and volunteers hummed with a beam of activity focused on the goal of getting resources to the spot fires that were beginning to break out. The pattern of multiple calls for nearby locations broken suddenly by a call from a more distant area. Flying embers were doing their evil work. Flame heights were getting higher and higher. Twenty-metre sheets eclipsed by 40 to 50 m monsters.

Then the dreaded message

RED RED RED

Significant fire impacting Bendalong Road

Get the (water) bombers NOW!

Close the road!

The room became silent, people clustered around the comms station. The wheels ticked and the orders came

Get everything up! 

People in their colourful tabards went about their duties calmly but quickly. No-one ran, no one panicked. They were trained for this. The police organised the road closures, the aviation ops team launched all available assets and fire crews were diverted from other positions. If the fire travelled too far from Bendalong Road, the township of Tabourie Lake would be no more.

Then a few minutes later

EMERGENCY EMERGENCY 

No other radio call can stop a room dead in its tracks as quickly as these words do.

A crew was about to be overrun by fire.

Shelter in place

Activate your fire plans

It was unclear exactly what “place” they were in. As tense seconds passed there was radio silence. Nothing. It was still. The crowd around the radio was leaning in, wishing they could squeeze themselves into the microphone and pull the trapped crew through the airwaves. We waited, hoping to hear something from that microphone. Seconds more ticked past.

The ops manager hailed the crew. Nothing. He hailed again.

A breath sucking pause later and the crew’s Captain responded. 

All safe, the fire had passed.

The collective gasp and back-slapping continued for a split-second and then everyone returned to the duties of controlling a huge fire hunting down a town.

Support was dispatched to the crew and apart from a minor burn, there were no physical injuries. By the end of the day, two more firefighters and three civilians had been taken to hospital and two appliances damaged. But, by nightfall no homes had fallen, A few outbuildings here or there, but no-one’s house. (As far as I know)

The relentless heat of the day was squashed by the southerly. A southerly can be a blessing for those hoping to escape the heat of the day but an ill omen for firefighters. The gusty southerly winds that come with the cool front bring thunderstorms. In the microclimate that develops around a firestorm, these thunderstorms form pyrocumulonimbus clouds which rumble like a regular thunderstorm but suck up the embers and dump them down kilometres ahead of the main fire front but bring no rain.

The southerly did come and it did stir up the fire but my shift had ended so I don’t know what went on in the EMC. I don’t know what happened to the crews I had been tracking during the day. I hoped they had got home for a sleep. I hoped no more had been hurt.

I walked around town with my camera in the quiet, eerie dim light as the southerly pushed smoke into the town and turned it into a pool of orange dread. I wandered for a few hours breathing in the smoke, thinking I shouldn’t, but fascinated by those clouds.

Looking from the showground north of Nowra

I couldn’t sleep. I worried about the people whose fates I had not been able to follow. The ones who had gone to hospital and who were later (unbeknown to me) released to go home to their families. I worried about the team who had been bathed in fire. They might not be hurt but how would their dreams be tonight? Could they rest? Did they have someone to hold them and listen to their story?

 

The lookout at the showground was crowded

As I logged on for my shift this morning, I learned that the two fire fronts north of Nowra had merged and that the southern fire near Tabourie was still active. Crews would need to be in two places at once again.

Today was my last day at the EMC. I’ll drive home tomorrow. The weather was much more benign today. Cool and windless. Overcast with real clouds and not just smoke, the humidity rising to 100%. The fire continued, but today it was not as ferocious. At least it was not hunting towns. It had other assets in sight. We had a full comms team and I probably didn’t need to be there. I’m glad I was. The easier pace allowed me to calm down and get things into a better perspective. Bad things happen in big fires. People do die and one person did yesterday in a fire not too far from “ours”. But today no-one died, a little bit of rain fell and the firefighters got to have a rest. The fire will burn for many more days and it will probably flare up to be another raging dragon unless significant rain falls.  I will watch it from afar as others take my place to relieve the local crews who become more and more exhausted.

As I left the Centre, I had to wait as a stream of volunteers from Queensland’s Rural Fire Service unloaded from a bus. Their big boots dragging a little and their full kit bags wheeling along behind them. They were weary but energetic. They’ll get a good sleep tonight and will be ready to assist in the morning. I guess I am tired but that stream of yellow and green,  brought a tear to my eye. They’re a long way from home but I bet like me, they felt privileged to be able to help.