gong hei fat choi

We should have known it was going to be a difficult day. We stood in the early morning heat at the hotel before seven, while taxis came and went. None of them were ours. We had to re-book several times before somebody would take us.

A second day of computer problems plagued us all day, making the simplest of operational processes a huge ordeal. The clever idea of the Queensland state government to centrally coordinate all emergency response travel to the cyclone-affected areas was a good one, but it meant we were one step further away from controlling the travel of our own people. Things moved so fast – and then so slowly – many people’s heads were spinning before noon.

We continued to struggle to keep our head in the various games we were presented with. Queensland is hurting from wave after wave (pardon the pun) of flooding and cyclone activity. Despite the urgency of response required along the Far North Queensland coast, we could not forget the previous weeks of activity and the recovery process people are struggling through in Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Emerald and so many other places. As well the ongoing threat to inland towns by the ex-cyclone as it winds down in intensity. Not to mention the Red Crossers in Victoria and other states staffing the National Inquiry Centre, answering calls from people registering as flood or cyclone affected, or taking calls from others seeking their loved ones.

What else could possibly happen?

By mid-afternoon more news started to reach us of wild weather in Victoria. The scenic town of Hall’s Gap in the Grampians has been evacuated this evening due to an imminent major landslide (rain-related, of course). As I write, Red Cross people are working in a relief centre now open in nearby Stawell. Local emergency services have already pre-positioned search-and-rescue teams, which is never an encouraging sign.

People in Mildura, in the far north-west of Victoria, have found themselves suddenly congregating in the high street, waist-deep in water from rain that fell over no more than an hour. Two relief centres have just been set up, with Red Cross in attendance.
A lot of western Victoria and central Melbourne is seriously flooding. They are predicting around 200mm of rain this evening across western and central Victoria, and Melbourne itself, but anything more than 100mm will bring most river systems back up to major flood level. The water is less than three houses away from some colleagues who live by the bay very close to central Melbourne. Motorists on the St. Kilda Road were over their wheel arches in floodwaters this evening.
Meanwhile in Queensland, not forty-eight hours after the height of Cyclone Yasi, the Red Cross deployments continued along the coast today. We are also watching Alice Springs in NT very closely: it is under a severe weather warning as ex-cyclone Yasi continues inland.

Oh, yes, and Adelaide Red Cross were only stood down from a heatwave response on Monday, and WA are still working on long-term recovery outreach operations following the floods in Carnarvon in December.

So a few colleagues and I went out for a quick bite to eat on the way home. We ended up in a Chinese place across the road from the Red Cross offices. Halfway through our meal, the noise began. What else could possibly go wrong tonight? Suddenly, the crashing and banging made sense, as two huge Chinese dragons entered the restaurant. Gong Hei Fat Choi, everybody! It’s Chinese New Year! We just hadn’t realised. The packed restaurant clapped and cheered as the dragons came in and terrorised us, dancing and prancing and chasing little children (much to their delight) and gobbling up red-and-gold envelopes with coins in, in payment for prosperity for the year to come.

The Red Crossers at my table took photos, clapped and cheered, and for about five minutes forgot the litany of emergencies and situations swimming around our heads. As the red dragon approached our table, we snapped away on iPhones and cameras, laughed out loud and waved madly (alright, that last one was just me). The banging and crashing of cymbals and drums reached a crescendo as the dragons produced a Chinese sign which (presumably) said they had been bribed enough, and would leave us alone for another year of prosperity.

As we paid our bill and slipped away into the night, those few minutes of light and sound and levity stayed with us. It was a tough day, with more curve balls thrown at us than we cared to count. By bedtime the Red Cross emergency response across the country was even bigger than before, but we will handle it. It’s what we do.

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once in a blue moon

New Year, new decade, full moon, blue moon….. geography meant we didn’t get to see the lunar eclipse this side of the world but my Irish family braved the bitter cold to stand in a country field on New Year’s Eve to watch the partial eclipse.

