Monday, September 24, 2007

The fire of 2007

"Word gets around when it affects our memories."

The Myer department store has been an institution in the main street of Hobart since 1959. Two days ago, Saturday afternoon shoppers noticed a wisp of smoke coming from between the first and second floors.

Within hours, 15 fire trucks were battling to try and stop a fire that had engulfed the building. The column of smoke could be seen from both sides of the Derwent River. By the time night fell, the 19th century building was in ruins -- the worst fire in the history of central Hobart.

There were no casualties but I found this news very disturbing. Back in the 1960s I had grown up on the next block from Myer and had been past it or through the shop almost every day. The record rack in their basement supermarket had been my introduction to buying music (mono LPs for only $1-99).

Most people in the city would have similar feelings. It was like having a stake driven through the heart of the central business district.

The quote on the first line is from a text message my sister received from Madeleine on the mainland. We even received a similar SMS from Libby in France.

I haven't been in to see it for myself. I guess I have this silly feeling that as long as I don't see it with my own eyes, it's not real. If only....

{Interestingly, I read this wasn’t the first fire on that site - the building was first damaged by fire in 1858. It’s not even the first major department store fire on the block!. Fitzgeralds (now Harris Scarfe) in Collins Street was burned in 1911. And the Green Gate cafe burnt down on the same day in 1984 in the same street. Eerie.}

Friday, September 21, 2007

The scent of Spring

You wouldn't think you could lose one of your five senses without noticing it, but that's what happened to me this winter.

One Saturday recently I emerged from the bathroom after a refreshing shower and noticed something was different. I took a deep breath and the air was full of unfamiliar scents -- not that there was anything unusual about them, it was just that I hadn't smelled them for some time.

It was quite distracting in fact. I walked around the house and the garden, constantly surprised by the aromas that surrounded me. I knew that I had been sneezing and snuffling all through the winter, but I hadn't been aware of the extent to which my olfactory senses had been dulled.
I suppose it must have happened so gradually that I just hadn't noticed it.

But now suddenly my sense of smell had been restored. Perhaps the steam from the shower had been the catalyst.

In any event, I was back to normal. Now all I had to do was get used to the barrage of scents and smells again. I felt like a colour-blind man who has suddenly been given the gift of normal vision -- it's nice, but it takes a while to absorb.


It's not often you get a message from someone saying they're being held prisoner, but there's always a first time.

I'll let my sister explain...

An acquaintance, Jenny, had been discussing with me what to do with a broody chicken she had at her place. I said she could always pass her on to me. So the other day I got a message from her on my mobile phone to say she was ready to bring her over.
I sent back a text message to say that was fine -- I was at my brother's house in New Town whenever she wanted to come over. She sent back a message to say she was on her way.

So far so good, but Jenny forgot I'd said I was at my brother's house and drove straight to my place in Lenah Valley.

She got out of the car and walked out into the paddock, carrying the hen in a box with some straw. I wasn't in sight, so she kept walking.

Now my horse has a lot of admirers and he's used to visitors coming round with little treats for him. When he scented the straw in the box, he assumed Jenny had brought him a snack and started following her across the field.

She was a bit startled by this, and kept trying to move away, but he followed her till she reached the middle of the paddock, near the creek.

Unfortunately this was where the geese had made their nests. September is the season for laying eggs and they are very protective, goose and gander alike. Jenny got this far and couldn't go any further without a full-scale confrontation with the geese.

So she was trapped, not between "the devil and the dark blue sea", but between an inquisitive horse and the aggressive geese. She sent me a frantic text message; I realised what had happened and drove straight over there.

I arrived in minutes and looked out across the fields. "Jenny?" I called out, and a distant answer came back from the other side of the trees.

"Help ... !"

When I hurried down to rescue her, I saw she couldn't have ended up in a worse location. She had five laying geese around her in a semi-circle with her only exit blocked by a hungry horse. She really was trapped.

In the middle of all this my brother sent me a message asking where I was. I phoned him back, but it was difficult to keep a straight face while I described the situation.

I told Jenny I'd just let the dog out while I was there. "How are you with dogs?" I asked cautiously.

"Is he a big dog?" she said warily.

"Yessss, fairly big" I said (he's a Mastiff with maybe a bit of Great Dane).

"I'll stay here," she replied.

But it worked out all right. I took her over to my brother's house and made her a hot drink while we watched the chickens wandering about on his back lawn.

She seemed much calmer by the time she left.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

into Spring?

It's going to be an early Spring based on the readings available to me: the goose-o-meter, the wattle-o-graph and the Horse Hair Index.

The goose in my backyard started laying eggs early instead of waiting till September, and the Wattle tree in my garden was in bloom for Wattle Day for the first time in twenty years.

(Wattle Day began in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1838; in 1988 Acacia pycnantha was officially proclaimed the Australian floral emblem and four years later the first of September was proclaimed as Wattle Day.)

As for the Horse Hair Index - it's obvious to my sister whenever she puts the horse-rug on or off that he's losing his winter coat.

Personally I'm hoping that the end of winter will see the end of this persistent low-level infection that's kept me coughing and sneezing and has meant my Blood Glucose readings have consistently been around 12.5 instead of last summer's 6.8

I'm wondering what my endocrinologist will say when I see him next week.