The tropical garden around our house in Fiji has been all but blown off the face of the earth. Mangoes, coconut palms and banana trees are smashed and the conflagration-bright foliage of a spreading flame tree that rose over smaller shrubs like a colossal static fireball has been carried far out into the Pacific, the tree itself reduced to a trunk and a few bare branches, jagged and splintered. The house is intact, apart from three broken windows, and in that we are more fortunate than hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in this cyclone-devastated country. Most of these people are poor, in a way that I think even the poorest in Australia would find hard to imagine. Heaven knows how they manage at the best of times, let alone when their shacks of corrugated iron and fibro cement are flattened or roofless.

At least the relief work is under way, the power is back on after three days and the water supply restored - for those who have running water, which not many of the Fijian poor do. To be reminded of poverty at Christmas is probably salutary, except for those who have to endure it, at Christmas and on every other day of the year. Lord, we are lucky in Australia: why do we never seem to realise it? Why do we - why do I - complain so?

No more posts now until the new year. Thank you to all who have followed Argus in 2012.

23 December 2012

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