Home » Posts tagged 'twitter'

Tag Archives: twitter

TV and Twitter

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything so time to dust off the typewriter, er, laptop and put some words on paper, er screen.

A few years ago I got into Twitter big time and one of the reasons I liked it so much was because you could watch TV with potentially thousands of other people watching the same program at the same time. Sure you had to watch it live and put up with the ads but that isn’t really a big problem at the end of the day. 

Watching shows like The Voice and Big Brother and using the appropriate hashtags would allow your tweets to be viewed potentially by a whole country should they be searching for like minded contributors in the 140 character zone.  It was fun and as I like to think of myself as a bit of a comedian I would always try and find the funny angle to whatever was happening on my Panasonic 50”.  Occasionally one of my tweets might even end up on TV, like it did three times on one season of The Voice.  That always brought about such excitement especially when people who know you, would send you a message and say they had just seen my tweet on TV.

However, watching a show and tweeting about it at the same time would sometimes mean you’d miss certain elements of the show and potentially miss a great moment or a critical plot point.  Well maybe not when watching The Voice but certainly when watching dramas. 

When your face is always in your phone and you’re ‘watching’ TV at the same time you will miss stuff.  I found this to be true when watching The Newsroom and House of Cards.  I’m currently watching these series again with my amazing partner who hasn’t seen them, and with Twitter and myself on a hiatus I’m actually really watching it and LOVING it all over again because I’m actually seeing stuff potentially for the first time but better still I’m able to discuss live, with my partner critical plot points or magic lines ‘That’s exactly what I’ll fucking tell her’ – Charlie on The Newsroom. I’m finding watching these shows even better this way rather than being distracted by reading my twitter feed on the small 4.065” iPhone 5 screen at the same time as ‘watching’ the show.

There are so many good shows on TV nowadays and I’d really like to watch shows like Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy and when I do, I’ll be doing it sans phone as I really don’t have time to watch stuff twice.

That being said, there’s no problems live tweeting to The Voice and Big Brother and other shows like The Bachelor and X-Factor etc.  It adds an element to the show as your opinion about a certain something may be reinforced by the vast majority of people tweeting about it too as well as reading some very funny tweets by some very funny people.

For me though, it’s pretty much phone down and enjoying TV again for the first time in years. And by doing this, I am avoiding spoilers from the show I am recording while I live watch what I am currently viewing. 

I’ll end this article now and go back to watching Big Brother which has been on for 15 minutes as I’m writing and I have no clue as to what has been happening. 

The Importance of Social Media at the Local Level

Social media is changing the ways that businesses talk to their customers and in a good way.

In days gone by (read before the internet) just about the only way to communicate to your customers when they weren’t standing at your front counter, was either through the letterbox with a leaflet drop, on the radio or TV.

TV and Radio campaigns were and still are, broad-based and not able to be targeted to individual stores within a group, such as a large franchise group.  The message is generally a national or state one and it is talking to not only current customers, but it is trying to gain new customers as well.  This isn’t a bad thing either and is very necessary.

The letterbox can be localised but can be costly as print runs with only a few thousand leaflets is cost-prohibitive.  As with TV and radio, it too is talking to current customers and trying to get new customers as well.

It’s 2012 and there is a way of advertising which is not only very cheap for local businesses (franchisees generally) it is also just about the only way a brand can talk directly to the local customers and potential local customers.

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare allow local franchisees an opportunity to talk directly to their customers.  The customers who part with their hard-earned over the counter.  The customers who the local franchisee gets to know by name and recognises as they shop in the same supermarket.

I’m not discounting the need for there to be a national presence for a brand.  Far from it.  Quite often the national pages on social media can deliver clear, national messages, like the launch of a new product or advertisement or a national competition or offer.  What the national presence can’t do or won’t do is talk to the customer who has just tweeted that they loved the service at their local store and that customer recognises that the person talking to them online is the same person who talks to them face to face as well.

Quick Communication

The local franchisee can also quickly communicate to their customers about a happy hour special or deliver some great news about something a team member has announced such as getting married or winning an award etc.  You know, stuff that is personalising the message at the local level.  Or for some reason, there is a lot of product left over due to a slow day so the local franchisee sends out a status update or email to the LIKERS/FOLLOWERS etc that there is a special being run this afternoon between 4pm and 5pm.  The national franchisor is not going to send out an offer which will only benefit a small portion of their follower counts.

This leads me to an important point.  If a local store wants to run a special, eg a Friday Free Upgrade or a cheap Tuesday, the national franchisor cannot advertise this as it may cause confusion with followers going to another destination asking for the offer which is not available there.  This will not only annoy the customer but also the other franchisee as they feel pressured to honour the deal that another store has going.

The other important factor is local community involvement.  The local page can assist with letting the local community about a fundraiser at the local school or sporting club.  It can even donate to the local fundraising effort by offering a special deal with the proceeds being donated.  The local page can put up a photo of a local student who is representing the local area somehow.  This builds loyalty and community involvement and customers will reward the local franchisee through time.

Through the local store, the overall brand can earn a reputation of caring about the communities it has its brand presence in.  This is so important for ongoing success, no matter the size of the organisation.  McDonald’s, as an example, is still holding McHappy Days each year to assist with the Ronald McDonald House charity.  They still sponsor local sporting teams.  They are one of the biggest companies on the planet yet they still have a very important local presence.

