Where the Wind Comes From
People and Houses
Tell Me
Driving - the old and the young
Dandy Lion
Camp Fires
Knots in May
The Itch
A Genetically Modified Poem
Night closes in
The Rain
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".

F Brown

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