Post 3 – Day 1

Planning, thats what these events are about.  When you mind is running on possibilities and your body on adrenaline the mix tends to lead to random inconsequential acts like moving stuff from one part of the deck to the other, as if thats going to make a difference.

I didn’t really have a detailed plan just a big picture:

  • get the downstairs stuff on the deck
  • get the garage stuff as high as possible
  • have a place to go to in case of the worst scenario
  • get the tenants out (they had no transport)
  • have my most personal stuff packed and ready to go.

What the hell is your personal stuff? Is it you undies, christmas cards still hanging on the kitchen blinds, insurance documents (wherever they were), kids drawings of pirate ships from grade two, photos with no dates, framed awards, paintings hanging on the wall, Billie, or your favourite teapot?  No doubt if I went on the web somebody with lots of time on their hands would have a nice little list you could tick off electronically as you scooted from room to room searching for what might look like personal stuff.  Actually I just had a thought.  Why not have a big stamp – PERSONAL – and as you accumulate junk throughout your life just whack it with the stamp, then its just a simple matter of throwing the stuff into a box, no brain time involved.

Well its just after midday and although I am still sticking to my big picture plan throwing stuff randomly around the house the water is rising relentlessly, actually the better word is insidiously.

The back deck is looking challenging with all the furniture from downstairs now thrown into “organized” heaps.  I’m not sure where the fridge is getting is power from but it looks internal which must be a first.

Furniture "neatly" stacked 0n the back deck "safe" from the water - 12.42pm

The apartment or is this description a bit posh for a single bedroom space, is looking decidedly empty.  Mind you its had a shower and a kitchen, furniture and a tellie, “pond” views, frog symphonies at night and a wireless internet connection all for few dollars a week.

It was a nice "apartment" - 12.43pm

Next door in the laundry the washing machine looked a bit like something out of Dr Who.  Did you know they put concrete in these bloody things just to make it harder to move around in times of crisis.  Why can’t they have a thing you fill with water so its stops doing the tango with a big wash then all you would have to do is drain it when you want to move it (hmm I should patent that idea).  This baby was only 12 months old and still learning how to deal with my “smalls”.  Note the nice touch, a little cloth to protect the coffee table.  Obviously I was not brain dead and I was attending to detail and not just the big picture.

Its not a Darlek but maybe a distant cousin - 12.44pm

As for the garage the exercise of throwing stuff higher really did not make a difference to the existing chaos, it was just rearranged at a higher altitude.  Mind you I got all the Multi-Pak orientations correct, fruitlessly pointing to up as the arrows show and there’s my Kinchrome Tool Trolly box proudly sitting on top of the pile.  Believe it or not there is room for a car.

The garage - place where gravity worked against my muscle power - 12.45pm

Outside it was wet and getting a little more exciting.  The four houses are little havens for Anita and Pete and little baby Adam on the left (thats Anita in the window trying to figure out what to do with Adam.  My place next door with the Honda, Bryn’s with the trailer in front and then Craig and Belinda’s.  The thing to note is the rubbish bins – talk about denial. Pete and I have our bins out ready for a visit from our friendly council truck but no sign of a bin at Bryn’s place.

The "players" - Anita and Pete, me, Bryn and Craig and Belinda's place - 12.46pm

And here is the sage.  Bryn’s dad.  I apologize for forgetting his name and will correct it when I find out but this is the fellow who knows what he is talking about when it comes to water.  Well its Greg – its is 4 months later and I have finally gotten around to correcting this.

It’s a very simple formulae.

rain + rain = lots of water so get out

Bryn's dad - the one person who knew what he was talking about - 12.47pm

About an hour later it was obvious that the toad tadpoles in the pond had a decidedly larger choice of swimming space since the creeping water had infiltrated further up the block.  Insidious is a good word since the water silently invaded my space without a word of permission.

Its all a bit too real now - 1.23pm

Thirty minutes later the creep had accelerated and the water had now reached the pavers adjacent to the house.  This was not looking good and our laser – stick – tape measure calculations earlier in the day were looking decidedly dodgy.

It's here and its wet - 1.56pm

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Post 2 – Day 1

Given the water in the park I decided it might be prudent if I worked from home that day so I sent an email off to let them know I would not be in.  I had only been back at work one day after a Christmas break.  It would be two weeks before I returned.

I’m not sure exactly when my neighbour Bryn turned up that morning but it must have been around 8am.  Bryn is young, fit and when you push the button he is all “go”.  I think his opening statement when I opened the door was “we have made the decision to go, my Dads a bit of a worry wart but he reckons its going under”.  Well that was a bit exciting, a catalyst of a decision and who was I to argue with Bryn’s dad.  After a bit of an exchange about radio reports of the river reaching 1.6m at the port (wherever the hell that is) Bryn and his tenants Dave and Jess who lived downstairs, were gearing up to clear their house.  This meant boxes and people and cars and trailers and plans to store stuff.  I was not even close to that level of sophistication in my way of thinking and I had only had one hurried cup of tea.  I had tenants too, downstairs still asleep.