Guidelines

If a franchisee does have a local page then it is important that there are guidelines set up by the franchisor which will need to be followed.  This may include the banning of obscene language and images, incorrect use of the logo, promotion of non-core products, etc.  The local pages can be monitored by the franchisors marketing team and the marketing team can send out core messages which they recommend be used on the local pages.  The marketing team should also provide professional food shots for use on local Pinterest pages as well because we all know a picture tells a thousand words.

If after training, the local franchisee is not operating the page as to the guidelines then remedial training or the closing down of the page may be considered.

It is important that the franchisor rewards those who are doing it right by allowing local pages, instead of implementing policy based on the few who may not.

The End Game

At the end of the day, the use of social media is to grow a loyal following of customers and potential customers.  If used correctly, social media should assist in growing sales and revenue and therefore profits to the franchisee and royalties and therefore profits back to the franchisor.

The local page does not replace the national page but together they exist in a symbiotic relationship, both feeding off of each other with the same goal in mind…GROWING SALES.

It Was The Worst Of Times….

…but it was also the best of times.  The Great Flood of Queensland 2011.

How can anyone possibly say that anything to do with the flooding of Queensland during last summer can be described as being the best of times?  There was so much tragedy.  So much death.  So much destruction.  So many sad stories.

Yet there was also stories of inspiration.  Tales of heroism.  Examples of courage and resilience and bravery.  But most of all there was the famous Queensland spirit which was on show for all the world to see, and see it they did.

The news was dominated by the flooding of regional Queensland in towns such as Emerald, Dalby and Gympie. Unfortunately over the years, the flooding of regional Queensland towns was not a new experience. Weeks of solid rain and a torrential downpour unleashed a flash flood in the elevated town of Toowoomba which ultimately cost 21 people their lives when it went down stream and destroyed the small town of Grantham and others along the way.  The images of this flash flood, caught on the screens of amateur photographers were beamed around the world.  For all the wrong reasons, Queensland was the top news story on the planet.

Who can forget the story and heroism of 13 year old Jordan Rice? Caught in the flash flood with his mother and brother, this young boy, not able to swim, demanded his 10 year old brother be rescued first from the rapidly rising water surge coursing through the centre of Toowoomba.  A few seconds later, he and his mother were both dead after the car they were trapped in was inundated and flipped in the raging waters.  His brother was saved and will grow old knowing his brother gave his life for him.

Jordan became the human face of this tragedy caused by Mother Nature’s fury.

The night before the Grantham tragedy and with the rain continuing to fall, a call went out across the media and social networks for volunteers to help make sandbags at Brisbane City Council sites across the city.  People pulled on their gum boots and headed out in the pouring rain to assist.  Twitter was alive and active and there were people tweeting and retweeting vital information.  The community was in full swing and answering the call.

I was transfixed in front of the TV throughout this disaster which went on for days.  All of the networks had 24 hour coverage of the unfolding tragedy.  It was must watch TV.  Seeing how Queenslanders were reacting to the crisis made it even more the best of times.  The Wally Lewis statue at Suncorp Stadium now equipped with floaties, goggles and a snorkle.  People playing cricket on Coronation Drive, one of Brisbane’s busiest roads, in the middle of the day. Yes the Queensland humour and spirit was on show and it was badly needed.  Australian’s have a great way of laughing at ourselves and not taking life too seriously and it was light entertainment in a dark time.

I was inspired and proud of our rescue services.  They risked their own lives to save strangers.  Time and time again rescue helicopters flew over the fast moving waters in the Lockyer Valley, plucking stranded residents from the roofs of homes and cars.  Swift water rescue teams from the police, fire brigade and SES saved countless lives from raging torrents.  Their actions and selflessness and bravery and humility made me very proud of them.

As Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh delivered a speech capable of bringing a tear to a glass eye it brought us closer as a community.  No matter what your political persuasion was, it was hard not to be moved by her speech.

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.” Anna Bligh.

After the water receded came the best part of all.  The mud army mobilised.  Volunteers from around the state kicked into action.  Armed with shovels, mops, buckets and a cheery attitude, they got to work and drove into the carnage and began to clean up the mess and sludge and rubbish.

It made me proud to be a Queenslander.

It made us all proud to be a Queenslander.  I suspect that even non Queenslanders, watching from a far wished they were Queenslanders.

Then TC Yasi came to town.  Well not Brisbane town, but our cousins up in North Queensland.  Tropical Cyclone Yasi was a mean bitch.  A category 5 system with winds able to inflict major damage and cause damage she did.

The media that had set up camp in Brisbane for the floods had packed up and headed north to cover the imminent disaster there.  Some brave journalists locked down with locals in community halls as the giant storm powered over head.  They were the first on the scene as a new day dawned, broadcasting images of widespread damage to homes and buildings and crops.

But yet that Queensland spirit wasn’t broken.  Who can forget this sign outside a NQ Hogs Breath Cafe.  This is the Queensland spirit which saw us through this terrible period.

And here we are 12 months later.  The clean up continues.  Homes are still being rebuilt.  We remember those who died and pause and reflect on the sad and tragic loss of life. For those taken before their time.

I hope that people drew inspiration from the Great Flood of 2011.  I hope that when times get tough, that they look back at this time and see the courage of many.  They recall the heroism of people young and old, friends and strangers. That they remember that Queenslanders never give up and no matter the odds, no matter the trials and tribulations before them, that there is a spirit within this state and of course this great country of Australia, which is unbreakable, even in the face of adversity and struggle.

