Thursday, 12 February 2009


rain, sleet, freezing rain temps about freezing

Michael found that word today and told me about it just now in the patisseries, over a bowl of cafe au lait.

'Disambiguation' he said. Or tried to say, but was laughing too hard.

'What does that mean?' I asked.

Snorting with laughter he said, 'It means to simplify.'

Can you believe it? had to tell you.

Now, I have a place to donate money to the Australian wildfire relief, if you're interested. We're going to. Not surprisingly it's the Red Cross, who do such wonderful work globally. The address is:

Thank you to our Australian readers for sending that in. We're also looking for a place to donate for animal rescue. And, along those lines, a place to set up a permanent fund for building or rebuilding libraries, and for animal rescue.

If you have a suggestion for an exisiting fund we can make arrangements with, please let me has been suggested, very wisely, it would be easiest if it wasn't actually done through this blog - in terms of handling the money. Our job would be to simply give what and when we wanted, and to spread the word.

I had a few letters I wanted to pass on to you...updates from Australia, but first, this little email arrived this morning...

Hello Auntie Louise

My mom read me your blog and it sounds great BUT I'm a Standard Poodle not a
labradoodle. And thank you for making it sound like my mom has a great
store. I like it in the store and I sometime like to pee and poo in the
store but I think my mom is getting mad at me so maybe soon I'll be able to
tell her when I need to go outside.

I start puppy classes Thursday night and I am nervous and excited. I get to
meet other pups but my mom is going to be there so I won't have to worry too

I love you Auntie Louise and please give Uncle Michael a big wet lick for

Woof, woof.
Sir Percival

I feel badly calling Percy a Labradoodle when he isn't! What a pathetic Aunt I am. Still, he is adorable, that much I know.

And these excerpts from the Wellington area. Sheila and this one from Elaine...

Hi Louise,

Thanks for your message; it is nice to know that people across the world are thinking of us & wanting to help. Anyone who would like to donate to the bushfire appeal can do so through the Red Cross on their web site

One million animals are believed to have died in the fires & four wild life shelters have burned down so it is not only people that need our help. Did you see the photo of the koala named Sam? It is such a wonderful picture & has been sent around the world after a CFA fire fighter saw the burned animal on the side of the road & stopped to give her a drink of bottled water -apparently the koala drank three bottles as it was so dehydrated. Sam’s feet were badly burned but she is in a wild life shelter & we are getting regular updates on her condition & she appears to be doing well.

We have been in tears all day having heard that a man my son-in-law knows through work perished in the Kinglake fires along with his wife & two daughters –a baby & a 3-year-old, there are pictures of the family in the daily newspaper & it is heart breaking to see them & also others who have died. The toll has risen to 181 confirmed deaths but many more people are still unaccounted for & the final number is expected to exceed 300.

Fears were growing that two major blazes between Yea & Bunyip Ridge could merge creating one monster inferno as just 18km of almost inaccessible forest separates them but due to cooler weather & some rain the situation has eased slightly. However the winds are very unpredictable, lightning strikes have ignited spot fires & with more extreme weather expected next week this could rekindle some fires. Several fires are still burning out of control so the danger isn’t over yet.

It is devastating to see the damage especially at Marysville which has always been considered the prettiest town in Victoria, it is now like a bomb site & the area is completely closed to all as the Police Victim Identity Team is still searching for remains. It is a place I know well as I’ve spent many happy holidays there since I was a child & also in recent years when I’ve stayed at my middle daughter’s house in nearby Buxton (we still don’t know if her house is standing).

And here is Sheila's report...

Hello Louise,

Last night we had Rain in our area (Gippsland) We have had anything from 8mm to 17mm so far. This is not a lot but Oh what a great feeling. As I write to you it has started to fall heavily.
The fires are not out of course, but it gives the firefighters who are now assisted by the Army, some breathing space to reinforce containment lines. The temperatures are down in the low 20`s (unusual for the time of year) and the wind is only mild. We hope and pray it will stay that way for some time.

The other areas of the State are not so fortunate in getting rain but the forecast for all is low temperatures and low winds until next Wednesday which gives all the hardworking people fighting the fires a little breathing space.

