Railway Bridge crossing the Wilson's River at Lismore

Back Home

As I made way through the main park in the centre of Lismore, I saw a group of men sitting in the bandstand. “Hey brother, watch out for the magpie”, one of them yelled out to me. Having grown up with blonde, straw-like hair, I was well aware of the risk of magpies at this time of the year. As if by some strange cruel twist of fate, magpies would regularly nest in the trees near both my primary school (South Lismore) and high school (Richmond River). After the bloke yelled out to warn me, another followed it up with, “He’s already swooped three other baldies today”. We all laughed.

Of far greater risk than the magpie was the potentially stupid decision I made to cross the old railway bridge between North and South Lismore. It’s something I’d done many times as a child without risk. A few family members worked on the railways, and I would regularly travel over the bridge, as I accompanied one most weekends to check the track between Lismore and Bexhill. That’s of course, back in the days when trains regularly travelled through Lismore. As it’s at least a decade, probably longer, since the last train came through Lismore, I felt I could comfortably walk across the railway bridge. I hadn’t counted on the missing sleepers which appeared half way across, and so my crossing was somewhat tentative, and it was with a sigh of relief I crossed to the other side. A warning for kiddies: don’t ever attempt what this stupid forty-something did earlier today.

I’m home for the weekend visiting family. As quite a few of them are much older than I am, I figured a walk around would be a good thing to do, as they retired to an afternoon nap. I made my 10,000 steps (and more) wandering around North Lismore, South Lismore and the CBD. Here are some of the photographs I took along the way.

floodlevel

2012 Lismore Flood Photos

The Weather Bureau is currently predicting a 7.2 metre flood peak at Lismore (my home town) tomorrow at 3.00pm. With all the heavy rain still forecast, it will probably go higher.

Thought these pics might be useful to know what a 7m flood peak means. They were from January last year. Have also included some flood signs around around Lismore containing info about the last roads out, what different levels mean, and a sign from the record breaking 1974 flood with a family member’s house in the background.

Most of my family lives in the flood-prone areas, so hoping all will be okay.

MINOR TO MODERATE FLOOD WARNING FOR THE WILSONS RIVER AT LISMORE
Issued at 8:31 pm EDT on Sunday 27 January 2013
Flood Warning Number: 1
An average of 140 millimetres of rain has fallen during the past 48 hours to 6pm today [27/01/2013]. However, the rain intensity has increased during the past 6 hours, with 50 millimetres falling during this period.
Further heavy rain is forecast for the next 24 hours.
At this stage it is not possible to predict the flood peak because of uncertainty over how much more rain will fall.
A flood watch remains current for moderate to major flooding for the Richmond and Wilsons River Valley.
Predicted River Heights/Flows:
Lismore
– Exceed minor flood level (4.2 metres) around 6am Monday morning
– Reach moderate flood level (7.2 metres) around 3 pm Monday afternoon.

Gollan Hotel, Lismore

Walk Like A Man

City Lights Tennis Club

City Lights Tennis Club

“Do you want a lift over town?” is one of the phrases most commonly used by my family in Lismore. Even though we live only a few hundred metres from the main shopping centre, there’s a level of confusion, even suspicion when I tell members of my family, “No it’s okay, I’ll walk”.

In Sydney, every day I walk several kilometres to and from work and the shops. For me, it’s nothing to walk those distances, and to not even think about it, unless of course it’s raining.

But in Lismore, like many country towns, where public transport is in short supply, the car is king. You get in the car, you drive to town, and even then, when you’re in town, if you need to go to another shop around the corner, you get back in your car, and you drive again. It’s one of the contributing factors to higher levels of obesity in regional areas, I’m sure.

The other day I accepted the offer of a lift to Lismore Shopping Square, but said I’d be walking home. It’s about two kilometres from my house, and an easy walk. I was given those confused, suspicious looks again.

As well as being able to help save the planet, and get a little exercise, it was also a wonderful opportunity for me to take a walk around town and take a close look at the places of my childhood with a viewpoint you just don’t see from car window.