I hope, that like me, others are also remembering how Queensland united 12 months ago.  I hope they also remember that in the midst of disaster, that the worst of times was also the best of times, when that famous Queensland spirit was on display and it is that spirit which is still with us today.

For my post about the Floods as it happened last year, click here.

Mosman Bomb Threat

Australia witnessed live on TV and the internet via Twitter a very unique crime which unfortunately starred a Sydney teenager earlier this week.

A device, originally thought to be a bomb with a ransom letter, was allegedly placed around the neck of an 18 year old school girl, Madeleine Pulver, by a balaclava clad man.  She was told she could call the police but was limited to what she could say to them.

Eventually, some 10 hours later, with the girl’s parents waiting patiently outside while the world looked on, the drama finished in the early hours of the morning when the device was removed from around her neck and the girl was taken to hospital for a check up.  Luckily she was fine, albeit with a bit of a sore neck, and was released the following morning.

During the 10 hour ordeal the girl was reported to be fine and co-operative and was superbly looked after by members of the NSW Police Service.

All’s well that ends well.

Well not quite.  As at time of writing, the perpetrator was still at large with no solid leads and no arrest imminent, according to police.

Whoever he is, I bet right now he must be getting a little bit of cabin fever.

How are those four walls looking?  I just bet they are closing in on you, inch by inch, day by day.  You can’t hide inside forever.

If you are venturing out, when someone looks at you do you think they know who you are?  Can you trust your accomplices if you have any? Are you sure they aren’t right now dobbing you in to police.

Is there anyone you can trust?

You went to a lot of work to carry out this crime.  Surely you had help.  By the sounds of it the device was very well made and made to look like the real thing.  Who helped you?  Can you trust them to keep your identity a secret?

The area of Sydney you committed this crime in is very affluent with many homes boasting CCTV systems.  How many of these homes captured you entering and leaving the street.  Has your type of car been identified and police are now going through records of ownership?  Or was the car stolen and ditched?  How long until the car is found with crucial DNA evidence contained within.

Yet as the days go by and you are not captured, do you start to get a little careless. Do you start boasting about the crime of the century?  After all a lot of criminals commit crimes to be famous.  Do you want to be famous? Do you want to be known as the bloke who picked on a helpless teenager and had the world watching?

You may think you have committed the crime of the century but when you get a whole nation drawn into it and hoping for the best for this young woman, it also means the police are going to throw plenty of resources into finding you, and you will be found.  You’ll let your guard down and pretty soon you’ll see a SWAT team smash down your front door and take you down.

Maybe that is what you want.  After all this isn’t the movies.  We don’t know whether the ransom note asked for money or not but you must realise you were never going to get it, if that is what you were trying to do.

Nope.  Your days are numbered and while you will soon be going to prison, you’re living in a virtual prison now.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.  That’s the sound of your last minutes as a free man.  They’re coming for you and we’ll have a front row seat when it happens.

Where’s the popcorn?

 

Maddie Pulver

Bieber Fever

I can’t believe I am going to write this piece and give even more airtime to that chick, Justine Bieber.

You know who she is. Of course you do. She has dominated your online world for the best part of two years now. She has polluted your twitter timeline. Well not her, but all of her fans….

Hang on, hang on, I am being disrespectful to the teen sensation. Of course Justin Bieber is a 17 year old boy and I gotta tell you, after watching the interview from Michael Usher on Australian 60 Minutes this week, I gotta say my opinion of the Biebs has somewhat changed.

I did joke about him being a ‘her’ and not calling him Justin but Justine.  I did this based on nothing at all except knowing that he was occupying vital cyberspace which I would have much preferred be given to – well anyone!

I didn’t really know any of his songs but I knew his story. Well I thought I knew his story. I thought he was some kid who knew he could sing, and had an ok boyish look and charm about him and went online to sell himself as the next big thing.

I thought you pretentious little shit.  Most stars wait to be discovered. You went online to be found.

Then I watched the interview.  As it turns out, Justin had loaded the video onto YouTube so that his family could see him sing and dance.  That’s ok I thought. I’ve done the same with my kids so far away friends and relatives can see what they’re up to.

He doesn’t quite know how they became viral and in turn created an internet sensation.  Long story short, he was discovered by a producer, signed and his star rose rapidly.

He also came from a broken home and certainly didn’t have the advantages that a lot of kids have today.  It appears as though his life wasn’t cookies and cream but he loved to sing and play the drums (which he was shown doing at a very young age rapping out a beat on some chairs).

He seems very down to earth and I gotta say, he’s pretty likeable.

When I heard about his hair being auctioned off a couple of weeks ago I thought this kid is so up himself that he thinks people want his hair but he explained that he thought he could sell it off for charity. Better off doing that than throwing it in the bin!  He’s right. If he can auction off his do and raise money for a worthwhile charity, well why the hell not? Who am I to judge?  Maybe I was jealous that he had hair to auction off and I don’t!

I guess I can learn to appreciate the Biebs a little more now.  After all, his new documentary style movie is called Never Say Never and he ended his interview with Michael Usher with this:

“It gives people hope and at the end of the day….if you focus and keep your dreams in front of you….never give up. Never say never. Anything is possible”

It’s a great attitude.  Anything is possible with the right attitude. That’s how I try and live my life.

Justin Bieber, you’re alright kid and I’m going to give you a break from my cruel taunts and jokes.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be buying your songs though! But it also means I won’t be stopping my teenage daughter from buying them either.

