Thursday, November 27, 2008

Storms hit S.E Queensland

On Sunday 16th Nov suburbs of the Brisbane were ravished by what can only be described as a cyclonic thunderstorm. Some of the better footage of the event can be seen here

The resulting damage was devastating and widespread. It wasn’t long before the NSWSES was asked to assist with the recovery phase. I got my opportunity to help as part of the ‘Charlie Task Force’. 8 members and one vehicle from Wollongong headed north for a 48-hour deployment.

After our initial briefing, where I was made a ‘Strike Team T/L’ responsible for 6 teams we were tasked to an area of Brisbane called “The Gap”. Arriving on site it was quickly apparent how much damage had been sustained. Trees were broken off halfway up, sheets of iron were wrapped around trees, houses were unroofed, trees that weren’t fallen were shredded of their leaves. It looked like a war zone and this was day 6 of the event.

After a long day in the field we were stood-down and accommodated in motels at Ipswich. Many of us were too tired for socialising and all had an early night.

Sunday morning saw us across town for our morning briefing. Things were looking good for an early completion. NSWSES crews had completed approx’ 700 jobs the previous day. That only left some 300 jobs to do. Back out at “The Gap” we were faced with more of the same. Nearly every house had sustained some form of damage, with wind gusts recorded at 180km/h it was amazing that no one lost their life as a direct result of the storm.

Towards the end of Sunday we entered one particular street that sat high on the side of a hill, it had obviously taken the brunt of the winds as they ripped through the gully below. Multiple houses had been de-roofed, massive trees had fallen. One house in particular had had their 2 front rooms crushed by a fallen tree. A box trailer had been lifted and blown onto a 3’ fence. A roof laid some 3 houses away from its original location and a telegraph pole had been snapped in half. It was a true war zone, but residents’ spirits remained high and everyone was pitching in to help others. We did what we could but regrettably we had to withdraw as our time in the field was drawing to an end.

Our evening was spent relaxing and reflecting on the carnage that we’d seen. After a good nights sleep we all headed for home, some driving unit vehicles, others flying.

Monday, November 10, 2008


You always want your kids to grow-up sharing the same sense of adventure as you do, so it was that we took our smaller kids out for their first abseiling adventure over the weekend.
We headed up to Stanwell Tops where theres an easy edge for the kids to start off. Using a full body harness for the kids and with me attached to them, I first took Samantha over the 20m pitch. Showing little to no nerves we had time to pose for photos before descending to the bottom of the cliff, where she immediately announced she was keen for another go. After giving her a second go it was time for Ethan’s first attempt.After a few small mods Ethan was ready. He too was excited about the idea of abseiling and we again posed for a photo. However with the harness still being a little too big for Ethan it wasn’t long before he was complaining of the harness cutting into him, so we made a quick descent to the bottom. Unfortunately for us it was to be Ethan’s only attempt. I think we’ll need to wait till he grows into the harness a little more.

Overall, I don’t know who was more excited. Me or the kids!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Kids experience flight

Some months ago we purchased some very cheap Jetstar flights as an alternative method of getting to my parents place. Our kids have never flown before, so they were very excited about the prospect of getting on a big plane.

Finally the day arrived and as we headed to the Sydney domestic terminal the kids excitement rose. "A ride in a big plane beckoned". We were soon on the plane and taxiing out for take-off. Besides Ethan having limited views out the window the excitement we all shared was one to remember. The rush of power that gets these huge pieces of metal into the sky still amazes me and it wasnt long before we were heading skyward. Cars, buildings and other features soon became little ants.

50 minutes later we were descending into the Gold-Coast airport, the kids first plane flight was nearly over. With a bump and a thud we were down and screaming to a halt. The joy of flight had made the kids so big, once back on the ground they felt small compared to their suroroundings. We were soon off the plane and walking into the terminal, here they're excitement turned to finding their grandparents who awaited our arrival.

