An exhausted Bertie and Croc were looking forward to the excitement of the day to end. They had travelled through the Vatican, seen so many sights and experienced the excitement of visiting the Sistine Chapel. Croc had started to look forward to putting his short little feet up in the hotel room. He hoped that he would be able to crawl out of the camera bag and nestle in the soft bedding on the bed….maybe even have a snooze.
While Croc was daydreaming about having a nap, Bertie was reluctant to hide back in the camera bag just in case he missed something! He remained perched on the top of the spare lens which was conveniently placed in the bag. It gave him just enough height to be able to peek out of the zip at the top.
He was soon glad he did. He felt an odd sensation, like they were going downwards quite quickly. He watched as people walked slowly in front of him, stopping occasionally to take photos downwards.
“I wonder what they are taking photos of?” Said Bertie out loud. He was soon to find out.
The bright light from the glass ceiling above soon became replaced with the yellow dullness of artificial lights. Bertie knew they had reached the bottom of where ever they were going as they were stood still. He took his opportunity to fully peep out of the bag and look up.
“WOW!” Sais Bertie with a gasp. He tugged at Croc who reluctantly climbed up the camera lens and looked up too.
They were at the base of a majestically decorated spiral staircase. It seemed to go on forever towards to bright light coming in through the glass ceiling. Bertie thought it looked like the staircase to heaven, Croc thought it looked like hard work and was glad they didn’t have to climb up it.
Every now and again people’s faces peered over the side of the staircase and looked down at them. “What a way to finish a days adventure” Thought Bertie as he quietly closed the zip and nestled into the darkness of the camera bag. “I wonder what will happen next?”
Bertie and Croc were becoming seasoned travellers now. They had a little routine which they always went through when they knew an adventure was brewing. This was mainly so Croc wouldn’t get left behind again!
They made sure that they were both nestled near, or within sight of the camera bag. They knew the familiar sounds of an adventure starting and would leap into the bag and loosely close the zip to make sure they didn’t fall out when they were lifted into the air.
Today they were in the car for what seemed like forever. Bertie tapped his foot impatiently and fidgeted constantly. Croc settled down and had a nap. As Bertie watched Croc nap he smiled and wondered how two such different personalities could become the very best of friends?
When they finally made their way out of the camera bag to peep at where they were, Croc recognised it instantly. He had been here before. Bertie was too distracted looking for ice cream. In his mind, sand and water equalled ice cream and sea side. They were at Bideford, Croc was sure of it. He nudged Bertie and pointed to the landmark in front of them, a long bridge across the water which they had run over (or were carried over while their carriers ran) not so long ago.
Bertie recognised the bridge from when he was bravely peeping out of the pocket in the race and he had looked back to see where they had come from. But what were they doing here? It didn’t feel like a race?
Bertie and Croc were on a “scoping out” mission…..but what were they looking for?
It was a cold, crisp day and Croc was beginning to feel the chill. The one thing he had noticed about the UK was when he was in the sunshine it was pleasantly warm. As soon as he went into the shade, it was icy cold. He became very aware that there was a lot more shade than he would have liked in this country!
As they hopped back into the camera case, Bertie and Croc peered out at the huge, gothic Cathedral as they walked past. Croc noticed a small, stone archway and nudged Bertie to get his attention. Bertie shrugged and indicated that maybe they should have a little explore. After spending a lot of time with Croc Bertie was now very good at speaking in a silent code of points and nudges.
The camera bag had been put down carefully and it looked like Bertie and Croc’s companions were distracted by ice cream, so they took the opportunity to hop out and make their way through the stone arches.
Both of them never expected to find a small, cobbled street with house lining each side. The lampposts were old and black. The cobbles worn smooth by thousands of steps and people were scattered around taking photographs. How unexpected and odd? Thought Bertie.
Croc was distracted by the size of the chimneys on the small houses. He had never seen chimneys on houses until he came to this country. In the tropical climate he was use to there was no need for fires or heating in houses. You wanted to keep the heat OUT not IN in Darwin!
As Croc was looking around him, he noticed a sign. He nudged Bertie and pointed. Bertie had always been better with his letters than Croc was. As they read they discovered that this was Vicars’ Close, a historic street which was built over 650 years ago. The houses were used for the Vicars Choir to live in. Bertie explained to a puzzled looking Croc that a Choir was a group of people who sang in Churches and Cathedrals. As they walked down the street, Croc trying his hardest to remain on the sunniest side, they tried counting the houses but got too distracted looking at the shields which were in the stone work above each door.
The title of this blog is one of the comments written in dust on the back of the mangled wreckage of a car photographed in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy. Darwin’s Museum and Art Gallery has a great array of interesting photographs and personal accounts of what happened when the tropical cyclone hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974.
When Cyclone Tracy hit in 1974 it killed 71 people and cost A$837 million in damage. It destroyed more than 70% of Darwin’s buildings, including 80% of houses. There were more than 41,000 out of the 47,000 inhabitants of the city homeless and it caused the evacuation of over 30,000 people.
Whilst travelling through the Kimberley two years ago I met a Grey Nomad (travelling retired person usually with a caravan in tow) who had survived Cyclone Tracy. I want to recount the story he told me. I can not recall his name so for the purpose of this post we shall call him John.
It was Christmas Eve. John had been living in the local caravan site with his dog whilst he was working in Darwin. He had gone out to a Christmas party with work and was looking forward to a few Christmas Eve drinks to wind down after the intense working week he had had.
The weather had had been pretty windy and stormy and on Christmas Eve it had really begun to pick up. John wasn’t too worried as the forecast had warned about a cyclone passing near to Darwin but it wasn’t on course to hit Darwin itself. A bit of wind and rain and tropical storms were nothing for the wet season in the Top End. What John didn’t realised, along with many others was the cyclone had changed direction at the last minute and was going to hit Darwin head on.
As the weather got wilder John began to get more and more concerned and decided to travel back to his caravan to collect his dog, then return to a safe place to wait out the storm.
By the time he managed to get to the caravan the cyclone had started. Knowing that he would not have enough time to get back to the safe place he decided to wait the cyclone out. Placing a table on top of the sofas in the caravan he sheltered underneath holding his dog. He had tied the flapping skylight on the roof of the caravan to the heaviest thing he had….his fridge. He watched in horror and shock as the cyclones’ strong winds ripped the skylight out and took the fridge with it. It was then he began to realise he might be in trouble. Shortly afterwards a piece of twisted tin sliced through the caravan cutting it in half and devastating the other side to the one he was sheltered in.
As the winds began to die down John realised that he was in the eye of the storm and had limited time to seek proper shelter before it all started again. Climbing out of the rubble he pushed his dog through a hole first and climbed through after him. There were a few people were milling around looking confused and helping others. John’s thoughts immediately went to an elderly man called Tom who lived in a make shift tin hut on the same plot of land. John ran to Tom’s hut only to find it completely flattened, folded neatly in on itself. After calling the Tom’s name he heard a faint reply and they began to move the debris. Amazingly the elderly man was safely hidden underneath his flattened house. John pull him to his feet and they made their way to a concrete shelter where a few others were also sheltering.
The second round of Cyclone Tracy started. The winds picking up, sheets of tin from houses and buildings flying past. John stood in the doorway of the concrete building as there was limited space, feeling it swaying and rocking in the strong winds with his dog safely tucked beside him he held on tight and waited for it all to stop.
This amazing story is one of many reminding us of the power of mother nature, as well as the kindness of neighbours.
All photographs in this post are displayed in Darwin’s Museum and Art Gallery.