I was reluctant to even consider that my partner Rob and I may have to evacuate during the Christmas bush fire at Blackheath. However, in the end there were burnt leaves and bits of charcoal flying everywhere.

Fire blackened leaf!

We were determined to stay and defend our new home, but emergency warnings began appearing on our phones. I had to admit that leaving was an increasingly likely outcome. What did I deem essential to take with me? Well first up, it’s easier for me than most people because we don’t have children or pets to think about.

Naturally, as a writer my laptop was a priority, and my box of original documents for the biography I’m working on.

Threat of fire? A writer rescues original documents.

Clothes?….not many. I’m no fashionista and it’s easy to buy more. Make-up ? Well that’s a given. As a passionate gardener I never bother with nail polish, but a bit of lipstick does wonders for my morale.

Christmas presents? I didn’t give them a thought.

Most people choose photos, but my old pics have been transferred to computer. Forget taking those awful, sticky old albums. I did pop in the framed photo of my darling mother, that stands on my bedside table.

Don’t laugh, but the thought flashed through my mind that I should rescue my library book. Good grief, you can tell I have never been in trouble with the law….and that I have spent many years working in libraries.

Only a law-abiding. literary nerd (me) would rescue a library book during a fire!
A burnt book would be worse than an overdue one!

Oddly enough, although I have a very valuable pill box collection it didn’t occur to me to take that either. Pills are a different matter; I’m old and wan enough to need a few, and may need a few more after all this.

Final item…jewellery box. Oh vanity thy name is Pauline. It’s not that I own precious gems, but I’ve never had the courage to have my ears pierced and clip earrings are increasingly hard to find. There is a valid reason behind my fear; a friend needed plastic surgery for a torn lobe after one of her hoops got caught in a shrub. But I digress….

My ex-banker, now house building husband Rob chose drawers from the filing cabinet. Bless his heart…one of us needs to be practical.

The practical person's evacuation essentials during a fire scare.
Rob’s essential files.

I did say we have no children or pets….but there is my cheeky little associate Editor Des. He packed his own case. Clearly he believes a cup of tea can provide comfort in any crisis. I hope that’s not a cigarette beside the tube of toothpaste, he promised he’d given up.

Editor Des packs essentials during a fire scare.

I’m relieved to say that the initial danger passed, but the fire situation is still quite serious. I’m wondering whether I should pack a few of the pill boxes after all?

Treasures to pack in a fire.
Enamel boxes from the 18th and early 19th century. Worth packing.

So does what I decided to pack during a fire define me? I suspect that in many ways it does!

My love and sympathy to those who have had to evacuate, and to those unble to save anything at all. Such heartbreak for our beautiful country.

  1. Dear Pauline
    What a wonderful article written in such a devastating time.
    Love your thoughts on what to pack first … lipstick would be mine too.
    A good read!
    Regards Heather

    • Pauline

      Thanks Heather, yes a horrible situation. When I was a child we used to play a game about what we would grab if the house caught fire. It’s different when it’s real.

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