Good luck mate. I hope it doesn’t go to your head and that in 20 years time, you’re not the current day Charlie Sheen.

Please rate this post out of 5 stars and leave a comment if you feel compelled. Thanks for reading!

When You Go Offline and Don’t Come Back – Where is Melissa Stanford?

Friendships in this modern era take on many different forms but still the most popular form of friendship is the face to face, physical friendship.

In real life when someone you know dies or gets seriously ill, it only takes a few hours for that news to spread.  If you weren’t that close to someone but you knew of them, you may find out eventually but generally you will find out.

In this new era of the internet and Twitter and Facebook new types of friendships are formed.  Many of these people do not meet and do not have mutual friends.

What happens when you are friends with someone online and all of a sudden, they disappear?  This person who has disappeared offline is usually someone who would tweet a lot or update their blog a lot or post regular Facebook status updates.

One day they just stop all activity online.

Why?

What has happened to make this happen?

In some instances it is because the person has grown tired of this particular activity.  They get bored and move onto something else but usually they will tell their online friends that they are going and wish them well.

There are other reasons though such as someone dies or is incapacitated.  Some people’s online lives are secret to their friends and family.  Or if friends and family are aware of their online activities, some do not know their password to log in and tell their online friends what has happened to them.

The reason I am writing this today is because there is someone who I knew online who just disappeared and I am left wondering what happened to her.  This person had been sick but had not disclosed what ailment she had.  She had a successful travel blog about her desire to come to Australia (she’s American).  She tweeted regularly and updated her blogs Facebook profile often.

Then it all stopped.

Immediately.

No warning.

No goodbye.

Nothing.

Her accounts are all still active but there is no activity on them.  It is like she has disappeared off of the face of the earth.

Ok some people go offline for a few days or maybe a week or two.  Most often because they need a break or are away and cannot access the internet as much as they would want.  But this person has not updated in over 6 months and I gotta tell you I am a little worried about her and I am not the only one.

A mutual online friend has tried to make contact with her as well with no luck.

Her name is Melissa Stanford and her Twitter user name is @melissa_abroad and she hasn’t tweeted since September 21, 2010.  Here is her last tweet

In this tweet below, she tweeted about not being well but she did say she was getting better.  Then nothing.

About 10 days earlier she tweeted this;

You know from this that something was up.  I’m just not sure what it is/was.

Melissa’s twitter profile was pretty busy. She followed 431 people and was followed by 617.  This is a pretty good number for a non celeb.  She had tweeted 2,296 times which makes her a moderate user.  At this rate of tweets and followers you are considered to be a regular tweeter and you generally don’t just stop.

Her Facebook page has not been updated since August 25, 2010 either.

Her website, www.theinnocentabroad.com has recently been unavailable but when I last checked to see if Melissa was around about a month ago it was still up and running albeit with no new activity since August, 2010.  It is possible that Melissa has closed it down but why didn’t she also close down her Twitter and Facebook pages?  I think the reason the webpage is no longer accessible is because the account has not been renewed and the ISP has closed it.  That’s my gut feel.  Twitter and Facebook are both free so with no bills to be paid there is no need to close them down.

I asked a mutual Twitter friend @brookeschoenman if she had heard from Melissa and she said she hadn’t either but would send her an email as she had her address.  As of today, which is a month later, still no reply.

Melissa’s other online profiles are untouched as well including LinkedIn and Digg.

Melissa has dropped off of the online planet and she did it rapidly.

I am usually an optimistic person but I am afraid the worst has happened.  I have no evidence to prove otherwise but my gut feeling is that Melissa has passed away or is totally and permanently incapacitated.  I really hope I am wrong.

So if anyone who is reading this knows Melissa Stanford from Nevada in the United States, can you please shed some light on what has happened to her?  Sure we aren’t face to face friends, but we are all friends in a different form and we want to know what has happened to our lovely friend, Melissa.

____________________________

UPDATE (2 May 2011)

Great news. A friend of Melissa’s saw this post and made contact and provided Melissa’s new email address. 

After corresponding via email, and in accordance with Melissa’s request, all I can say is that she is alive, which is the best news possible. 

Many thanks to everyone who has made a comment or forwarded this post around in an effort to find out what happened to Melissa.  Luckily this time, the outcome is a positive one.

Jack

_______________________________

Floodageddon 2011 – Through Jack’s Eyes

As I write this post, over 28,000 homes in South East Queensland have been severely damaged or destroyed in the worst flooding to take place in Queensland in over 30 years.  In fact, over 75% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. To put this in perspective for my northern hemisphere mates, that is the size of Texas in the United States or the combined size of Germany and France.  That’s a whole lotta area, under water.

That’s all I will write about the actual problem.  Queensland flooded and flooded in a bloody major way.  It’s like someone forgot to turn off the world’s biggest shower and 3 months later realised it but by that time, the bath was full and the water was flowing over the sides and flooding the entire bathroom.

Yep, stupid analogy but you get the gist.  It rained a lot and it kept on raining.

You’ve all seen the footage and seen the news and read the papers and online about what happened in the South East corner of Queensland which has so far claimed 20 lives, not including those who died in December in the central parts of Queensland.

