A reasonably strong earthquake (5.6) has just struck South Australia’s outback – basically in the desert. From what I understand there is a small town located 10 minutes from the suspected epicentre of the earthquake. There is potential for significant damage within that sort of radius of the earthquake, but thankfully it has struck a fairly remote region. It is of a similar magnitude to the earthquake that struck Newcastle in 1989.
My Fourth Great Grand Uncle, Thomas Blanch, was born on the 4th December 1809 in Rolvenden, Kent, England. He died on the 3rd July 1892 at Bulahdelah, NSW, Australia. He was the second child and son of my Fifth Great Grandfather, Edward Blanch (1785-1860) and Fifth Great Grandmother Maria Blanch nee Ashdown (1789-1837).
Thomas Blanch was nothing special in vocational terms, being a simple labourer. He was literate and a Calvinist (thereby being a spiritual ancestor of mine so to speak).
On the 24th April 1830 in Rolvenden he married Hannah Austin, who was born on the 30th November 1815, Rolvenden. Hannah was the daughter of John Austin and Ann Austin nee Moon. Hannah died on the 8th July 1879 in Newcastle. Together they had 17 children.
There was a major economic depression in England during the 1820’s and this was a determining factor in the Blanch family decision to emigrate to Australia in 1837. On the 25th March 1838, Thomas Blanch with his family and three brothers left for Australia from Gravesend aboard the ‘Westminster.’
On the 26th June 1838 the ‘Westminster’ reached Sydney, following a voyage in which Hannah had given birth to a fifth child, David. The previous children were Jane, Thomas, John Thomas and Caroline. Following David would come Joseph, Eliza, Sarah Ann, Harriet, Emma, Amelia, Peter George, Isabella, Emily, Stephen, Mary Ann and Hannah Maria.
Thomas was a carpenter, farm labourer and wheelwright. He had been sponsored to come to Australia by J. B. Bettington of Sydney at a salary of 28 pounds per annum. However, it seems he never actually worked for Bettington, rather becoming an employee for George Mosman at his Raymond Terrace property known as ‘Burrowl.’ He was to work on this property for some twenty years. He also worked as a mailman between Raymond Terrace and Dungog.
In 1858 Thomas selected a forty five acre parcel of land on the Myall River where Bulahdelah now stands and where I currently live. He built a hotel here known as the ‘Plough Inn.’ The inn was first licensed in 1866. In June 1871 his son Joseph was given the inn. In May 1872 Thomas took up ‘The Forster Hotel’ license at Forster which he owned until 1878.
Thomas and Hannah then retired to Newcastle and lived at The Junction. Sadly Hannah died the following year on the 8th July 1879, aged 64. Hannah was buried in the cemetery at the Newcastle Cathedral.
Following the death of his wife, Thomas returned to Bulahdelah and on the 24th July 1880, he married Elizabeth Stanborough (nee Morris), who was born in 1835. She was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Morris. Elizabeth died in East Maitland on the 11th August 1889. They had no children together, though Elizabeth had six children to her late husband, Frederick Stanborough (who had died in 1876).
Following the death of Elizabeth, Thomas lived for a further three years at Bulahdelah with his son Joseph. On the 3rd July 1892, Thomas died and was buried in the Bulahdelah Cemetery. He was 82 years old. A stained glass window was placed in the Anglican Church in his memory. The Anglican Church at Bulahdelah had been built on land that Thomas had donated.
I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or as I prefer to call it, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). It is an extremely misunderstood and debilitating illness. I have read that the average time for a person to be ill with CFS is 18 months. I have had it for 18 years more or less. It has cost me a lot to be suffering from this illness and it impacts on my life on a daily basis. Some days are not too bad, while others are extremely terrible.
My journey with CFS began in the aftermath of the Newcastle earthquake of the 28th December 1989. In early 1990, while working at Hawkins Masonic Village repairing roofs damaged by the earthquake (it was raining and many roofs were leaking), I began to feel persistently unwell. I decided to see my doctor who put it down as some sort of stomach bug, most likely Gastroenteritis. After two weeks of medication it was becoming clear that I did not have Gastroenteritis and something more sinister was the cause of my intensifying illness.
Within weeks I had begun to develop all of the debilitating symptoms of CFS and what was worse for me they were all intensifying their effects upon me. What was wrong with me was now something of a mystery, but it was clear I was very ill and getting worse.
When I was younger I had Hyperthyroidism and so the doctor assumed that this was what was wrong with me again, despite the fact that blood tests indicated I no longer had an issue with that disorder. I was placed on medication for Hyperthyroidism and monitored. The medication had no effect on my illness and my patience with ‘witch doctoring’ was running out. I pleaded with my doctor to send me to someone else – a specialist. But who would be useful to see?
