June 21stAnother day another photo session for the paper. There are plenty of people here, so try & pass the buck a bit. Especially to the girls who really lit the fuse with the Community Hub. Besides they are much more attractive and far more sensible.
Some of the Yarra Ranges Councillors turn up. Good that they do it, so they can see first hand the destruction and the efforts being made by the community up here. Chat to Johanna and she asks what do we need. Nice that one at least asked , well me, maybe the others asked the rest of the crew. I give her five tasks. Even if they only get 3 I'll be happy. I like Johanna, she seems very hands on. I keep saying she would make an amazing Lord Mayor. She thinks I'm joking, I am serious.
Dean arrives with some more very handy items, so nice to have someone who has worked in disasters-he knows exactly what we need. I'm just happy to see him, brightens our day. I leave him chatting to Mark as the echo of "Peter, Peter, Peter" rolls around the Hub. It's now becoming difficult to focus on things, just too many requests , I'm sure Paige and Deb who are on today feel the same way. The Community is very needy , which is good as i'm just glad they continue to come down here -united we stand! One of the volunteers finds an older lady wandering about. We look after her , gentle and patient. It's kind of scary , like she is shell shocked. We clear out a section and put her near the new giant heaters as it's a cold day. It all works out well- just so relieved someone found her , fortunate that we still have no deaths around this disaster.
It is an exciting day as we have Food Vans arriving, to help feed the masses. The Big Food Truck from Big Umbrella is a favourite. Excited as some of our old road crew are working the truck as well as Justin who was Michael Gudinski's more recent driver. We love their hamburgers and their kindness and passion.
June 22ndI am running on adrenalin. No real sleep so awake very early and head to the KFS to get the store ready, do a quick stock count and check that it's tidy, update all the Covid lists. It's 6.30 in the morning and security let me in. I'm not sure if the girls are even aware that I do this almost every day. I just like the idea that it is ready for the community, and a time to have a think about what we will need in the next few days. Yes as always it's always about "the lists". On the way down to the oval, a tree crashes to the ground in front of me. Mother Nature reminding me that this is not over yet , still lots of damaged trees that will fall. The cleaner guy is already at the oval, a really nice guy, one of the unsung heroes.
One of the security men, hand me The Age, and say "good photo PG". Well I'm glad it is small, heaven knows how horrid I look at the moment from no sleep and desperate for a hair cut. Of course I forget about the digital world and the photo is suddenly way way too big on my friends iPad! As I run away from technology, a car pulls up with goodies and the wonderful Sussanah hops out. She turns out to be one of the most generous passionate supporters of what we are trying to achieve here.
I stay till the evening & Mark arrives and we have "date night" in the Alien Autopsy Tent. Some one oraganised candles for us-sweet! Food is delicious and it's snug and warm and several hundred people arrive. Lots of people saying hello but at the same time giving us some wind down space. I walk home with Marky, across the oval, a beautiful starlit night. I snuggle up deep inside his furry coat -"life isn't too bad" I say. I feel oddly content and protected. We are still mad as hatters, just avoiding Disaster Kookiness for a brief moment.
June 23A few more trees came down last night , focus on some of the mess this morning. I decide today the morning is ours so a trip to Montage Cafe. People come up the entire time and say thank you for our efforts-which is nice & makes me go red faced. I escape to the toilet as i could feel myself getting a bit teary over peoples comments. When i come back, one of the locals had paid for our breakfast as a thank you. He'd already zoomed off so not even a moment to thank him- so "thanks Mick". I call Peter & Mark #2 to make sure they are ok and I have some wood for their fire -which we drop in. Sit and chat to the boys for a moment, they have a generator so it's not too bad at their place.
