Where the Wind Comes From
People and Houses
Driving - the old and the young
Knots in May
A Genetically Modified Poem
Night closes in
Mid Fifties in 2000
In the blink of an eye
The Criminal Mind
List of 2007 stories
There is a 10 by 8 black and white photo of me on the wall of the headquarters of the local emergency unit.
It shows me hauling on a heavy electric cable hanging from a power pole. It is a night time shot and the
road is wet. In the background you can see a couple of men struggling with long lengths of roofing iron while
holding hand lanterns. We are all dressed in dark overalls, boots and wide brimmed safety helmets, the
uniform of Civil Defence volunteers. Our predecessors, my boyhood heroes, the ARP, had worn exactly the
same dress in World War II, except their helmets were steel and ours were plastic. This was about the main
difference apart from the fact that nobody was dropping explosives on us, or likely to. The situation was
naturally not as serious as an air raid, but there was an urgency in our work. A three figure wind had come
howling down over the mountain and hit South Hobart a smashing blow a couple of hours earlier. Trees and
power lines were down, rooves damaged, and all the services were in action. My unit had been requested to
go to the Cascades and put tarpaulins over a house that had lost its roof. We had been heading up Macquarie
Street cautiously in our truck as the wind was still gusting strongly and there was a lot of debris either
on the road or in the air. A small blue flashing light appeared a hundred metres or more in front, and
then a police car became visible. The car was parked across the road, providing a temporary block to
prevent traffic driving into a bunch of drooping electric cables, only a metre or so above the tarmac.
Dimly visible up in the rest of the wires were long lengths of bent and twisted roof cladding,
flapping in an awesome display in the gale.
The constable showed me the house that had lost its entire
roof, the source of the fantastic roadside decorations. There was nothing that we could do for that place
as all the beams and supports had gone with the wind. That left the wires across the road. We needed to
move them so we could proceed to our designated task, and to let the constable get to his next assignment.
Among our issued equipment was the "Utility" saw. This was designed to be used on soft woods, not Aussie
hardwoods, but its super toughened teeth would cut through nails without being unduly blunted. It was
obvious that the power was definitely out. No lights were visible apart from the vehicles and torches and
the mess of wires and steel cladding were emitting no sparks or flashes. Nonetheless, I approached the
cables with just a little trepidation. The chance of being electrocuted was, I thought, slight, but I was
dimly aware of the weird nature of high tension electricity. Then there was the action of cutting the wire.
Would that leave me liable to be charged with vandalism, or would it make the restoration of power more
difficult and time consuming. The nearby hospital was running on its emergency generators, and may have
had only have a few hours latitude. One o'clock in the morning, in the middle of a gale is not the best
time for this sort of analysis. I grabbed the cable. The lowly rated saw actually did an excellent job,
or maybe it was fear that drove my efforts, but I was though in quick time. Then I grabbed the cable and
hauled it back to the road side to wrap it round the power pole. I returned to do the same to the second
cable. After cutting this one, I commence hauling when suddenly there was a brilliant, blinding flash.
Naturally I thought the worst, said a few appropriate words and then realised I was still standing. Blind,
but standing. A photographer from the Mercury had come up unseen and unheard in the storm and snapped an
action shot for his rag. I had found out what it really meant to have the "wind up".