A friend had recently been diagnosed with CFS by an Immunologist and eventually I prevailed with my doctor to send me to him. Eventually I was able to set up an appointment and so my time with Doctor Sutherland of the Royal Newcastle Hospital Immunology Department had begun.
By this time I was suffering a myriad array of symptoms, with varying degrees of intensity depending on what week I was asked. Among the most debilitating of these symptoms was a persistent headache that no amount of painkilling or other medication had any impact upon. The headache was like a migraine that wouldn’t go away. It would last for an 18 month stretch this first time, bringing with it an intolerance of bright light, noise, etc. These things caused me immense head pain.
I was also suffering numerous nose bleeds (which I often get when I am very ill), fevers and chills, brain fog (a situation where you seem to know what is going on yet you have an inability to act in a logical manner – some times the sense of knowing what is happening disappears altogether), painful eyes, chronic fatigue in the muscles and extreme soreness, tiredness to the point of sleeping at a drop of a hat (I was sleeping for over 18 hours a day with no relief to my tiredness, headaches, etc), loss of strength in my limbs, constant nausea, inability to think or concentrate, etc.
By this time I was already having time away from work, with being away for weeks at a time being the norm – thankfully they were quite understanding of the fact that I was very ill.
At my lowest point during these first two years I was reduced to being bed-ridden, using a cane for stability when walking and at times was unable to walk. I was sleeping above 18 hours a day with no benefit from it.
During this time of extreme illness I was subjected to innumerable blood tests and other tests, which all revealed little at all as to the cause of my illness. A process of careful elimination under the care of Dr. Sutherland brought the diagnosis of CFS, as well as a psychological evaluation.
There was no cure to be found, with the only helpful advice having come from Dr. Sutherland. He told me to try and rest, then to slowly build myself up again. Walk one block for a week, then two blocks the following week, etc. If I overdid it I would be back in a heap again in no time. I needed to be able to read my own situation to know when I should try to rebuild my life. This advice has helped me through the last 18 years.
I struggled with the illness for 18 months or so and I also struggled with the enigma associated with the illness. That I was sick was not believed by all and this has been a constant stereotype I have been confronted with throughout my illness. I often found myself questioning whether I was sick or whether it was some mental thing. It was a relief when a doctor finally gave me a name for the illness and confirmed I was indeed very ill.
There were times (as there has been since) when I thought that dying would be a better alternative than to be as sick as I was, with no life and the prospect of endless years of severe illness. Suicide was something that popped into my head from time to time, but thankfully it didn’t stay there for long.
At times I found myself not knowing what I was doing, where I had been, etc. At one point I waited behind a parked car, waiting for it to turn the corner only to realise ½ an hour or so later that the car was parked. I found myself having gone shopping with a load of groceries I didn’t need and never had used before. It was like having a form of early onset Dementia.
After about 18 months I began to get better – or so I thought. I was well enough to knock back participation in a trial medication experiment for CFS sufferers which would involve a lengthy stay in hospital and a 50% chance I would receive the placebo. I declined the invitation being concerned I would loose my job as a result of being in hospital for so long.
My health began to improve and I thought I was finally over the illness. During this time I lost contact with Dr. Sutherland who left the hospital because of a dispute with NSW health at the time. Many doctors left the public system at the time.
NEXT: The illness returns
This is not a post about the Gwen Stefani CD ‘Sweet Escape’ – just in case you turned up on that possibility. I do have that CD and I am something of a Gwen Stefani fan, but that is a whole other story.
No, this post is about trying to make a ‘sweet escape.’ There are times in life when you think that just maybe you can escape your troubles and get away and make a fresh start ~ just like I did several months ago when I quit my job, left Newcastle and moved to Gloucester. There are many reasons for doing so – some good, some bad – I’m talking in general terms and not specifically about my own case. Some flee to escape prosecution, being caught out, embarrassment, etc. Some flee to escape hardship, personal trauma and distress, financial difficulties, etc. Some escape to just have a change, an adventure or for something different. There are a myriad of reasons for trying to have a sweet escape.
I have catalogued various reasons for my change of circumstances several months ago in letters, Blog entries, web sites, etc. I’m not sure whether I have carefully articulated every reason there was for me doing so, but I have made mention of quite a number, which were not insignificant reasons, for doing so. These included work stresses, illness, etc.
