Bushfire · Uncategorized

A Steady Hand

So much has been written already about these bush fires – tales of hope and heroism,  the wonderful blog of an RFS volunteer in NSW, the raw first-hand accounts on social media. I felt that I had very little to add as others have said it all.
Yesterday I caught up with a friend. Her brother lives in Far East Gippsland. His house burned to the ground on December 29. He watched this happen from his shed. He watched in the company of his dog. He watched until the windows of the shed began to pop with heat and then he made a dash for the dam. He’d taken all the precautions he could. He had wanted to stay and defend.

Somehow he managed to keep a steady hand (with the other one around his dog) and film as his house disappeared into the flames.

Photo by Stephen Radford via unsplash

And because there was nothing else he could do once the fire passed, he walked to the main road. His car had been destroyed, along with all the stuff that he’d packed up to take with him; the art that he had made over the years, the precious documents, the letters – all now piles of ash.

He found his way to his mother’s house ( who has been evacuated to Melbourne) and now is spending his days shoring up her place, dampening the walls, preparing for the worst. He wants to save this one.

My friend is worried. She says that he sounds flat and tired and has lost all hope. She showed me the photos he sent her. His breathing mask full of soot, his burnt-out car, the framework of his beloved house. She says he’s exhausted and although he has received help and support he’s floundering. The stress and uncertainty are wearing him down and he’s not sure if he wants to rebuild. But in the meantime, with the continued fire threat, he has to stay put and dig deep and keep going.

There’s lots of talk about resilience and fortitude which are admirable qualities. But for those affected like my pal’s brother, they’ll need continued help for years, not just financial but spiritual support. He won’t be the same again she  says ….how can he be?

So while we can all donate our money, our time and  support we must also think also about the aftermath. We may never meet anyone who has been through a fire, but reading this link gives a good guide on what to say or not say.

We must think of those who have lost their homes, their memories, and their livelihoods. We think of those who fought( and are still fighting) the fires, of all emergency service personnel volunteer and otherwise.  We will think of those caught in the firestorms- both human and animals. We think of our Government who must now surely consider the effects of climate change on the environment of this hot, dry continent.

My friend says that the aftermath is a similar grieving process to the death of a family member or beloved pet. At the beginning of the process, there are crowds of people around to make the casseroles, the cups of tea and to lend support. And over time people drop away back to their normal lives. It’s at this point when the bereaved person needs them the most but hesitates to reach out as they don’t want to be a bother.

So let’s remember when the fires are out, and the skies are no longer choked with smoke that’s when we, the supporters, are most needed.

For those who need support here is information regarding support services.

And remember the man in the East Gippsland who is still living with dread, and will be for some time to come. It’s not over for him yet.



Long weekends · Uncategorized

Getting Away and Slowing Down in Tasmania

My last couple of blog posts have been a bit gloomy  So this is one is a bit more upbeat involving things that I love; travelling, my husband and good food. In order to celebrate a big wedding anniversary, we decided to go to Tasmania for lunch.

And no ordinary lunch. We’re big fans of The Gourmet Farmer – Matthew Evans. We have followed his adventures on TV for years and when he began doing lunches at Fat Pig Farm I was determined to go. Our initial idea of Just Lunch turned into a long weekend, a weekend of eating, drinking, gazing at views, seeing old friends and slowing down.

Getting off the plane in Hobart, I sniffed. Clean air, despite the jet fuel! The terminal is one building. Coffee in the city at the quirkily named Bury Me Standing Coffee Co was followed by a  quick visit to the Female Factory at the Cascades. If I search back in my family history I can find a female convict. And although she was in Georgetown, that doesn’t lessen the impact of the Cascades. Yes, it’s a ruin, but a ruin full of evocative memories and sadness and I’ll say it- ghosts.

On D’s bucket list was the Willie Smith Ciders. Another big old shed with a Museum of Cider, tasting room and a cafe. Had the best pea and ham soup. It’s full of nooks and crannies. Magazines to read as you slurp your soup. Divine cakes.

From there a quick stop in Huonville where I investigated the op shops and fell in love with the old Hydro Electric building.

Our Airbnb was on the shore of Glaziers Bay. A converted apple shed built on stilts over the Huon River.