Our daily papers are filled with the most awful pictures of devastation and loss, but also stories of extreme heroism.
So many people telling of incidents where they would have perished if not for the bravery of others. What a wonderful job the men and women of the C.F.A. and other groups are doing. Doctors, Paramedics and Vets have got to be included also.

One picture that was so emotive on so many levels was of a hot, dirty, tired looking C.F.A. firefighter surrounded by blackened earth and trees, giving water from his water bottle to a Koala.
This is a non domestic animal who took 3lts of water from a human and put his burnt paw into the man`s hand. In to-day`s paper we were told the firefighters name and where the incident took place (Gippsland) and that the Koala was being looked after by wild life experts in a sanctuary with many other burnt animals.

A story, that to me epitomizes the nature of Australians, gives a little humour in a dark time, it is that of a school Principal who went back to find her school still standing after the fires has gone through and a note under the door naming two tanker crews who had saved the school and asking if they could have an A-plus. What spirit.

I have not mentioned the scale of the loss, to date it is, 183 deaths and still many unaccounted for, 1034 properties lost and over 44000 hectares of land burnt. Some of the statistics state that the fire in some parts was travelling at 120k and hour and in one area covered 18.8k in 5.5min., and another 32.6k in 16min.

Thank you for your offer of help Louise I will keep in mind your offer of books especially, as I think this would be appreciated.

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are two of the major Relief organizations, if any of your readers would care to help.

They both mention the Koala bear, but I didn't have the heart to take it out of either one, so Sam made it in twice.

How exhausted those firefighters and medical people and vets must be.

On a more fun note for me my brother Doug and his three kids, Brian, Roslyn and Charlie are driving from Toronto today. Should arrive by 9 or 10 tonight. We got all their favorite food in and some pastries - and tomorrow we'll all head to Carvaval then maybe the ice slide on Saturday. We just love seeing them. Hope the drive isn't too bad.

Be well, and we'll talk tomorrow. And remember, in life, it is crucial to always disambiguate.


hilary said...

Both stores of Sam the koala were great -- especially the one about his putting his hand into a human paw.

Anonymous said...

Saw the many news pictures re: the fires and the Today Show New York showed Sam. My son and his family lived in Tragalong (?) this is in the very southern part of Victoria, almost near Tasmania.
I spent a month there, sightseeing and getting to know the Aussies,
Very friendly people, so hospitable, very fond of Americans. I loved the country and the Australian spirit. It was one of my best vacations and will always cherish my stay there. The tiny little penguins coming from the ocean, and the very colorfull birds sweeping onto my head, little claws gripping into my scalp. The fires bring tears to people eyes, and hopefully some help, monies or other could be send real soon. Prayers are being said in many churches in the USA.

The rains will come, and the soil will regrow again, but it will not lessen the hurt of the human loss and the 1 million animals.

Take heart.

Anny Robinson

Bobbie said...

Such a sad time...and told so well here, I thank everyone for helping us all know what is going on there, and the little mind picture of that koala was so bittersweet. I salute the firefighters, veterans, all the Australians who have that 'can do' attitude and keep fighting. And good comment, it will grow again, but not lessen the hurt and lost. How true. But yes, take heart. And thanks Louise for the ideas about what to do. We will.

Sorry about Sir Percival being called a wrong name, but he's able to handle it I am sure. Dogs have such big hearts. He is so sweet, and you are still a good Auntie. Best wishes on your classes, Percy! And Percy's mom too! :-)

Gosh I feel so uppercrust, now knowing that I disambiguate so well! Big word, posh sounding, and exactly true! :-) Off to get more coffee and disambiguate while looking at the Bird TV as they flick around eating fast! :-)

Best wishes,

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hilary,

I agree - some people I think could be cynical and laugh at the repetition of this image. But how powerful are images and symbols? And how powerful the human urge for goodness? It's not a photo of Sam, but of our own interior. What we see when we see the Koala is what is invisibe in all of us.

You, Hilary, see kindness and hope. How lovely you are.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Anny,

How beautifully put - especially since you've seen the area and have a better sense of what has ben lost. And thank you for reminding us that the plants and trees will regrow, the homes rebuilt - the funny thing about fires is that (at least in this area) they seem to actually invigorate the area. Renew it. It becomes even more fertile.

But what a human toll. And those poor animals.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Bobbie,

Isn't that a great word? And love the bird TV. Enjoy!