Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

13.2.09

The red eye.

And so, back to Richmond again after a break of almost three years. William was not a year old then but it feels like yesterday.

This morning I got off the train at East Richmond and crossed under the tracks via a dirty, graffitied subway to a narrow street of tiny, terraced Victorian cottages. Once, factory workers lived in them but now they have paper blinds in the windows, yuccas in the front gardens and silver BMWs out the front.

Down the street, the houses give way to small industry. A growling roar came out of an auto repair shop where an engine was being wound up on a test bed. Farther along, a circular saw in a cabinetmaker’s warehouse screamed as it bit wood. Across the road a refrigerated van reversed, beeping, into a seafood wholesaler's.

Towering over all of this like a fortress is the old Bryant and May match works. Factories like this once spewed smoke day and night over the suburb, known then by some as Struggletown.

There was haze over Richmond again today as I walked through it, but not from any factory. A capricious breeze had finally ushered smoke over the city, days after the fires. The sun rose this morning and hit the haze and at 6.30 it was a giant limpid-red ball, like a wet eye that has cried too much and doesn’t know why.

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My sister has lost one of her best friends, who died from severe burns and grief. The friend's husband didn’t make it out of the fires on Saturday.

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The helicopters flew across last night as usual. There were three, flying in formation. One of the pilots talks about the fires here.

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Germaine Greer is the loud aunt in the corner. No-one really likes the loud aunt but they never care and they never shut up. They're the kind of woman whose voice can be heard at the back door, down the driveway, at the front gate and as she is driven away in the taxi.

On Monday in the Times of London Greer dragged the fire debate out of its green ‘noble savage garden’ comfort zone of the last thirty or forty years, and took it kicking and screaming back through the 1939 and 1926 fires, past Captain Cook almost to the beginnings of time 60 millennia ago.

Last night she was back in the corner again causing awkward, if not shocked, silences.

She said the failure (to) accept that fire is an intrinsic feature of eucalypt bushland would ensure that tragedy will occur and re-occur. "It can't be prevented but it can be managed ... until there is a fundamental change of policy across all levels of government in Australia, there will be more and worse fires and more deaths," she said.

"I was born in 1939 and Melbourne was under black clouds of smoke with cinders sifting down everywhere and we were already there on Black Friday," she said.

Well said, loud aunt. She may not be well-liked but people sure as hell listen to her. (My mother was 10 – almost 11 – on that January Friday. She remembers the horror. And there were vastly fewer people in Victoria back then.)

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Food? Is that what this blog is about? We’ll get back to food in due course.

6 comments:

Lindie said...

I like reading your food things. Very much. But I came to your blog when I heard about the fires. You put a human touch on them and I learned more from you than the news shows.

onlinepastrychef said...

Oh, my--your post moved me. We were in CA last summer when the state was burning. Fortunately, there wasn't the tragic loss of life there that there has been in Australia. I, for one, am certainly thinking of you all. You will get back to food when you are ready. And that will just have to be okay.

kitchen hand said...

Thnak you, Lindie.

Onlinepastrychef, I remember seeing those California fires on the news last year.

Anna said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your sister's friends.

It always unnerves me when I can look at the sun. Particularly when it's red, like it has been for a few days now. Trying to explain to kids what it's all about it so hard, particularly when you try to tell them what has happened to cause it.

Anne said...

Whatever this blog is about, it's okay with me. (p.s., although it seems fairly trivial in context, I tagged you for an award)

kitchen hand said...

Anna, we are struggling with the explanations children right now. Also trying to stop them looking at the sun!

Thanks for the kind tag, Anne. I'm a little tardy with tags, but I will get to it.