We have had bushfires burning out of control for what feels like weeks. Not here in Warrandyte where I live, but in other parts of the state, and in other states across Australia, so when last Friday dawned hot and dry, with a northerly wind blowing, we all braced for fire.
It was not until Friday afternoon, though, that the announcement I’d been dreading came over the radio – a fast moving grass fire was burning out of control in Kangaroo Ground.
Kangaroo Ground is the next suburb over from us, and when I looked up the precise location of the fire, it was very, very close as the crow flies, especially with a north wind. -insert expletives of choice-
I immediately went into bushfire survival mode. I kicked the Daughter out of the house, locked the pets inside the house, donned my long sleeved coveralls and wound down all the fire-resistant shutters.
Then it was time to start the pumps and get a trickle of water flowing from the sprinklers on the roof. So far so good.
I’ve landscaped the area directly adjacent to the house to be more or less fire-proof, with rockeries, gravel and pebbles instead of plants, but I knew radiant heat could still be a killer so for the next couple of hours I hosed down the garden beds as well.
At some point during this frantic activity the wind changed and began blowing the fire away from us but I did not even notice. I was so hot in my pure cotton, long sleeved, protective coveralls that I probably wouldn’t have noticed if someone had dumped a bucket of iced water over me.
Anyway, I worked it out eventually but kept on watering … just in case. Paranoia is not rational.
By about 8pm it was obvious, even to me, that nothing bad was going to happen so I rang the Daughter and said “It’s safe to come home now!” When she arrived back about three quarters of an hour later, she told me traffic was banked up a long way as the Kangaroo Ground Road was still closed and they weren’t letting Kangaroo Ground residents go home just yet.
Another thing she told me was that when I’d blithely sent her off to safety, half of Warrandyte had had the same idea so everyone got caught in the bottleneck over the bridge. That was rather sobering, and highlighted something I should have known – leaving early really does mean early, like first thing in the morning instead of at 4pm. Clearly we, and most of Warrandyte, are going to have to rethink that part of the plan.
The rational part of me knows the Daughter would have been better off staying at home with all the protections we have on hand, but my inexperience is a big drawback. All my knowledge is theoretical and I’ve never been up close and personal with a bushfire, or any other kind of fire. I’m prepared to trust my own life to my sprinklers etc, but my daughter’s life? That’s a hard one. Very hard.
Anyway, as my neighbour Geoff said on Friday, “We seem to have dodged the bullet again” so all’s well that ends well. For now. Unfortunately we still have the worst half of summer to go so I’m not going to relax completely until about Easter.
One of the minor consequences of the Great Kangaroo Ground Scare is that my deadline for Vokhtah went up in smoke [excuse the bad-taste pun]. I had hoped to publish exactly on my birthday, but the 12th of January came and went without Vokhtah joining the throngs on Amazon.
I am disappointed, but in retrospect I know I should have begun my run much, much sooner. Bushfire scares aside, I woefully underestimated what I would need to do to actually convert the MS into Kindle format. And then, me being me, I over-estimated my nerdishness. Amazon’s Kindlepreviewer is easy enough to use, but dealing with problems is not so squeazy.
My first attempt at the conversion resulted in a file that was compiled ‘with warnings’. On reading through the output report it seemed that all the potential problems had to do with <i> tags not being closed properly. So I’ve been going through the MS line by line and word by word, checking every instance of italics I find. I’m closing them all manually because I have no way of knowing which italics are actually causing the problem. -sigh-
Another thing slowing me down is my inability to scan for italics without actually reading the text. And of course, the instant I start doing that, I begin to see awkward turns of phrase all over the place. Honestly, I’ve edited and proofed this damn book so many times, and yet I still find things to improve. Yes, yes, I know, but I can’t seem to help myself.
So… Apologies to everyone for being off the radar the last few days, and even more heartfelt apologies to those who were expecting Vokhtah to be published on the 12th and were disappointed.
At this point I have my fingers crossed for tomorrow, but I’m not making any more grandiose promises until Amazon tells me I’m good to go.
Hugs to all,