Saturday 17 December 2016

There's Bushfires All Over the Place!

There we were, carrying on with our new expat life in Holland, when a radio newsflash came on about Australia. Catastrophic bushfires were devouring their way through the Blue Mountains and had arrived in Blaxland - at our place!

I was seven years of age.

Nothing could feel farther from the inferno of an all-engulfing bushfire disaster than the street we now lived on, 30 Coopers Dike, Enkhuizen, a medieval harbour town on what was once the salty Zuiderzee. Tenebrous clouds sagged from the sky like a painfully full dairy cow’s udder, as winter folded in. Snow pitched roofs on rustic brick and cobblestone paths, too narrow to be real roads, wove their way through a seafaring Golden Age when Enkhuizen harboured the Dutch East India Company, and a Baltic Sea Trade fishing fleet full to the brim with herring, before herring was overfished. Wooden and steel bridges arched over eel filled, slategray canals, which would soon ice up so us kids could go skating on them. Tulip bulbs hibernated in the damp cold soils of cosy little parks coifed with leafless draping weeping willow.

A Dutch Forest
In this water laced fairy tale town of Enkhuizen, fat bottomed rotating turret Windmills framed the horizon every which way. They once furiously drove out an invading North Sea before a 32km dam was built instead. It was definitely not bushfire season in Enkhuizen. It was wet and freezing. And there was no rugged burnable bush anywhere near us, or anywhere in the Netherlands actually. Just a few harmless enchanted forests infused with talking trees, pixies, fairies, and Bambies, spotted toadstools, ginger bread and witches houses, the odd castle, and snow white semi naked women wearing antler crowns, curled up in foetal positions inside dead logs under splays of rainbow coloured light. Most of the Netherlands is human feeding lots or has been cemented and built on – in the most charming and adorable way - thanks to the fruitfulness of the likes of my mother’s ancestors who sent forth upon the land such a bountiful amount of Dutch folk that the Netherlands couldn’t fit them in anymore.
30 Kuipersjijk-still has blue doors!
Just a few months before the bushfire news came through, we had disembarked the SS Oriana in England’s Southampton to live near my maternal grandparents, Oma and Opa, and the rest of our expanded relatives. A stubbornly Protestant place, Enkhuizen was the first city in the Netherlands to revolt against the Spanish in 1572. My mother’s family is Monty Python style, Catholic. I’m supposing that while they might have once been in the religious minority, the De Wits, and their betrothed - all fecundate families in the Province - surely outbred the whole town. After all, Mum’s family went on forever, and everyone who walked passed her, tipped their hats. 
Dad worked at the Draka Polva plastics factory. I was at primary school immersed in Dutch literacy. Mum and my younger sister were alone on Coopers Dike (Kuipersdijk), when they heard the radio announcement.

“O mijn God”, Mum dared to exclaim because Oma wasn’t there, or she would have clipped Mum around the ears with a pair of clogs. Dad and I both came home for lunch about then. “Bloody Hell” said Dad, forcing down some pork fat on pumpernickel while Mum told us everything she’d heard. Fretting Dad went back to the Polva and I returned to school. Mum took my sister to Oma’s house, a few doors away on the same street, from where she called the local newspaper to see if they had any more information about the bushfire.

Suddenly, Mum, and our house on 40 Koala Rd Blaxland, was front-page news, or some page news, in what Mum thinks was the Noordhollands Dagblad. The story went like this:

Elly Campbell De Wit : “Is our bungalow in Australia also burnt down? 

We are very busy with our paper to get a telex through to Blaxland in Australia. But without success. Wait, Wait, Wait, is all we can do.  Our nerves are being eaten up. A shopping centre, a block of flats and 150 houses have been totally annihilated. How are the friends and family of the Campbell De Wit family, who are now in Enkhuizen? Has somebody died? Has their own beautiful bungalow gone up in flames? What has happened to the English immigrants who leased their house?

Of course they are here, 13,000 miles away from it and of course, for Elly Campbell De Wit, she’s happy about that. Because her parents don’t have to nervously sit here wondering how Elly, her Australian husband, and her two children, are. And Elly’s parents are very happy that she is not in Australia with her two children too, so that they don’t have to wait night and day to learn that the family was burnt to death in the night while they were sleeping!

Three Weeks

But still…. there is uncertainty, wondering what is happening, and what could happen.
Their best friend lost his life on the 6th of November, taken by the fire. But don’t think these fires are today or yesterday news. They’ve been burning for three weeks. Three volunteer fire fighters have already died, and yesterday another victim fell that could also be a friend of theirs. “You still don’t know anything?” asks Elly. “Could you ring the paper again to see if they’ve received the telex and if they know the name of the victim”?

When Elly was listening to the 11am radio program called ‘Vitamin for Workers’ she heard the news that the shopping centre and a pub in Blaxland burnt down. It flashed through her mind, “What about our bungalow? Oh no! Could our bungalow be burnt too?” That’s why she rang us in the hope we might know more. Their home is just three minutes away from the incinerated shops and around their home is bush, bush, and more bush. Along the big long road from Sydney to Blaxland there was also nothing but bush, bush, bush. They should have chopped it all down long ago with such a threat of fire!

The fire can eat away, eat away, and eat away. But no-one can run away. Oh, what is happening there? Elly told her husband Cass about the fire when he came back from his job at the Polva. Cass told us, “Although I look like an Arab, I am Australian” as he illustrated how far their house is from the hotel and the shopping center. He cannot believe the house is still there. Were they insured? “Yes we are”, says Elly. “But the brand new furniture isn’t”. Elly can hear her father say, “How can you be so stupid to insure your house and not your furniture!” Anyway, Cass has to go back to work, and daughter Petra of 7, to school.  Elly couldn’t stay alone in their house with her youngest daughter of nearly four. “Let’s go to Oma’s and sit near the telephone and wait for more news. Let’s ring the paper again and see if they know anything. Maybe they have a name".  Elly tells her daughter.

Wait, wait ,wait: 13, 000 miles away

It’s nearly night in the Blue Mountains and the poor people there are afraid to go to sleep. This week Elly had a letter from her friend that the bushfire was so bad they couldn’t breath properly because of all the smoke, and she’s sitting there with her 6 children! And now in the dark, Elly wonders how her brothers are, “We haven’t heard from them either”. John is in Sydney. Gus is safely 30 miles away in Sydney in Avalon, on the beach. They can always go in the water!


Every time the phone rings, fear goes through the heart of Mother De Wit and her daughter Elly. But no, still no news. It’s very difficult to get a connection. Wait again.  Little Jenny tells me very seriously that her house in Australia has burnt down. She already sings St Nicholas songs, in broken Dutch, but talks your ear off. We talk about all the family who had immigrated, how Mr De Wit has been to Australia and Canada, and how Oma’s bother with his 15 children went to Canada, and other brothers went to British Columbia and to Australia, and how her son Hans, travelled all around the world and could be in Vietnam by now.  