4 days later our brief holiday was coming to an end. Once again the fun of flying filled the kids eyes and we were soon going through the whole scenario again. The highlight this time was flying into Sydney at night, the harbour and surrounding lights were fantastic.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SES DG's farewell

After 7 years in the top job the boss of the SES, Philip McNamara had his farewell dinner on Saturday. A group of us from Wollongong SES were among the 200 guests, mostly volunteers from around the state who paid homage to a man who has lifted the image of the SES to what it is today.

The City Beach function centre hosted the dinner which included parlimentary dignitaries, other Emergency Services personnel and his family. Nothing but accolade's were stowed upon him as everyone enjoyed a 3 course dinner and dancing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Samantha turns 5

“Your children grow up so quickly”. Our little princess turned 5 on Friday with all the fan fair that makes her such a little character. On her actual birthday we did the usual family thing together. She was so excited with all her presents, which of course had a ‘Dora’ theme. We then had a little party dinner.

However the real fun came for her when she had a ‘Dora’ birthday party with 14 of her close friends on the Saturday afternoon. While the weather was cold and windy that didn’t seem to bother the kids who all had a great time playing numerous games and eating lots of party food. Samantha had a beautiful butterfly cake and also received some great presents from her friends.

Windstorm 1st Aug 08

I'd just settled into my usual Friday night activity of watching the footy on Tv with a bourbon in hand when the wind started. It'd been predicted all day but typical of the bureau their timing was way off. Well, it blew and blew and eventually the pager started going off with peoples 'request for assistance'. The wind was gusting so bad that at times you could feel the whole house shudder.

We later heard that gusts were recorded of 109km/hr.
At SES it quickly became evident that we had a major operation on our hands. We asked for as many members as possible to respond. Calls were flooding in, way faster than anyone could handle. The wind was relentless and the damage was widespread with a number of houses loosing roofs, there were countless trees down along with the minor jobs.

Saturday morning I called it quits at 3.00am, but by 4.00pm I was heading back to SES for my next shift. The tally of jobs had grown to 291, big by any standard but not our worst. We had SES teams from all over Sydney assisting us. By the end of my shift (1.00am) we had only 57 outstanding jobs.

Today the operation continues, hopefully it'll all be complete this afternoon but thats for someone else to woory about. I'm having a day off.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shine a Light

I was lucky enough last night to attend a special screening of the new Rolling Stones film “Shine a Light” after winning some tickets on the local radio station.
I’ve been a bit of a closet Rollin’ Stones fan ever since I seen them at the SCG back in 1995 as part of their Voodoo Lounge tour. So with an open mind I went along to what I’d call a doco/concert filmed for the big screen. The film directed by Martin Scorsese is shot at the Beacon theatre (very similar to the Enmore theatre in Sydney) in New York, back in 2006.

The movie I thought was OK, not something I’d rush out to buy. It has a lot of old footage and interviews from the bands younger years that is edited in between songs. The band plays to a packed house, which includes the then president, Bill Clinton. What stood out for me is just how old these guys are now. Obviously too much of the good life. They’ve been performing for 46 years now and with the close-up camera work they look every bit of the 60+ years of age they all must be.

It was an enjoyable night and great to bop along to their songs once again.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Navshield ‘08

Navshield has been a part of my life since 1996. Each year has been memorable for one reason or another, I’ve had top 10 finishes and for many years I was part of the Wollongong SES team that religiously won the SES category. As the years went by my body slowly told me it was time to give up the competitive aspect of Nav. I still participate and thoroughly enjoy my navigation.

This year I teamed up with some good friends in the 1-day event. Our plan was simple, go and enjoy a day of bushwalking and navigation. Little did we realise how well we would do. The area south of Nerriga bordering on the Budawangs was the site for this year’s event. As our day unfolded we meticulously hit our mark, while the terrain was friendly the often thick undergrowth of hard harsh heath would often slow us down. From the higher points of the course some spectacular views towards the Budawangs were had.

