Brisbane floods

Thursday

I saw a tweet earlier today along the lines of “I don’t like living in interesting times”, and I thought it was amusing. Referring to the alleged Chinese curse which from memory I don’t think is real, but is very clever nonetheless, “may you live in interesting times”.

Sometimes an idea will get stuck in my head, a wordplay usually, and repeat over and over until I put it into the world. Throughout the pandemic my little brainworm is a similar corruption, “you may live in interesting times”.

Among other world disasters, the one a little closer to home right now is the effects of La Niña on East coast Australia. Earlier this year the Bruce Highway was washed away by flooding near Tiaro, and just yesterday a freight train derailed on the north coast line when the track washed away. We’ve had a lot of rain.

Yesterday the ABC made passing reference to the Brisbane River catchment, which put me on edge. My place is in a low lying area and while I think technically it’s above the council’s flood level, I don’t especially want to risk it. I was pretty annoyed that it was mentioned in a single article with no follow up at all, so I suppose we’re probably not going to flood? I’m sure I’d know about it.

It’s been on my mind because I was planning to visit my parents this weekend, the weekend of my birthday. But between the rail catastrophe and breathless news reports advising people not to travel, I’m sort of thinking I’ll stay in after all.

Anyway, I’m doing fine. Just really aware of the emergency fatigue that’s probably got everyone to some degree.

So I’m sitting outside in the dark wearing trakky daks, hanging out with my plants. There’s the white noise of raindrops hitting the leaves in the garden and pattering down onto the courtyard. A streetlight across the road lights up the sheets of rain as they blow past. And occasionally a car will drive by and make the cosiest wet asphalt sound you can imagine.

I do like the rain.

It’s cosy.

Gezellig.

Reminds me of the summer storms in my childhood home, beating down on a tin roof so hard you could barely hear each other talk. Looking out the window at a wall of water while being inside, safe and dry.

We may live in interesting times, but at least there’s comfort in the familiar. I don’t know if I’m going to see my parents tomorrow, I suppose I’ll have to make that call to the QR support line. In the meantime, no point worrying right?


Friday

A screenshot of the message from QR travel: QJ11 Tilt Train 25 Feb is cancelled with no alternate arrangements. Another notification forecasts rain.

The train line is still out. Now the highway is out.

Deep Creek (ironic name, it was a trickle when I was there) has gone over the highway. This kinda blows my mind.

I know Gympie floods, I read as much when I visited last year. All the riverside infrastructure is concrete and brutalist to survive the water going over it.

At Alford Park, there’s a massive great flood marker showing where all the historic floods have reached. Pretty scary stuff.

Anyway, it’s just weird because that road bridge is SO high I would never have expected it to go under. At least that’s the decision made for me.

Undearneath the Bruce Highway bridge. It's suuuuper tall. There's old wooden foundations from what I can only assume is the old bridge.

Saturday


Sunday

I hardly slept last night. I kept waking up to check the river wasn’t lapping at my door. It wasn’t, but that just meant it hadn’t happened yet.

Tae lost power. She’s in a low-lying part of the neighbourhood. She came over to charge up all her bits and bobs and we watched TV and chatted for a bit. I fell asleep and slept for what felt like hours.

The rain still hasn’t stopped, so Tae decided to just make a run for it. I got drenched just opening the gate to let her out. I can’t imagine what it would be like riding in that.

The forecast is looking pretty grim, but the flooding is supposed to coincide with high tide tomorrow at about 8.


Monday


Tuesday

By the time I got up the street was already completely cleared. You wouldn’t have known it had flooded if it wasn’t for the people cleaning out the businesses that were inundated.

I was expecting to get out with my shovel picking up trash. But Peter told me the RCC Builders from the construction sites were all out cleaning up the streets in the early hours. I suppose it benefits them not tracking mud everywhere, but it’s such a nice thing to do. I’m very grateful.

The river is down about five steps at the end of my street. Enough to clear water from most of the streets around here.

Looking down a staircase into water and slick brown mud. There's still trees submerged, poking out of the river

I went for a little walk down Duncan Street way. I don’t know what to call that little precinct of West End but it’s the built up area, as opposed to the gritty sort of partially industrial area I live in. There were a lot of pumps running to pull water out of basements, and some that were completely full to the top.

Peter’s was full to the top.

He told me the building manager was here for the ’11 floods, and the painstaking lengths they had to go to to clean out the mud and debris from two levels of basements. I think the mud army can probably help, but it’s going to be days before that water clears.

His lift was out, and the emergency stairs led to deep water, so we had to climb a ladder from the lobby to get to the stairs, to get to his apartment. It’s the penultimate floor, which is ordinarily lovely, but absolutely destroyed me. I’ve been working on my cardio fitness, but apparently there’s still a ways to go.

I had my first hot shower in 2 days, and left a powerbank to charge, just in case. I also guzzled all the water in his jug because, as I realised later, I was super dehydrated from not taking care of myself the previous days.