Elly asks how the London to Sydney Car Rally was going. “Did you know that we did the same trek eight years ago?” Elly says. “We had to talk together in a little car. It was a terrible trip of 13,000 miles through the most barbaric States. Snow in Turkey. It was February. It took two months to do the trip”. Mrs. De Wit gave a comprehensive description of the journey. Cass wrote it. He loves writing. He even has a manuscript of 7,000 words.


If only we could have news. If only we could have news.  Now we are crying out for news but the only thing we hear is that the situation in the bush in NSW is very serious. There in the Blue Mountains, in Blaxland, fate is being decided. Where the mountains would be is fiery red of ten meter high flames rushing through 16 miles long. It is night now and NSW is hell red. Waiting again. Further waiting on news. It doesn’t matter anymore. It might come in the morning. But the people wouldn’t be sleeping and 13,000 powerless and dispirited miles away, Elly and Cass Campbell are asking themselves, how are their friends? And how is their house?

Translation by: Mum

The photo shows our home on its ¾ acre block with some towering inflammable gums clearly ‘threatening’ our ‘bungalow’ (a fibro and asbestos on brick, house), and our stretch Chevrolet in the foreground, which Dad had to sell to buy his ticket to Holland because Opa would only buy passage on the Oriana for his daughter and grandchildren. There is an insert of my sister looking at Mum who is gazing off into the horizon, not looking terribly worried. Probably because she didn’t want to live in the Blue Mountains anyway. We had this cosy old house on Kuipersdijk that Opa bought for us. And next year we would go to England. If our house burnt down - it looks like she is thinking - maybe she could stay in London where she was living quite happily before Dad found her, snatched her away to Australia, and shelved her in the bush?

Thirty-one fires had swept through the mountains since we left. But this particular fire that was now ravaging Blaxland, was the one that seared itself into Blue Mountains bushfire history for being one of the worst in it’s living memory.

It was through the Dutch newspapers that we learnt that Dad's closest friend, Greg Lee Eley, husband of Dawn, father of David and Melisssa, along with two experienced volunteer fire fighters, Peter John Hawkins, and Faulconbridge Brigade Captain, Tom Chalmers, were facing the last moments of their lives. They had gone off to conduct a back-burn at the Blue Grotto in Whitecross at Winmalee, to try and stop the fire from moving up the Mountains. Greg was on his first Warrimoo Bush Brigade sortie since he became a volunteer firey. As the men were back burning, a sudden wind change flying at 100 kilometres an hour turned the fire around on them. They had no chance.

Dad and Greg saw each other every day, because they worked together at Eric Andersons. And they drank together. Our families were always at each other homes. Greg and Dawn’s children were like cousins to my sister and I.

After the deaths of Greg, Tom and John, Blue Mountains fire fighters lined the verges of the Great Western Highway at Warrimoo holding donation buckets to support Dawn and the widows of David and Peter. GeoffMacManus, veteran and awarded volunteer fire fighter who was on Greg’s crew recalled, “I don’t think anyone drove past us without giving us something.” There is a now plaque in honor of the three men on a renamed service street, Eley Hawkins Drive, where the Warrimoo Fire Brigade Station is.

The loss of Greg was as soldered into my childhood memories as the 1968 bushfire was in the annals of Blue Mountains experience, even though I wasn’t there.

It took another two weeks to conquer the fire. More than 9,300 hectares of bushland was turned to charcoal. Our house was spared: not a single barb on a Cymbopogon refractus (grass) or a single oily eucalypt leaf from our happily still alive and lofty blue gums were so much as tinged. But 40 other homes in Blaxland were burnt to the ground, and another 30 carbonised in the flames further afield.
Ten years later and the fires tore though the mountains again, the intensity of which hadn’t been seen since 1968. I am now 15 years old and back in Blaxland. We were in the middle of the 1972-1981 drought and it was suffocatingly, heat-wave hot. Hundreds of fire fighters worked 24 hour rotating shift to contain the fires. No-one died this time, but those who remembered the 1968 fires were getting ready to evacuate.

On December 5, 1976, I wrote in my diaries, “there's bushfires all over the place. It's really bad. The Taylor's have packed everything. That’s going a bit far. Yesterday their motorcross burnt down and Mr Taylor's bike too. So they’re out of a job”.  The following summer fires raged again and I wrote “there are really bad bush fires at Sun Valley and Blaxland and boy was it made to look bad – 3 houses down in Blaxland, 5 in Sun Valley - and the only one that was burnt down besides heaps of bush was a shed. Oh well…… Worked this morning. I was slightly late because the bush fires held up the trains…. When I got up this morning I could hardly breathe. The whole house was full of smoke and you couldn’t see two feet in front of you.”. 

Actually, 15 year old self, sixty five thousand hectares burnt in 1976 when the Taylor's were wisely packing to get out, and the following summer, it was a bit more than 8 houses that were lost: 49 buildings and 54,000 hectares went up in smoke.  

There wasn’t much local communication about bushfires in those days. A fire might well have been sweeping up Koala Road to burn us in our beds while we were sleeping. If it was, I woke up just in time, fumbled my way through the smoke to the station, and got on a train to go Christmas shopping.

Bushfires are the downside of living in this UNESCO listed World Heritage National Park, as it is living anywhere else near our rapidly disappearing bushland, so full of inflammable eucalyptus trees. Every part of the eucalypt is bloating with aromatic, volatile oil. It throws off its bark like a snake sheds it’s skin, and drops a leafy, crusty, nutty, crackly, bonfire that blankets the bush floor just waiting for blistering heat to bring its latent oil to a ‘just right’ temperate so it can release it’s flammable gas and project a fireball. It doesn’t take much for the Mountains to turn into a towering inferno with some forests and their 300-year-old trees soaring 65 meters into the sky, especially as they are on steep slopes that are mostly impossible to reach to put out.

A Eucalyptus bushfire
Scientist wonder whether eucalypts became fuel filled as a means of reproduction - because they require occasional burns to regenerate - or if they are some sort of villainous domineering tree that evolved to burn as a weapon to scare off competitive trees that cant survive a bushfire. Whichever it is, the Eucalypt is the great hegemon of the Aussie forest. And it has enlisted some allies in other native flora that also like it hot to spread their seed around.

A type of addiction to fire is central to the ecology of Australia.

Aborigines used fire to clear tracks and herd animals - and possibly to keep an eye on some of the most deadliest snakes in the world which tend to lurk in long grass. No doubt some unlucky Aborigines fell in the way of a turning wind now and then, but it was the arrival of Europeans and our ongoing human expansion across Australia that has really put us head to head with our forests. While lightening will sometimes strike up a bushfire, most of the time its things we do, or have built, that start them, like the accidental ignitions caused by faulty power poles, flying sparks from welding, grinding, machinery, campfires, agricultural clearing, and dropped cigarettes and matches, back burning, and illegal burning in tips. Then there are criminal arsonists, pyromaniacs and mindless teenagers who start a fire for a laugh. A few kilometres from our house in Blaxland we dumped and burnt what little waste we produced back then in our local surface tip. One day, someone’s smoldering garbage turned the tip into the 1957 bushfire that ripped from the Blaxland tip to Mt Riverview.

