What do you say?

What do you say when you are living in a place, where on the day the floods hit Toowoomba and Grantham, we received our first rain for 12 months and probably only rain for the next 12 months? Barely enough to justify turning the wipers on.

What do you say to the mate you’ve known for 25 years who has just had 1.5m of flood water go through the top floor of his house? He left for a holiday down to Phantom’s neck of the woods before there was an issue and wasn’t able to get back before the water was already shoulder deep through the bottom floor of the place he lives in with his wife and young daughter. He wasn’t able to get anything out, although fortunately some neighbours were able to get two carloads of stuff out but not necessarily the things they would have chosen.

What do you say to a 5 year old girl who is trying to comprehend life without her collection of fairy books? Chances are by now they are pulp. In the eyes of a child, what could be a greater loss? Thankfully, Rebecca is too young to fully understand the magnitude of what has happened. Hopefully her memories will be much the same way that my memories of the ’74 flood are more about the fun of 4 families having an extended sleepover. (That may have been influenced by missing out on a week of school which Becs won’t have the benefit of).  Rather than cleaning out 6 inches of mud from houses or finding a variety of reptiles ranging in venomosity and animosity in cupboards. (I recall a feisty red belly black making an exit from a house, possibly the Shaw’s (they get a mention below), as quick as was possible for a snake to make while slipping, sliding and slithering on the mud as I was doing much the same trying to get out of his way).

What do you say to his Mother in Law (and mine by extended definition if you count my sister being married to her son) who lives in the same complex? Who lost her husband way too young and too close to the ’74 floods. Eenie has been a formidable matriarch to a successful and incredibly high achieving family, who now has no photos of those achievements to reflect on.

What do you say to the family you have known for 40 odd years whose mother and daughter have had houses go completely under? Paula, one of three daughters and two sons, worked as a teacher in Aurukun for a couple of years.  It’s unlikely anything other than memories of that time are left. (For a brutally honest account of her experience read her book “Seven Seasons in Aurukun”  http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=305&book=9781741757071 ). She was a baby in the ’74 floods. I think her family was one of those in the house we were at, as their house on Oxley Creek was submerged.

What do you say to her mother? Natalie became a second mother to me as I was making my way to university study for the 4th time, (this one stuck), by taking me in when funds were tight.  Not too long after the ’74 flood, her husband Michael died from lung cancer, the life insurance was scammed away by a charlatan so she had to go back to work, when she should have been provided for, to keep a home that should have been safe. Then, a few years, later losing Matthew, her eldest son, to suicide. Thankfully, while I’m not sure how much her current house has been affected, now her life is richer through being shared with a really nice bloke, who fortunately has a house up in Mt. Tamborine, which should be safe from the waters. I think the other daughters, Natasha and Edwina are safe, although son Liam is I think in country NSW somewhere could be getting wet feet soon enough too.

What do you say to the school friend, who was instrumental (pun intended) in turning a narrow, Top 40 (4IPam, thankfully RIP now) listening kid into an open-minded sponge for the alternative/punk/rock sounds that have been the entire soundtrack to my life since then? The one kid who really didn’t care what the ‘cool’ kids thought about him. He was the bloke who formed his own band before he left school, and nobody knew how cool that was because nobody had done it before. The kid who stood up for himself when rugby ‘jocks’/jerks had a go at him because he wasn’t like them. He is still doing it now under the moniker ‘Punxsie and the Poison Pens’ (http://www.punxieandthepoisonpens.com ) with his wife Louise, who looks and sounds like a piece of work. (Recently released EP getting some airplay around the traps). Last message from him (blessed be the cursed facebook) had photos of the river rapidly rising in their backyard. First the posts were musings on the possibility of the Bali Hut in the back yard being swept away. You knew it was serious when the decisions had to be made as to which guitars took priority, Gibson or Fender, in the evacuation. I haven’t heard from him for a couple of days, so am assuming the house has gone under.

What do you say to these people who have had such a profound and positive influence on your life as they clean up what is left of theirs? When you know that, apart from loss of life, the worst part of floods is that you have to throw away things that you treasure, if they are still in your house.

What do you say when you feel, at the same time, so far away and so close to family and friends?

What can you say????

About Russell Yule

Indogus is the alter ego of Russell Yule. He has retired more times than actually played games, although is completely retired now in order to live vicariously through his children's sporting proclivities. Given any available space in a conversation, he will regale you with boring stories about his exploits with the Bali Geckos or Abu Dhabi Falcons, of which he is extremely proud.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Although being at a distance from the disaster is distressing for many like you in practical terms Russell, the distance can be a positive help later on. I imagine people in the disaster zone will appreciate being able to communicate with people out of the area – Just by being able to have conversations about non flood related things in order to claw back some sense of normality in the world. Ongoing moral support will be crucial and much appreciated down the track so others like yourself can provide invaluable and reliable support in the months and years to come .

  2. David Downer says

    Gus, I had thought of the irony of your situation in recent days – being a dyed-in-the-wool Qld’er currently living in desert conditions, half-way across the world. As you refer, must be bloody tough watching it all unfold from afar. Our thoughts to your family and mates that they pull through ok.


  3. Thanks Pamela. You are right, it is the psychological support that is now important after the clean-up. I was talking with my 7yr old boy on the drive home from school last week about Rebecca losing all her books (and toys, including many fresh from xmas ones). He said “I have a lot of books and toys I don’t use anymore. I could send them to her.”

    That has planted a seed and a toy and book drive has been started at school and hopefully at other schools around here as well.

    DD. Yes, irony abounds. I couldn’t believe it rained here on the day the floods hit back home…

    My mate had “15-20 friends” around yesterday to clean up/”deconstruct” upstairs. Carpets ripped out, timber fittings removed, and all else chucked. Downstairs to go. The only salvageable items so far appear to be surfboards…

  4. Gus

    Thanks for your words. Whatever people have been saying it seems to have found the relisience of a community, a people, a culture.

    Have been hearing lots of sad stories, and lots of very heart-warming stories.

    The interesting thing is the degree to which this reality influunces Brisbane/Queensland’s understanding of itself.

    The key thing though is the plight of the people themselves, as your words convey.

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