Brisbane’s spirit defies watery tormentor
Through the uncertainty, devastation and loss, Brisbane has finally revealed itself to me.
As the flood waters continued to rise in the city’s suburbs yesterday, so too did its fiercely defiant spirit.
You could almost feel a little tall poppy syndrome settling in.
It was as if the thick, brown waters that engulfed homes and memories became a striding tyrant, gleefully kicking his way through the streets and bellowing at the little people below.
Many of the residents I spoke to seemed intent on laughing in his face.
Under no circumstances were they about to be belittled by this arrogant intruder.
We awoke in Taringa to find familiar streets had transformed into ugly lakes.
Along Bellevue Parade, a woman ran up the steep hill frantically calling her children’s names.
The flood waters had already invaded her home and destroyed countless bits and pieces, but she barely seemed to notice.
A minute later, she came back over the hill with her five young ones, yelling at them to stay in her sight and stay away from the flood water.
When she returned to her doorstep, her face dropped as she saw years of hard work and saving literally float out the front door.
Our house escaped the devastation and quickly became a shelter – like countless others – for mates and mates-of-mates left temporarily homeless by mother nature (we currently have 11 people living at ours, but shhh - don’t tell the real estate agent).
Later in the day, we sorted through some of their St Lucia homes to save electronics they’d forgotten, family photos that had missed their eye and various other items.
Some of the younger renters seemed stressed, but not yet overwhelmed by the damage (this is especially true of the lads at the end of the submerged street who struggled to get their jet ski and inflatable rafts in the water).
Older home owners, however, looked nothing short of distraught - even through the brave smile they wore as they helped neighbours sift through their new above-ground pools.
One girl cried as she looked for something clearly quite important to her, while another patted her back and sifted through the murky shallows with her hands.
One Facebook status in particular caught my eye yesterday afternoon:
“Mate, can I borrow that kayak? I forgot something at home.”
The good humour and neighbourly empathy was astounding.
One middle-aged couple – Keith and Elaine – were a godsend for one particular street.
Without the slightest sign of frustration or annoyance, they offered people a place to sleep and countless lifts back and forth in their ageing gold BMW.
The number of people offering their cars or homes to complete strangers continued to grow as the hours went by.
At Woolworths and Coles, where never-ending queues made Christmas Eve shopping seem like a joy, frustrated shoppers were nothing but courteous and civil.
“After you, please.”
“Sorry, were you before me?”
“Do you need a hand carrying those to your car?”
Brisbane had found a sense of humour in its darkest hour.
A handful of twenty-something boys set up deck chairs and an esky at the water’s edge (previously a road), with the radio blasting from their battered Corolla.
They were making the most of their new “riverfront views”.
“So this is what it’s like to be Gerry Harvey,” one of them joked.
A number of older residents wandered down to join them, including one whose greyhound, Coco, became an instant hit at the impromptu party.
Three of the boys had lost their house to the deluge, but still managed to have a laugh as they passed around a few, semi-cold, beers.
One bloke, well into his fifties, smiled when a friend of mine asked him if his house was okay.
“It’s gone,” he said.
“But these things happen.”
He quickly said goodbye before turning around and helping someone else move their freezer.
Hours of sweeping, cleaning, rebuilding and paperwork lie ahead.
In the meantime, however, it would seem Brisbane has told its giant, watery tormentor exactly where to go.
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