Our self-inflicted bush fires have taken the lives of 800 people in Australia since 1851, costing around $1.6 billion in property damage.

At the base of roads winding up the Blue Mountains, fire danger-rating signs, which consider the predicted temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and dryness of vegetation, told us how safe or not we were during bushfire season. They still do. You would look at the fire danger rating sign as religiously as you look at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning. “Low fire danger today Dad”, we’d chirp. “That’s good”. Or “ High fire danger Mum - Uh Oh” You didn’t want to see ‘severe’, or ‘extreme’ or ‘catastrophic’, like in 1968. That would neither be ‘Good’ or ‘Uh Oh’, but even if it was, that was life in the Blue Mountains.

The 1968 bushfire was one of the worst in the Blue Mountains on record because four people died. But there have been far more destructive fires in terms of lives lost and property damage, both in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in Australia. Eleven years earlier, four little terrified boys on a school excursion to the Blue Mountains, ran the wrong way to escape a bushfire they got caught in: their little bodies later found huddling together, incinerated. The 15-day 2001-2002, Black Christmas bushfires which originated in the Blue Mountains, burned 753,315 hectares of National Parks, destroying 109 homes and 433 outbuildings. With over 100 bushfires burning all at the same time, it was the longest continuous bushfire emergency in NSW history.
Just one year before the 1968 Blue Mountains fire, the 1967 Black Tuesday bush fires, the worst ever in Tasmania's history, killed 62 people and injured 900. Over 7,000 people were left homeless. The fires destroyed 264,000 hectares within five tiny hours. Eighty bridges, 4,800 sections of power lines, 1500 vehicles, and over 100 other structures were destroyed. Around 62,000 livestock perished. It was preceded by biggest drought since 1885.

Then there was Ash Wednesday, 16 February 1983, when firestorm conditions ignited 180 fires, killing 75 people in South Australia and Victoria. Over 3,700 buildings were destroyed, 2,545 homes were damaged and 358,000 helpless cows and sheep were terrorised before burning or choking to death.

The great mother of them all was the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday bushfires, when 173 people were mortally ambushed by fires burning at 1,200°C. Over 450,000 hectares of land was destroyed. Absolutely horrific accounts came from that hellfire, like cars melting on families as they desperately tried to escape in them. This was the worst natural disaster in Australian history. An oppressive heat wave preceded the fires with heat peaking at 45.1C, the highest in Victoria since 1859 when temperatures were first recorded. Criminals, one of which was also discovered to be a pedophile, deliberately started the many fires that made up this catastrophy.

Black Saturday
A bushfire commonly comes on the heels of a heat wave, when the air and temperatures are so high and hot and wet and thick, day after day, after day, after a day, it feels like you’re wading through papa bear’s porridge. The 1939 'Black Friday' bush-fires in Victoria killed 71 people, but the heat wave that came before the fires claimed 438 lives, tortured to death by 40C degrees heat. There was no home air conditioning then and no Westfield to run to. The extreme heat shut down the electricity grid, which cut off fans in 18,000 homes.
Heat waves and bushfires commonly happen during a drought. Australia hasn’t earned the reputation for being the driest continent in the world for nothing. We are frequently in some ongoing dry spell, when it just won’t rain. When there are no clouds for eternity on end, or the clouds are there, but they don’t have any water in them. And if they do have water in them, they just won’t come your way and give it up. On the horizon they tease, billowing up into the very limits of the troposphere, getting darker and darker and darker. It looks like they could burst; they might burst, will they burst? No they don't. They move on to taunt another horizon. Somewhere, ‘over there’, they relieve themselves momentarily like a dog marking its territory – a little spurt here, a little spurt there. Or they do nothing at all, as if they have urinary retention. They seem to deliberately miss the dam, the farm, the garden. Wicked insensitive clouds; they don’t care about our nation’s exports, or family livelihoods, or whether or not we need to wash the car, or water the Sir Walter, or top up the swimming pool. You can almost hear them laughing, “Silly humans. That’s why Australia has Kangaroos. They know not to breed when there’s no food and water, and they tread lightly on our Aussie earth, unlike your dumb cows and sheep which keep breeding even when there’s nothing to eat or drink, then they turn the land to desert with their heavy hooves”. After years, or even a decade, of raining over the sea instead of on Australia, our rivers run dry, our dams shrink to puddles, the land has cracks in it the size of the San Andreas Fault line after a seismic moment, our exports falter to a dribble, farms cough and splutter, and the natural world upon which our economy depends, shrivels to a shadow of itself. The 1911–16 drought in West Australia was so bad, men defected en masse to fight in World War One. Fancy preferring probable death in war, to a drought. That’s how bad it can get.

Federation Drought
Just like we usually cause bushfires, we make droughts even worse than they would be. Instead of rationing water during the 1895 Federation Drought, men pumped water from the Murray and Darling Rivers until they were near dry. This also caused soil salinity, killing vegetation which keeps topsoil together. Rabbits the British bought to Australia for dinner, bred to plague proportions, mowing down remaining edibles.  Farmers overstocked the land and then opened up new stock routes to compensate for water and feedstock losses along the Murray-Darling, emptying ‘native wells’ along the way, causing further and severe land erosion, which amplified the effects of the drought.

More recently, the 1982–83, drought cost around $A7 billion in Agricultural losses, topped off by the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. The New South Wales and Queensland 1991-95 drought was the result of the lowest rainfall levels on record, costing our economy $A5 billion. In 1994 we had the eastern seaboard bush fires. Then came the 1996 to mid 2010 Millennium Drought, which by virtue of the date, looks as though the 1991-1995, didn’t really stop. Along with the Federation Drought and the Forties Drought, the Millennium Drought ranks as one of the most widespread, severe and prolonged dry periods since 1900.

Things are set to get worse in our sunburnt country. We’re not in some sort of cycle; it is an upward trend. Global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves and bushfires. The CSIRO says that climate change will lead to increases in very high and extreme fire danger rating days and an earlier onset of the fire season.

It’s a global phenomenon too. The last two years have been the hottest on record. In much the same way that nature buried coal, oil, and gas into the bowels of the earth to maintain the perfect life sustaining climate we had until we started letting it all out again, trees do the same thing. They keep carbon out of the atmosphere. By burning trees, we are releasing that stored carbon back into the air, adding to planetary warming. Warmer temperatures increase evaporation, which means the atmosphere draws more moisture from soils, dehydrating the land, killing off soil binding vegetation. Hard dry land reflects heat back into the atmosphere and stops water from soaking into the soil. The hotter we make the planet, the more fires there are; the more fires there are, the hotter the planet is becoming.

A terrifying reality of a planet on fire is emerging.

