One foot in front of the other

Stress in anyone's
life is stress

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It was really a torrent. There was really a good big speed with this water rushing down. I started to think, “If it keeps raining we're going to get flooded out.”


Initially it just covered the road, and then it started. It came over the footpath and up to the front fences and eventually it was running up against the houses on both sides of the street.

At its peak there were absolutely dozens of plastic bins floating around the bend of McRobies Gully into Degraves Street and rushing down. They were like boats sailing down and bashing into the backs of cars that stack up against the car opposite us. There'd be four or five, and then suddenly they would break away and be swept away and then they'd be joined by others. At our corner there's a power pole, and there was a log jam of bins there that forced all the water down our driveway. At its peak I’d say it was within 100 millimetres of coming in our front door and things started to get a bit worrying then [laughs]. Excitement sort of turned to worry [laughs].

So I positioned myself with the front door and, for probably hours–and I had a very good position because up in the corner outside the Cascade Garden entrance there were State Emergency Service vehicles, police vehicles, and they had their headlights shining up McRobies Road lighting up the scene–and this rush of water coming around like it was a river from McRobies round into Degraves Street in a curve with all these bins smashing into each other and the rumbling of the boulders coming down the roadway. The noise was absolutely terrific really. As I said it was initially quite, it was quite exciting [laughs]. It was a lot of enthralling, just wondering what was coming down next. These bins sweeping round bashing into fences and cars. It was very loud. And there was a constant rumble of stones being rolled down the road. It was just like a stage setting it was so well lit.

Initially it was–I've got to admit there was some excitement about it. I suppose you could say that I was sort of in awe of it in some ways, but not at that stage–not even thinking that it would become quite dangerous in fact. Yeah, so it was a just a–I virtually had three emotions. I had excitement, worry, and then [laughs] relief when the water stopped. Yes.

I stayed up most of the night. And eventually the rain eased off. And that 100 millimetre clearance from our front door gradually lengthened and the water went down enough to know that we weren't going to be flooded out because at that time, we were actually–the water's down both sides of our house in the street and we've got a rivulet at the back of us. So we were actually in a situation we couldn't get out anywhere. We were stuck. So if things got really bad, I don't know what [laughs] what we would have done.

The lower level of our house was flooded out and our car was parked down the street. That was written off. Yeah. And we did have, through my wife's effort, we had a very notable garden in this place which was just absolutely a foot deep in mud. It was such a quick short time. It was something you couldn't prepare for really because it all happened in just a few hours. From go, from start to finish, there may have only been 8 hours if that. What I'm saying, from the time started the rain till it stopped it wasn't such a long time. But there's a tremendous amount of water created by it in that time.

The next day I feel that we sort of, um I guess we felt how lucky we were that we didn't receive what could have been a disastrous time for us. And it later proved that the houses on the other side of the road are the ones that were really affected because of the single level houses and they were all flooded.


The next thing, I heard this almighty roar and one minute the back end of the house was dry and the next minute we were standing knee deep at the shallowest point in muddy, horrible, stinking water. And it came through–when they say flash flood, that's exactly what they mean. I've never experienced anything like it. In the backyard, the water was waist deep out there, and it was coming through at such a rate that it was–I was feeling like it was, it could potentially sweep me off my feet.

My son said, “Mom we have to get out, we have to get on the roof because I've heard the stories where people just go, ‘This is it, it's not going to get any higher’ and then they get trapped in their houses and then it can be quite potentially dangerous.” And I sort of said, “Well mate I think that's a bit overkill. I think we'll be okay.” And but no he insisted. So he dragged the ladder just onto the carport roof. There was a ladder up on the roof and he jumped up and grabbed hold of the end rung and pulled the ladder down and helped my daughter up onto the roof. And then he climbed up with our dog who had previously been swimming around in the family room. And then I climbed up and we were sitting on the carport roof for quite some time phoning, trying to get through to the State Emergency Service, and trying to get through to the police, and eventually got through to a friend who lived up the road, and she jumped in her car and came down. There were police parked at the end of Degraves Street or up McRobies Road and she said, “You've got to go down they're sitting on the roof.” Eventually they came down and pretty much carried my daughter and I because again the water was rushing down Degraves Street at such a rate that it was going to potentially sweep us off our feet.

You know whilst we were on the roof I was trying to make it an adventure. I didn't want it to be a scary thing for the kids. I mean my daughter now doesn't like the rain at all. She's terrified when it starts to rain heavily. So I was taking selfies and saying, “What an adventure we're having! This is incredible!” James is–he’d turned 18 since the event and Ellen's turned 12 since the event. So obviously for Ellen it was a bit more scary.

So when the police picked us up, I was wet through from the waist down and the kids weren't much better. And the friends that sort of rescued us–I take my hat off to the fact that they actually allowed us in their house with their brand new carpet. We were wet and muddy and a bit shell-shocked at that point. You know, straight into the shower, put the dog in the shower because he was only a little dog, little fluffy dog. He was covered in mud so he was in the shower with us. It was just the weirdest thing to live through. It was very strange.