With the day drawing to a close and our intended route pretty much complete we walked back into base an hour ahead of the scheduled finishing time. Happy with our day’s effort we’d amassed 640 points and to our surprise it was good enough for 3rd place in the 1-day event. I must thank my 2 fellow team mates for a great day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ethan turns 3

They grow up so quickly, my little man (as I call him) has just turned 3. It feels like only yesterday that he was a newborn and in no time he’s now 3.

On Sunday 22nd June Ethan had a little party with his friends at ‘Hungry Jacks’. With some of his friends from preschool and a few family friends they all enjoyed a couple of hours of fun in the party room. As the kids enjoying a happy meal and a play on the maze, the parents took time to enjoy a coffee while watching the kids have fun.
Ethan received some very nice presents from his friends with the theme of most presents being ‘Bob the Builder’.
On the 24th June he celebrated his actual birthday with family. As with all our kids birthdays they can have their choice of dinner and without hesitation Ethan chose his standard nuggets and chips. Prior to dinner though, Ethan got some lovely presents from his family. A new bike being the highlight for him.

Another year bites the dust!

Monday, May 5, 2008

City Vs Country

For the first time, the annual City Vs Country NRL game was held in Wollongong. A few of us from work decided to brave the cold weather and head along to last Friday nights game.

The game started fairly slowly and didn’t seem to have the hype of usual rep games. The crowd attendance was poor and those of us who were there stayed very quiet. Possibly due to the standard of football we were watching. At half time it was 16-6 to Country.

The second half proved to be a little more exciting, City stormed back to the lead and looked like winning the game, but Country who for most of the game were the better team made a late run and tired up the score. Both teams traded late field goals but neither team could land the elusive point and the game finished at 22-22 and was declared a draw under international rules.

Whilst it was good to get out and watch a game of footy, it certainly didn’t live up to expectations.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tuff Truck 08

Tuff Truck 08 as with previous years lived up to all expectations. I took my father and good friend Ryan once again. This is an event my father never stops raving about, for a man of 65+ he is like a big boy when it comes to this stuff. We made early start this year to ensure a good camping spot and by midday we were all setup and ready for the action.

Friday nights mud proved a little hard for some with only a handful of trucks completing the course, while others had plenty of work to get their trucks right again. Saturday had teams tackling 3 new stages plus a few of the old faithfuls, some teams were successfully, others were quick to learn the wrong way and few even laid their vehicles over or worse, onto their roof.
As the day progressed it was evident that the only winner, was the course. Countless trucks had to return to the pits for repairs with a few trucks having to retire from the event.

Saturday nights mud was less impressive than the previous nights and it wasn’t long before the crowd turned to making its own fun. Thank you to those ladies who had the male crowd going wild. Sunday started slowly, weary heads, more retirements, but amongst the dust would come an outstanding drive. The devils marbles brought out the best in some while the rock garden proved to be the place to loose a bit of paintwork. A runaway tyre and a rollover nearly proved fatal for spectators. Eventually as the dust settled and the storm clouds rolled in the winner by only 8 points was “Team Evolution” in the huge GU Patrol.

Bring on next year, I’ll be there

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Henoch-Schoenlein Purpura

If our Easter wasn’t bad enough with kids and hospital, then this past week has been a whole new experience.
A week or so ago Samantha started complaining of joint pain in her lower body, my wife and dismissed it as growing pains but it persisted to a point where there was swelling in her ankles, thighs and then her lower back. Most afternoons and into the night the pain was so bad that all Sam could do was sit on the lounge. We had her to the doc’s where some tests were carried out, but no specific diagnosis was confirmed.

A day later Sam started to break out in a rash/spots on her lower body. We were both concerned and rushed her to casualty thinking it may have been Meningococcal. Thankfully the doctors quickly dismissed our fears, but they were concerned with Sam’s condition, enough to admit her to the children’s wards for observation.