Photo Erica Murdoch

Our, hosts Jed and Ursula showed us the place, a labour of love for Jed’s dad who has been renovating the place for years. Our room was upstairs – an attic where you bumped your head if you weren’t careful. In the corner was a turntable with a stack of vinyl. A wee kitchenette and a sofa in front of the window looked out on the river. Downstairs was a living room, music room and kitchen and deck where you can sit out and gaze at the water.

Photo Erica Murdoch

Instead, we drove into Cygnet, walked up and down the street had a drink at the bottom pub and got pizza from Royz Bitz of Old Pizza. Surprisingly, the pizza was pretty good despite the odd name. Two local boys with a love of twisting the pizza name vernacular.

We ate our pizza on the deck, no sounds except for the lap of water against the building and a fish jumping.

The next day it was the business of lunch. We deliberately had a light breakfast and went for a drive over the other side to Franklin. We visited the Wooden Boat Centre and dreamt of owning a wooden boat. We thought of driving further south, to Dover, but lunch was fast approaching and we had a big hill to climb.

Photo Erica Murdoch

As we reached the farm entrance we were greeted by Sadie wearing a pair of gumboots and a cheerful smile. I’m here to direct traffic she told us as she waved us down the hill. We joined a throng of people on the deck- there was an air of excitement and anticipation. From conversations with other guests it transpired, we’d all come from as close as Hobart and as far away as England.

I’m not a food blogger such as my dear friend The UrbanNest, so I can only report that lunch was everything we expected it to be – and more. Each course was accompanied by a spiel from Matthew and his team about the dish. The care and love that goes into the cooking at this place is evident. Although we were paying guests, we felt like we were at a very wonderful luncheon party among new friends. We were foodies all united by a love of good tucker, companionship, and love of the farm to table concept.

Photo Erica Murdoch

The afternoon was rounded off by a walk around the farm with Matthew and Sadie and meeting some very important pigs. We also met their head gardener,  who talked to us about the principles, challenges, and joys of farming.


Photo Erica Murdoch

We didn’t join the throng of people lining up for Matthew to sign the merchandise. Too shy. Instead, we walked slowly down the hill pausing every now and then to enjoy the view of the river valley below, and in my case take a couple of photos of interesting looking letterboxes for my Instagram.

Photo Erica Murdoch

That evening, full of good food and wine, we nibbled on cheese, pate and biscuits and listened to jazz records on the ancient stereo in our room. It was all a weekend away could be.

Photo Erica Murdoch

Except there was more. The next day we made our way back to Hobart hugging the coast all the way to Bruny Island popping into Eggs and Bacon Bay, Verona sands and Deep Bay. Sandy beaches fringed by gum trees and just us and a few fishermen.  We trundled over on the ferry and drove straight to Bruny Island Cheese for a late lunch. Founded by Nick Haddow, this cheesery has morphed into a food destination. Highly recommend the pizzas, the toasties and the beer on tap. There’s a great produce store and we came away with jam and cheese and snacks for the road.

Photo Erica Murdoch
Photo Erica Murdoch

The afternoon ended with our friend, Catherine. We were in the same mother’s group in Melbourne and she relocated to Tasmania- back home. Our children are now in their twenties and it seems like a lifetime ago that we were on school fete duty. As we ate homemade scones we listened to her dad tell stories of his boyhood in England. A few hours later over dinner, Catherine told us that he had been diagnosed with MND. At the same dinner we met up with architecture friends and the crochet extraordinaire, Lucy 

Photo Erica Murdoch

Life is all about small things really. The long lunch,  the chats and companionship. We can do all these things at our home base but when we’re away we slow down and have time to appreciate these small things – the little drops of pleasure from a long weekend. Sure it can be a decadent long lunch, a long walk, mooching around bookshops or just exploring a different part of town.




For the love of writing


I’ve got writer’s block and I need to do a blog post; not a good combination. I have a few half-written things that could do the job, but I don’t like any of them enough to and press Publish. Throw into the mix the 22-week-old puppy who is as demanding as a three-year-old child, a hot day and a keen desire to do anything but write and you see my problem. Continue reading “For the love of writing”