No, what I want to write about in this post is my own personal experience.  Of what I have felt and seen and witnessed since 10th January.  My story is an easy one.  I am nowhere near the Brisbane River or the Bremer River in Ipswich.  I am a couple of hours away from the Lockyer Valley region decimated by the Toowoomba inland tsunami.  I know only one person who came close to having their house flooded and he avoided that by living on the second floor of an apartment building in West End.  I have suffered no loss and no one I know has suffered or loss either.

So why do I even care?

Well I hope that question will be answered in the following words.  Join me, won’t you?

Along with millions of other Aussies, I watched the devastation of the floods in central Queensland.  Towns I have visited such as Emerald, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, were all being inundated by a brown, liquid monster.  We looked on as our country brothers and sisters dealt with the disaster the way we know Queenslanders do.  With humour and good grace.  Images of people, always blokes actually, walking waist deep in water with the pub slowly receding behind them and a carton of beer on their shoulder and a smile on their face was common.  A pub with a hastily built dirt levee built around it and renamed the Flotel instead of Hotel.  Kids on esky lids swimming in crocodile and snake infested waters without a care in the world.  Humour is a big part of our society and we would need to call on it many times to get through the days and weeks ahead.

Queenslanders love their beer and so of course you save the pub before saving the schools! It doesn’t matter if the school goes under anyway. It’s the school holidays and there’ll be plenty of time to dry it out and get it up and running again before school resumes.  But we must not run out of beer!  This is a crisis and the only good way of handling a crisis is by looking at it head on – through the bottom of a brown stubbie that is!  That’s Queensland and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Yes it is fair to say that Queenslanders handle things with a relaxed attitude but don’t let that fool you.  The job still gets done.

Not understating it but there were thousands of people displaced and evacuated.  Hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded and after weeks of vision on the news and websites and newspapers, Channel 9 decided to hold a telethon to raise money for the regional centres of Queensland.  It was hastily arranged and broadcast live from Brisbane’s Southbank Piazza on Sunday, January 9.  The piazza is open air to a certain degree and the millions of viewers across Australia could see the monsoonal rain that was continually pelting down over Brisbane as entertainers such as David Campbell and Tina Area sang their hearts out.  I am sure the sight of this never ending curtain of rain contributed to the telethon raising over $10 million that night alone but no one knew that night, that the following afternoon would see a terrifying flash flood hit the towns of Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley towns of Murphy’s Creek and Grantham which would claim at least 18 lives.

This wall of water which destroyed whatever was in its path was still speeding down the range and Ipswich and Brisbane were in its way.  With the Wivenhoe Dam, built to prevent Brisbane from flooding as badly as it did in 1974, releasing two Sydney Harbours worth of water daily to avoid it collapsing and joining together with the water from the flash flooding in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Ipswich and all suburbs in between were about to get wet.  Very wet.

Then the call went out for volunteers to help the council and SES fill sand bags.  A lot of them!  On the Tuesday night, it was still pissing down in Brisbane.  It hadn’t let up and by this stage the governments had advised that low lying areas of Brisbane were going to flood and we were warned that the devastating floods of 1974 were nothing compared to what we were going to see in the coming days.

One of the many sangbag volunteers. Here is Erin Louise Tate from Brisbane’s Southside getting ready to volunteer. @erinlouisetate via Twitter

I love Twitter.  People knock it for whatever reason and they can but a call went out across Twitter (as well as other mainstream media) on that Tuesday night and boy didn’t the people respond.  People who I follow on Twitter, who I have never met but legends still the same started to head out into the rain and the dark of the night to fill up sandbags.  People were heading out at 10pm to lend a hand.  Let me make a comment too that these people were in no danger of their houses being flooded, so they weren’t making sandbags for themselves but for total strangers!  My wife was not home that night so I couldn’t head out but I was on the Twitter #qldfloods feed trying to send out as much information as possible.  What else could I do?  I felt a strong desire to help.   Earlier that day I was out and about and had my journey north to Morayfield interrupted by rising flood waters in Burpengary.

Another flooded road which is damaged at Burpengary. Flood waters at Burpengary. Photo by Jack McClane.

So while watching the news and my Twitter time line I saw the volunteer army that was about to take over SEQ takes its first steps.  I was about to say, first, tentative steps, but it wasn’t tentative.  It was absolute.  It was brilliant and I felt a sense of pride in my fellow Queenslanders that was only going to multiply over the coming days.

I updated my blog to try and centralise the mammoth amount of information that was out there.  Information on how and where to donate, road closure links, emergency services links, how to volunteer etc as well as links to videos and some photos as well to show the people of the world what Queensland was up against.  It was only a small thing but if one person got the relevant info from it and if someone else donated because of it, then good, it did its job!

Wednesday came around and residents in the low lying areas were still packing up their houses as quickly as they could and get their possessions to higher ground.  Sandbag volunteers were still in full force throughout the day and the media kept us up to date with what was happening in Ipswich as the Bremer River neared its peak of 20 metres.

The Brisbane River peak was coming Thursday morning at 4am.  So predawn, the morning news shows fired up their cameras and lights and went to air with the on air guys such as Channel 9’s Karl Stefanovic, himself a Queenslander, crossing to reporters at places where the water was already overflowing the banks of the river.  The river didn’t hit the predicted peak but still thousands of homes and businesses had been destroyed.

