It’s still spring and today was a balmy 28 degrees at around the middle of the day. My bees were working overtime on all the flowers and blossom and the dogs lolled around in the courtyard, far too lazy to snap at the flies. Having been overseas rather a lot lately, Scarlett, my MG has been rather neglected and today seemed an ideal opportunity to take the top down and roll her out for a run.
We have some lovely friends who live on a (small) mountaintop nearby and the drive up to the mount is just the place to put Scarlett through her paces. They live on ten acres with a fine view of the countryside and distant Grampians and every year in November they have a huge bonfire of all the branches that have fallen from their many gum trees. I arrived in time to stuff myself with the BBQ and home made cakes and for the temperature to plummet, relatively speaking, to a nippy 11 degrees as the sun set.
I drove Scarlett down their grassy hill to the site of the fire and parked her up in a line of trees just before the fire was lit. David, our host went through the male ritual of dousing the bonfire with diesel and throwing a crumpled lit newspaper onto the pyre. With the now strong breeze blowing across the field, it quickly roared to life with the embers leaping up into the tree tops over 50 metres away. I immediately envisaged a fireball landing inside Scarlett and so with the panicked speed of a thousand gazelles, I jumped in to move her out of the way.
I saw the other, more hardy souls, who owned the large 4WD’s that were sitting alongside my original parking space, glance disdainfully at my example of car preserving timidity and turn back to their beer. One man, on his own detached from the group, walked past the huddled group of females (remember, it is an Australian BBQ) and wandered up the rise to Scarlett. I lost sight of him as the fabled ‘red steer’ – an aerial fireball that is created when the superheated air ignites the vapours from the gum trees, exploded in the tops of trees and crackled ominously. Almost as a man, they glanced nervously towards the shining paintwork of their vehicles and then back to Scarlett, sitting safely away from the conflagration. One by one, they slunk over to their chariots and moved them to a place of safety and then moved back to the now towering inferno, which has always struck me as one of the best of the cheesy 1970’s disaster movies and back to their beer.
The lone (obvious) Scarlett admirer, appeared by my smug side and after introducing himself showed me the photograph that he had taken just as the fire was catching. It’s about as dramatic as you can get without the next picture being a smouldering shell of 60’s engineering from Mr. Morris’s garage. It turned out that Steve, who is a local emergency room physician, was originally from Southhampton and like me, has an eye for old cars and self preservation. It further transpired that he’s somewhat of an expert in pizza oven building having created several in various houses that he’d lived in over the years. We have decided that I will swap wood chips, (more about that anon) for building advice. Who said that living in the middle of nowhere doesn’t have its payoffs? Not me, thats for sure.