Globally, large wildfires burn more than twice the area they did in 1970, and the average wildfire season is 78 days longer. Projections show that an average annual temperature increase of 1 °C would increase the median area burnt to 600% in some types of forests. Entire forests are burning down uncontrollably, not just the undergrowth, and the length of the average wildfire season globally has increased by 2.5 months.

Since the mid-1980's, US fires have occurred nearly five times more often, burning more than six times the land area, and lasting almost five times as long. In 2015, wildfires burned more than 4.5 million hectares of the USA - an area of the size of the Netherlands or Switzerland -  the highest annual total acreage burned since record-keeping began in 1960.

Some American fires happen thanks to the fast growing eucalypts Australia shipped over there (and elsewhere in the world) in the 1950’s, to help fight soil erosion and meet the demand for wood. Americans have since wisened up to the eucalypti’s strategy to burn out its enemies and take over the land, and are now calling for them to be uprooted and replaced with native American tree species. However, much of America’s increased fires are occurring in national parks such as Yosemite National Park and the Northern Rockies, which are relatively shielded from human fire causing behaviors, which lead scientists to believe that climate change is a major factor driving the increase in wildfires.

Fires have been burning up Alaska, Siberia, Canada, Spain, Portugal and France on a scale not seen in recent history. The most vulnerable forests are in the boreal region which stretch across the northern hemisphere through Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia. They make up almost a third of forested land in the world, and play a critical role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. Temperatures are rising faster in these northern regions than in other areas of the planet. And under them is all that oil and gas, once locked away in what is now melting, frozen soil, called permafrost.

Then you have countries with out of control population growth deliberately and, or, illegally, setting fires to make way for cattle farms and palm oil plantations, like Brazil and Indonesia. Fires in Indonesia claimed more than 2 million hectares of rainforest and peat land. Indonesia is now among the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, and it ranks first for emissions intensity relative to GDP, while Brazil has the highest rate of slash and burn deforestation in the world.

Back in 1904, Australian poet and fiction writer, Dorothea McKellar ‘loved’ our 'sunburnt country.' She loved it so much she wrote this beautiful poem, for those who have forgotten or never even knew it:

The love of field and coppice
 Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze ...
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

It seems that today’s state and federal politicians, councils, businesses, and clearly a whole bunch of people living on this land and coming here, are somehow deprived of knowing or understanding Dorothea McKellar's love of land, so that they might have it too. Instead, they are seeking to tame it, use it all up right now, then blame someone else or something else when nature gets in their way. The 2013 NSW bushfires came on heels of the hottest temperatures on record, setting off a new bout of bushfires in the Blue Mountains. In Springwood, the fire destroyed more than 200 homes. It was a tragedy. Residents and business owners sued Endeavour Energy for damages, claiming the energy distributor failed to prune or remove a hazardous tree next to a power pole on a property in Springwood.  Although a chief investigator told a coronial inquiry into the fires the blaze was an act of God, Endevour Energy settled. In West Australia, residents sued a 83 year old woman for a faulty privately owned power pole on her property that collapsed and sparked a bush fire. Ten thousand people successfully sued AP Ausnet and Utilities Services Group for the Black Saturday bush fires.
While power companies may well have been negligent,  it is also people who are moving deeper into the bush, who are putting themselves on the frontline at their own peril. And it's not their fault either. It is deliberate federal and state government policy to keep Australia growing indefinitely. In NSW, population growth and development at all costs champion, Premier Mike Baird, seized the Springwood tragedy to accuse nature by changing land clearing laws. The 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice allows trees to be removed up to 10 metres from a home without council permission, and sanctions the removal of vegetation within 50 metres - supposedly to protect people from bushfires. The minute it came into effect in August 2014 it was abused, resulting immediate and alarming land clearing. And not just in the Blue Mountains either. Sydneysiders with no risk of being affected by a bushfire, have been chopping down trees to enhance their views and their property values, destroying precious wildlife habitat.

Traumatised Koala after a bushfire
The Clearing Code has been so misused there were almost instant calls for review, especially for places of Ecological importance like the Blue Mountains. People who care, who have a scientific background and advocate evidence based policy - The Nature Conservation Council of Australia - say the laws are, “too broad for a UNESCO listed world heritage area”. That the “rule overrides years of carefully crafted environmental protections, including the Threatened Species Conservation Act and tree preservation orders - protections many people have fought for years to put in place." That “The 10-50 vegetation clearing code does little to reduce bushfire risk to property but has had devastating consequences for urban bushland and the wildlife it supports”.

We can't just keep chopping down trees to make way for people and their self interested desires and exploits in the here and now, until there are none left, like they did in Easter Island. Everyone knows what happened there: the population plunged to 10,000 from 50,000, having died of starvation and in brutal conflict over resources.

Meanwhile Back in Enkhuizen, Holland

When I grew up there was a popular story about a Dutch boy, the hero of Haarlem, who saved Holland from the North Sea by plugging a hole in a leaking Dike with his finger. This legend is actually a mini story inside a book called Hans Brinker (also known as The Silver Skates), by American author, Mary Mapes Dodge, who had never been to Holland when she wrote the best seller. It is about a young boy, Hans Brinker, who wants to win an ice-skating race - nothing to do with Dikes or the sea. The famous boy, who saved Holland for the whole world
to know about, isn’t given a name in the mini story and Hans Brinker isn’t the name of the boy either. Even so, statues of the fictional dike-plugging boy, now named Hans Brinker, have been erected in various locations around Holland including near the Closure Dike. Because the Dike is to the Dutch what the Moai is to Easter Islanders: a symbol of national obsession. This is what makes this tale so incredible.

Keeping the sea from taking over Holland – half of which is below sea level - has been going on for 2000 years throughout which time the Dutch tried everything to little avail, until last century. Dutch history is full of terrible flooding events. The most catastrophic was the 1287 storm which sent in such a powerful wall of water from the North Sea that it killed 50-80,000 people. It also gouged out such a large chunk of Holland, that what remained became a salt-water harbour named from then on, the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea). In 1953, the North Sea was on the attack again. A wall of water 5.6 meters high exploded onto the Dutch province of Zeeland on the Rhine-Meuse-Schelt Delta, in the dead of night, drowning and crushing 2000 people to death in their sleep. Seventy thousand people were instantly homeless. No wonder the Noordhollands Dagblad worried the 1968 Blue Mountains bush-fires might burn people in their beds while they were sleeping! The Dutch have been traumatised to their DNA by the threat of being annihilated by the sea.