Then we saw an image of a 300 metre, 1,000 tonne section of the famous Brisbane Riverwalk which had broken free, floating down the river towards the 12 lane Gateway Bridge. Well the Sir Leo Hielsher Bridge to be accurate but the newly renamed bridge was back to its former moniker for the duration of this crisis.  The Riverwalk was travelling at a very fast speed and who knows if it would have caused any real damage to the bridge but one man and his tugboat didn’t want to take that risk.  While listening to his radio and hearing of the runaway piece of Riverwalk, Tugboat skipper, Doug Hislop and the smallest tugboat I have ever seen called Mavis, headed out into the fast moving Brisbane River just in time to manoeuvre the Riverwalk into a parallel position and guide it through the massive pylons of the Gateway Bridge and to safety at the mouth of the river.  Doug and Mavis gained instant fame and hopefully fortune and a new hero was unearthed.  In his interviews afterwards he was very humble and said that he just did what anyone would do.  I thought that Doug must have been on standby with orders from the government to intercept anything that could be considered dangerous.  He wasn’t.  He just stepped up when he was needed and joined the long list of volunteers that Queensland has seen over the few weeks.

The waters started to recede.  Brisbane had been spared the consequences of a peak equal to or higher than the disastrous 1974 floods.  While thousands were affected, many more thousands were spared.

But still people needed help.  A lot of help.

With the receding water levels, the images started to emerge from the murky brown water.  We at home, and when I say we, I mean all viewers, were shown images of houses completely devastated.  Water had gone over the roofs of many homes and to the ceilings and beyond in most others.  Whatever the water touched, it destroyed.  These poor, poor people. Most are uninsured because most insurance companies will not cover for flood damage, were re-entering their homes to find nothing left.

The clean up was going to take a huge effort.  The army was called in by the federal government but a bigger army formed.  The volunteers!  50,000 of them registered online to assist.  Many more just hit the gridlocked streets to lend a hand.  That Friday afternoon I asked my twelve year old daughter, Michaela, or Mick as I like to call her, if she wanted to help out on Saturday.  Before the words were out of my mouth she said yes.

Saturday morning we prepared for a hard day’s work.  We went to Bunnings to get some supplies.  Top of the list was gum boots.  Driving into the carpark I saw an awesome sight.  People!  Everywhere!  Bunnings is normally always busy but this was nuts.  People were walking out of there with gumboots in hand.  Brooms, shovels, gurneys, scrub brushes.  There was the usual sausage sizzle and it was doing a roaring trade.  The sign on the BBQ said that all proceeds were going to the flood appeal.  We quickly found what we needed and headed to the checkout spending about $100 on what we needed knowing that I would have spent double that if I had to.

A mate of mine, Mark was organising a BBQ in Graceville and asked me to assist with getting some bread rolls.  Working for Bakers Delight I was able to quickly get a stack of bread rolls donated.  Thanks to Bakers Delight at Windsor and Aspley for the kind donation.  We picked up the Aspley ones and headed to the western suburbs of Brisbane.  This area of Brisbane is my old stomping grounds.  I grew up in Toowong and I know the back streets. We’re taking the back streets because the radio is advising us that the roads are packed.  They’re packed not only because of the volunteers and general commuters but also because of the bloody rubber neckers or flood tourists as I called, them heading into the flood zone to take some pictures to put on Facebook and to tell their grandkids that they were there for the great flood of 2011.  Idiots.

Mark rang me and said he was almost out of sausages and could I get some more.  We made our way to Woolies at Toowong and bought all of the snags we could – about 88 – and a slab of bottled water and some ice and proceeded on the journey.  Taking more back streets after seeing the gridlock we eventually couldn’t avoid the congestion as the tiny bridge that links Chelmer to Indooroopilly, the Walter Taylor Bridge, was struggling to cope with the volume of cars.

We couldn’t go the way I wanted into Graceville thanks to a couple of police roadblocks but eventually I found a way in and after explaining to another police officer that I was in fact there to help and not a rubber necker he waved us through.

A typical scene in flood ravaged Graceville. Photo by Jack McClane

That’s when we saw the destruction for the first time with our own eyes.  By this stage we had been on the road for about 3 hours and it was near 1pm.  A lot of work had happened.  The kerb was full of rubbish.  Well rubbish now.  Prized possessions a few days earlier.  It was stacked so high and as a wide as each house.  It was endless.  Then I saw a sight which filled me with so much pride.  The street, a normal suburban street was a hive of activity.  There were people everywhere.  Covered in mud and yuk.

We drove up the street and found Mark.  We dropped off the supplies. Our original plan was to drop and run and head to Goodna, one of the worst affected areas but the struggle it took to get into this flood zone was enough for us, so we parked and donned our gum boots and gloves and with buckets and spades and brooms and sponges we set foot down the road to help where we could.  We went house to house and asked if they needed a hand.  Each house said no thanks, we have all the help we need.  I shit you not, each house had heaps of people in them.  They weren’t kidding, they did have all the help they needed.  One man told us to go and find an elderly gentleman who kept on walking past with a wheel barrow full of rubbish.  He wasn’t sure where he lived but it appeared that he was doing plenty of hard yakka on his own.  We searched for him but couldn’t find him so we eventually returned back to the BBQ area and it was there that a dump truck turned up and we just started loading it with the debris on the side of the roads.  There must have been twenty people loading those trucks each time.  A truck would pull up and get filled and leave.  No one was in charge.  No one needed to be.  Everybody knew what they had to do.  We got filthy dirty and we tried to be careful not to scratch ourselves.  We avoided the nails hammered into now unrecognisable pieces of furniture.  We picked up big pieces and small pieces.  Everything went into the truck.  There was no discrimination there in the streets of Graceville.  Everything was destroyed.

