Sitting through a cyclone
New Italy, Northern Rivers, NSW
Two weeks have passed since I arrived back in Australia and though I seem to have plenty to say in my head none of it is making its way out of fingers and into this blog.
I had 4 interesting days in Singapore with a good set of photos I have yet to type about, I have met up with the Maltese/Australian connection of my family and I have reinstated myself on the little farm belonging to my mum’s cousin, whilst I look for a new job and a new challenge.
All of that is a little stilted at the moment as ex tropical cyclone Oswold is traversing down the East coast of Australia and here on the little farm my second cousin, the cows, horses, dogs and the cat are waiting to see how bad it will get and what it will do when it hits us.
It’s already caused tornados up in Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast, widespread flooding throughout the East and South-East of Queensland and winds of up to 144km are pushing down into New South Wales as I type. The rain is lashing on the windows, the wind is whipping round the house, the trees are bowing and Sky news is informing us of its route and what it’s done so far.
It doesn’t make for a very good night’s sleep when you wonder if a tornado will come, or a tree might fall on the house. Or you worry that the horses are distressed, as dear Kasimir didn’t know what to do with himself yesterday – galloping from one side of his paddock to another, bucking, rearing and farting wildly – which did make it quite amusing.
I feel thankful that we are not on the coast itself, seeing the terrible devastation this cyclone has left in its wake, knowing there are people waiting to be rescued from their roofs and seeing people whose houses are submerged up to the bedroom windows. But instead we play a waiting game. We wait and see what will happen, when the news tell us it’s “not arrived here yet”.
Maybe I will at least get some writing done, as sitting here, in the safety of a one storey, brick house, on a hill, all I can do is sit and wait to see what happens.
This was written some time ago…
“Do you have any plans for Sunday?” I was asked last week. Plans?? Hmmm… well, I have to do some laundry, sweep my room, maybe catch up on some sleep, but those can all wait. “Nope” I said with a grin. “I thought we might take you for a ride then”. This was MUSIC to my ears! I had been anxiously hoping, that on my final weekend here in the bush I would do what I have hoping I would do all this time!
Ever since my very unexciting ride back o
I was instructed to come to the house at 8am (on a Sunday!) and wear jeans, long sleeves and plenty of sunscreen. After a not so good sleep, and a chilly early start I skipped over to the house in my most convenient horse riding attire. Thank goodness my jeans are stretch!
After making lunch (should I blog about my cooking too?) which was a pumpkin and carrot frittata and gathering up yesterday’s baking marathon: a fruit and muesli slice, raisin brownies, apricot and orange muffins and double chocolate chunk cookies: I was put into a pair of boot and fitted for a hat. (Not a riding hat, like us Europeans are used to, but a cowboy hat!)
At about 9 am E, K and I got into the Ute and drove off the other yards to collect some saddles, whilst D and C went off to round up the horses. My first shock, perhaps, was that the horses had to be found, and then saddled. I could barely lift the heavy thing out of the Ute (not a good station hand am I?) About 8 horses galloped into the yard: All excited, all frisky, all not looking very calm.
So Oaky was saddled and bridled up and I walked him around a little bit before trying to find a place to climb up so I could get on. Apparently he has an odd body shape, so his saddle rolls a bit as you try to get on. Poor D seemed a little bit unsure of whether to put his hand on my arse to shove me onto the horse, so I had to climb onto a water trough and transfer myself to the horse.
We set off, the children in front, and myself and K at the rear, making sure to keep out father and son horses a safe distance apart as they don’t share much love between them. I needn’t have worried about Oaky’s friskiness, as he was in their words “too old, lazy and unfit” to give me any bother. He was In fact a very gently horse, who when kicked slipped into a reluctant, but smooth trot, which my audience were impressed with. My last official riding lessons were about 20 years, but I still remembered my “rise and trot”, “heels down” and how to gather the reins. Those puzzled me at first, as I had never used an open rein and of course held those all wrong.
Once back in the saddle, the memories I have of always wanting to have my own horse as a child came flooding back, and the enjoyment I have always felt when sitting on one surrounded me as we walked through the paddock under the crisp blue spring sky. We stopped once we found a tree that provided shade and good stump (for me to climb back on the horse) for morning smoko. We ate our fruit, fed E’s horse the cores and the children shared stories of funny horsey happenings in the bush. On we went through the trees for some time until we reached Tiger’s Hole. A damn/creek in a picturesque spot: perfect for our bush picnic.