Just to see what the river was doing Bryn and I went across the road to the Oxley Sailing Club.  Although it’s just thirty meters away you have to walk up a steep rise to see the river and it was looking pretty ominous.  One of the boat sheds was already under about a metre of water and the deck immediately in front on the rivers edge was nowhere to be seen.  Its a great place to come on a hot summers night to sit and watch the water flow past with Billie twitching about the possums and a nice glass of crisp white wine in hand.  That day it was more appropriate to have a forty foot “gin palace” moored to the starters deck.

Tues 11 Jan 8.15am - Oxley Sailing Club Boatshed

The height of the water was helping my descision making process enormously.  There were the usual dry comments about launching boats more easily and sailing into the shed but this was looking a little more serious.

In probably what was my only moment of self denial, I decided to approach this scientifically.  How stupid was that.  When we got back from the sailing club Bryn grabbed a couple of garden stakes and banged them in the ground, one at the edge of the water in the park and one about halfway into his garden which was about half a metre higher than mine.  The assumption was that the level of the water in the park equalled the level of the river water.  Then I pulled out my piddly laser pointer I use for lectures and proceeded to figure out where a rise of 1.6m at the mystical port would translate into water slopping around the feet of both our houses.

Tuesday 11 Jan 9.43am - You can see the peg at the waters edge next to the big tree

Well talk about two idiots, after a bit of stuffing around with a useless laser a tape measure and some dodgy mental calculations we reckoned it would probably enter the lower level of both houses.  This was the trigger for my first decision to clear the lower half of the house and throw it all up on the back deck.  Bryn on the other hand had his Dad.  He didn’t need a stupid laser or tape measure or stakes or silly calculations, the houses were going under and that was that.  That’s experience from the 1974 flood speaking and the intuition that comes with being around for a while.  Lesson number one learnt. Listen to somebody who knows what they are talking about.

Saw my other immediate neighbours, Pete and Anita and told them what Bryn and I had decided.  I think they were subconsciously into self denial at that stage, a bit like me and seemed to be hedging their bets about moving stuff.  They have a young baby and all I can remember of this “hazy” phase is talking about putting together their important stuff and getting that ready in case we all had to get out.  Who was I to speak – it turns out I missed most of my important stuff when I left but more of that later.

It is a bit of a blur for about 4 hours from 8am and I only took a few pictures mainly as a chronological diary of the rising water.  I do remember a few things however.  The first was rousing the tenants who really had no concept of the potential of their living space becoming an indoor pool or the urgency of the matter.  The next picture taken was at 11.16am and by that stage the water had snuck under the back gate and our trusty survey stick was now becoming an island

 

Tues 11 Jan 11.16am - Water now under the back gate - survey stick swimming

Bryn, Dave and myself popped over to the sailing club again and this time the urgency really hit me since the water line on the boatshed had risen by another 300mm.

Tues 11 Jan 11.30am - Olxley Sailing Club boatshed

I’m not sure what Bryn was doing on the phone while we were there but I swear he was probably putting in an offer for the riverside property immediately to his right.

Tues 11 Jan 11.31am - Bryn on phone negotiating price

To cut a tedious story short there was a frenetic few hours where I was pulling furniture from down stairs and hauling it up a steep flight of stairs to the back deck.  Urgency, adrenalin and muscles somehow formed a perfect symphony so that by about midday all of the stuff from the downstairs apartment was piled high on the back deck “miles away from any possible water”.

The next was the garage which is closed in and contains a lot of tools that I had used to rebuild the house over the period 2005 – 2007.  It also contained about ten storage cartons that had not been opened following a short period working in the U.K. at the beginning of 2005.  The rather ironic thing was I had just started cleaning the garage on the Saturday and had bought a big tool chest on wheels which I had been eyeing off for months.  Its one of those blokes things you dribble over and can be classified as “boys toys”. When you finally get around to buying one its just another set of drawers in which to stuff more junk.  By the end of Saturday one side of the garage was looking pretty good and all my tools had a proper place for the first time.  That was all about to change.

Its easy to say I could have moved all of the house contents but there was a slight complication.  I had no people, no real transport and no place to go.  That was the situation faced by many people I presume.  Suffice it to say I threw as much stuff as possible as high as possible in the garage.  This was lesson number two.  Make sure you are fit enough to throw heavy stuff around quickly and since I am no Mr Atlas, some it was a bit of a struggle.