After a few days testing and a visit by the paediatric doctor Sam’s diagnosis was confirmed as “Henoch-Schoenlein Purpura”. Yep, you may ask what the! Its a rare inflammation of small blood vessels. It is unknown what causes it but it only affects about 14 out of 100000 schoolchildren each year. A fact sheet on it can be found here

The end result of this was that Sam had to spend a week in hospital under observation. Thankfully she’s at home now and on the road to a fully recovery. Its amazing the viruses that are out there now and how quickly your life can change when you or one of your family get struck down by one of them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Sunday & kids

Easter at our house has always been one of fun times, however the past 2 Easter’s have been filled with incident. Last year Leonie fell and broke her arm. This year wasn’t much better. The day started fine, the kids were all extremely excited having received their Easter eggs, to which they spent the day devouring.

Late in the afternoon I was getting ready for a trip out to Penrith, the kids were happily playing in their rooms. When one of the rooms was filled with screams, I found Sam on the floor holding her left arm, telling Daddy how she’d fallen from the bunk bed ladder.

After some reassurance and basic first aid it was off to casualty where after a long wait and no x-ray it was decided that the arm wasn’t broken. This was only the start of our concerns. Ethan, who had been a bit off-colour for a few days was checked over and a chest x-ray was done on him. He’d had a bad cough/virus, was running a temperature, not taking fluids and in general didn’t look too well. After another lengthy wait (8hrs) he was finally seen to by a doctor who admitted him to the children’s ward.

In the meantime I had taken Sam home where she continually complained about her sore arm. Needless to say the whole family had a restless night, spread all over Wollongong. In the morning it was back to the hospital to visit Leonie & Ethan. Both of them were well established in the children’s ward. Ethan’s condition had slightly improved, he was on a ‘drip’ and resting. We then took Sam back to casualty where finally an x-ray confirmed she’s broken her arm (near her wrist). This resulted in a half cast being applied, as the swelling was too great for a full cast.

Back in the children’s ward the staff joked with us stating ‘how both of our kids could be admitted to beds side-by-side’. Thankfully this didn’t happen and as the day progressed Ethan’s colour and enthusiasm slowly returned to a point that some 30 hrs after arriving at casualty he could be discharged.

Its now 2 days later, Ethan is slowly on the mend. Sam goes to the specialist tomorrow where a full cast will likely be fitted. Lets hope next Easter isn’t marred with the same drama.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Macquarie Pass Canyon

Its not Claustral or Empress or one of the many other canyons in the blue Mts. It is however the closest and most accessible canyon to the Illawarra and one the SES often like to go and play in.

Today was the first time this season we’d been down this canyon, a recent planned trip had to be called off due to high rainfall. Today’s trip however was bathed in full sunshine with a tinge more water than normal. We had 13 in our group, some hadn’t canyoned before while others had done plenty. With a group this size our speed through the canyon at times was slow, but all the time enjoyable. The water was refreshing and clean, however those recent rains had washed and dislodged so much debris into the canyon that you were constantly checking jumps or clambering over fallen trees.
With our travel time slowed we opted out of some of the abseils thus hoping to make up some time. We eventually stopped for lunch, not at our usual spot but one downstream further and one that was bathed in sunshine. As we enjoyed lunch one of our party stumbled upon a diamond python who too had just feasted on some animal. Its torso was easily the size of a mans lower thigh and due to this the snake was happy to rest while we all marvelled at its size.

Pressing on after lunch it wasn’t long before we’d come to the end of the canyon and the largely popular ‘jump rock’. This spot has a huge rock while towers over a seemingly bottomless pool. We all took it in turns to ride the slide, ride our bike or jump from the heights into the pool.

