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Sandy's Say: The Housework Orange

…When I anxiously drove my son to school, every car, on or off the road, was the same colour – you guessed it - mud orange. All that we could see were faces peering out of the crescent shaped gaps where motorists had tried to scrape away sufficient dust by using their windscreen wipers…

Sandy James brings a colourful account – what else? – of the day when Sydney, Australia, turned orange.

For more of Sandy’s brilliant columns please click on
http://www.openwriting.com/archives/sandys_say/

It is a mug’s game this housework at the best of times. One spends hours vacuuming, lifting, wiping, dusting, scrubbing and mopping only to have those sensitive men folk come home and say, “Hello, what have you been doing all day?”

“Why would you bother?” grunted my charming, considerate son as he traipsed his muddy rugby boots through the newly glistened hallway and covered his best friend, the fridge, in sticky paw prints. With such encouragement ringing in my ears I do have to wonder at the demoralization of it all. It is very much like painting the Harbour Bridge; you finish the job, only to have to start all over again.

I had just spent days doing the annual washing of the windows when Sydney was enveloped in a once in a lifetime phenomenon. I woke up wondering why I had not been disturbed by my two usual alarm clocks, the kookaburras arguing in the tree outside and the aeroplanes streaming in as the overnight curfew on aircraft is lifted each morning at 6am. I opened the curtains to an Armageddon- like, eerie, orange sky and watched astounded as gale-force winds lashed up a Martian dust storm.

It was this iron-rich dust blowing in from country New South Wales which had so brightly coloured our sky and which I could now see whipping up under the gaps in the doors and windows. We had a fine red powder everywhere, down our throats and in our eyes and even in our hair. “You are more ranga than usual, Mum” remarked my tell-it-like-it-is son as he condescendingly patted my head and puffs of orange dust escaped from it. ‘Ranga’ is Australian schoolboy slang for ‘orangutan’ and it is used in a derogatory manner to refer to anyone with reddish hair.

The orange light transformed and obliterated familiar objects. The car headlights and street lights were a glaring, phosphorous white and all greens became fluorescent. When we called for our pet husky, normally a striking white creature, to come inside, he emerged from the jaundiced mist, his fur a gaudy orange, as if he’d overdone the fake tan. Those masters of camouflage, the spiders had been rudely exposed with their webs suddenly reddened and dangling like Viking beards all over the garden. The swimming pool looked as if the mighty Zambezi had come down in flood and poured into it. I half expected to see a crocodile eyeing me off amidst the floating debris. In all my years as the resident “Pool Man” I have never seen so much mud and flotsam in the water.

When I anxiously drove my son to school, every car, on or off the road, was the same colour – you guessed it - mud orange. All that we could see were faces peering out of the crescent shaped gaps where motorists had tried to scrape away sufficient dust by using their windscreen wipers. There were arguments at petrol stations as frustrated drivers harangued each other over the insufficient supplies of water and squeegees and the queue for the car wash went around the block. I couldn’t help but think that this was just what drought stricken Sydney did not need, hundreds of thousands of cars being washed at once.

I returned home and cast my eye over the carnage. I was deliberating cleaning up the mess when I overheard on the radio that this wind and dust was not, in fact a once in a lifetime event and that it would all be returning on Saturday. In my head I heard my son’s words of wisdom echo, “Why bother?” So instead, I sat down, had a cup of tea and read a book, all the things that my appreciative family think I spend my days doing anyway.

Daily cleaning may be an uphill and constant battle but competing with 4000 tonnes of red topsoil, now THAT is nothing but farting against thunder.

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