Am excited as an old mate, Georgia is volunteering at the Kalorama Free Supermarket today- fantastic as I know she will focus on the shelves and really tidy it all up, and continually. Plus it's great to see her, always good for a laugh and she's a lovely soul. She has some history with me. Georgie was the one who found that amazing green curtain material shirt that I wore on the Countdown Documentary-the one that viewers loved. She has such good taste and knows what I like. She's only at the KFS for ten minutes and a lady comes in with a small child and is really in a bad way. We use our special code to be nice and subtle and move a few people out while we take care of her. A good cup of tea is first on offer and we sit and slowly she unwinds and we all just talk. Eventually over to the big white tent and some red cross help too (they are mighty the red cross people). Very proud of Georgie , a natural at this and we both gave each other a little thank you and then back to business. I brought in my door bitch counters today- (well they count humans not the number of door bitches presen t)and we got a rough idea of how many people are coming through. Just over 650 today. Crazy as the KFS is not gigantic in size. Paige's nurse skills come in handy, some kids have cuts knees and she's right onto it. Partially my fault as I agreed to a box of donated frisbees and so we took a few dozen kids out onto the oval and played frisbee. Nice to see them laughing and a bit of an escape, for all of us - no one calling my name on the oval. Feels good. We all head over and give the Donkeys a pat- yes every day we seem to have a new animal visiting-just for fun.
I arrive home with Dinner- thanks Big Umbrella people. Mark has been working like crazy and got so much done. I now guilt and spend an hour outside-which is nothing, chainsawing and chopping with him. He is my rock.
June 24thA familiar face is at the oval in the morning. My friend and fellow music lover Pam B-she's with the Red Cross and wonderful to see her. She says the atmosphere here is great, the Community have certainly made this their own safe area. It was a weird day, people highly strung, I have 1 moment with a volunteer, partially my fault, like all things, in hindsight one can always handle things differently. Pam keeps the kids happy with Red Cross teddy bears. That makes me smile.
I'm charging the big battery for the chainsaw and even freezing our ice packs at the hub. Thank goodness we can do that , means we can have some food at home and Mark can continue with the clean up. Lots of sad people about today, many have lost their houses, and cars crushed. For a few today is the first time they have ventured out. Everyone has a story to tell, we chat to the volunteers and tell newbies just to let people talk- many need to do so.
I spend a chunk of today in my stockroom, stuff is really rolling in. More media in the afternoon, great to see Paige and Nia & Deb do these -Deb just does it so well -they come across as sincere and I suggest to a few of the press people that i know, about chatting to some locals. Finally this disaster is getting coverage. Mark is cooking dinner tonight - I am worn out today so this is awesome. Once again I fall asleep on the couch at 10.30.
June 25thUp at 6.00 am and off to check inventory at the KFS. I only got it partially done yesterday. Plus a big supply of firewood is arriving and I'm worried it will end up at the wrong spot. It's certainly not the wood in the car park on the side of the oval. Huge machines like metal dinosaurs are now lifting and dropping off hundreds of giant fallen trees. We call that area The Tree Morgue. It's a reminder of how many trees have fallen but also the reality of how huge and heavy these are. Kids are playing on them so i guess the council will start putting up fences.
A lady called Lillie and her helpers turned up, the most exceptional Fried Rice I have ever had. Sitting with Marky and Dean stuffing our faces.
The Military arrive today to lend a hand. They are going house to house with a Red Cross person to check on people-which is fantastic. Nice guys too -hmmmm odd I didn't see any women. I hang out with them for a few hours , and have my trusty road map of the area, some spots I've marked where the tree damage is massive. Some of my government people give me some extra information so I pass it on. Extra happy as they work on an access "road" for the food vans as they are getting a bit bogged in the muddy soil. One of the military guys that is hanging out with me is also a local.
The AusNet people are here again so we are directing people to the Alien Autopsy Tent where they are processing claims.. A few I remind about the Food spoilage deal too as most people are unaware.
I go for a walk with Deb and we hand out beanies, and hand warmers to our security people as it's a cold old day. Nice volunteers again today. Today was a really good day. The Girls amazing, Nia and Paige , Jill and Deb rallying everyone on.
June 26thIt's been almost impossible to work on Marks birthday surprise with no power and internet. I m m still going to pursue it as I have 4 weeks to go. I do make a phone call from one of my Army buddy's satellite phones and speak to a girl around Marks computer. She knows the situation up here and the manager puts a computer aside. So one way or the other he will get this awesome present on such a special birthday.