Unfortunately from this point there’s the dreaded walk out, but for those of us that canyon know, this is part of the deal. Thanks to all who made this an enjoyable day.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Brindabella/McIntyre Hut Trip

It was 2003 when I was last down in the Brindabella’s. Back then I was with the SES and we were supporting the RFS and the residents of Canberra who’d just been through hell as a bushfire rained down on them. A few of us back then said, we must come back here and have a look around.

It took 5 years of planning but last weekend we finally made it down to the Brindabella’s for a weekend of 4WDriving and camping. A group of us from SES headed off to Cotter Dam on the Friday night. This would be a good starting point for an early getaway on the Saturday, besides our last experience of Cotter was of melted traffic lights, burnt buildings and charcoaled trees. Remarkably the landscape has come back pretty well; there are still scars on the earth of just how bad it was back in 2003.

Saturday dawned and by 9.30am our full party of 4WD’s were assembled. An acquired track file was the bases of our route. We were quickly off the black top where we encountered numerous joggers and MTB’s, all out for a bit of exercise. The tracks, and there were plenty to choose from as this is a logging area, were hilly but all in good condition. We were up hills and down dales countless times. A punctured tyre had us stopping for our first view of the vista. Onwards we went; eventually we were driving into the town of Brindabella. In 2003 this was a command post full of firies and smouldering trees. Today it was our stop for morning tea and quick dip in the river for the kids.

Northwards we headed, into some rugged mountain ranges. The tracks were steep, the scenery breath-taking and everyone was having fun. We stopped down on the Goodradigbee River for a cache and some lunch. The river was flowing well, from recent rains and most of us had a relaxing swim. A few of us par-took in the nearby cache Vertigo. Onwards again, this time, up up and up we went. The track followed the ridge line, taking us to a height of approx’ 1300m. Eventually it was time to drop back down to the river. This time we were heading to our camp site at McIntyre’s Hut. I’d heard so much of this place that I just had to come and see it.

Again on the banks of the Goodradigbee River we made camp for the night. With refreshments in hand it was time for another swim in the river. Some chose to do a bit of fishing, others floated down the rapids. All of us enjoying the peace of being out in the bush. As the sunset and with everyone refreshed, our bellies full of good food we sat around the campfire enjoying the banter and a few ales.

Sunday started with a fresh breeze letting us know how cold this place can be. Packed up we were on the road again. We picked and chose our tracks carefully and eventually we were at the base of Mt Coree. A holed sidewall on one vehicle slowed us temporarily but we were quickly making our assault of the impressive pinnacle nearby. 1421m later we were on top of Mt Coree. A 360 deg’ spectacular view greeted us. Canberra in one direction, Tumut in the other and rolling mountains all around. We had lunch atop here, you couldn’t have ask for a better backdrop.

Eventually we had to head back down the hill and our weekend was slowly coming to an end. As we hit the black top for the first time in 130km we bid farewell to few of our party. The rest of us went on to grab a few more local caches before putting closure to the weekend.
Thanks to the Cheekyfrogs, Odee McPodie, HK Rat, Big Matt & Shell and few muggles for making this an enjoyable weekend for the Rats.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Australian Day weekend

Being a proud Australian I thoroughly enjoy Australia Day and the celebrations that take part on that weekend. This year we split our time between a day at Wollongoong harbour and then a nights camping.

On the Saturday I helped with the SES celebrations as they unfolded around the harbour foreshore. The day started early as we assited stall holders setup, this at times proving very frustrating. Later in the day we manned our own static display, encouraging people to join the SES before finishing the day watching the fireworks.

On Sunday we headed down to a place called Yadboro Flat for a nights camping, this area lies between "Pigeon House Mt" and "The Castle" on the Clyde River. We'd never been to this place before, but had heard alot about the area. Well upon our arrival we were taken by how many other people had come to share this beautiful place. 2 small camping areas border the river, the river had plenty of running water which we later swam in. The camping area only has pit toilets, but its free and peaceful. We spent our time relaxing by the river, under the shaded areas and going on a couple of drives further into the bush.

What a great way to spend Australia Day weekend