The end of the first decade of the twenty-first century: where have the last ten years gone? In the last moments of 1999 I stood on the roof of London’s Hayward Gallery with Orlando waiting to see the “river of fire” and hear the chimes of Big Ben that heralded the new millennium. Little did we know that we would see the start of 2010 living in Melbourne.

The Chinese Year of the Brown (earth) Ox is almost over, and the year of the White (metal) Tiger is coming. They say the hard work of the Ox will make way for the drive and wealth of the Tiger, as metal is often equated with money. The astrologers tell us not to be afraid of starting or trying something new in the year of the White Tiger. We will start the new decade with positive thoughts and intentions, and make the best of what comes our way.

Happy New Year, and Happy New Decade.

Scorpio Fire Horse Warning (that’s me)

About the Fire Horse

The six decades spanning the gaps between the years of the Fire Horse mean that this rare sign occurs only in the years 1846, 1906, 1966, 2026, etc.

These years are bad for Horses themselves and bad for families who have a Horse in the house. This is because the Fire Horse’s influence can change from beneficial to malignant, and during these years all Horse families will become subject to illness, accidents and bad luck in general.

Men and women actually born in the year of the Fire Horse will have the same characteristics as the ordinary Horse — but they will be more accentuated, in the good qualities as well as in the bad. 

The Fire Horse will thus be a harder worker, a more cunning individual, more independent, more gifted … and alas, far more selfish. His passionate nature and the frantic egotism which seizes him will lead him to commit his worst excesses when he is in love.

The Fire Horse is animated and sociable. He has a wild side that leads him to a life on the edge. Fire Horses are generally either incredibly lucky or ridiculously unlucky. They love the excitement of action and the change it brings. The Fire element makes them passionate about their feelings and they always take a stand in a situation. Fire Horses are never on the fence about anything and have definitive opinions about the world. Their tempers can be overbearing

There are those who say that the Fire Horse can be a good influence in the heart of his own family. But popular belief asserts that he will make trouble in the home he was born in just as he does in the one he himself has built.

What we do know is that the Fire Horse will have a career that is more varied, more exceptional, more interesting than that of the ordinary Horse. The Fire Horse carries within himself the seeds of fame … or of notoriety!

new year’s resolution

You know my theory: never make a resolution you won’t want to keep.

In years gone past I have come up with:

  • no more walking or cycling uphill
  • have a spa day every month
  • eat food from a new country at least once a month

You get the idea.

I have no idea what my new year’s resolution was for 2008, so I decided I would record my 2009 resolution here on these pages:

  • Eat more seafood.

It is an easy one to achieve – we love shellfish, and fresh seafood, but we don’t get around to going to the market often enough. For New Year’s Eve I hopped on the moped, went down to Footscray Market and bought up some rockling fillets, some fresh de-shelled prawns and a handful of scallops out of the shell. A trip to the vegetable stall for some fresh herbs and the makings of a Greek salad, and I was all set.

The prawns were marinated in chilli, garlic, coriander and some Punjabi Kitchen King masala from the local Indian supermarket, then panfried in their own juices. I served them with the Greek salad on New Year’s Eve for supper and realised I had seriously over-catered. The rest we left until this evening when we had the rockling fillets steamed in foil parcels in the oven with garlic, green shille, spring onion, coriander and Chinese five spice. The scallops I tossed in chilli and garlic and threw them on the barbie. Divine.

Happy New Year everybody! What are your resolutions?

auspicious dates

The number eight is a very auspicious for many in the world.

Double happiness looks like this – see the resemblance? So imagine how auspicious triple eight could be.

double-happiness

The eighth of August 2008 was the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the millennium. The Beijing Olympics commenced at 8pm on this day, to make sure good fortune followed.

So this is what my radio alarm clock looked like at eight minutes past eight on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the millennium. How lucky am I?

08-08-08

If that wasn’t good enough, check this out.

My sister Mena celebrates her birthday on the 20th of this month – which this year is 20-08 2008.

Mena

To add to this, she turns 54 this year and was born in 1954.

Finally, and coincidentally, a few weeks after her birthday she celebrates 27 years in Australia – and she was 27 years old when she arrived. If you add both of these together you get 54…

Ii guess it’s time to buy a lottery ticket!