When I lived in Manchester I never thought that one day I would be filling sand bags on a remote farm in Australia to keep the rising river out of my house.
The farmer was employed by a large agricultural company. He could be sent anywhere in the state of New South Wales to work. As a young couple without children the company moved us more often that most. We had few possessions and most of our furniture was from second-hand shops. We could pack up and be ready to go in a few hours. The company gave us a house on the farms they sent us to so there was no need to worry about finding accommodation. That meant no choice either. We had to take what we were given.
The small farm cottage had a wide verandah at the front overlooking the levee bank of the Lachlan river. The river had obviously entered the house before as there were water marks on the walls in the bedroom. A covered walkway at the back led round to the bathroom and toilet. The toilet was particularly scary as it was inhabited by green frogs. They loved to cling to the cool wall between the door and the inside of the room. Another favourite spot was under the rim of toilet. There was no point in flushing the toilet to get rid of them as they just swam around enjoying the gushing water, a bit like surfing to a frog I guess! I spent as little time as possible in there. This was all the usual run of the mill stuff to a country boy so I got little sympathy for being scared of frogs. And the dark! It was so dense. I was scared of that too. This was not like Manchester. Not a light to be seen, something I love in the country now.
It had rained for days and the river started to rise. Upstream there had been a lot of rain which entered the river system and as it came down, the river threatened to breach the levee bank. I was very pregnant with our first child but we needed to keep the water from entering the house. The chooks (hens) needed to be moved to higher ground. There was a lot of squawking and flapping as I chased them out of their yard into the adjoining field to fend for themselves. We filled sandbags to strengthen the levee. Well, I held the bags while the farmer did the digging and filling and carrying. The farmer rigged up a pump which ran day and night pumping water back over the levee. Flood water came into the garden but none got into the house. We were on a little island in a river of muddy, brown water.
Our son was born a few days later. When we were discharged from hospital all the roads to the farm were impassable by car. The river water had slowly spread out over all the surrounding farmland. The farmer hitched up a trailer behind a tractor and I rode in it with our new baby in his bassinette while the farmer drove the tractor through the slow-moving flood water.
The tractor was the only form of transport for a while. We had a cow that the farmer milked. We even tried making butter with the surplus milk. Unfortunately, the grass the cow had been eating had onion weed growing in it and the butter had a very pungent taste! We were well stocked up with food but the farm manager decided to fly over the farm in a light aircraft, survey the damage and do a food drop to the outlying cottages at the same time. One of the provisions he dropped was sliced bread. Of course as soon as the loaves hit the muddy ground all the bread burst out of the wrapping. We missed out on fresh bread but the chooks had a good feed!