My saddle bag had a quart pot in it, which we filled with water, and put in the fire the children made for Quart pot tea. Having cleared the ground of ants and sat cross legged in the dirt eating our lunch, whilst the children did running jumps into the creek: I realised I had (had to) let go of a lot of my hang ups which had manifested in adult years. Sitting on the ground where I can SEE ants is one, eating without washing my hands is another, trusting a horse I don’t know, wearing someone else’s shoes, peeing in the bush… all of which might not seem much, but I hadn’t realised how much they had made me restricted.
Before heading back, we mounted the horses (with the help of another water trough) and Oaky and I had a photo shoot, as well as a few little trots for the camera. Everyone wanted me to experience Oaky’s “beautiful” canter, and game though I was after my initial hesitation, it was short lived due to my stirrups being just a tad too long to feel comfortable.
On the ride home, the sun was blazing and all of us here breaking a sweat. I found it hard to imagine mustering all day in much sharper heat, for much longer and at a much more demanding pace than Oaky’s totally chilled out gait. We trotted quite a bit on the way home, and once or twice, sniffing the air of the home stretch, Oaky broke into an unexpected canter, which I wish I could have enjoyed, but my reservations about stirrup lengths and inexperience made me pull him up sharp and we continued at a healthier, slower pace.
Arriving home, I felt an overwhelming sense of pleasure in finally experience something that these bush people clearly love. The conditions were perfect, nothing went wrong, and apart from having to walk around in a John Wayne stance for two days, it was an invigoratingly positive experience.
I was told this an uncountable number of times in my first two delicate weeks here and it puzzled me each time as I never thought I was being particularly weak!
However, life in the bush IS tough, it IS harsh and it’s not for the fainthearted.
I have never considered myself to be a girly girl: although I do like to paint my nails occasionally, I am not afraid to get my hands dirty. I also enjoy wearing a pretty dress and heels occasionally, but I am just as happy in jeans and trainers.
The family obviously consider to me to be more delicate than daring and simply because I wasn’t brought up in the bush, I have the disadvantage of being much more sensitive and affected by the ways of life out here.
My second day here was a good introduction to what was to come, when the cut up carcass of the cow we have been eating for the last three months was dragged through the kitchen, leaving a trail of blood and hung in the cold room for several days before it was butchered.
When C put an axe through his foot and didn’t go to hospital because “it’ll be alright”, I was shocked. When K’s horse tripped, threw her and rolled over her, she didn’t go to hospital for scans or x-ray, cos “she’ll be alright”.
When the puppies were born to a work dog and fathered by the randy Labrador, I was told we’d be lucky if any survived. The previous three litters didn’t have a very high survival rate, thanks to bush harshness. In this litter, one of them escaped watchful eyes, and was savaged by its father at 6 weeks old. The puppies had a deadline too, and i did my best to help rehome them, having been told that their fate would be sealed with a pair of pliers if they couldn’t find homes to go to.
Their mother, apparently a useless dog, was “dealt” with once the puppies were weaned. Thank goodness it was done whilst I wasn’t on the property. The Cats here have a pretty harsh life too, and I have learnt that no animals get buried if they don’t make it.
The work dogs have a very short life: It’s rare that they reach retirement. If they don’t get killed by something, they are done away with once they no longer serve their purpose. If they hurt themselves they either have to get on with it, or they are shot. There are two right now running around with open wounds. When I asked if there was anything that could be done (thinking that despite the idea of touching it making me heave, perhaps I could sneakily give them some care), of course I was told that could lick it so they’re fine.
Then there are us humans, who are not allowed to feel pain or emotion sometimes. Only the other day I was eating lunch when a particularly strong onion in my potato salad made my eyes water and my nose run, when I remarked upon it at the table, simply because I was surprised, I was told to “suck it up” and “move on”. Thanks
And that’s not to mention the other dangers here like spiders and snakes that could kill you. Or dingos that can rip young cows to pieces. Naturally I was worried about all of the above and asking the relevant questions regarding my safety. Some of the responses I got were that dingos can’t pick locks (goodness, there I was thinking they were the local locksmiths) and that I was obsessed with snakes! Well, I said in my head, Obsessed no: well-read, concerned, aware: yes!
Every time we go for a drive I pray we don’t see a Dingo or a wild pig, as I know there is a loaded rifle in the Ute, and every time I go for a walk I desperately hope I won’t see a snake.
And if I dare to mention something that hurts or upsets me I know that I will be told to Toughen Up, which on them the irony is lost when I think about just how silent I have been …