still has forty-one units out fighting the fire on Kangaroo Island but it is now being "contained" - in other words it is not spreading beyond the perimeter. That must be more than welcome relief to the men and women working on it.
A former islander told me that her husband, now in his early eighties, had gone back to help their son. He is doing what farm work he can manage while his son is out helping others. She has been looking after their grandchildren and was taking them back to the island over the weekend.
They start back at school today. The school the Senior Cat was once the principal of is much smaller now. There will only be around 180 students there this year. It may be even less than that. When the Senior Cat was there the school had around 660.
We were reminiscing about what it was like then. There were twelve school buses, eleven of them on the road at any time and the spare. The roads were not sealed. One school bus run started at just after seven in the morning and ended close to half-past five - and that was if nothing went wrong. The youngest children would often fall asleep, especially on the way home.
It was the teachers who drove the buses. They were required to do it. They were paid a little extra for it but it was not nearly enough. The geography of the island is such that they would do most of the journey driving in to the sun in the mornings and in to the sun at night.
They had to live at the end of their bus run. They lived in tiny caravans next to a house in which a school family lived. A caravan? Yes, because the houses were almost all small fibro-asbestos dwellings that the government had provided for the "soldier-settlers". There was no heating or cooling provided and, unless they used their own vehicles to return to the school at night, they worked under dim light from a 32v power supply. If they did return to the school, as they sometimes did just for the company, then the big diesel generator had to be turned on so that there was power for lighting.
That was a long time ago now. The Senior Cat and his deputy worked very long hours. I remember the Senior Cat being in his office at the school by seven in the morning. He was not only responsible for the entire school, he was teaching at least three classes each day. He would appear just before we ate at six in the evening and then, more often than not, would need to go back to his office. (We lived next door to the school.) We children saw a little more of our mother but not a lot. She was what was then called "the Senior Mistress" and was responsible for the first three year classes.
This morning there was the usual "human interest" story in the paper about children returning to school today. It mentioned the children returning to the school I am talking about. The teachers there have not had a break over the summer - believe me teachers need that break! Today they will have to deal with children who are traumatised and anxious and who will act in all sorts of ways. Some will be aggressive and others will be withdrawn. Some will appear to be fine but may not concentrate well.
The Senior Cat told me he was relieved it was not going to be his responsibility. I asked him if he would still go back in an emergency if asked to do so. He thought about it for just a moment and then said, "Yes, if I thought I could do it. I wouldn't want to but I'd do it for the children."
I think being a teacher, a good teacher, is a bit like being a parent. You always feel responsible.