Knocking on the door

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  • Published 20060606
  • ISBN: 9780733318603
  • Extent: 284 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

MY HOME IS in a small community on the New South Wales far south coast and when New Year’s Day 2006 dawned, the prediction was for a stinker. There was even an expectation the day might be the hottest on record, almost certainly the hottest-ever January 1. Friends were staying and, because we had been up late the night before, everyone was slow to head for the beach. The sun there was as hot as a bluebottle’s lash, making twenty-one-degree water feel chilled. A parchment westerly, searching for a bushfire, also blew. The wind and the sun made the sea feel like a haven and we lounged in a rock pool, more senseless hippos than hung-over humans. But consciousness can be a curse and we all knew, even in the rock pool that we were being saturated in ultraviolet radiation.

Back home we put on a brave face. One visitor, a baker who lives on a sheep farm in northern Victoria, declared: “C’mon, guys. This isn’t hot.” An hour later he was lying paralysed on the concrete-slab floor, a tea towel soaked in icy water over his head and face, moaning like a victim of acute appendicitis. Beyond the shadow of the veranda the sun burned white and the westerly came in through every crack and window. We all agreed it was the hottest we had ever felt, anywhere. It was dangerous heat, the kind of weather that could make people sick or even kill them. The sheep-farming baker could barely talk. A neighbour called to say that in the shade his thermometer read 46.6 degrees – the high end of a series of stunning local amateur temperature recordings, all over 43.9.

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