Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hot February

Home again and it has been an overwhelming summer. With everything so dry from our endless drought, we all knew the bushfire risk to be extremely high. No-one expected the consequences to be so devastating. To have lost so many lives, and for so much property to be destroyed and so many animals to be affected was unthinkable, and yet it has happened. We have heard stories of courage and amazing escapes, and stories of tragedy and ill-fortune. One thing that has been positively amazing has been the swift response of the government, aid agencies and people everywhere in giving support - time and money. My mother has been working almost everyday to provide food for the emergency service workers, and to coordinate a team of volunteers to ensure a constant flow of support. She has been remarkable in her energy and in her organisational skills. I am very proud of her. This week, at last, she is able to scale back the efforts of her team, and hopefully, to get a bit of rest for herself. I have been impressed by her friends, also, who have given her encouragement and support too. And Dad has been doing whatever he can to help her.

Some remarkable stories: friends of a colleague of mine had a lush vegetable patch in their garden, kept in top condition using their gray water. When the fires came and they realised they could no longer defend their home, they ran to the vegie patch with wet towels. They survived the fire by lying face down in the mud of the furrows, with the wet towels over their backs and the green, leafy plants above them. Another colleague's friend ran to the creek with a wet blanket and hid underneath it as the fire passed over him. Once the danger was past, he lifted the blanket to discover two lyrebirds sheltering underneath as well! Then there is the amazing story of the man who was wandering with his beloved horse and the fire raced closer. It was pitch black and he was speaking to the horse believing he was in the last moments of his life. The horse pushed him, making him fall over, and then pushed him again, making him roll down an embankment. He found himself in a creek, as the fire raced over him. As soon as he could, he climbed back up the embankment to find his horse - but he saw the horse galloping back to him, singed, through the flames, looking as if it was the horse who had come to find the man. And there are stories of the woman in the wombat hole and the men in the drain under the road. All miraculous escapes.

In the city, we have not been directly affected, although we all seem to know someone who has been. I think it is this powerlessness that has made so many people so generous in their support. The fire season is not over and more fires threaten this week as we anticipate more temperatures in the high 30's for most of the week. It will be so nice when February is over and the more mild March arrives!

We spent the weekend at the beach house last week. It was lovely to be there again and to feel that we could enjoy the summer we had missed. Of course, it did seem strange to be enjoying the sunshine when only the week before there had been so much destruction, but it was lovely to be swimming and walking along the beach.
We are all working hard again at school. Greg is very busy with his work and preparation. He has had to re-read several novels prior to teaching them, and has piles of marking to do. He also has the tennis team to look after, which is demanding of his time but I think he quite enjoys working with the boys in a different environment. My classes are unbelievably delightful! I have four, the largest of which is 17 students. They are my Yr 10 class and have the potential to be very difficult. In fact, it seems I have the loveliest of the three classes, and the girls are almost all very keen to work and to do well. I also have a tiny Year 11 Methods class - this class is silent unless I am giving them instructions. I find it a bit disconcerting actually to have them work in such complete silence, but if they are getting their work done, then it's wonderful. A Year 9 class and a Year 8 class round out my teaching load. I also have the Assistant Level Coordinators role, the RSC and the Leadership Coordinator position to keep me busy. It is shaping up to be a terrific year. I am hoping to initiate more activities for the girls to be involved in.

Zoe is loving Year 6. She is House Captain for the red house, and continues to learn flute at school. She is currently working very conscientiously on a project on Leadership (she is researching Rosa Parks) and is really making an effort to improve her organisational skills in preparation for High School next year. Greg and I are setting her some books to read, interspersed with books of her own choice. While she was at Chelmsford, she read the end of "Goodnight Mr Tom" by Michelle Magorian, and loved it. As this was one of the books we had chosen to set for her, she is reading the whole book now. It's a very moving book set in England during WWII. Zoe continues with ballet and piano - she is a busy girl.

While we were away, I read "The Railway Children" by E Nesbit to her. If you haven't read this, you must! It is so amusing and the scene where Bobby meets her father at the railway station is one of the most tear-jerking scenes in literature I have ever read. I was sobbing as I tried to read this out loud! How about this for a funny exchange:

"I suppose I shall have to be married someday," said Peter, "but it will be an awful bother having her round all the time. I'd like to marry a lady who had trances, and only woke up once or twice a year."
"Just to say you were the light of her life and then go to sleep again. Yes. That wouldn't be bad," said Bobby.
"When I get married," said Phyllis, "I shall want him to want me to be awake all the time, so I can hear him say how nice I am."

Zoe and I were nearly crying with laughter over that part!

Since this year, she and I decided I would read classics to her, we are now onto "Little Women". I'm not sure what we'll read after that - perhaps "Black Beauty".
I read the hugely amusing and stylish "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins. Since Zoe and I adore the Collector's Library editions, all of these books were in this edition. They were great for travelling. The wonderful Gabriel Betteredge made a wonderful narrator for his part, the horrific Drusilla Clack irritated as she was supposed to, and the poignant story of Dr Jennings was suitably moving. As the ending approached, I thought I was going to be saddened by the ignorance of the era in which the book is set, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the considerate handling of what became of the Moonstone. Wilkie Collins is a delightful writer.

Since arriving home, I have read "Cranford" by Elizabeth Gaskell and am now reading a Georgette Heyer. Before the end of last year, I read the beautiful "Love Without Hope" by Rodney Hall, the irritating "Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer, and the haunting "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. I'm planning on reading "The White Tiger" next, but there are so many others I still have on my list. And I really miss my bookgroup. I'll have to start another. Anyone want to join?

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