We came home on Sunday night, and things are still tense out here. We took Fred to school on Monday morning, and it was a very small and solemn collection of students. The prep teacher is stuck on the other side of Kinglake, but safe thank goodness, and so this week it looks like school is unlikely. Many people are still out of the area, and sadly some of the families have lost their homes. We've talked to our immediate neighbours who were home on Saturday night and we are so relieved we weren't home. The fires were close, they could hear the fire front approaching, gas bottles exploding, they lost power - it all sounds truly frightening and we were the lucky ones. We are poised to leave at the first signs of a resurgence, our car is packed. We are also prepared if we get caught by surprise, because you can't take anything for granted. As I write this I can hear Martin walking around on the roof. There are some areas still smouldering and there have been a few flare ups. Our smoke alarm went off at 2.30am and we are still recovering - it took Martin and I a long time to get back to sleep after Martin checked the CFA website and went outside to see if he could smell smoke (he couldn't - the girls slept through it all. They take after my father who slept through a window falling in on him when a bomb dropped close by to his home in the war).
It is strange out here. On the one hand we are barely affected, our house is standing, our neighbours are alive. And yet only 1km or so up the road, houses were lost and lives were destroyed. There have been deaths too, but the information is confusing and chaotic, mostly rumor. We've heard some terrible stories, stories that I can't bring myself to write down. We still have a police block on our road and we have to show ID to get back in. I find their presence both mildly alarming and curiously reassuring. As long as the police are here everything is all right. We drive past the CFA, the army trucks, the police mobilising where the Saturday market usually is. It's like living in another country. The girls are on edge like we are, though it's hard to know what they're taking in.
A helicopter goes overhead, reminding us that the state is still burning. Not far away, Healesville, Yarra Glen... It's not over.