Despite what you might have gleaned from watching quality drama like Home and Away and Neighbours, living in Australia is not all stubbies, snags, sunshine, spunks and surf, you know.
Reading this on a typically grim Scottish February day you might feel in desperate need of some dazzling down-under therapeutic summer warmth, but before you think about selling the family car, boarding out the kids, (or vice versa), and signing the emigration papers, you should consider some of the less alluring elements of life in the Land of Oz.
Like, for instance: cockroaches you could saddle up and ride over the sticks at Aintree, red-back spiders – one bite and you’re history – cane toads, eight different species of deadly snake, crocodiles, box jellyfish, great white sharks and, by far the worst of the lot, avoid them at all costs, whinging Poms.
Sadly, that’s not true. As noxious as bellyaching Brits may be, they fade into insignificance compared with the present danger threatening my town - not one, but two bush fires currently raging out of control a mere kick-in-the-arse away from the bucolic village of Swifts Creek.
A bush fire is a horrific event. If you’ve never experienced one, consider yourself very lucky because it is without doubt the most appalling, terrifying phenomena, right up there with tsunamis, earthquakes and Susan Boyle concerts.
On bush fire alert days – and we’ve had more than our fair share this summer – there’s a palpable sense of foreboding.
It’s usually a stinking hot one with temperatures well over 40 degrees, accompanied by a vicious wind – gale force stuff – that quite literally has the capacity to singe your eyebrows should you be daft enough to venture out in it unsuitably attired.
You can’t sunbathe in this sort of weather. You can’t hang around the pool under an umbrella sucking on a pina colada, you stay well out of it and if you do have to go outdoors, you seek shelter in any way you can, for this is the devil’s fire writ large, all this weather is going to do is burn.
Burn, scorch, scald and blister. Everything in its path. It’s intense.
No matter how hard you think you are, no matter how much a ticket you consider yourself to be, this fire is going to win.
A square go? Forget, it, it wouldn’t be a fair fight. You’ll lose. So far neither of the two nearby fires has hit us yet. And fingers crossed they won’t. But, the thing is, you just don’t know, a sudden change in the wind and literally within minutes our town could easily be engulfed, as has already happened to various unfortunate towns in the vicinity.
And that’s why we all have fire plans. Have plenty of water on hand, check your fire pump, keep your property as clear of combustible debris as much you can and – crucial if it all goes pear-shaped - get out early.
In other words, take what you can and run. And watch – from a safe distance – as your house and all the possessions you can’t carry, burns to the ground.
Re-thinking that emigration plan now aren’t you?
But of course, it’s an ill wind and the winds we’re currently undergoing are iller than most – that does nobody any good.
Due to the vast numbers of ancillary staff, emergency personal, fire units and all the rest who’ve been drafted in to fight the blaze – not that it’s actually possible to combat something which at the last count covered an area of approximately 100,000 acres, an incredible eighth of the total land area of the whole of Scotland - the population of our village is now 10 times its normal size.
Needless to say this is a financial bonus for the proprietors of the pub, the café and various accommodation providers but I think it’s fair to say they’d rather be skint than burnt.
You can’t make jokes about bush fires. Of course you can’t.
You can’t realistically fight it either.
You certainly can’t beat it, all you can do is take the necessary precautionary action, cross your fingers, hope that the sheer randomness of the inferno bypasses you and that the weather, the heat and the imminent danger eventually diminishes as high summer turns into cooler autumn conditions.
You have to wait. Pray, maybe, if that’s your thing.
And acknowledge the power and invincibility of Old Ma Nature, which always – always – wins in the end.
Actually, you have to make jokes about it.
It’s just about the only thing you can do.
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