Like living in a lung

Cindy Titus @ F-Stop Magazine/

Benjamin Law recounts the strangeness of watching a hometown disaster from miles away @ Overland.
Because I’ve lived in Queensland my entire life, I’m allowed to say that the weather up here can be a mother-fucker sometimes. Our summers might give us golden mangoes and a legitimate reason to walk around in jocks, but the same heat can knock you flat in the middle of a working day. Usually, the cycles are predictable enough. When it gets really hot – a dizzying, steamy heat that’s thick like a tongue – you know a cool storm’s about to break through. But storms only provide temporary relief before the mosquitoes come out in force, driving you insane as you lie in bed, naked, moaning and slapping yourself like someone with Tourette’s. Living in Queensland is like living in a lung: it inhales and exhales. And like a lung, it’s also prone to occasional respiratory problems – such as cyclones and floods. When it’s in particularly bad health, it retains water. That’s when Queensland gets in trouble.

The Family Law
Benjamin Law on Amazon

On New Year’s Day this year, I woke up at 4 am to catch a series of planes that would take me to New Delhi for a book I’m writing. Everyone else in Brisbane had partied the night before, but I’d slept through the countdown to ensure I’d be awake for the flight. My apartment overlooks the Brisbane River, which didn’t seem any different that morning. It looked like it always did: big, brown and benign. Said to be older than the Nile, the Brisbane River coils around the CBD and its surrounding suburbs like a cramped snake. If you live inner-city, you’re never too far from the water, which makes the river a great channel for transport. The Riverwalk – a floating walkway made of connected pontoons – connects my suburb of New Farm to the city, allowing people to literally walk on water to work every day. Brisbane’s CityCats – large, double-hulled catamarans – get you places faster than a car. Some people call the river ugly, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s also massively useful and doesn’t harm anyone. Most of the time, at more