Monday, August 31, 2009

Canberra folklore

People who have lived in Canberra for a long time will have two things in common: the fires of 2003, and Lake George stories. The fires of 2003 were fairly devastating – lives were lost and homes were destroyed – and it helped to unify Canberrans in their stories on what they did on “fire day.”

After a brutally hot and dry summer, eventually the forces of nature arched up and kicked our arses, hitting suburbs with walls of fire and razing half of the nation’s capital. Suburbs were evacuated, roads were closed and Canberra was on high-alert. Me, I sat in my room and played video games until I realised that it was dark outside and only 3pm. On closer inspection of the sky, it became apparent that it was so thick with smoke from the golf course that had gone up in flames about two streets away from the house that it had blocked out the sun. “Hmm,” I said. So I climbed up onto the roof armed with a hose and a six-pack of beer and awaited God’s wrath. The fire thankfully didn’t reach my house, which was good, because by the time the threat of a fiery death had been relieved, my beer was warm and I wasn’t feeling as stable on the roof as I once did. In hindsight, I should have taken some sandwiches up there as well. But I did flood the gutters, you know, just in case the fire was localised to the downpipes of my house, instead of the wooden deck out the back. In any case, I found a few old tennis balls and a soccer ball that didn’t belong to me, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Other people filled up their bathtubs with water and prepared for the long haul; I got drunk on my roof and watched some trees burn.

Lake George, whilst not technically in Canberra, is also not technically a lake. In my opinion, a lake is a place that holds water and does not have livestock grazing in it without fear of drowning. But that is precisely what Lake George is now; a haven for cows and sheep to run amuck in, eat grass and chat idly amongst each other (“Moo.” “Baa.” “Moo?” “Baa.” “Moo.”) without getting their feet wet.

Go back a few years, and the experienced Canberran will tell you stories of how “back in the day,” the water of Lake George lapped at the roadside, and any sheep that were around would be thinking, “Well, I’m not going in there,” and the cows tended to agree.

There’s not a whole lot that anyone can add to the story of how we drove along that road and looked out over the endless stretch of water of Lake George, but somehow we find it incredibly important and exciting to point it out to passengers in our car. I’m never sure what the silence that follows means – it could be “I don’t believe you,” “No way! I need this time to process the very notion that this dry wasteland could have ever been filled with water,” or “I knew I shouldn’t have tried to hitch with this guy.”

This is an actual photo of Lake George. The fishing isn't what it used to be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds crazy, but I actually had a distant relative who drowned whilst fishing in Lake George in the 1950s. Now that sucks.