Sunday, January 16, 2011

The problem, you see, is the rain.

The amazing images coming from Queensland, Australia this week have been, quite frankly, amazing.  Don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced the kind of jaw dropping amazement which only comes from someone who had never ever thought bull sharks could swim their way down to the shops, and who absolutely cannot conceptualise the sheer size of the area affected by gushing, life taking water. A space larger than France and Germany, combined?? With news that 43 towns in Victoria have now experienced flooding (including my sister! renovated kitchen and all) we’re probably feeling that this is a once in a lifetime event. This has to be a tragedy that will never be repeated, it’s not like we need to get used to this kind of performance?

What’s interesting is that as Australians we SHOULD be used to the weather being this ferocious. We’ve regularly fielded the rough hand balls from Mother Nature which force us to live up to the endearment, ‘Aussie Battler’.  Sizzling droughts leading to destructive bushfires, force of a gale winds tearing roofs from houses, and of course the brown, murky waters of the flood. A recent piece in the UK’s Guardian has Germaine Greer asking “Australian floods: Why were we so surprised?” Greer describes the multiple warnings we’ve been given from Meteorologists over the past ten years about the ‘La Nina’ weather system. La Neens results in water-laden air dropping its cooling load over a land mass (Aus in this case) and apparently computer modelling has shown that this system would be super likely in 2010. There was even a comment from the Bureau in June last year giving us a six month heads up that it was going to be a wet one. 

Read about this in Germaine’s article

Aussies, do you remember this? Were you watching the ABC TV weatherman (I feel like his name is Graham? Is it? Still?) and were subsequently shocked into a pre-emptive action plan to protect your property, your family and your tomato plants from the coming deluge? Guesses are not, because as Australians we let that news wash over us (bad choice of words) for something to deal with on a rainy day (ohh, and again).  Was it the choice of words that stopped us from taking notice? If Graham had gesticulated madly and shouted, "Look Juanita, it is going to bucket down like you wouldn’t believe for MONTHS, resulting in people being able to surf on your front lawn", would we have been spurred into action? 

Germaine Greer has an opinion on our reasons for inaction (she is mad for an opinion) but I did find her an interesting choice of author for this article. She has long been an inspiration for a certain kind of woman, but never before had we seen potential for her as spokesperson for the weather watchers… until this paragraph:

“British people might think that they're rain experts. Truth is that they hardly know what rain is. The kind of cold angel sweat that wets British windscreens isn't proper rain. For weeks now rain has been drumming in my ears, leaping off my corrugated steel roof, frothing through the rocks, spouting off the trees, and running, running, running past my house and down into the gully, into the little creek, into the bigger creek, and on to the Nerang river and out to sea at Southport. “

Oh Germaine! The poetry! Seriously, angel sweat? I knew she could be a woman after my own heart, but she’s propelled herself into an entirely different league. This kind of descriptive weather watching is what likens this art to say, wine tasting. You drink in the elements, really taste them, and wait for the words to swim their way to your lips.

So, as a result of the scale of this flooding there’s now going to be a lot of discussion about government preparation, strategies and whether or not to mince words. That debate won’t rage here, but what we will look at it, with awe, is the enormity of the weather’s power and know to never take it for granted. Mother Nature is indeed a cruel mistress.

Frog riding a snake.  

London tomorrow, you don’t know what rain is! So when the forecast calls for ‘heavy rain’ don’t be fooled. You wont be meeting a flathead outside your office. 

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