What Netherlands would look like without Dikes
The resolve to damn the Zuiderzee came after the 1916 flood, which busted through all the old style coastal defences. The first Dike completed in 1932, was the 32 kilometre ‘Closure Dike’ (Afsluitdijk) which cut the Zuiderzee off from the North Sea, creating a massive artificial fresh water lake fed by the Ijssel River, a tributary of the Rhine. Keeping the sea out wasn’t the only purpose of the Dike. The Dutch were in desperate need of agricultural land and human growing space. The plan was to reclaim the entire area in stages, for farming and housing. The reclaimed land was called a Polder. Three stages of reclaimed land to date has created 1,613.82 km² of new territory, where nearly a million people now live, airports and all. A whole new province, Flevoland, the world’s largest artificial island, was created. It’s capital, Lelystad, was named after the engineer, Cornelis Lely, who designed and oversaw the Zuiderzee Works: he is the real hero with his finger in the Dike. Polders were protected from flooding by more Dikes, which in themselves became a network of roads connecting the province of Holland to the rest of the Netherlands.
Video: Holland's Barries to the Sea

We used to go to the Afsluitdijk for some hot chips and mayonnaise, and gaze out onto the marvels of Dutch engineering so Dad could tell Mum, “You know what the English say don’t you? God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland.”  Mum would smile and say, “Yes Dear, I know”. The English weren’t the only ones so impressed. The American Society of Civil Engineers declared these works, together with the Delta Works in Zeeland which protect Rotterdam, among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. 

Construction of the Polders was interrupted by both World Wars. The Noordoostpolder was used as a hiding place for the German resistance during WW II. Draining the Flevoland polder exposed many wrecks of aircraft that had crashed into the IJsselmeer during the war, as well as fossils of Pleistocene mammals. Retreating German forces  blew up the Wieringermeer Dike in the final days of World War Two. Mum remembers hiding under a table during air raids when she a child, while a weeping Oma huddled over an oil lamp darning socks, fearing for her nine children. Three existential threats – war, the North Sea, and starvation - hung over Oma, if those polders weren’t built.

But Oma made it through and in 1976 she wrote to us to announce the Houtrib Dike (Houtribdijk) which cut the Ijssel Lake in two, forming the new Lake Marker (Markermeer), and linking Enkhuizen to Lelystad, was complete, and they could now drive the short cut to Flevoland. Plans were afoot to drain Lake Marker to create a new Polder but by this time people had colonised the area with their recreational boats, and they weren’t keen to see the Ijssel and Marker Lakes turned into land.

Hollands Polders as they are today
Something else wonderful and extraordinary had also happened without any help or intent of the Dutch until after the fact. A rapid colonisation of another type took place on the banks of Lake Marker in Flevoland: by geese, the great cormorant, the common spoonbill, the great egret, the white-tailed eagle and the Eurasian bittern, among many other birds of such significance that it forced a government policy change. Polderisation of lake Marker didn't go ahead as result. The 56 km² area called, Oostvaardersplassen, is now a Ramsar Convention listed wetland for the special protection of birdlife.

While endangered birds were making the Oostvaardersplassen their new home, willow trees also began to thicken up the swamps. The Dutch were worried that dense woodland would develop and reduce the value of the habitat for water birds, so large herbivores, thought to resemble what would have existed on European river banks and deltas before humans arrived, were introduced to keep the area more open: Red Deer, Konik Ponies, and Heck Cattle. The ponies and cattle functionally replace the now extinct wild cattle (Aurochs) and horses (Tarpon). Still to join the reserve are elk, wild boar and the European bison.

Just like planet earth is a finite space for humans to wander around in, the Oostvaardersplassen has a fixed boundary. Inside the reserve there are no apex predators, like bears or wild cats, and there is nowhere for animals to migrate to where there are predators, so rangers have to regularly cull 30-60% of the grazing population when their numbers become unsustainable and starvation sets in.

To address this situation a project of grandiose proportions is underway to connect Oostvaardersplassen to other nature reserves throughout the Netherlands, including to the famous (enchanted) Veluwe Forest. The Veluwe Forest will also be connected to Belgian and German forests as part of a European 'Ecological Main Structure' (Natura 2000) which plans to return 18% of land and 6% of marine resources to nature. This European-wide network of habitats would allow wild animals to move freely through a system that "imitates human blood circulation, with a series of green arteries, veins and capillaries". In the Netherlands, "these range in scale from large corridors of restored grassland and trees bulldozed through relocated industrial and housing estates, and the building of eco-bridges over major transport routes, to the planting of riparian vegetation alongside drainage canals". Originally aiming for completion by 2018, it will cover 730,000 hectares – a whole 17% of Holland’s total land area. That’s a lot of land to give back to nature for a country of 16 million stuffed into only 4.2 million hectares, and which is also facing more usable land challenges in the future as sea levels rise and climate changes .  

A wildlife bridge in Holland
What’s even more extraordinary than this revolutionary ‘rewilding’, is that the Netherlands is now going through a process of 'de-polderisation,' a calculated retreat, where the agricultural land they spent the last 100 years borrowing from the sea, is given back, in order to protect themselves from  climate change induced storms of the likes normally tearing up tropical countries. This means that prolonged rain will push rivers well over their banks, and wild storms will frequently conjure up a ferocious North Sea. The Netherlands will be attacked by their rivers from within and by the sea from without. A whole half of Holland will be reclaimed by water in the worst case climate change scenario.

There is no climate change denialism in the Netherlands. The Dutch have realised that they cannot out engineer this situation, and they have returned to models of nature to adapt. They have been collaborating with engineers in New Orleans, which is also below sea level, fending off the Mississippi River on the one hand and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. This new, green, 'soft engineering' approach is all about "living with water". Among other adaptive approaches, like floating buildings, Dutch engineers plan to divert rivers away from densely settled areas, to let the sea and rivers deposit their sand and mud in, around, and on, polders and maritime swampland. The mounds of sand and mud will blasted with Buckthorn bush seeds to speed up the re-vegetation process, so as to create a natural barrier.  This 'soft' coastal protection is basically emulating what nature did so well before humans started carting away, and building on, the giant vegetated and tree covered sand dunes that once buffered our coastal shores and delta's.

Video: Holland Combats Climate Change

How the new 'rewilded' areas will cope with this future coastal environment is yet to be seen, as they happen to be on the same territory being 'soft engineered'.

Aren't we lucky in Australia that we haven't yet reached a brink where we have to try and claw back land for nature. But we approaching fast. We can learn from what Europe is now having to do before it's too late, and make sure we preserve much more than a mere 18% of land for nature: for the intrinsic right that nature has to life, and for our future generations who will be thinking very differently to our present decision makers.

Diary Entries, December 1976

It's the end of 1976 and the end of this diary. Summer and Christmas is here, and bush fires are everywhere. I now have a new school holiday job at Coles and am learning to be a "Check-out Chic".
I have met a guy called Dave at Coles. Boys used to hang around the supermarkets to checkout the 'check-out chics'. Dave is a landscape gardener, wants to be a Jakaroo, and has big plans to plant forests of pine. My parents approve of him. They see him as potential boyfriend material. I quite like him too but he is several years older than me and I am not ready for what he expects, since I am still only 15. My last high school infatuation, Lex, has left school and is working. He has changed now that he's exposed to the adult world, and I'm not that keen on him anymore, with Dave hanging around. On my way home from Coles one day, some boys try to push pot onto me. I tell them I'm not into smoking cigarettes, much less smoking dope, thank-you very much. Oma is still visiting from Holland and my aunties and uncles all take turns picking her up and taking her here and there.

