LATELY — 9 July 2001

A Big Bang

Saw the remains of an explosion last night. This is not an unemployed person’s I- am- easily- amused exaggeration: this was a genuinely big bang.

My buddy Christine’s a reporter for the Herald-Sun. At the moment she’s on the midnight-till-dawn police-beat. Each night she loads up with a police-radio scanner, several mobile phones, fags, and cash. The scanner tells her where to go. The phones she uses to call the police-beat reporters of other news organisations. The cash is for coffee and grub. Most nights not much happens–a few burglaries, a cat gets stuck up a tree, maybe a house fire. (If there’s smoke inhalation, it might get run as a brief; otherwise it’s not news, and you’re out of luck.)

Brad’s been wanting to go see what Chris does for quite some time. Last night, after playing some Backgammon with some fine & friendly people, we hooked up with Chris about 3.30. She was on her way to Pascoe Vale South for a fire: four shops on fire, she told us, debris all over the road.

When we got there, the fire was over. (She’s not seen flames, ever.) But there were three fire engines on the road, more than that in police cars, various uniformed folk wandering about, debris on the road, and a few clumps of by-standers. Four shops were completely black inside, and there were broken windows a hundred meters down the street.

Chris quizzed the by-standers. What can you tell me about the bang?, she asked. Whenever witness are asked to describe some event, they often describe it in terms of some other event they have no personal experience of. Why is this? Last night we heard that the explosion was like a truck coming through the window, an aeroplane crashing into the backyard, or–most dramatically–“like Armageddon.” Are any of these descriptions an improvement upon “gas explosion”?

Chris’s story was on the front page of the PM edition; I got some photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. (4) is of Chris interviewing Peter Robertson, the owner of the funeral parlour. He got interviewed (for TV) because he had a cute dog. The ABC cameraman later remarked that he’d wished Peter had said the bang was loud enough to wake the dead.