As I walked back from the shopping square, I walked past my old high school tennis courts. They’re named after the one set of traffic lights which Lismore had and which existed for a decade or so nearby. There was much excitement in the late 70s when they were introduced, though they were eventually replaced by the roundabout, Lismore’s great contribution to road transport infrastructure in NSW. The courts don’t appear to have changed much in the last thirty years.

gollanhotel

I also walked past the Gollan Hotel. Famously, the Queen stayed there on her visit to Australia in 1954. It’s part of local folklore the Queen was spotted drinking a beer on the hotel balcony, and that her visit “caused the big flood of 1954″. A friend of mine’s uncle and aunt owned the hotel at the time, and he claims to have in his posession the pillows from the Royal Bed. “The stories they could tell”, he would often say. As I walked past the Gollan, I noticed they’ve begun to commemorate this visit with a window display of photographs, which was lovely to look at.

And then I wandered down the street and noticed Shoppe 117, once just a tiny little giftware store had expanded dramatically. Their sign, “Pretty to look at, pleasant to hold, but if you should drop it consider it sold”, haunted me as a child as I looked their for mother’s day presents, and remains in my mind thirty years later.

I would never have noticed these things if I’d travel to town by car.

Willow and James

Home for Christmas

Back in May, when I received a MMS of the newest member of our family Willow, I wasn’t sure if Willow was a boy or a girl. Yeah, I know there’s the character of Willow on “Buffy”, but it seemed to me Willow could be a suitable name for either a boy or girl, and my niece is anything but predictable.

Willow turned out to be a girl, and tonight I got to meet her for the first time. Although we’ve “chatted” on Skype, it was lovely to meet Willow in the flesh. She has a wonderful smile, laughs a lot, and didn’t seem to mind a couple of selfies with her uncle. “You look like me”, I imagine she was thinking as she looked at the bloke with reddish/blondish balding head. While she’ll gain more hair in the future, I don’t imagine that will happen for me anytime soon. Although her mother is reasonably short, her father is quite tall, and so I imagine it won’t be long before she overtakes me in the heights stakes. Oh no, I’m becoming one of the old people in the family :(

So yeah, I’m home for Christmas. Luckily, there are times when I can pretty much do my job from anywhere, so I’ll be working out of the office here for a week or so, which means I can continue to work through while at the same time visiting my family. I sent out one of those wide d/l emails saying I’d be working from Lismore with the opening line, “I know you think it sounds like I’ll be sipping with cocktails at Byron most days, but I will genuinely be in the office”. I’m also filling in for a few other people who’ll be on leave. On a smaller scale, I liken it to the times when Doug Anthony acted as Prime Minister from a caravan on the North Coast.

Although I still have some friends in the area, and we catch up at this time of the year, coming home at this time of the year is very much about family. This is the area I grew up in, and which remains “home”, even if I also mostly call Sydney “home”. I have lots of lots of relatives in the area, and I’ll stay with and visit many of them.

Hopefully, I’ll also have a few tales to tell.

Empty and Full

Empty 372 Bus in Sydney

Empty 372 Bus in Sydney

There was a moment earlier today when I was quite literally the only person (aside from the bus-driver) on a bus in Sydney. It was in stark contrast to Sydney Airport generally, and my flight to Ballina specifically, which was packed to the rafters.

I had a bugger of a job trying to get to the airport earlier today, as cabs were obviously in high demand. I figured today was the day when a lot of people have officially gone on holidays. The centre of Sydney is starting to thin out, and places like the North Coast (where I am right now) have started to fill up.

I used to always travel to Lismore, by the way, not Ballina, but Ballina has long since replaced Lismore as the regional airport, thanks to the increased level of competition amongst the airlines. And besides, with the Alstonville by-pass, it’s now a pretty quick drive between Lismore and Ballina.

For a lot of people coming home for Christmas can be a bit of a task. The family fights, the anxiety etc. And for a while I only came home every couple of years. But for the last few years I’ve enjoyed coming home each year, and have found a way to make it work for me, by doing my job from the local office for a couple of days each year, thereby maximising my time with family, and minimising the travel time. And if I start to have a few grumbles with the family, I can always pop out to work for a while :)

My young nephew was very excited to see me when I arrived at the airport. No doubt, we’ll be playing Wii or something like that within a day or two. And this year, he has a new “toy”, as his mum and step-dad have bought a pool/spa for the backyard of their new home.

