On fire and the ice-man.

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It is certainly true to say that, while the sensation is easing, I still feel like I am on holiday over here in Australia.

To give you an example of how this subconscous thought manifests itself, I should explain that I have recently finished the fascinating autobiography of Dennis Bergkamp. When I say fascinating, I must point out that the 'iceman' is, in my humble opinion, the best player ever to have pulled on an Arsenal shirt. With this in mind, I am also happy to acknowledge that while 'Stillness and Speed' provides a rare insight into the thinking of a footballing maestro, it might not be quite as fascinating to someone who is not a football fan.
That said, 'Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football' by David Winner is a fascinating read whether you love the beautiful game or not, but I digress.

Anyway, back to the example. There am I, up to my eyelids in Stillness and Speed, when the phone rings. I am lying on a bench out on the patio, so I don't bother racing the answerphone, as I have no chance. Instead, as I lie there I wonder if the caller will leave their message in English or some other language. This is not a sly pop at our (Penal) Colonial Cousins and their interpretation of the mother tongue (for any Australian readers, my tongue was wedged firmly in my cheek throughout that last sentence). The confusion over language was the result of reading a book about a Dutch football while feeling like I am not 'at home'. Although this reveals a poor grasp of reality, it is also a useful way of describing the feeling of being an outsider.

Another sensory unfamiliarity is olfactory in nature. Over the last few days, the air has been filled with the acrid smell of the bushfires burning several miles away. We also had massive lightning storms the night before last, waking the children up with some really spectacular flashes and crashes. Looking out of the window, we could see an eerie orange glow on the horizon. Very worrying, until we remembered that it was coming from the direction of a massive road widening project, where they have arc-lights on through the night.

The fires are nowhere near us, in truth, and being near the coast we are not at high risk. However, the winds are really strong and gusty at the moment, and I can only imagine how impossible it must be trying to control a bush fire in a howling gale.

Seeing pink sunsets filtered through smoke, and the all-pervasive smell of burning makes the bushfires feel much more real that watching yellowcoat-clad TV reporters trawling for 'human-interest' angles on the news every night.

As is often the case, I look on such natural disasters and wonder how I would cope if there was an emergency here. I'm no survivalist (I don't even like firearms or multi-pocketed waistcoats), but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to keep an extra box of catheters and some drinking water in the garage. And maybe a 4 x 4. And a ghillie suit. Got to have a ghillie suit...

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"This is not a sly pop at our (Penal) Colonial Cousins and their interpretation of the mother tongue"

Speaking of which, you'll need to start calling it *cough* 'soccer'.

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