In a passing conversation with Bryn at some stage that morning he said that the neighbours two doors up Craig and Belinda and their two kids, were not at home and staying on the Gold Coast about an hours drive south.  This must have been tough for them so I popped over to the house and threw everything I could lay my hands on or lift onto their deck.  Mostly children’s toys, bikes and clothes it also included two kids orange blowup body boards one of which featured in a bizarre and poignant event the following Friday.

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Post 1 – January 11, 2011

I have a Golden Retriever, Billie (its a girl, a bit of a wimp well a lot of a wimp) who woke me about 1am on Tuesday by her grumbling on the back deck.  This usually means a possum or something else furry or feathered intruding on her space and a quick sharp response from me usually shuts her up.  This time however, it was something different.  My house backs onto a really nice park that runs along the Brisbane river, a pretty sizeable body of water that slowly winds its way to Morton Bay.  When I looked to see what Billie was barking at I could see a shimmering of light in the park that was coming off a body of water which is unusual to say the least.  It had been raining pretty heavily on and off for about three weeks and we were all getting pretty fed up with continuous grey days, wet streets and silly inadequate umbrella’s in a Brisbane summer that had not really started.  The mower had not been able to get onto the park for at least a month and the grass was knee high.  Some of the lower parts of the park were waterlogged but this was not unusual following traditional heavy thunderstorms.  Anyway after a brief exchange of pleasantries between Bille and my self (luckily she does not speak human) I went back to bed.

It slowly sank in ……

Up at 6.00am as per usual and glanced out the back and then I knew something a little different was happening.  Not only had the sheet of water extended significantly in the park but where two storm water drains were located, muddy brown water was now ominously bubbling into the rapidly expanding lake and it was still raining heavily.

6.24am Tuesday the 11th January 2011 - Musgrave park

Now I am a bit of a photo freak and I drive some people to distraction pointing my cyclops eye at anything visually interesting so I grabbed the first shot at 6.24am of what turned out to be a photographic record I will both treasure and hate.  I took hundreds of photos but will only show a selected few in this record and post the “good” ones on another site.  The rest are for my eyes only!  There will not be many of me since thats the type of person I am. There will however be a few key images that reflect how I felt at crucial moments.  These are for me and for all those whose experienced the same feelings especially the volunteers.

Billie

This is not just a human story it involves Billie my dog, my friend.  We get along just fine.  With a tongue like a dinner plate and eyes you cannot but give in to she belongs to the house like a carpet to a floor.  Given the amount of fur she sheds I probably did not need a rug.  One trick I did discover was to open the front door and the back bifolds and purge the house of fur from front to back with a garden blower vac – works a treat if a little eccentric.

Billie - aged 5, a golden retriever with lets say a sleep attitude

Ever since she was a pup Billie did not like water which is a little odd for a “goldie” who are bred to retrieve downed waterfowl.  They are also useless as a guard dog since they will befriend anybody.  Definitely not a “one man dog”. Billies intense dislike of water probably stems from when I took her to the ocean when she was a pup, an event that obviously scarred her for life.  She’s a timid little thing jumping at any strange noise including her own farts which is hilarious to watch.  By the time I took the first picture Billie was certainly worried and followed me around like a nervous shadow.

One of the things I really liked about my back deck was sitting on the wicker sofa with a newspaper and a good cup of tea with the occasional glance over the greenery of the garden and park beyond.  That morning I had water views, limited mind you but non the less water views that in time became a little less inviting.

One of my favourite spots for relaxation - Tuesday 6.29am

The last thing on my mind at that stage was the chance of water rising from the park.  After all I felt pretty smug sitting on a deck three meters above ground and when you have not had a prior experience and are pretty naive about the nature of rising water, its a bit of an adventure.

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In the beginning…..

It is exactly 14 days since it all began and it’s all a bit of a haze at the moment.  It is a journey I do no want to take again but perversely I would have not missed it for “quids”.  This experience has changed me it has changed the people around me and it has absolutely confirmed to me that we are a pretty unique species.  I will come back to why the site is called The Red Shoe but in a simple unadorned way I would like to describe in my own words what it is like to go through a flood when you lose all your material posessions but gain a deeper understanding of what its like to live in a community, to have great friends, to make new friends so easily and to have a deeply caring family.  This site is dedicated to those people, its not a site for me its a site for those who helped me and others like me through this tough and emotional time.  I cannot thank you enough and will always be indebted to you.

I now know what it really means to accept help – willingly offered with no conditions.

Feel free to add comments particularly those volunteers who helped a complete stranger in a time of need and remember this is a blog so if you are new to the site start reading under My Posts from the first post  – Day 1,  January 11, 2011.

Alan Cody – January 2011

Chelmer, Queensland

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