Wednesday December 1 - I've seen you on TV. You're the weather Girl!

Today we played Prospect at Zone netball and won. They were late of course so I missed the train. And I thought I'd missed the bus. Then I remembered that Nepean's doing swimming so I raced off to catch their bus. The timetable bus came and went straight past me, but then stopped and took me to Springwood. I ran the way to Springwood pool and got there in time. Everybody was outside the pool. The dance was pretty good. Craig asked me to go with him at the end but I said no. He kept coming up and talking to me. I wore my tie top, and slacks and got filthy looks from everybody except the boys.

Graham was there and he goes to me, "I've seen you before, don't you come from Springwood?" Then one of the other guys said "I've seen you on TV, on the news, the weather. You're the weather girl". Graham said "She IS the weather!"

But I don't know what that's supposed to mean. I hope it was a compliment. I kept my eye on him. He pinched my bum once. Most people said I looked nice though. Denton kept asking me all night if I'd seen Flea and Flea kept asking me if I'd seen Denton. I danced with a lot of people. Nearly all of 4th form were pissed and this 'one guy' isn't getting his Certificate. This 'other guy' is getting his Certificate but not his Reference. The band were OK. Most people looked really good. Specially Emma Smith. 'One girl' had a horrible dress on.  Greg kept trying to kiss me and wouldn't leave me alone.

Thursday December 2 - We went to the table to learn about the cash register

Well today I had a half day off.  Went to Debs then caught the bus. I thought I'd missed it. Went home, got changed, and walked to the station. A guy in a red car drove past me really slow in Koala Road, then stopped up the top and pretended to need something, then drove past me again, turned around, came back, and asked me where Lapstone was. I gave him directions and walked. As I was coming over the station he drove past the petrol station, turned around and came back, and stopped at the steps and bought something -  a paper and a can of coke - and just sat in his car. But before that I was in the bank and he came up next to me and grabbed some withdrawal papers and walked out again. Then he just sat in his car. I passed him and walked up the station, and then he started his car and drove off towards Warrimoo – the opposite direction to Lapstone. Twice a red car drove past and I thought it was him but it wasn’t.  I saw him on the train so I moved carriages. 

Anyway shopped around a little, then went to Dad's work and got changed for work. Went into Coles and he'd lost my application, so I had to do a new one and I was packen it. Then Mrs Tedea took us girls into a room and gave us our uniforms and bits of paper. Then she took us into the store and assigned us to people who put us in charge of certain sections. I got baby wear and manchester. Then we went to the table to learn about the cash register and stuff like that. Then she told us to start. Later on I was put on packing and you should have seen all the spunks. My God. Yum Yum. There was one guy sitting on a corner. He had dark eyes. I kept staring at him. God he was a spunk. He hade my heart go 'boom boom'. Then this guy about 13 or 14, or maybe 15, came in - a real drip. I just kept laughing at him. He goes, "Do you know me?"
I said "No". Then when we closed he came back and said "I still don't know where I've seen you"
I said, "I've never seen you before". 
He goes, "Well I'll wait for you. Yeah, I'll wait for you." 

But after we locked up I went and got my stuff. They check our bags and we went out the back way. Then I had to pass all these spunks. One was from Kingswood, from the Careers excursion. I went back to Dad's shop but he'd already closed. This guy got in his car, did his hair, and turned at me and smiled away. You should have seen all the spunks at the pub. My God. On the way to Coles, there was these two spunks ( surfies) across the road, and I kept looking at them. There were millions of people at the pub and around the station. That made me a bit scared cause 'MV' was there. 

Friday December 3 -What does he think I am? His spare part or something!

Springwood Pool in 1970's
Went to the pool all day today and got really burnt on my legs at the back, on my bum, and a little on my back and arms. All the 4th formers were there and Graham and I were sitting with them. I had great fun. I talked to Glen, the spunk, at the pool. Lex rang. He asked me if I'm coming to the beach. I said I'm not allowed. He said "I'll go by myself, don't worry about it" ( as if he was taking someone else). Then I told him about Sue and he didn't deny it. He put his friend Wayne on the phone, and he said "Howdy, I haven't sen you for ages" I said practically the same thing back. Then he said, "Are you going to Denis's party"? I said "I didn't know he was having one". He said, "Tell Denis I'm taking you". My God, What does he think I am? His spare part or something! We'll see about that. Wait till I talk to him. The B'tard. Who the hell does he think he is! Seeya

Saturday December 4 - Worked today again. My feet are killing me

Worked today again. My feet are killing me. It went OK. Guess when I've got to work! All next week from Dec 1st to 5th (Jan), Saturday and Thursday too. I should get a nice little bundle there. Damn it though. I miss out on swimming teaching.  Powel will have a wet. Seeya

Sunday December 5 - There's bushfires all over the place. It's really bad

Well today I could have been at the beach. Yes well, I won't go into details. I bet Lex is having fun, yeah I bet he is. There's bushfires all over the place. It's really bad. The Taylor's have packed everything. That’s going a bit far. Yesterday their motocross burnt down and Mr Taylor's bike too. So they’re out of a job. Well, Seeya

Monday December 6 - Told Mrs Powel I coudn't instruct livesaving anymore

Today I went to the pool ½ day and told Mrs Powel I coudn't instruct lifesaving anymore and she had a wet. Anyway, I got dressed at the pool and trondled off to the train where I met Adrian chaser, Darrel Granger, and Gary Waddell. And talked to them. Then I got off the sation and went to work. Boy I was buggered. Trudie has a uniform she is going to lend me. I bet its UGH. But it's better than my skirt. I'm getting it tomorrow at school. Seeya.

Tuesday December 7 - Got my work uniform today

Got my work uniform today. Had to take it in everywhere, it was too big. Was tired again today. I had to pack all these shoes. My God it was bad. When we walked past the pub these blokes said something but I coudn't quite catch it. Anyway, got to go. Seeya.

Wednesday December 8 - “I'll swap you a drink for some icecream"

Worked again today. Tiresome. I was on the register and the cigarrette stand. Fun. It was though.  When we walked past the pub I was eating an icecream and some blokes go, “I'll swap you a drink for some icecream" and he put his arm around me. I pushed him off, swapped and walked off. Then I dropped it and went back and got another one and they go, “Are you coming to swap me again"? I said, “No. Im keeping this one”. Seeya.

Thursday December 9 - Are you smoking pot yet?

