Archives for posts with tag: Australia; nature; fire; Mount Victoria; new home

Last night in my Blue Mountains home – the owners want to sell so there’s a rather brutal 90-day notice routine. I hereby vow to talk to my tenants in Leeds before issuing any eviction orders. As a result, I’m moving at the end of a killing teaching session, completely exhausted by the technical and administrative demands of a 250-student subject with complex teaching arrangements, on campus and online, multiple staff and loads of new technology.  Too old for this lark.

Feels like a series of endings heading my way: having to leave has thrown ‘what am I doing here?’ back into sharp relief. A few weeks ago, a really nasty crash into leaping kangaroos on a mountain bend in the dark killed the roo, did nearly $10k of damage to the car and disrupted the well being I had enjoyed here until then. Impossible not to reflect that the kangaroo was just being itself; it’s the road that’s the intrusion. So the move closer to work will at least leave roos one car freer to roam at peace.

And while I already feel the loss of the dawn across the ridge, watching the sun, moon and stars from my beautiful brass bed, it was very helpful to learn from a friend that Aboriginal people never lived in the mountains: you go there to heal not stay. Time to move on.

Naturally, I’m writing this instead of packing. I tend to rely on magic – or my sister – to complete a move. After days and days of putting things in boxes, the removal van always arrives to a place that shows no sign of departure. Just a bit messier than usual. So heartfelt thanks to friends who came to the rescue in the week and just got on with the tasks that paralysed me.

Somehow, by this time tomorrow most of my stuff will be back in Bathurst – including furniture from local antique shops which I’d like to come with me wherever I go. Travelling heavy, as usual. My most loved books and prints, shipped over from UK only a year ago,  now back in boxes for who knows how long.

This was my Australian home and and I thank the trees for their fine company.



Free from the long slog of finishing my book, I can return to keeping notes on the glorious location I have landed in. Not that I didn’t notice before, just that all writing was to that one endless end. And of course it will carry on for months, revisions, queries, references…. But here, now, I can just record a couple of recent events.

The first is the arrival of black cockatoos to ‘my’ trees; they are rarer than their squawky white cousins and much much larger, the one perched in a nearby branch this morning must have been almost a metre. The black feathers are offset by a delicate pale green underwing, which becomes visible as they lift heavily into the air, like umbrellas in flight. Magnificent.


The other interesting observation concerns my new friend the household Huntsman spider. Spider sounds such an inadequate word, given its hand-breadth enormity (to UK eyes anyway). But after the first jaw dropping encounters, I have made efforts to appreciate its (no idea of gender) presence, recognise it probably does more housework than I do, tidying up flies, and to think of us as sharing the space. Also it doesn’t scuttle or make sudden movements for which I can forgive it anything. I was trying to remember the Roman idea of household gods (penares??) but my Latin is almost as ancient as the language. Anyway, the other day I noticed that it wasn’t moving much, then that it had aligned all its legs in a straight line. I wondered if it was dying ( they live a couple of years apparently). Later, it took on such a strange shape of complex angles and far too many legs that I reckoned it had got lucky and I was witnessing two of them copulating, though it did look unfeasibly awkward.  Only when I googled moulting was it confirmed that I had watched it climb out of its old self – which lies discarded on top of a bookshelf (not sure how to handle that, might let natural degrading occur) – into a new lithe body. Neat trick.

There is a link showing this evolution for those brave enough to watch

Picked up my key to new house on October 17, ready to move in the next morning. Wandering round the verandah, overwhelmed at the beauty of my new home in the Blue Mountains, something catches my eye – oh, those trees on the edge of the garden are on fire. Um, that’s probably not good. So I go in and look round the place again. But when I go out again the fire is still there. The extent of my firefighting skills was to ring the estate agent and let her know, while I returned back to Bathurst.


The next morning I rang her to see if the place was still standing, before setting off with a vanload of stuff. As it was, I moved in, fondly believing the fire had done its worst. Later discovered that worst included destroying the home of a couple of women I’d met the week before on a street less than a minute from mine – the fire I saw was the one that had wiped out 20 years of history. This photo shows the damage done to trees, I decided not to photograph the devastated homes and melted cars as it felt intrusive.


Over the next week the levels of alarm rose and fell, with a very intense few days  around October 23 – each night I rang the local Rural Fire Service to see if it was OK to go to bed – fantastically helpful as I did not have TV or phone or internet connected and hadn’t realised the radio stations I needed were on AM frequency. When the answer was ‘no’ I stayed with friends for a couple of nights, one of the thousands travelling around NSW with a couple of suitcases in the car containing everything important – surprising how little that comes to in the end. This picture shows new fires in the distance.


Kept leaving the house not knowing if it was last time, so tremendously glad to find it still standing – had a deep suspicion that this house and I are already friends and have some kind of future together, but I realise that sounds a  bit flimsy in the face of unstoppable bushfires. I got a sense of the scale of the thing one night coming home in the dark and realising that where I had seen alot of smoke on daylight journeys, at night the entire mountainside was backlit with fire, as its the ground that’s alight not always the tree tops.

So it has been an intiatation, this moving into the mountains, showing both the beauty and the power of nature. Luckily I never thought it had to be ‘nice’. What I love about Australian nature is that it is still wild and rather terrible, despite settler’s attempts to tame or deny it. This week, we all had a reminder of where we live, in flimsy houses on a fragile planet……