Up until February, the local newspapers were stating how wonderful the 2009 vintage was looking. Within a matter of days South Australia was in the midst of more than a week of scorching temperatures that sometimes hovered around the mid forties. People were dying from heat stress, the wildlife was suffering and the grapes were shrivelling. Bad tempers became the norm and anyone who had to work in the vicious middle of the day sun was thinking about which part of Australia (that didn't have such horrid summers) they were going to move to. All in all, there was not much to be happy about and a lot to grizzle about.
But then something happened. Well quite a few "somethings" - almost 400 bushfires in the beautiful state of Victoria in one weekend. Victoria is one of my favourite places in the world and for many years I have dreamed of living up in the high country, surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of magnificent native vegetation which is covered in snow in winter. Yes, a magnificent place to live and a lifestyle hard to beat. Until a bushfire. Tragically, on most occasions these days bushfires are not caused by nature but by the lowest form of humanity, arsonists. But that is another story and not a tangent I want to go on at this time. It simply makes me too angry.
The point is that here in the Barossa there were many people in the wine industry who were in despair at the heat damage to their crops but seeing photos of wineries burnt to the ground or aerial photos of vineyards which were now nothing more than a blackened pile of ash certainly puts things into perspective. We have our homes, our friends, our familes and some shrivelled grapes. How lucky are we? Incredibly.
Summer is not over and no doubt South Australia will still have its share of worry regarding fires but hopefully we will be vigilant and pay even more attention to cars parked on the sides of roads on hot windy days. It's the Australian way to help each other when the going gets tough. And that is why I and most people I know have made donations to the Red Cross. It's the least we can do. So far over AU$30 million has been donated but they are going to need more as entire towns have been destroyed and people have lost everything.
For anyone reading this blog who has not yet made a donation you can get to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal here and here is another link well worth visiting: Sam the Koala
The second link above will show you an article on our new national icon and features one of the most tragic yet beautiful photos that sum up the true Aussie spirit! Let's hope that the families and communities affected will be able to return to some form of a normal life soon and that through all of our support we can somehow ease their pain.