This one bloke, Joe, was up in the back of the truck pulling the rubbish into it as the people below lifted it to his position.  The truck filled quickly and Joe, with his long straggly hair caked in mud and sweat just kept on lifting heavy objects into place.  At one stage he slipped and his side went thundering into the side of the dump truck.  You could tell that it hurt him. He grimaced in pain. I was sure he had cracked a rib such was the force of the fall.  He gave it a rub, took a deep breath and got back to it.  Later on while waiting for another truck, Joe came over and got an ice cold can of coke from Mark and I asked him if he was ok.  He said he was but I doubted it.  I asked him which house was his.  He said none of them.  I asked him if he knew anyone in the street.  He said he didn’t.  He said he just couldn’t watch anymore of it from home and that he had to do something.  His wife was watching the kids and he came here to help out.  Like so many others.  He was willing to crack a rib for total strangers.  He wouldn’t have cared if he did.  None of us would have if we were hurt.  A cracked rib is nothing compared to those who lost their lives in this flood or the loss of treasured possessions.

We helped load debris into the back of trucks. Photo by Jack McClane

Mick and I went for a walk around the corner and we found ourselves next to the river.  We were that close.  We saw many people working in their homes.  Using hoses and gurneys and brooms to get rid of the muck. This one guy was sitting out the front of his house gently cleaning old number plates which a few days earlier, probably adorned his garage wall.  It seemed strange to me at the time that his efforts were being utilised on a mundane item but then I realised that while it was a mundane item to me, it meant the world to him and that is all that matters.

People everywhere were doing the best they could to clean up.  There is no instruction manual or pamphlet to tell you what to do and what order to do it in after a flood.  There also didn’t need to be.  Judging by what we were seeing, people were getting the job done.  It didn’t matter if they started with the smaller stuff first.  If that is what it took them to get the job done, then so be it.

We came across an army roadblock.  There was a group of soldiers clearing a shitload of mud off the road to try and reopen it.  There were about four cars waiting to get through.  They wouldn’t for a while.  I heard one of the soldiers tell one of the other soldiers that a couple of girls a couple of houses up and made them an offer.  If the soldiers washed their cars for them they could also wash their boobs!  It made me laugh.  There was that Queensland spirit.  Even in times of crisis, the chicks just love the Aussie soldiers and they were cracking jokes about it.  I was about to ask which house and was getting myself into car cleaning mode when I remembered that Michaela was with me still.  Bugger!  I’m kidding!

The Army was called into service and assisted with removing debris in their Unimog’s. Photo by Jack McClane

I asked the soldier how long the road block was going to be in place.  He said he didn’t know. So I told him I would tell the now considerable long line of cars that it was closed off.  So we started walking back to our position and I told each car to do a Ubolt.  There were no complaints other than one dickhead who argued with another army jeep that pulled up alongside him.  I said to the guy that it wasn’t their fault and we continued to walk back and tell each car.  There were probably 20 cars that went back in the direction in which they had just come.  No probs.

During this walk we also came across many different volunteers who approached us and asked us if we would like a sandwich or a cold drink or a biscuit.  It was incredible the amount of people who were offering food.  We declined each time as we had brought our own food and drinks and the stuff they had was better suited to all of the other volunteers.  It’s strange, even though we had worked hard as well, I didn’t feel like I was a volunteer.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was just me and that people who really needed that stuff were inside their homes doing it tough.

Mark and Annette fed the masses all day. You can see a destroyed Convenience store behind with the sludge and mud all over the front area. Photo by Jack McClane

Mark who had a smile on his face all day while feeding hungry volunteers had set up the BBQ with his beautiful girlfriend, Annette.  Their spirits were high, even being out in the hot, humid sun and as another volunteer or helper walked past, they offered them a sanga on bread or an ice cold drink.  They had coke and lemonade and water and juice and poppers.  They catered for everyone.  They also had sunscreen and hand disinfectant so that people could wash their hands and kill off the germs before eating.  They thought of everything.

Next to their car I noticed a whole heap of supplies including toilet paper, tissues, long life milk and assorted tinned foods.  It turned out that the council had dropped off these essential supplies so that residents could take some if they were needed.  I thought how good was that!  The different governments involved in this crisis, being the federal, state and local had performed brilliantly throughout this whole crisis.  The information was unbelievable and the fact that council had organised for these emergency supplies to be made available was unreal.  As it turned out no one really wanted the supplies as most people were not staying in their homes.  Most of the homes were unliveable and therefore these items would just be sitting in empty homes.  Annette had a great idea to make up some care packages and hand them out.  So we did and with the last few we loaded them into my car for when we were leaving and found some people who would take them down the street.  Michaela handed them out with so much empathy.  I am so proud of Michaela as well.  She didn’t hesitate to volunteer when I asked her and during the cleanup she turned to me and said, “Dad I am so happy I came.  I feel like I am helping”.  She was helping and doing a bloody good job too!  She’s only 12 but she showed that kids of today care about their world and their neighbours.  She asked if we could come back and volunteer as well.  What a special kid she is.  I thought she would get a valuable life lesson from this and that is why I asked her.  She’ll never forget and I am sure it will make her an even better person, if that is at all possible!