The wonderful Red Beast- the Holden Rodeo certainly got a work out today. I Delivered water, batteries, firewood and some grocery bags of goodies to 23 houses around the area. Some of the back roads are incredibly dangerous. Some trees came down when I was driving-that rattled me. People were overjoyed -I felt like Santa. I earned my Boy Scout badges today (: I made the mistake of driving down one road, and it was blocked by trees, very VERY muddy and the wheels started spinning. Thankfully Mark was in the car too. I stuffed branches and dry bark under the back wheels for some traction and we made it out-but nowhere to turn so drove 3kms backwards with Mark patiently guiding me.
I had to climb up on our roof this afternoon to photograph the solar panels etc. Was a bit shocked at how much debris was still on the roof from the disaster so gave it a clean up. Branches from trees that certainly don't grow in our yard! Those 205km winds certainly took branches on a long distance ride.
I did a few little things around the house, installed a brand new Loo seat! is that "normal" enough? I yearn for normality-and normally I never do. Welcome to my world. Forget shit like the "Great Reset" it's happening in our life now, a Disaster is the best "re set" you can ever have.
June 27thBusy busy busy at the KFS and Hub today. I'd say the second largest crowd we have had. People so excited by what stock we have for them. Some just wanting a cuppa and a chat. Lovely to watch the girls, the volunteers etc all getting it right today. It felt good, we genuinely helped a hell of a lot of people. No arseholes, every single person really appreciated our efforts, which makes you want to help even more. I love that people are baking and bringing in vegies from their gardens . Some kids came up to me and they bought some lollies from their pocket money to donate. Now that can make a tough ol' bastard like me almost shed a tear.
Some very funky hot water bottles arrived, all with individual knitted covers! I dug out the milk crate of double adaptors we "found" at the old drug house-all brand new, and the 50 or so went straight away. They might as well be used for good.
The Bushfire Recovery meeting was on at 4.00. I stood next to Allison and we had a giggle for a few moments. I just couldn't focus on it so departed to get the store ready and coffee, etc. Thankfully my fake wife turned up from the SES with a big box of facemasks , which i so needed, wanted to make sure everyone inside the Alien Autopsy Tent were Covid safe. I asked people about the meeting but nearly everyone said it didn't tell the community very much. We take some notes and add the important info to our white board.
June 28thA friend asked me to do a small radio interview this morning, so I obliged her. The interviewer seemed a bit amazed when i said I found so many positives happened from the disaster. I think they wanted doom and gloom from the front lines. I did give them that as well as a not so subtle push of some goods and services that we needed, but also all the amazing things, incredible people and this fucking awesome community. OK I didn't say "fucking" !!! At least on radio they can't see how crazy my hair is getting. Thank God a new shipment of beanies arrived today. I call in a few political favours-to make life easier. Sometimes I just keep "mum" about things, we need to get through this and sometimes whatever it takes to make certain things happen. I'm certain by the time this is over I will be the one owing favours.
The Red Beast arrived back at the oval covered in mud, some of the backroads are really terrible now, in just 24 hrs a few I can no longer drive down. I walked some groceries to a few houses. The mud is everywhere, debris and it's now starting to rain.
During the afternoon I had numerous chats to people-all who said they were not sleeping, waking up at 3AM. In one way good that we are all going through this but lack of sleep can lead to grumpy people or "short fused" moments.
it's been around 3 weeks and they are finally starting to connect the power to our house. I come back at lunch time to bring Mark some food from the Hub vans and a car pulls up. "More Power Guys" I say to them. They shake their heads "NO" they say. "You have been looking after our wives and kids for 3 weeks so we are here to chainsaw your fallen trees". I almost burst into tears , this is exactly what we need. So wonderful. All i could splutter was "I've got BEER"! "We have beer" they assure me and these wonderful mountain guys just are our heroes. A BIG thank you to Duncan from Olinda Pizza shop too-we will always remember this. I introduce them to Mark who is kind of shell shocked in a good way. Off they go, straight into it. I head back to the Free Supermarket and am overjoyed by this kindness.
