When I was a kid we would all troop off strawberry picking at Strawberry Bill's (our name for Bill Marsh) farm. I think it was either Spring or Autumn when we would go, the mists had started in the valleys and you had to rug up for the early morning start but when the sun came up it was all shiny and beautiful. The farm was fringed by gum trees and bush like so many properties up there. (Sadly one of the Marsh family is still on the missing list.)
I was also thinking about the fact we were taught at school what to do if caught in a bushfire. I have clear memories of sitting in class being quizzed as to rules of Bushfire Survival and we were at a Primary School that at the time was probably on the slight fringes of Melbourne (certainly not now) but in no immediate danger of bushfires (....well there had been some close but always contained, I grew up not far from our beloved Poppalina). This had me flummoxed. I have come to the conclusion that in those days a hell of a lot of families spent their weekends on things like picnics and drives in the country (it's certainly something our parents put us through!) and I remember driving through the Dandenongs and other areas after bushfires. Strange moonscapes of ash grey and black. But I also remember how vibrantly green the new growth was.
What got me thinking about these classes was how we were trained that if caught we should put on wool clothing, heavy shoes, make sure we had wool blankets for protection, to cover your body to protect it. And what did I see on TV but people fighting fire in thongs, shorts and t-shirts.... I know they may have been caught unawares but........
There has been a lot of talk about what we can do to help and really at this point money is the best way of showing our support. I know many people are offering to donate money if something is purchased but really I feel that now is one of those times when I would suggest that people just give for the sake of giving. Don't expect something in return (except for the private warm glow of knowing that you have helped in a small way).
There is one donation drive happening tomorrow that I think is important. Community radio station RRR here in Melbourne is getting together toiletries (tampons, etc, disposable razors, soap, shampoo/conditioner, etc) and have organised for it to be delivered up to the bushfire hit areas. I think it is one of those pragmatic gifts that is so touching in it's usefulness. You can drop stuff off to the RRR offices at 221 Nicholson Street East Brunswick during office hours tomorrow (Wednesday).
*This quote comes from a woman who, just glad to be alive and that her family had survived the fires, had lost the family home and everything they owned.