I was amazed at how it got in. You know how, how does it, you know, it just came through everywhere and it, it didn't, it didn't happen in a little trickle and build–it just was woosh, there you are, you are knee deep in water. The neighbour over the back at one point said to someone, I'm not even sure who, who related it to me that they could hear Ellen screaming, “Mommy, Mommy Mommy, what's going on, what's happening, what's happening?” And I'm sort of saying, “Right now just what we're not going to do here is panic. There is no point in panicking at this point. This is happening. Let's just figure out what we need to do.” But no time. There was no time to think. We literally just walked out of the house and sat on the carport roof and then went back down the following morning.

So I pushed, pushed the back door open. Had to push it open because there was, oh, 15, 20 centimetres of sludgy mud holding the door. So you couldn't get the door open. At this stage I'm wearing borrowed trousers, borrowed runners, no socks. And pushed the door open and walked in and immediately was ankle deep in this sludgy horrible stink. And it's–and the smell was just horrendous. And it was slippery. So I'm gingerly trying not to fall over in this sludgy mud. I walked through and went to the cupboard that I knew there were some, you know, just those green shopping bags, went into each of the kids rooms and grabbed what I could find in the tops of their chest of drawers in the way of clothes. Did the same thing in my room. Grabbed a couple of other bits and pieces. Every bit of clothing that I grabbed, we had to wash three times before we could wear it because the smell just permeated everything. It was just dreadful this horrible stinking smell. It smelt like the tip. And you know the mud smell that is the tip? That's what it smelt like.

Then on the Saturday we moved into the Cascade Hotel and lived there for a month. We’re living in a rental in Liverpool Street. We’ve been there ever since. It's a lovely little townhouse, two storey, three bedroom. When we first moved to Liverpool Street I was like, “Yep that's alright, we're not here for very long, we'll just deal with it and we'll get on with it and we'll you know”, and I'm now coming to the point where I'm going, “This is so frustrating. I'm so over this. I just want to go home” and have had recently a lot of moments where I've gone, “You know what, I'm probably not really coping with this as well as I was.” You know, this is twelve months of my life that I had not planned for regardless of the fact that we’re–and we are, and I've said all along, we're very very lucky. We've had amazing friends and support around us. Eventually we had some reasonable support from some of the government agencies. Our insurance company or their representatives have been so understanding and very supportive. Obviously my landlady has been wonderful. So we have been incredibly lucky and we're very grateful. But having said all that, it is twelve months of my life that I wouldn't like to do again and I would never have chosen to do it obviously. There was no plan to move into a rental and renovate the house to this extent. From a financial perspective it's killing me and potentially we’ll not be able to keep the house. The potential and the very real, the very real for me now, is that I simply won't be able to afford it and we will have to move out, that the house will go on the market and be sold and we’ll move somewhere cheaper which would never have happened if we'd still been there for the last 12 months.

You know they say that these things are there to make you stronger so let's just hope that they do. That's not to say I don't get in the bath every single night and cry myself into stupidity because I just simply need the release. You know, I am one person trying to do what three people would normally do and still look after the kids, and we've had you know devastating news for them, you know with, with some illnesses, and you know, you worry about them. You worry about what is actually going on in their minds and what impact is it going to have. Are they going to make the wrong decision later in life because they're not coping or that they're suffering from some kind of post trauma stress thing? You just–like as a parent you go, “I feel like I'm not doing enough.” But what do you do? It’s tough. It's really tough from those, from those perspectives.

Like I said, I've tried to make sure that it's positive and tried to keep it into perspective and tried to keep it real, and you know, there are people living in Third World countries, and their kids are dying every day, and they have to see this, and it's just absolutely horrendous. I guess that what I've learnt from this experience is that you still know that, and you still understand, and still have immense compassion for these people, and, and simply wish that you could swap places almost. But the stresses that are in your own life–it doesn't matter whether they're a small stress for someone over there or a big stress for me over here, stress in anyone's life is stress. Yeah it's been, it has been tough. As much as I try, and all of the interviews that I've done in the media have put the most positive spin that I possibly can, because I certainly don't need to be this whingy little person that you know–at the end of the day we didn't lose any lives. Nobody was injured or hurt. We are covered by insurance and as much as it's going to cost me financially we will get back there eventually, if not for ever, but for a short time. And it's always been the thing that I've tried. To keep it real. And I've tried to sort of say to myself and to the kids, “We're okay, we're fine, we'll, we'll manage, we’ll cope, we'll get there eventually.”

It’s been an amazing journey from feeling sad about losing everything to then going, “Oh well, we had way too much stuff” and then going, “Oh and I don't have to make the decisions about what we keep and what we don't cause it's all gone.” So you know it's like, it's almost like a grieving process really. Certainly not anywhere near as, as horrendous as real grief, but it is, it's, it's a similar process where you go through the stages of realization of what impact it's had. And now I guess I'm in the stage of, “Right, I'm really done with this now. I just want to go home.”

It would have been really easy when it first happened to have just given up. But, you know, I have gone through the grieving process. And it would have been really easy to give up then too. But facts remain that life goes on and you eventually get through each of the phases and you just have to keep going. Best you can. One foot in front of the other.