June 29thIt's so weird having the electricity back on, so close to 3 weeks, that now seems so long. For the next week we continue to carry torches with us forgetting some normality has returned. The cave man days are over. I wonder how many of our friends could survive that long without it. Maybe we are both tougher then we think. The NBN is not working though and Mark is frustrated over that. While he is in the shower I take the stupid box apart and hey presto it IS working. Even I don't know how I fixed it- Gryphon Magic I tell him.
I start emailing people back around Marks amazing birthday surprise. So many generous souls, MG is going to be over the moon. We love our mates and their big generous hearts.
The Graveyard shift for me at the oval. It's almost like a carnival tonight. I cut loose and have a dance around the Big Umbrella truck-their music really is awesome. Mark arrives to take me home. He tucks me in tonight, worried I'm burning the candle at both ends. I think Nia has a week off, she needs and deserves it, such a champion, hell they all are. I am woman hear me roar!
June 30thThe IN box has so many Emails- 1827! Come on that is crazy. I slowly wade through them. Most are concerned friends, which is nice, Kalorama seems to of made the news everywhere.
My friend Josie has her Zumba class on the oval a few times a week. Those fearless woman getting their rhythm happening, exercising and having a ball. I grab a friends daughter and we join them. After two tracks I am well and truly stuffed. Not sure if I have the energy to burn up. It feels great & I admire Josie who just does it and with such cheer.
July 1stThe RDA donate and I agree to a small video for them. More so thanks to those who have helped us and avoided their political stuff. I did however sit around the campfire at the oval and talk politics with them. Which was good. I also get details of exactly EXACTLY what they want vouchers etc used for and who is to use them. I obsess over such things a bit but i figure if people support something it should be used for what they want. I have a feeling they had a "spy" with us for a few days as a volunteer working out who would be good to do this, so in some ways I am really honoured. They picked me, OK I'd better not stuff it up. I feel let down that I didn't see The Greens up here , being more active. Maybe I just missed them but it seemed strange, I really expected them to be more hand son.
Happy Birthday to Mark Hart. It still seems so very strange not to have him up there with the current Crowded House.
July 2ndI am awake at some strange hour. I promised Josie I'd turn up for her Zumba class today which is beamed live around Australia-from the Alien Autopsy Tent here at the Hub. Around 50 people turned up , fabulous! Karl from the "Today" show does the cross and asks if there are any guys in the class. I'm hiding up the back and refuse Karls tempting to come on down the front (rolls eyes). To make it even more bizarre both the camera man and sound guy lived across the road from us at the Woodface Apartment. Small World! The super surprise is that today, nearly all of us actually get it right and look like a tight bunch of Zumba regulars! One of the girls snaps a picture of my Levi'd butt during class and it gets 9/10 on line. So sexist, I chuckle, so sexy I add! A fun morning and good on you Josie for bringing a smile to our faces and letting Australia know that Kalorama is not just full of disaster misery. Fuck I ache!
July 3rd4 Million now dead worldwide from Covid, a terrible number, I can't believe some dickheads still think it's "just the flu" - pathetic.
The Doors music is playing out of the one of the vans at the oval, 50 years today since Jim Morrison died. It seems fitting, and sounds great. I visit 23 houses today with firewood and supplies and a few info sheets too. Lots of appreciative people. Quite a few traffic delays while the BIg machinery starts to arrive and the year long clean up begins.
We have a "NEED" white board in the KFS and someone added Alpaca's! (: Who was that someone? So a local turned up with 2 Alpaca's for all of us to pat and enjoy. How good is that. I add 'Next Weeks Winning Tattslotto Numbers" but no one supplies them.
July 4thThe new Crowded House album has already left the National Top 50! Well that was quick! I guess the public have spoken. I've kind of given up on it, will revisit it again down the track. I do wish them well. What else can i say.