Went to the pool today to instruct. Got into salt (Sh-t) with Powel. Not allowed to instruct anymore.  That spunk, Rob Adams with the pink panel van, was there. Worked. Good fun.
Left my stuff on the train and some bloke shouted, “Anyone told you got good legs”, which means you haven’t – really, they’re up the creek. Was on the cigarrette stand again today. Fun, especially watching all these spunks go by. Terry Atkinson and some guy came in and were talking to me. They kept saying goodbye but weren’t going. Then I saw Milton and he came over and talked to me all the time, all night. He gave me a ring that was meant for Wendy  Horten. Anyway, he asked me to the pub after work but it was at the Jameson in his friend's car, and I had to catch a train. So he said he'd meet me after work which he did and he walked me somewhere, and he said, "Are you into smoking pot yet?"
I said, “I’m not into smoking smokes yet”.
He goes, “Well, me and my friend will meet here next Thursday and we’ll give you some”.
I said, “I don’t want any”.
He said, “How do you know what it tastes like, if you haven’t tried it?”. And he goes, “I’m not pushing you or nothing”.

I just laughed. Another guy, a real fat slob, came in and asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him I had one in Sydney. he asked me about tomorrow night - what was I doing? But I said no. he was UGH. All these guys were really pissed. Greg and his friends from Coles were at the station and me and Debbie talked to them and on the train too. I was being real stupid. I couldn't stop laughing. They're really nice though. Working again tomorrow night. Looking forward to Saturday. Work and PLAY. Seeya

Friday December 10 - “Have to get a photo of you in case I forget what you look like”

Worked again. Worked 2 hours overtime and we get $2.00 overtime. Prettey good eh. Got a letter from Lex. Didn’t make me fell any better. You know what he wrote once? “Have to get a photo of you in case I forget what you look like” Humph. Some of the things he wrote. My God! At the station these 3 spunks got off a train at Penrith and they were wheeling a pram. I kept smiling at them and they started waving. Our train came and I was talking to them through the train. One said he worked at Kmart in Blacktown. What a spunk. Dark hair and dark glasses that looked really good and even better when he took them off. Yum yum. The other 2 were OK. But these other two creeps were on our train and were going on about drugs and all this. They kept asking for Christmas kisses. UGH

Saturday December 11 - Then they went to a Drive-In so I went to the Gub House

Worked today again. Guess how much I got? $42.70. Not bad I spose but we didn’t get paid overtime, nor did we get our tea money. But I spose I can settle for $42.00. Mum forced me to go to a BBQ at Leary, Eric and Mrs Hassler's son Dez,'s place – that’s right, now I remember his name. Well they were there, and Dez’s brother. He was OK. We played tap football, had tea. Then they went to a Drive-In so I went to the Gub House. A chick I worked with, and her boyfriend ( a spunk) were there and their two friends, so I went with them. It was really great. So funny. My God I coudn't stop laughing. But my eyes hurt too much from all the smoke. I was hysterical. Probably crying. It would have been good if I could have stayed home by myself and Lex had have come down. But alas, alak. Seeya.

Sunday December 12 - Sunbaked but didn’t get any browner

Didn’t do much. Sunbaked but didn’t get any browner. Worst luck, Mum and Dad had a go at me. As usual. They try to make me feel guilty about everything. It makes me sick. Working tomorrow. Seeya.

Monday December 13 - Gave out my Christmas cards

Went to school and got rid of text books. Carey reckons I still owe her one text book. Half finished my Woodword book job, and caught the train home. Gave out my Christmas cards. I'm the only one though, everyone else is too bludgeable. Mum had a go at me and nearly made me miss my train. Seeya.

Tuesday December 14 - He reckoned he was broke.

Lex rang and apologised for not coming down on the weekend. I had a go at him. He reckoned he was broke. Bull. He said he might come down on the weekend. He asked if I got his letter. I said no, and THEN he asked me to tell Sue MCCowen to ring him. I said I wouldn’t, and I really got the shits so I hung up. That bloody poofta! God I’ll throttle him. Seeya.

Wednesday December 15 -The spunk asked me if I’d been in an accident

These guys came into work today and one of them was quite a spunk. When I came down everyone told me there were two guys in the shop, so I went off and emptied the garbage bin. The spunk asked me if I’d been in an accident. I thought he was being nasty but he wasn't so I just smiled. Oh yes, there was a big hail storm today. This panel van went past and this guy with blond hair stuck his head out so I smiled at him and he did the same. And so I waved and so did he. Then I was passing the pub and he was there. He told me to come over cause of the hail so I did. He asked me what my name was. I said, “Petra”. He said, “That's nice", and stupid me didn’t ask him what his name was, so I trondled off to catch the train. What a bummer. God I'm a fool. Seeya

Thursday December 16 - He raved on about how I was the nicest looking chick in all of Penrith

Went to the pool today. Got burnt. Good. Worked tonight but was on wrapping. Joanne, the chick at work, told Dave ( the spunk) that I was in a car accident. Then Jenny asked me if I'd go out with him, and Rosemary said he was going to ask me out. But he hasn't yet. I wish he would though. I bet he doesn't cause when I want someone to ask me out they don't, and when they do, I don't want to. This guy was walking in front of me after work and he stopped and said "Ga'day. How are you?" Twice. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend. I said "Yes, in Marickville". he said, "Oh, What's his name?" and all this. Then he asked me if I wanted a lift home, which he kept asking me, but I said I was meeting all these kids and all this. Then he raved on about how I was the nicest looking chick in all of Penrith, and all this. Bullsh-t. Cause when guys say that, all they want is a root, or are pissed. God he was a dickhead though.

Friday December 17 - "I'll drive you home of course"

Worked from 9 to 3 today. Roamed around Penrith then trundled off to the station where this blond guy was walking past and then straight right up to me. He said "Ga'day, and asked me if I remembered him and his friend in a brown panel van. But I said I couldn't remember but then I did. "Yes, in Marickville". He said "Oh, what's his name?" I said "Same as Yours - Lex". I couldn't beleive his name was Lex too. He lives in Windsor. Then he asked me to a party tomorrow night but I said I wouldn't be allowed. He said he was asking anyway, "I'll drive you home of course". Yeah, I bet he will. Then he said, "Where do you want to go then? To the pictures?, The Drive-In?" I just said, "I don't care". Then he asked me if I was working on Monday. I said probably. he said, "Well, I might see you then, and if I do, I'll give you a lift" ( this is when the train was coming). Then he watched me at the train so I waved goodbye. he was ok I spose. Then I raved on about things and he asked me if I had a boyfriend. I said 

Saturday December 18 - Cought a train, a triple decker. Gee it was smooth

Worked again today. Got $43.58. Dave didn't come in, worst luck. left around 6.30 and caught a train, a triple decker. gee it was smooth/ It was really nice. That's all. Seeya.

Sunday Decemebr 19 - Unlce Gus came down to pick up Oma

Unlce Gus came down to pick up Oma. We should have gone down. I was going to go down to the beach for the weekend with them but I'm working. Mum said I can go to Else's after Queensland but I bet I can't go. Dada won't let me. I just bet. I can't wait. It's just 13 days now. Not much eh. It's only 6 more days to Christmas too, and I haven’t bought a thing. Oo-ah. Seeya.

Monday December 20 - Raving on about pine trees. 

