I'm scared of most things, but bridges occupy a special place in my gut.
They're too big, too implausible, too pavonine. They tempt fate, tempt the gods, with all their suspending of this and cantilevering of that.
I hate the M1's Mooney Mooney Bridge. It stretches before me like a wicked tongue, ready to roll me around and spit me out. I hate its wind sock; flaccid for fair, turgid for trouble, a priapic prognosticator of anxiety. I grip the all-of-a-sudden-far-too-thin steering wheel and knuckle down as the drafts buffet us about. Because we drive an old van with all the aerodynamics of a wet sock in a box, the most innocuous of breezes edge us towards the guard rails, giving us up to gravity. Twenty seconds of terror, for me, anyway; everyone else is on their iPads.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, like the princess and her pea, protests when I dare cross her. I peek up and her curvaceous girders get me all giddy. The traffic is too close, too fast; she's onto me. She doesn't want this country boy anywhere near her and given the opportunity would blithely plop him overboard into Port Jackson Bay. She's just too beautiful. I'm a parasite to her verve and sophistication. She knows I'm as alien to the Emerald City as Nino Culotta, only he had the charm and guile to eventually win it over.
The Westgate Bridge frightens me too. I used to take it, pretending I knew where I was going, always worried the car would conk out. It's a menacing bridge, spanning decades of incomprehensible tragedy.
These days, it's the Warri Bridge, on the Kings Highway, twice a day. Wombats lie dead in middle of my narrow lane, forcing me to calculate if, before the truck arrives, I can swerve in time or have my undercarriage take another one for the team.
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For weeks now, crossing the Warri has been a dreadful affair but something beyond my run-of-the-mill gephyrophobia.
To the west, a costive tract of diminishing goodness. The ambitious little rock wall rebuilt in the shallows by campers every summer is finally reaching its potential and holds back the water.
To the east, melancholy pools coagulate on the floor of the escaping barranca foreign with browning eucalypts.
But, for good or ill, rivers are protean and the Shoalhaven is no exception.
The morning after the national capital copped its Ming the Merciless hailstorm, the waters under the Warri were swelled and striking for the ocean. Some farm dams on our side of the ranges had been filled too, as shocked as anyone this could happen amid the brooding threat of reignition still so very vivid as the Great Pialligo Redwood Forest Inferno of 2020 will attest.
A land of ice and fire and wind and dust and smashed windscreens aside, that the skies are still capable of opening with such drama is enough to foster hope the big dry could one day end, however rare and ephemeral hope is in these days of the-future-is-now weather that makes us remember we're merely pretenders on this planet.
But one deluge does not a drought break and no doubt those in this forsaken patch will be receiving, as beggars with tin cups, top-up trucks from beyond the mountains for a while yet.
Unless, like us, you're on tank water.
At our house, conservation is not something that suddenly kicks into gear because an omnipotent digital sign on the side of the road says we've reached a certain stage.
We're lucky to have a seemingly magic-pudding creek, albeit viscous-brown and perfidious, to maintain triage to an increasingly suspicious garden but, inside, we cling to every potable drop with a kind of ugly fundamentalism that would make Frank Herbert's Fremen proud.
Indeed, as the hygienically challenged, worm-wrangling freedom fighters of Arrakis like to spout whenever a potential messiah is in earshot: "A man's flesh is his own; the water belongs to the tribe".
Our tribe is as profligate as any of their 21st-century counterparts, but they're learning water is precious because they can just go behind the privet, knock on the tanks and know exactly how much of the stuff is left.
It's not easy, but it's not that hard either.
We limit showering (quite popular, actually), flush when absolutely necessary (wildly popular) and don't discard a day's clothing just because the sun has gone down.
I clean the gutters more often than I clean me teeth (okay, we're worse than the Fremen) and have plumbed in every conceivable harvesting surface so we're in with a sliver of a chance if there's at least a mist or even just an incontinent possum.
And, strangely, it's worth the wait because when the rain is bucketing and the tanks are overflowing, we indulge in aqua-hedonism with abandon; long hot baths, steamy showers and more washing and conditioning of all the ridiculous volume of hair under our tin roof than must be follicly sensible.
It's not the "new normal". Just normal.