I'm presented with the most beautiful homemade quilt at the oval. Created by the Essendon Quilt Makers - I will cherish this, and my time at the Emergency Hub. What a souvenir.
We have a new site manager from the Council, his name is Cliff and he's pretty cool. He's keeping an eye on us, helping where he can and good suggestions-he has the balance right. Not trying to take over.
July 5thA tiny bit of normality- I manage to get Banshee to the vets for her F3 injection. We are good parents, keeping her injections up to date. A fairly good health report for her too, considering she is a furry OLD woman.
Zero local Covid cases for Victoria , but NSW now has 35 new cases. Gladys already looks rattled, she won't lockdown, so watch the NSW numbers grow. Such a stupid Premier. Just Lock it down you silly person.
Parts of the main Tourist road are closed for 3 days so my chance to get to my Barber/Hairdresser are blown. So I bite the bullet and head into "Hair for the Hills" next to Montage. Some glowing reports so it's not just about old ladies like I thought. The funky girl at the desk sneaks me in for Friday. I am excited, my hair haystack will finally get a good work over.
My Free Kally Super Market ESP is working over time. At dusk I worry that our vegies are running very low. I'm still trying to encourage people to eat better, less Tim Tams more fresh fruit and vegetables. But all 3 shelves are now down to about 5% stock. Just as I send the thought out to the universe, the awesome Sussanah arrives with a car packed to the roof with vegetables and fruit. "I just had a feeling you'd need this". It made me smile. The Universe and Sussanah will provide! Bless them.
July 6thI help a few people with vouchers for fuel, still a lot of houses that are relying on generators up here and we have ran out of fuel (again) at the hub. I also grabbed a dozen of our Bunnings fuel containers (thank you Bunnings -canterbury Rd) and half filled them for people., They are large so half means I can double the amount of people receiving them. Thanks RDA for the vouchers too. A line of volunteers passes them along to the back of the supermarket and we distribute them. I love that when we call for people to help carry goods, we get dozens of volunteers from the community.
Sock Boy Benji did turn up-was it today? He had one of the news crews with him and he gave us thousands of pairs of socks, about 4 times the population of Kalorama. He was a nice kid so we all played it up a bit and for the cameras. The best part-3 big boxes of brand new beanies. I'm getting a short short SHORT haircut so with the chilly weather I'll certainly need one or two. I suggest we all show what socks we are wearing to the news cameras. Mine are deep green hiking socks- striking. I suggest Benji take some of the sock boxes to the Olinda Hub and one of our SES mates organises for him to go in the SES van with likes blinking and a guided tour of the disaster area. All the staff from the KFS head out and wave goodbye to him- looks very royal. We get a prime spot on tonights news! Donations start arriving again , it all helps. Thanks Benji.
July 7thI am amazed when someone points out it is now 4 weeks since the storm. It has flown by so quickly. One of the best things having electricity back on is that we can play music again! I had forgotten how much joy it brings me.
Still hundreds coming down to the Hub and the Kalorama Free Supermarket. I accept a donation organised by Cadi-Lee- some of the items much needed, so I am appreciative of that and send a thank you back. One of the locals collects some of the broken candles that have been donated and boils up the wax and makes some new candles for us. Susannah & Tim's professional power cords are being used, swapping over dodgy power lines that some people have , possibly saving lives as the weather has been a bit wet and some houses are running power cords from generators in the rain. We contact Dwight who picks up the generator he let us borrow-we didn't use it a lot but really appreciate the times we did.
I go back down to the oval later tonight as I thought Deb was locking up by herself and it can be a bit spooky when most of the humans have left. I shouldn't of worried as the lovely Melody is with her. I grab the key from them as I'm opening up tomorrow, plus I'm starting to strip back the storeroom. A few of the excess items can be used elsewhere for another disaster at Yarra Junction.
