We went out to M's farm in Alexandra where M's mum and sister are hold up doing their best to stay alert in case the fire line encroaches or if embers start flying in the hot winds.
It was incredibly eerie driving through some of the erstwhile hot spots, the smell of burnt wood and debris still hanging in the air like the perma-zone of soot and ash that is currently clouding up the skies and bathing everything in that strange ethereal twilight light. And every now and then bits of charred bark glinted in the sun like black ice. It looked like someone tipped tar all over the place like ice cream topping .... we drove through in respectful silence.
When we got to the farm, the inside was a total warzone. Siege mentality had completely taken over. There were pots and pans filled with water all over the house, sinks were plugged in and filled, dishes hadn't been washed, clothes hadn't been washed ... anything potentially water draining had not been done. M's mum is incontinent and so you can imagine the olfactory assualt when we walked in. The low point was when I went to rinse a cup and found the kitchen sink filled with what looked like brackish swamp water with a number of dead and swollen flies floating on the surface.
And the weak sunlight filtering through the smoky haze was physically oppressive combined with the tense atmosphere in the house bordering on mental collapse ... it was like stepping into a horror movie of the "house at the end of the street" variety.
We went to a community meeting and bbq where I felt an absolute outsider, but it was interesting to hear about the CFA activities firsthand, and also the various key points to not about preparing for a bush fire, like having the gas bottles facing a certain way, fire pumps, slip offs etc ...
After the meeting we went pass tent city and checked out the CFA/DES set up in the Alexandra oval and watched the helicopters land and take off. After having a quick bite at the only joint serving food at that time, we had to take M's mum to the hospital as she slipped and fell, hurting her knee in the process.
We watched the army trucks and ambulance pull ferreting injured servicemen and CFA crew while we waited for S's wound to be dressed.
Late back at the farm, M and I did the dishes and convinced B to run one load in the dishwasher, and then we cooked them a decent meal complete with sweets we brought up from Melbourne - trying desperately to maintain some semblance of normality - spats were still unavoidable, particularly between M and his sister.
The next day we helped clear felled branches and leaf litter. M took B through a few more preparatory tips and then we drove back home completely spent. The last 2 days took their toll on me and M and we were both snappy and anxious, but the indian we had for tea helped soothe the stresses away until we both collapsed on our respective couches.
I am still feeling horribly exhausted, strangely on the verge of tears as I write this. I wish it will be all over soon.
The rolling hills of the Acheron cutting - no longer visible (2 more views following)
trying to capture the smoke filled light