What I have come to experience (which I already knew intellectually to be so – though one often flies in the face of what one actually knows to be the facts) is that those reasons which have impacted significantly on the ‘inner self,’ which I believe some might call the ‘psyche’ or some other similar term, are not possible to escape from. These travel with you no matter how much running from them you might attempt to do. In my case I carry quite a few of these things with me ~ significant hurts, personal flaws and failures (some of which could be accurately titled sins), eating disorders (that might come back to bite me – no pun intended), etc.
Right now one of these not so helpful ‘pseudo-symbiotic&r squo; reasons is plaguing my consciousness and has returned as a major ‘filler’ for my quiet moments, solitary times, etc. Not long ago I had thought I had come to grips with this particular issue, only to find it re-surface several weeks ago and cause renewed distress, etc. As I say, it is near impossible to escape those experiences and impacting issues that have significantly impacted on the inner self.
Now this would be the point at which some would say to ‘simply take it to the Lord in prayer,’ as though uttering a few words or a given formula is the panacea for all of life’s ills. I would suggest that these folk either have had little experience in truly ‘inner self’ impacting crisis’ or they are not telling the truth about how hard difficulties have been to cope with which they have experienced for fear of portraying prayer in a different light to that with which they have been indoctrinated.
I am not about pouring scorn on the merits of prayer or the God to whom prayer is directed ~ that is not my purpose in this post, for I too herald the power of prayer in transforming lives and being a mighty aid in answering life’s problems. I am simply stating that these ‘inner self’ impacting experiences are very real and are often the source of recurring heartaches, etc. I am also saying that I am not immune to these times as my current experience bears witness and my life history bears continuing testimony ~ even though prayer is an important part of my life.
So just at this point in time I find myself again enduring the difficulty of an ‘inner self’ impacting experience, along with all of the emotional stresses that come along with it – as do most (the honest readers anyhow) of you out there.
So why share this particular circumstance? Well, it is my Blog isn’t it? That’s what these things exist for – an open online journal, among other things.
Ten people are now confirmed dead following the cyclonic storm that hit Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast on Friday and Saturday.
A family of five were killed when the car they were travelling in was swept away in flood waters when the road they were driving on simply fell into a swollen creek. The old pacific highway near Sommersby gave way beneath the car and a thirty metre section of the road simply vanished into a chasm. The father, mother, two children and a nephew of the parents were all killed in the road collapse. There were reports that the father could be heard yelling out for help for a short period, but there was no possibility of rescue.
An elderly couple were drowned when their 4WD was swept into flood waters near Clarence Town and their bodies found on a farmer’s property a day or so later.
Among the other fatalities, one man was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle and another man drowned after having managed to escapse from his car which was being swept away, he was then washed into a drain and sucked under.
Twenty one men were rescued from the stricken bulk carrier at Nobby’s beach (see picture of the ship in an earlier posting), when helicopters were called in to rescue them from mountainous seas that saw waves breaking over the ship.
Hundreds of other people were saved from drowning in their cars, shops and homes, by the heroic action of people they didn’t even know. The city abounds with stories of people who only survived the disaster with moments to spare, thanks to the actions of strangers.
It is incredible that only ten have been confirmed dead in this disaster, given that thousands of cars were swept away, flooded and submerged within seconds of when the flooding actually started. I know, I was caught up in it at one point.
People were forced to stay wherever they could find a spot to stay. Some slept in shops that had beds for sale, as shop owners allowed people to sleep on them for the night as their shop was cut off by rising flood waters. Others slept at their place of work or in cars on high ground.
It was an experience that Novocastrians will not want to repeat anytime soon.
So here I am stuck at work due to flooding all over the region. Something like 300mm plus of rain in the last 24 hours around the Newcastle – Lake Macquarie area. I have the building I am in sand-bagged at the moment, as water has already entered via several doors earlier in the day. I also have two holes in the roof tarped up because the skylights were blown off earlier in the day as well. We have all manner of containers catching water throughout the building – something like 30 leaks all over the building. There are laundry tubs, cooking pots, buckets and other various containers deployed throughout the building.
There has also been a tree from our property fall over the neighbours fence and destroy their pool. There are branches down everywhere and much localised flooding all over the grounds here were I work.
The surrounding region is a natural disaster area at the moment, with massive amounts of localised flooding and severe wind damage – there is the equivalent of a category 1 cyclone here at the moment.
As the title suggests I’m flooded in and can’t go home so I’m stuck at work for the rest of the night – along with a few other people. Not likely to be able to go home anytime soon I’m afraid.
Well I have just got started on this online diary. Here I hope to record observations, thoughts, etc to do with my ministry as pastor of the Northlake’s Reformed Baptist Church (NRBC) in Newcastle Australia (New South Wales). I haven’t much time tonight to write much, but I will add to this in the near future.