We’re having Christmas Lunch at their place this year. It’s the first time we’ve done that, as this year, they’ve been madly renovating and redecorating. The pool/spa is their new purchase, and today they proudly showed it off.

No doubt it will figure prominently in Christmas Day celebrations. I’m not too sure about the sight of the extended family in swimwear relaxing in the spa, but I guess that’s one of the compromises you have to endure at this time of the year :):)

The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.

Relaxed Holiday

The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.

The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.

For just a brief moment last night I thought we might have seen the start of “flood rain” here in Lismore. “Flood rain” is the phrase used in my family to describe sustained, heavy rainfall that, as you might expect, eventually leads to flooding. You don’t necessarily identify it by the volume of rain that falls. No it’s more the sound of the rain that identifies it as flood rain.

Just like they have dozens of words for “snow” in Iceland – or is that just an urban myth? – we have lots of words and phrases for rain and flooding in my family. “Is it as big as 74? No it’s more like 87″ and “It’s up to AGR’s corner” are the kinds of phrases we use.

That’s what happens when you grow up in a flood-prone area. While the capital city media is declaring the area “at risk of major flooding”, ask my sister and she’ll say, “the river’s up a bit”. Ask her if she wants help moving up some of the many things stored under the house, she’ll say “oh no, it’s alright, they’ll wash away and we’ll replace them”.

Anyway, we’ve had some periods of quite heavy rain – mostly at night over the last few days – and then tonight, there was a story on the local news tonight about how the area can higher than average rainfall over the next few months. We shall see, I guess.

The last time I was home there was the risk of flooding in Lismore, and for an afternoon I found myself on the radio giving out flood warnings. I “worked” a fair bit on that holiday. In contrast, this would have to be the most relaxed holiday I’ve had in quite a while.

When I think about my holidays last year – four weeks in Europe and two weeks in China – they were both fairly hectic. Even though they were “holidays” I was still pretty active with lots of activity from day to day.

Even when I was home at Christmas time, I still worked for a couple of days and was pretty much “on call”. It’s the same this time, but somehow it’s been more relaxing and the phone hasn’t run nearly so much. My sister noticed this on the day I arrived home, harking back to the day when I flew home at Christmas and the phone had rung half a dozen times on the drive between Ballina and Lismore. This time it’s been much, much more relaxed which is a blessing.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon doing some “internet training” with some older family members – the sister and brother-in-law or my brother-in-law. They’re developing a bit of an interest in family history, and so I was in a good position to put them in the right direction. In particular, they’re trying to track down a family member who hasn’t been seen since the mid 1980s. Although they have a reasonably unusual name in Australia – it’s a German name – I still found it difficult to track him down, though I think I’ve given them a few hints in the right direction.

And then tonight, it’s been another evening for dinner and chatting around the television set.

Even though I spent last night complaining about how there was already too much about the Royal Wedding, that didn’t stop me from watching two documentaries on the ABC (6.00pm and 8.30pm) and then hopping over to watch “The Queen” on Channel 7 (or Prime, as I should say up here on the North Coast).

The Queen is such a good movie, eh? Although much has been made of the outstanding role played by Dame Helen Mirren, I thought all of the actors played their roles well without resorting to caricature and cliche. Even the Duke of Edinburgh who is a bit of a cliche and caricature in the way he is portrayed in the media, came across as a highly believable character.

I’m back to work tomorrow – working from the office up here – and then back to Sydney and back to work proper on Thursday and Friday. Still, it’s been nice having a holiday with only a few phone calls to answer.

06012011095

Rocky Creek Dam

Two weeks ago, when I was in Lismore we had a minor-moderate flood. There’s a chance Lismore will flood again over the next few days at a moderate-major level. In anticipation, my niece, Karran went to the nearby Rocky Creek Dam and sent me some photographs to illustrate the depth of the storage at the moment. These are photographs only for the water-storage enthusiast :) For the non-enthusiast, they’ll give you an idea of how full the storages are in Northern NSW right now, what the weather’s like, and how green everything is. It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?

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Rocky Creek Dam is located within the Whian Whian State Forest approximately 20km north of Lismore. Water stored in the dam is used to supply drinking water to the Northern Rivers area stretching from Woodburn in the south, north to Ocean Shores and west to Lismore. This supply is supplemented by Emigrant Creek Dam, the Wilsons River Source and several bore sites