Welcome to this blog, the story of a great big Australian adventure. It documents my travels, life in Australia, and a subject close to my heart – environmental conservation. 

Storm warning

It amuses me most of the time that I, one of the world's biggest wusses when it comes to thunder and lightning, should come to live in the tropics.

They don't do storms by half here. The gods really are playing bowls. Thunder doesn't start low and rumbly and build to a crescendo: it cracks suddenly and violently and gunshot loud. Free-standing items rattle and larger structures shudder. Sheet lightning surprises, but the fork lighting here knows no bounds to terror: it cuts through every window and finds me wherever I am. Thousands of strikes per storm are regularly counted by weather stations.

In our last house, floor to ceiling windows rendered every serious electric storm an ordeal. I had a cubby hole in the kitchen – between the larder and the fridge – where I could sit on the step-up and try to read. But close by was a long narrow frosted window overlooking the gap between us and next door that saw very little direct sun yet always let lightning in.

Today there has been a storm warning. Australians are very good at weather warnings. They're explicit and specific about where a storm will hit and what you can expect.

We haven't experienced hailstones yet. Apparently hail-manufacturing clouds turn a bit green, and then you know to move your car undercover and stay inside yourself. Golf-ball-sized are seriously damaging, and quite common, and lots of people take photos of the largest on their mobiles and the Courier Mail publishes them so that its readers can simply marvel.

Sometimes it can be perfectly sunny yet you hear distant claps. Other times, the sky acquires a not-quite-right look that might be a sign: is that blue or grey by that bubbling fluffy white.

You can track an approaching storm cell on BOM's radar loop: scarlet, burgundy and black splodges mean scary-heavy rain and possibly worse.

Most storms approach Brisbane from the west or the southwest. Today they're coming from the north, and are associated with 'shearing winds'. I'm not quite sure of the meteorology there, but the terminology adds to a sense of menace, don't you think?

At the height of a storm – and I'm always in my bunker by then – the sky has no detail. Visibility is minimal and everything is grey and formless in the wall of water or blurry from bending in the squalls.

The first storm I experienced in Brisbane was on Day 2 in January 2010. I was on a CityCat. You couldn't see the banks of the river and rainwater swilled through the cabin from bow to stern. Lightning cracked and thunder boomed. Nobody on board batted an eyelid and our host on this orientation tour of our new city streamed his information unperturbed. I was jet-lagged and possibly a little homesick for my girls as I tried to suppress jumpiness. Raindrops bounced off the surface of the river as if it were a pavement.

You hear waterwall rain before you see it or feel it. There are no spits and spots. You hear a noise a bit like a rushing wind and then a wet curtain drops from the sky.

Of course, if you get a storm warning and then it doesn't materialise, there's this massive feeling of anticlimax and wasted photo ops. But today wasn't one of those days. The following photographs alternate views from our river and city balconies as I rushed twixt both like a frenzied fly.

On the fifth floor of an 7-storey apartment block, do you think I still need a bunker? The guest bathroom has no windows at all...


Red Squirrels and Hairy-nosed Wombats