Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas, bushfires and Cooper Jones

Happy holidays everyone!

We had our family Christmas at my place this year, which of course meant lots of preparation, including a mid-summer spring clean and the peeling of many vegetables.

It also meant that some of the family stayed over for a Christmas sleepover. This is not one of our usual family Christmas traditions. In fact, it is only the second time it has happened. The last time was in 2001, when around 3 pm on Christmas afternoon, just as we finished our Christmas lunch, raging bushfires swept over the escarpment and our little village was surrounded, cut off and our house filled with stranded friends and family, many of whom stayed not just for Christmas night but for several days.

We had no power. Very little food. No communication with the outside world. When not hosing down friends' houses or rescuing their pets or keeping watch on advancing fronts, we sat out in the street with neighbours and shared a drink or two.

It was a strange time. A surreal time. A time that came to be known as Black Christmas. And a time that eventually inspired my mid-grade novel Get a Grip, Cooper Jones, which was published eight years later in 2010.

No houses were lost in my village, but many were lost in surrounding villages and in various parts of Sydney. Miraculously and thankfully no lives were lost. And now in 2014, with fires tearing through the Adelaide Hills and rural Victoria, I am once again reminded of that time. My thoughts are with you all! Stay safe.

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