BOM Bomb

The Bureau of Meteorology is pretty good most of the time, but they missed out predicting the amount of rain that would fall on Possum Valley in the last few days.  By about a factor of 10.  Even after a day or two of deluge, they were still out by a factor of 10.  I think perhaps because the rain fell in a fairly narrow band mostly between Cairns and Innisfail streaming in from the ENE according to the radar images I saw.   Flooding was often outside that zone, because the river catchments were inside.  At Possum Valley I had about 700mm in 4 days.  

I had my regular babysitting gig on Thursday with my grandsons Henry (3 1/2), and Philip (1 1/2).  But by Thurs afternoon, the creek crossing was flooded to 40m wide and probably navel deep.  I say probably because it would have been folly to try and verify that in the swift flowing water.  Although my daughter Alice and partner Blue have a 4WD equipped with a snorkel, I considered it too dangerous to risk life and limb and expensive machinery when there was no life-threatening emergency.  To my dear guests, it is probably hard to reconcile your memories of the little splash through the creek where you barely got your tires wet, with a raging roaring torrent, but the wet tropics up here is a land of extremes.  The roaring sound of the creek is multiplied by the fact I have acquired an extra waterfall.  The flood has overtopped the dam wall and there is now a mass of water crashing down 3m of freefall.  I am a bit worried that it will erode the dam wall and collapse the road.  The advertising blurb for Queensland went something like “Beautiful one day, perfect the next”.  Well yes, but they missed out “except when it’s totally terrifying”.  

Anyway, I had 2 little kids on my hands.  My support logistics was a bag amply equipped with spare clothes and nappies supplied by Alice and designed to last the day.  My whole world had turned to water running and streaming everywhere including the kids favourite haunt, my workshop where serious puddles appeared inside.  For some strange reason, little kids don’t plan for the future where they have no more dry clothes left, but wantonly pursue new experiences that may include streams of water falling from an overpowered gutter for instance.  The day bag was going to be sorely tested.  

I explained to the kids that because of flooding they were going to have to stay here the night.  I totally believe in telling kids the reality, just how it is.  Henry got it immediately, but I have no idea what Philip understood.  My advice is do it anyway, as kids understand far more than they can communicate back.  And anyway, they can sense they are being treated with respect as real people.  

I get a reminder of just how high maintenance and time intensive little kids are.  It’s full on.  You can’t just tell them to bugger off and I’ll see you in a couple of hours when I’ve got lunch ready.  They want to know everything you are doing and when they want to do something, they also want your attention.  Henry says it directly with “will you please supervise me”.  Powerful words from a kid that doesn’t reach my navel.  Philip puts his arms out in the universal signal of ‘pick me up’.  I did know all this, but had rather forgotten.  

So how will bedtime go without parents?  Philip first, and I thought I had lulled him to sleep by cuddling him over my shoulder and he relaxes against me.  A beautiful feeling, but when I put him in the cot his eyes open and his steady gaze is riveting.   I murmur soft words and stroke his head and bid him goodnight with little hope of success.  But silence ensues.  You beaut!  Henry resists when I suggest bed but a little while later admits to being “a little bit tired”.  A goodnight kiss is all that is required for the blissful silence of sleeping kids.  I am feeling masterful having provided them with a gentle and secure environment.  

I wake up to the sound of the creek still roaring and the rain hammering on the roof.  But hey, I had the luxury of waking up to the very dim grey light of dawn.  The kids were still sleeping and I had the chance for a shower and a walk to survey the creek.  Still impassable.  Still bucketing rain.  Being right at the top of the dividing range, I know that the creek will go right down again after about 3 or 4 hours after the rain stops or goes to drizzle, but the deluge continues.  Henry has trashed my workshop, turned my dining table into a cubby house or fort by dragging every moveable item of soft furnishing underneath, pillaged my kitchen drawers for interesting implements that haven’t seen the light of day for decades, and generally finds uses for household objects that I could never have imagined.  Philip tries to emulate his big brother but only manages to leave half the trail of destruction. By the end of the day chaos reigns.  Nothing new, just a day in the life of parents.  The creek still too high for Alice to rescue her children, so another night at Possum Valley.  Food for kids is running low and they have already ransacked my fridge for the very last bits of fruit, so in desperation have turned to eating raw carrots which they have stolen from the fridge and smuggled into the fort under the table.  Lunch is re-fried sausage pancakes.  OK, not a classic dish I know, but a revolution would occur if I didn’t put something on the table.  