Dave came in today. Gee it was funny. Raving on about pine trees. God he’s a spunk. Yum yum. Lex came in too. He said he’d catch the train home with me. I said, "Why?" he said, “Cause I like you”. He said he’d be back at 5.30 then he nicked off. God I like Dave though. Seeya.

Tuesday December 21 - Once again I eluded him

Dave came in today but Joanne was on another register so I didn’t talk to him except he smiled and waved. He was going to take me to a disco but he thought I wouldn’t have been allowed. And he was right. Rosemary said he’s a good kisser. I woudn't mind finding out. Lex came in again at 5.30 but I told him I was working overtime. So he said he'd be back at 7.30 but I ended up going till 7.30 anyway. ALL his friends were out the front all over the place, and I was nervous as hell, but then Rodney's Mum took me home. So once again I eluded him. Seeya.

Thursday December 23 -  The Boss said if I talk to the boys like that again I won't have a job anymore.

Today I worked form 9.00am tip 9pm. God I was tired. This Rhoderick chick, God she's a Bit-h, ordering me and Kerry and Rosemary around like she's King Shit. Then she goes, I'll send you and Miss Attard up to the Boss. Humph, what makes her think we'd go! Then Lex came in. The Boss was watching me but I didn't know it, and he told Donna, if I talk to the boys like that again I won't have a job anymore. Lex wanted my address and phone number. I gave him the wrong address and phone though. Then I told him to piss off, and he goes, "I'm nervous, I like you so much". I said, "I've already got a boyfriend" and he said that's his problem. On the way home, Glen Tolhurst walked me home and when we got to my place he wanted a Christmas kiss! But I wouldn't give it to him. Lex Nixon rang when I wasn't home. Got a Xmas card from the boys of Jesmond High School. Wasn't that nice. I was happy after that.

Friday December 24 - I was afraid he'd come back but he didn’t

Nothing much happened today. Worked from 12am to 7.30pm. I'm all mixed up now. Well anyway yesterday after work Lex drove past. I was afraid he'd come back but he didn’t. Well seeya. Tomorrow is Christmas . Doesn’t feel like it though.

Saturday December 25 - Merry Christmas Diary

Well today's Christmas. Doesn’t feel like it though. I got Jokari, some chocolates, a brush, that blue top and belt, some shorts ( yuck, they’re a horrible make) a purse, ( a real good one) razors, nail hardner, and shampoo, a Vaseline toiletry set, a comb, books, after Din Din mints, stationary, earings. That’s all. I got some earings off Dawn. Well I've got to go and tidy my room cause Sue and Tania are coming. Merry Christmas Dairy. Seeya. 

Sue and Tania came. Got a pair of Jammies. They're OK. The tea was really nice. Uncle Paul was drunk. Dad was a bit merry and God they wouldn’t shut up. They kept giving lectures and being real nasty, especially Uncle Paul. It drove me nuts, so I got real cranky. Tired. Went to bed (wasn’t that an exciting Xmas). Seeya.

Sunday December 26. Boxing day - Then they up, off and trundled and left me with the washing and wiping

We had fried ham and eggs for breaky. Yum yum. It was lovely. Went to Springwood pool. Stayed about one and half hours then we had to come home for lunch. That tasted OK. Though I spose the salad wasn’t all that keen. Then they up, off and trundled and left me with the washing and wiping. Fun. Well what a Merry Chrsitmas this has been. How jolly. Ho ho and a rotten lot of ham ( Only egging. It was a terrible Xmas ) Seeya

Monday December 27 - Just 4 more days to Queensland

Sunbaked a little today and sewed my slacks since Mother isn’t doing it. Stayed at the Taylor's for tea. It was OK. Better than staying home. Well I've got to go again as I’ve run out of things to say. Just 4 more days to Queensland. Seeya

Tuesday December 28 - Painted my shelf for my trophies.

Sunbaked again today. Bet I peel. I just bet. Painted my shelf for my trophies. Three more days to go. Seeya.

Wednesday December 29 - He said I couldn't work cause I didn’t have shoes

Guess bloody what. I was supposed to work from 9-5 and I bloody didn’t. I went to ask what time I was working tomorrow. He reckoned he had my name down as working today. Then he said I couldn't work cause I didn’t have shoes, so I borrowed some and he still wouldn’t let me work. Good way of getting out of paying me. I was cranky then. It was probably cause of what I was wearing – my black dress – splits and revealness. Sh-t. All that bloody money down the drain, and all I'm working Thurdsay is 5-9. Sh-t what a bummer. Did some shopping. Got some eyes (dress). All my shopping wrong too! Not fair. 2 more days. Seeya.

Thursday December 30 - I wish he’d get all the hints I'm dropping

Worked tonight. The other Lex walked me to the station. UCK. He raved on with all this rubbish and he reckons he’s gonna walk me home tomorrow. I wish he’d get all the hints I'm dropping and get nicked, seeya. One more day.

Friday December 31 -  Dad gave him a beer and Dave said he liked my Dad

Happy New Year - well almost. Guess what! Dave came in asked me to go to a party with him tonight, which I wouldn’t have been allowed to go to. But he said he’d ring and then he’d come and pick me up. So Jollyly I came home and asked Mum and got a firm NO! Then Dave rang and says he’d come up and he did. WOW. I wore my white dress which later on he said he liked. God he looked spunky. I led him to the bar and he sat down. Dad came out and so did Mum. Dad and Dave got on so well, and so did Mum, and later they said they liked him very much (so do I). He’s a landscape gardener and he wants to be a farming hand but I’ve forgot what they called it. Dad gave him a beer and Dave said he liked my Dad. Later Mum and Dad went out and we talked for a while. He's going to Norfolk Island on the 18th of January for 10 days. Fun. He said he'd ring me on the 17th in case I'm back. Then he gave me his address for me to write to him when I go away. Then he had to go. I walked him to his car and we talked a while. Then he said he won't kiss me in case my parents were watching. So I said Seeya and all this. Gee he’s nice. So spunky. Dad said later that he wouldn’t stop him going out with me (though only in the daylight I bet).

Totem Tennis
Jenny told me somebody from Sydney rang, and first a guy got on, and then some chicks, and I told her to get forked. I bet anything it was Lex. Only I don’t care cause I’m in luv with Dave the Spunk. I coudn't  imagine that he could even half like me since I'm only 15. He told me twice he was glad he came down`and I told him twice I was glad he came down. Jason rang too. He was raving on about how I’ve gotten spunk-bitchy and all this. My God it was funny. The Glenda and Denise came up and I couldn't stop laughing. Then I went to their place and played totem tennis in the dark. The shorts Dave had on were really really nice. I can't get over today. I was so happy I wanted to cry, Boohoo.

Well this is the last thing I write in this diary. Bye Bye Dairy. Till next I write you.

Back Cover of my 1976 Diary

Number one hit of December 1976 is by Chicago: If You Leave Me Now

Written By Petra Campbell

Twitter: @petraau