It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m surprised to find I still have ice cubes. Most of them are stuck together, swimming in a puddle in the bottom of the ice cream container where I store them. But there’s a few separate blocks. I scoop em out and put them in my glass of warm cola.

Later that afternoon Peter, the ghost of Adam, and I went to a town hall organised by Jonathan Sri and Amy McMahon, council and state representatives, respectively.

There was a free sausage sizzle and people sitting around powerboards charging their devices. Real disaster vibes, but I think folks were largely okay.

Jonno and Amy on the mic, next to a portable loudspeaker.

It was a useful meeting. But the message I got was that while the flood waters are still up and there’s not a lot we can do until they go down. I get the feeling everyone just wants to do something but we can really only wait until we know more.

As I was walking home past the gym I noticed the lights were on.

“Great” I thought, I can go there for a warm shower.

Then I realised the lights were on in my building too.

There were people milling around the street outside one a that was still dark. A lady was gesticulating at the utility closet that had been beeping for two days straight, so I went over and offered to let them charge their stuff at mine. Her kid proudly told me how they’d been using candles and a lantern, it was cute.

There’s a kind of survivor’s guilt in all this, I try not to indulge too much. I lost power for a couple of days, and the basement that I never use got flooded with 30cm of water. That’s nothing, right?

But then I realise I’ve been amped up on stress for the past week, I’ve lost the contents of my fridge and freezer, my backpack and a pair of shoes are ruined because they just couldn’t dry out, I’ve got loads of washing strewn all in the laundry because they asked us to conserve water before the power went out, I have a sunburn and a caffeine withdrawal headache because I regularly forgot to feed or water myself while everything else was going on.

I don’t need to feel guilty because I got my damn power back.


Wednesday

The dishwasher and washing machine are humming away. I appreciate the breeze from the fan. It’s 31 and partly cloudy. Humidity is cloying. But we’ll work things out.

Wet week in West End

I went out for a coffee to reset my head. It’s a grey and rainy winters day, kinda gives me European vibes. The plants are loving it, though I don’t know where to put them all yet.

Looking into the street through foliage. Grey sky, orange traffic cone in the middle for some reason. Street art on an industrial wall behind the vacant lot across the road.
The coffee place is just a hole in the wall. There’s people standing round under an awning with more street art of a woman blowing rainbow bubbles. A pot plant sits on the kerb to collect rain.
My plants look almost neon green in the rain. I’ve got them all bunched up on the courtyard to collect water.
The sunset was really unusual after a weird, wet week. Pinks and purples and random white clouds.

West End Rainbow Footpath

I was taking a walk in West End after having breakfast with Tae when I discovered the old rainbow footpath in West End.

The corner of Vulture and Besant streets with the rainbow crossing visible across the road.
Me standing in front of the significantly faded rainbow sidewalk.

It’s worn down pretty badly. Reminds me of chalk drawings on the road after the rain. But it’s probably fair enough cos it was thrown together by volunteers and I guess they just used whatever paint they had.

I first stumbled on it when it was brand new back in 2017 with Joel, Tom and Shashi. This was just after I got back from Amsterdam for the first time, and I assume Shashi & Tom were visiting for xmas.

Myself, Joel, Tom & Shashi in front of a bright rainbow painted footpath. It's really something.

Not linking to the bad website, but here’s the description from the original Facebook message where Cr Sri got folks together to paint it:

This is partly a political statement, and partly just an excuse to bring a bit of colour to an old stretch of bitumen footpath at the corner of Besant St, O’Connell St and Vulture St.

If you have a bit of spare paint lying around that you can bring down to donate to the cause, post up in the comments with the colours and quantities, or just rock up on the day and lend a hand as you see fit.

It would be good to use paints that are designed for outdoor surfaces and will last a while. We’ll try to paint in segments, leaving one part of the footpath clear until the other painted areas have dried so as not to inconvenience any mobility-impaired pedestrians.

If anyone wants to bring down other things like baked goods or a bit of music to entertain the painters, that would be cool too.

Jonathan Sri, Councillor for The Gabba

It’s still visible four years later. But might need a fresh coat soon.

Lokal & Co

The exterior of Lokal + Co on a rainy day. Umbrellas and greenery everywhere.

The little West End trendy Scandi brekky cafe. Tae and I hadn’t seen each other for some time and we decided to catch up.

It’s been a fairly miserable week weather-wise. Wet and dark. But that’s a welcome la niña change from the usual Brisbane dry, so we were both happy to head out and grab breakfast before work.

I had the chilli scrambled eggs, crispy coconut sambal, plum chutney, roti bread for $17.0. Tae had almost an entire pumpkin on sourdough. We both drank our volume in coffee and it was nice.

I’ve missed breakfast. The best I managed in Amsterdam was brunch at 11 am, which was fine but I remember it being a stressful affair. Working weird Dutch hours means I haven’t really had mornings since I’ve been back. But I’ve been working on that.

So I hope to do this more often.