Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A day at the tower

 The path winding between granite and a yellow tingle tree on the way to the fire tower. It's morning and white-breasted robins hop from karri hazel limbs ahead, to lead me away from their chicks.

At the summit, I wipe sweat from my face (it's a decent climb), wind up the shutters and check out the view. A few small blue smokes rising in columns from the last burn. That red device hanging over the gunsight is amazing for weather recording - something we do every hour.

There's some odd critters up here, probably due to the altitude. People from anywhere other than Western Australia will tell me that "this isn't a mountain, it's just a hill!" but being closer to the sky than most country around here, there is definitely a change in habitat. A girl named this stick insect Frank. Frank has two other mates, just hanging in the tower.

... some kind of lady bird I never see anywhere but here, roosting on Quokka poo near the stairs.

... a king skink always gives me a fright on the steps!

... and a beautiful lacewing ...

And then there are the eagles, Waarlitch or Wedgetail Eagles. I always know they are on their way when the other birds down by the river start screeching. "Waarlitch! Warlitch!"

If you hang around in one place for long enough, you see some amazing stuff. It's a waiting game ... bushfires, critters and rainbows.

Bit pleased with myself here in the photo above. The bushfire is out on the horizon. I called it in at 50 kilometres from the fire tower and got it within 100 metres, after its position was confirmed by the spotter pilot. Judging distance is difficult out in the flatlands to the north, with few landmarks such as hills, paddocks or mobile phone towers.

I listen. Sometimes it's classical music on the FM channel, sometimes podcasts or audio books. I listen to the spotter pilots from other districts on the UHF or turn on Spotify to find Johnny Cash. Reading makes my eyes tired and takes them from where they should be - the horizon. 

We are only allowed to work four days straight and I know why. After four days my eyes are sore and my brain is fried. Mostly, my tower partner tries to avoid four straight days on the roster. Up here too long, we begin to make mistakes and feel a bit crazy. It's a weird combination of being on high alert all day and bored at the same time. A day off to reset and rest is important, especially when both of us work other roles during the fire season.

So, after four days, it's a blessing to head down to the beach at my house and watch the swans fly east in the evening, sit in the yellow sand with the hound and watch the sunset.


Monday, January 30, 2023

Latest fake news on the quokka scenario

 Apparently, the Thylacine sign that appeared just up from my driveway in 2020 was a response to the Quokka sign put up days before. The reasoning was that no one had seen a quokka on this road for more than forty years - but no one had seen a Thylacine either - so the best minds at the inlet decided that the Quokkas must have killed all the Thylacines and then erected the Quokka sign in a kind of passive aggressive tactical maneuver. In an epic act of resistance, locals decided to write an email to the council who eventually produced another sign.

Here is my initial investigative report released two and two thirds years ago. I'm happy to report that the Thylacine sign challenged Quokkas, and that break and enters by Quokkas at the inlet halved by at least a quarter. This was a massive success in lawn order.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I saw a Quokka crossing the track as I was driving to work. It was very close to my house. I know they are dangerous when cornered, so I didn't stop the car and anyway, I wasn't wearing any PPE.

This sighting of a killer, delinquent Quokka on the track was interesting. BUT on my way home from work, I noticed that the Thylacine sign was missing. Someone had removed the sign, post and all. IS THIS A COINCIDENCE??? I think not.

Stay tuned folks for further updates. Next week I interview Doctor Runnell McSquarePoo, an expert on the sinister habits of all maligned marsupials.

Fuck I've gotta start a true crime podcast *mutters* onto something here

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Lightning memories

We're expecting lightning tonight. As I write, the high pressure grows as two systems work to smash against each other. In the early afternoon the spotter pilots were tracking the storm as they worked their district circuits, trying to get home before the tumult. 

Below is the map of the last dry lightning event a week or so ago. Bushfires followed that red seam within 12 hours. We're all hoping this next one comes with rain.


I rang Stormboy, who is camping on his homelands. 'There's a good storm coming,' I said. 'Where are you?'

'Marine Drive. Where can we see the storm?'

'I reckon, head up to the lookout, over the Sound, when you hear thunder ...' and then, a childhood memory hit me. 'O wow, Stormboy? I've just remembered something.'

'Yeah Mum,' he said.

'When I was a kid, my Mum and Dad said "let's go! There's a storm over the Sound." and they went up to the same lookout I'm telling you about now. You know the one.'

'Yeah, I know the lookout,' Stormboy said.

'And I think I was about 8 years old. Mum and Dad were watching this lightning storm just ripping around the Sound. We were in the car. I was terrified, in the back seat. I thought I was gonna fucking die! Mum and Dad were so into it and didn't even notice how freaked out I was.'

'I know that feeling Mum,' said Stormboy. 'Dad took me up to Sandpatch to watch a storm. Lightning was, like, forking into the sea and also hitting the wind turbines. Terrifying. I thought I was gonna die too and Dad thought the whole thing was brilliant. Still, it was one of the memorable moments of my life.'

After our conversation tonight, I thought, is this a normal parenting thing?


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Language, kerosene and the snake

 Bloody snakes ... this time of year I'm very glad for the sliding glass doors at my house. I can see what's outside before I go lurching out in bare feet. The front door is north facing and so it is a happy place for snakes to power up their solar energy in the mornings.

There's been a tiger snake hanging around there for the last week, which usually sidles into the geraniums when I open the door. But yesterday it just lay in the grass, all quiet. I was doing my laundry when I saw it through the glass door. I opened the door and threw a cake of soap at the snake. It didn't move. Flies and ants hung on it's ready-to-moult roughened skin. I threw my machete next (it's by the front door for this purpose) but the blade landed nearby and still the tiger didn't move. I thought, maybe it's dead? After all, the insects are loving this critter. Just to be sure, I found my ging and loaded it with lead pellets. Scatter shot was my next weapon. Unfortunately the rubber on the highly illegal ging busted and there were lead pellets all over the laundry floor. I picked them up and threw them at this bloody snake. 

'There are so many places to go!' I yelled. 'Just fuck off, will ya.' 

Finally, throwing a whole shovel did the trick. Snakes don't like shovels, apparently. They are fine with soap, machetes and buckshot but shovels ... whoa. Snake slid off into the geraniums like a gangster.

'My least favourite season around here is summer,' a surfer colleague said to me recently. 'There's shit surf, there's bushfires and then there's the tiger snakes.' 

I sprayed kerosene around the front door, not because I wanted to burn the house down to get back at the snake (though tempting), but because I know these critters absolutely hate petrochemicals. My latest plan is also based on Foucault's 'language as power' theories: I'll call this serpentine visitor Miss Nope Rope McDanger Noodle in order to curate a casual 'irreverent' vibe -where the snake's power as the personification of evil, death and The Fall is nullified by my excellent sense of humour.

So far, this is working.