In an evening telephone conversation with Alice, Henry is complaining about a lack of toys at grandfather’s place.  Alice is complaining to me that without the kids, she doesn’t know what to do with herself of an evening.  This is the longest they have been without each other.  Philip is down to the last nappy.  I am wondering if I can revive the skills I once had with cloth squares and nappy pins.  The kids are just as good the second night going to sleep and sleeping through the night.  Alice is a bit miffed that they rarely afford her the same luxury.

Overnight the rain eases and the creek goes down.  The touching reunion of parents with kids.  Big hugs and kisses.  Alice and Blue congratulate me and thank me for my fortitude in looking after their kids.  I am thinking this is one of the best things that has happened in a long time and remembering the  enlightening conversations I had with Henry.  Kids have astonishing insights, unconstrained by rational boundaries. 

Next blog picking up the pieces as I know that the floods will have trashed the hydro and pump, but have not had the chance to survey the damage.  So no power for several days, and am wondering what the damage is.

Job Satisfaction

It might be a bit presumptuous of me to talk about job satisfaction, given that I went from school to aged pension with less than a total of 5 years in paid employment, but hey, that might be give me perspective rather than being a disqualification.  Most of my thoughts are borrowed, as I cherry-pick from the 2 non-fiction books a week I have read for the last 40 years.  Hey! that comes to about 4,000 information books.  I suppose you have to be unemployed to enjoy the luxury of time to read all that stuff.

So what I have gathered about job satisfaction is:-

  1. It is the second most important factor in determining one’s happiness.  The most important being good deep personal relationships.  I leave that one to the dear reader.
  2. A very important factor is the ‘discretionary role content’.  In other words are you a ‘programmed operator’ who is instructed to provide output B in response to input A, or is your judgement required.  Are your personal talents involved in decision making?  If not you are on the production conveyor belt and unlikely to achieve satisfaction at work.
  3. Are you valued by your colleagues?  If no, then get new colleagues.  If you don’t own the business, then mass firings may not be an option, but taking your talents elsewhere always is.
  4. Do you think your work is making the world a better place for someone?  I do, and that is what sustains me through the very ordinary and humdrum chores of making beds and mopping floors and large amounts of washing.  

I have the daily requirements of meeting guests and servicing cottages, and I get a genuine buzz with serving people.  Not being subservient, and no way is it bowing and scraping, but it is providing something that people seek and need.  Even better anticipating their needs and suggesting something they might be reluctant to ask for.  The maintenance part is quite varied and I cope as it arises.  I recently rebuilt a part of the bridge near Blackbean Cottage.  All the old wood was 40 years old and well past its use by date.  Having taken it all away, I had the problem of constructing the new span.  The carpentry was elementary, the problem was where to stand while constructing it.  It was over a swamp where I would sink to my crutch in the loose decaying leaves and debris.  So I put the old boards in the swamp to stand on.  They sank about 300mm down under the ooze so I had to remember where they were.  So I spent the day nearly knee deep in gunge and only once missed a hidden board to sink right down and floundering around clutching a post to pull myself out.  At the end of the day I hosed myself off but found my lower legs still stained blue/black.  It took considerable scrubbing in the shower to remove most of the stain.  To many, this would sound like a day in purgatory, but I had built something that would last another 40 years , so for me was a good day.

A couple of days ago, I set of with nothing more ambitious in mind than shopping in Atherton.  I was stopped at a cattle grid where a steer had got its rear legs jammed in the bars.  It was right in the middle so it was stuck and I was stuck.  I phoned 2 numbers for the owner of the steer and property but got answering machines.  I phoned my son in law, Blue, who lives close and runs cattle and he reckoned that we would have to shoot it and tow it out with a chain breaking its legs, but it would be past caring at that stage.  Then he remembered he knew a relative of the owner so phoned them, who didn’t know his mobile number but thought of someone who might.  Many phone calls later he was found.  You can do that in the country.  We met at the cattle grid and found the steers legs well jammed up between the the top bars and the support bars.  It took an hour of levering the legs this way and that, 2m crowbars, ropes, boards and straps to get him out of the grid.  All of that time the steer was trembling in fright and trying to kill us.  Even when we had wrestled him out and dragged him clear, and our noble intentions were clear, he was less than appreciative with murder and mayhem still on his mind.  I thought it prudent to climb on the truck.  We did a good job.  He could easily have broken his own legs in a frantic attempt to escape. 

So I arrived in Atherton to do the shopping well plastered in mud, but in a country town nobody notices or cares.  And I was pleased and satisfied with my unexpected task for the day.  In a town or city if something goes wrong, you phone it in.  In the country you deal with it.

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