March 23

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Nine weeks after the fire and a lot has happened since the last update four weeks ago.

On March 1 we ventured out to the Canberra Show. The Canberra Show is a smaller version of the Sydney Royal Easter Show, where the country come to the city. Americans would call it a state fair. We hired a wheel chair and Lyndsey pushed me round. Quite an experience for a temporarily disabled person like me. The main reason for going to the show was to buy a show-bag for a friend, but we looked around the exhibits in the pavilions as well.

My cast came off a week ago. It was a case of good news and bad news. The good news was that I don't have the dead weight of a cast on my foot, I can get at my foot and lower leg to wash them, scratch them and dress reasonably respectably and, after a shower or swim, I don't have a wet blob to carry around. The bad news is that I still can't put weight on my foot. The reason they took the cast off was so that I can excercise my ankle/heel joint - sub-Taylor motion, it's called. There was a danger of the ankle bone joint growing and making the joint stiffen up.

Some of the houses have started to disappear as the clearance gangs begin their work. It is quite an experience watching a house disappear -- a mixture of distress at the loss of so much of a family's life and amazement at the expertise of the crane drivers. The majority of the work will be done when Bovis Lend Lease come around and do whole streets. Until then individual owners are having the work done privately. Many properties are being sold for the land with the house either cleared or being left for the new owners. Land prices are higher than would be expected and some who lost their houses are better off taking the insurance and selling the land to a builder or developer. That way they can get into an existing home and try to start again without going through the hassles of re-building and the continuing waves of emotion. It is expected that the first houses to be re-built will not be completed much before Christmas.

We have had a little rain over the past month and the gardens and landscape are greening up. It's facinating how well grass will grow anywhere but in your lawn.

Robin and Oranda at 21 Percy had an "Almost exactly seven weeks since the helicopters arrived" party on Saturday 8 March. It's good to talk over experiences with neighbours. We can compare notes about the fire itself and the problems and successes in recovering.

Tony and Elizabeth Marburg, who live opposite us on Percy Crescent, have had what remained of their house removed and they are getting their plans approved.

This is what their block looks like today:

This is what it looked like just after the fire - the sky is white because the smoke from the fires was still hanging round:

We went to the National Museum of Australia yesterday for a forum on Garden Recovery. The advice we were given was to work on a design and get the basics, like the fences and lawn outline, sorted out, with the most important thing being hiring a bobcat to turn the soil over and dig in huge amounts of organic matter, to replace the micro-organisms that perished during the intense heat.

It's very daunting at the moment -- there is so much to do and so many of the options are contingent on other things (like ACTEW attaching our temporary phone line to the main power pole) that we are overwhelmed. We are very lucky have the financial wherewithal to call in outside help for some of the upcoming work in what we see as a huge endeavour. We can only wonder at what confronts those who lost everything.

Meanwhile we are nurturing, with grey water, the plants that wonderful friends have given us, and continuing to enjoy small miracles. A gerbera has recovered enough to flower, and a tree fern that looked like a blackened stump is teasing us with the merest glimpse of a new frond. Lyndsey has discovered that rhubarb, like agapanthus, is indestructible, and heartily recommend it to any one wanting to fireproof their garden. She thought we had three crowns when we dug them up nine weeks ago. After splitting the crowns and potting up in ordinary soil, there are now ten vigorous plants and we would love to share with anyone who would like them.

Bernard and Lyndsey Robertson-Dunn's Canberra bushfire website
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