Michaela delivers a care package to a local resident. Photo by Jack McClane

There are so many sad stories in that street alone.  One resident was telling me that he had no insurance and that he lost everything.  Luckily he was only renting but as his lease was almost up he would not be returning.  He was upbeat and positive and would just get on with starting again.  Similar stories were being told up and down that area.  There were no tears or arguments.  In fact it was just the opposite.  There was plenty of laughter.  People were upbeat.  There was an air of confidence in the street.  Yes they were down but they weren’t out.  They would start again.  They would rebuild.

I mentioned earlier that the governments have been terrific in this crisis.  During the height of it, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh conducted bi-hourly press conferences to keep the public informed.  Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman was front and centre with shirt rolled up to his elbows, not a tie in sight, and informed the people of exactly what was coming.  Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard nodded and agreed with what was being said and promised to provide money where needed but she really didn’t have much to offer as the lower levels of government did that job superbly.  Only a few short weeks ago Anna Bligh was on a hiding to nothing and would likely lose the next state government election.  Now she is Superwoman and infallible in the eyes of the Queensland public and while I am no fan of hers, she has been bloody brilliant.  At one stage in a press conference she stood before the cameras and the journalists to give another update and to inform us of another confirmed death. She said while holding back tears:

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are.  We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.”

I had a lump in my throat and held back the tears.  She was 100% right.  We are Queenslanders and we are tough.  What a speech to say to her people who have relied on our leader to LEAD and she has done that in spades.  Congrats to Mrs Bligh.  Unlike your namesake, you will not be the subject of a mutiny and I hope that when the finger pointing undoubtedly starts, that people will realise that this was an act of nature and that the government isn’t to blame.  I know there are people who will argue that Wivenhoe should have been released earlier and I am sure the inquiry will determine whether that is what should have happened or not but if it was, the fault is in procedure but not in a person or people.

I am so proud to be a Queenslander!  I wasn’t born here but moved here from Adelaide when I was seven in 1979.  I’ve been here long enough to call myself a Queenslander and I am damn proud to do so.  I have welled up plenty of times over this last week or so.  When I saw people like Erin, volunteer to go out into the rain and fill sandbags was one time.  Another was seeing the long lines of volunteers at the Brisbane City Council registration points, ready to go into battle to fight for Queenslanders. I’ve welled up seeing images of people sandbagging and helping each other out.  I cried when I saw a sign some young girls were holding at the T20 cricket match at the MCG last week saying “We are with you QLD” even as flood waters began to encroach into Victoria.  I welled up when I saw a couple in Brisbane CBD, the day after the peak had damaged inner city businesses, they were walking down the street, covered in mud but walking hand in hand.  Despite the damage to their business, they still had each other.  It was a beautiful moment but one I wished had never had to happen.

An exhausted couple, walk hand in hand in Brisbane’s CBD during the clean up. Photo by Jack McClane

Yes, there is a spirit in Queensland.  I can’t quite tell you what it is.  It is something you need to experience yourself.  As our mighty State of Origin team has shown over the past 30 years, you can never write off a Queenslander.  And when Billy Moore proudly called out that iconic call of ‘Queenslander’ during a State of Origin match in 1995, a new rally cry was born and when Queenslanders are down and fighting, just hearing that yelled out will add strength to any given situation.  I am proud to say I have heard that call a few times this last couple of weeks and every time I do, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know that everything will be ok.

We still need plenty of help. There is still work to do.  Please continue to talk about it and donate and volunteer where possible.  I still have the information on my blog and you can access that here.

I want to thank Australia for giving a damn about Queensland.  Seeing my great country pull together has been awe inspiring.  We certainly do live in the lucky country!  I also want to point out the great work that the QLD Police Service has done providing timely information to the citizens of this great state.  Their Facebook page is great and the inclusion of their Flood Mythbusters has been invaluable to quash rumours and not cause a panic.  Of course a special thanks to the SES and emergency services who risk their lives to save ours.  Well done.  And of course to the many volunteers either directly in the flood zones or in the many evacuation centres or those who are baking or cooking or behind the keyboard sending out vital information via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  A special mention to @meshel_laurie who has been an awesome provider of information.  She wasn’t the only with so many of the Twitterati pitching in. I won’t mention you individually because I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving them out.  You know who you are and a job well done.

Normally the media need to sensationalise to make a story more interesting than it actually is.  This story was so big that for once they didn’t need to invent stories.  I think the media reported this story brilliantly.  Most of the networks had rolling coverage throughout the day and night.  They did a great job.  Well done to the media for once, telling it as it had to be told.  Truthfully!

As I finalise this post, the time is 9.40pm, Thursday, 20 January 2011 and it is absolutely bucketing down outside.  With a king tide due tomorrow there is more risk of flash flooding.  Mother Nature can be a total bitch sometimes as she has demonstrated in Queensland over the past couple of months.  She can destroy homes and property and roads and buildings and cars and trucks.  She can come screaming towards you with nothing but destruction in her eye but there is one thing she cannot take and that is the resilience and the strength and the attitude of Queenslanders and Aussies alike.

Queenslander!

p.s.  The fundraising continues.  With a damage bill likely to top over $30 billion we need all we can get.  There are plenty of celebrity auctions on and every street corner has a fundraiser going.  The Barnes family have released an album on iTunes call Floodlight for only $4.99 and you can also buy “Love You Queensland” for $1.69 at iTunes.  It’s a great song, re-recorded just for this occassion.  Check it out.  Those goosebumps are back!

UPDATE:  12 months later, I wrote again about the floods and the now famous, Queensland spirit. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to read it.