July 8thI buy a big card for Marks birthday and start adding all the names from friends, family and music loving mates who donated to Marks upcoming birthday surprise. So many people- it really is mind blowing. I catch up with 'The Others' (the other Peter & Mark) and they want me to keep the car for a few more weeks. Lovely blokes and it's very handy. Every so often there is someone who needs a hand and it has loads of space. I drove an older lady home this afternoon and despite saying "it's just around the corner" it wasn't- but the road was like a moving mud slide and the poor 4WD could just stay on the road. She was delighted by the lift and now I know why. Old ladies are so sneaky (I laugh). Our house/contents insurance is paid again for another year. We have insurance people arriving and going through all the various areas. I've left it till I can mentally deal with it all , and it's kind of time. I'm just relieved we have Insurance. So far it isn't as bad as I expected, the insurance guy seems to agree with all the broken items. It's all obvious.
July 9thI take a few hours off, the luxury of a haircut. I am kind of excited and I decide on a cut, that I rarely get in Winter but do so in Summer when I am swimming-yes SHORT! With all the lockdowns etc I wonder how often I can get a cut & colour so short is good. Chantelle is great, she is fun and I enjoy Hair on the Hills . Her assistant gives me the best scalp massage! I arrive back at the Hub with the new hairdo. Instantly the "Peter, Peter, Peter" calls happen around things that need done. Surrounded by "Paige, Paige, Paige" "Jill, Jill. Jill" "Nia Nia Nia" . I say we should all change our name so we can get stuff done. Mates ask about my new haircut under the warm beanie. "I'm a Shorn Sheep" I say. So this afternoon I only answer to "Shorn (Sean)". My pathetic effort to have fun and to ignore everything while I attempt a stock take.
I give up on the stock take for the day , as soon as I start, more stock arrives and a few mini disasters. Oh well there is always tomorrow.
Once again I fall asleep on the couch by 10.30 PM! So lame, so tired.
July 10thI decided that this weekend would be my last at the Hub and Kalorama Free Supermarket. I've done my tour of duty and it has been exceptionally rewarding. I considered today being the subtle farewell but tomorrow we have the "Healing Ceremony" so that feels like a nicer way to depart. I mention it to some of the girls. I make an extra effort to be cheerful today and find away to make every 'request' happen.
I am sitting with a rather handsome local, who is having a rather heavy "life" chat with me and in this craziness it's not the place to do this, so I pass on my contact details for a reschedule. It ends up being a life changing moment , in some ways for both of us. Some things the diary doesn't get to read. Life certain is strange... and great... and did I say STRANGE-talk about a curve ball.
July 11thMy last day at the Free Supermarket-Hub. We are all so very excited that Murrundindi, the tribal leader of the Wurundjeri people will be here leading the Healing Ceremony. We have between 400-500 people on the oval, our wonderful fire pot burning away in the centre. Murrundindi such a fascinating man, he has those kind eyes and makes you smile by his words. The Berrigan Emu Bush is burning, and we form two lines and walk through the smoke , it's symbolic but I have to say something clicked, I felt different, the emotions bubbled to the surface. I'm standing with Mark and Dean. We go through the smoke and I'm not sure if it's because it is my last day or the wonderful energy from this Tribal elder or simply that bloody Emu Bush burning but I'm feeling extra emotional. I'm needed at the Hub structure so walk back across the oval. A lady comes up to me and says the kindest things and I burst into tears. Shit I have been bottling this up. I think i freaked her out & she apologises and I laugh "it's not you" . The boys grab me and I feel this great protection of steel around me from them, the world feels upright again. I do need to appreciate those who care about me much much more.
We have so many extra rolls of Loo paper- my final gift to the local CFA is that I fill up the back seat of their fire truck. They now have enough toilet paper for a year! A small thank you to the CFA!
Lillie and the Gang have cooked up a feast for those who attended the ceremony. People are laughing, enjoying the free food , this is how I want my last moments down here to be. We are still a bit broken but the healing has begun. I saw goodbye to a few people and exit stage right. Dean gives us some mighty gifts, and we are all hugging, and will no doubt see each other again soon. I leave with joy in my heart- what an experience. Thank you Kalorama!