The score of ibis form a large inverted ‘v’ across the grey sky, heading inland over a paddock of brightly green grass and cattle.
“Look kids, look at the birds, aren’t they beautiful,” I point through the rain-splattered window.
Beloved glances over at me. “You’re not a Queenslander.”
“Why? What?” I frown.
“When birds head off like that it’s not a good thing.”
The rain has been falling steadily and is due to continue falling steadily. But it’s not coming down particularly fast or hard, just a set in wet.
“Hmm.” I leave it, but remember his words the next day.
Beloved phones from work. “Are you getting ready to pick up the kids?” I look at the clock.
“A bit early, don’t you think?”
“The rain’s picked up a bit.”
For the first time in awhile I look out of the window. I’ve been pottering, unpacking all the myriad of boxes, re-discovering favourite books. Hugging my baby close as it’s her first birthday on the morrow and I’m all teary about it. My last baby’s last day as a baby. Sniffle. Sniffle some more. Big hug. Smooch.
Our back garden is now a lake and rain torrents down. I walk to the front door, babe on hip - our gutter has disappeared under fast rushing water, everything is swimming in water.
“I might set off.”
Beloved phones again five minutes later. “Do you want me to phone dad to help you? I just heard they think the lights near the school have gone under.”
Beloved’s dad arrives promptly and we set off. Before we go a minute I know I’ve made the right decision. My driving is lousy at the best of times. There’s no way I’d navigate this without panic. The water is high on either side of the car and a lake has formed in the play-ground. Stranded cars, their hazards on, line the road. The street I normally turn down has completely flooded – there’s a car halfway down it, clearly stuck. We go on and turn, and try another street, going only halfway down before turning back, although two other cars go through the water, about knee deep. I begin to worry we won’t be able to reach the kindy by car, that I’ll have to get out and walk the last bit. The rain is belting down now. Going a circuitous route we reach kindy and gather up The Extravaganza and then head for the school. The walk is longer from the car here - I jump fast flowing water, my boots sodden in seconds. I know I should have worn flip-flops but I’ve been celebrating the first chill of the year.
In the car on the way home the kids are excited, interested, as they see how deep the water is around the car and all the cars that are stuck, Adventure boy tells me he’s scared, but he’s grinning as he says it. When later he tells me he’s rain-sick I believe him, though.
Home, we change, dry-off, get coffee. My father-in-law returns to his house.
The rain continues pelting down. The internet hasn’t been connected at our new house yet and I’m slow and clumsy on my phone as I search for news.
The bridge is under. Well, that’s normal for rain here. It’s when I see the news reports of cars floating I begin to panic. A car is floating near a fuel pump?
How will I pick up Beloved? I can’t drive in this. He phones to tell me he’ll walk home. It’s only twenty minutes away.
I read more. Thunder rumbles and rumbles some more. Lightning flashes. The rain continues. I read that a girl has been hit by lightning near us and phone Beloved in a panic to not under any circumstances walk home. I hope the teen can reach a hospital in the rain with all the road blockages.
Beloved arrives, sodden at the door. He listens to me like that. He’s soaked through and has walked through waist deep water. At the roundabout near the shopping centre, that was fine when we drove past it this morning, cars were floating. It is his last day of work before his annual holidays and he was going to get home come hell or (ahem) high water.
The rain lessens. We can see it rapidly draining away in the garden. We make plans for planting in the sodden soil.
We are fine. In my eight years with Beloved, the Queenslander, it is my third big ‘hundred year’ flood.
In this flood, people in our town have died. Five people, including a five year old have drowned. I try very hard not to think of their last moments. As well as the sadness, it seems surreal. I grew up with a healthy fear of bushfire, but this was just a bit of rain, albeit 36 centimetres in less than 24 hours. The car park to the shopping centre has flooded, as have the usual streets and bridges.
My brother emails that we’re like the four horsemen, bringing disaster in our wake, and I can’t help but wonder.
Beloved and I met in the Solomon Islands and shared riots, lockdown and evacuation together. Moving down from Queensland we hit our first floods together. I went to bed one night knowing Beloved meant to head through Grantham that night on his long drive from Queensland to Victoria, and woke to hear that Grantham had been all but washed away, with many deaths. Luckily, as the roads became deeper in water he had retraced himself and gone a different way, but until I first heard his voice I was… alarmed. (Read – frantic.) In Gippsland our town got fires and months of toxic smoke. In Glasgow we were just finding a park to head to the square where a truck veered out of control, killing eight, as it happened. In Paris, terrorists attacked on our last day. As I lay feverish in bed I heard siren after siren and woke panicked for my children, out with Beloved, more panicked after I quickly checked the news.
But we have three healthy kids and a full complement of parents and our country is free of war, famine or plague so I’m going to say we’re lucky and it’s just that we’ve travelled a fair bit that we’ve hit the edges of other people’s tragedies. Maybe other people are plagued by riots, floods and fires as well, but just don’t dwell on them?
I am unsure, but today is a new day and the sun is shining.