Why Australia doesn’t have real mountains

THE storm clouds are gathering.

I am not talking about political Armageddon. I am talking about those things that bowl over my house every morning, blotting out the sun, the sky, and any fond feelings I had about rain.

I thought I understood rain. I read my first book about rain when I was three. Or had it read to me. It said, “The gentle rain from heaven waters the land and makes the grass grow.”

That was the gist of it, anyway. The operative words were “gentle”, “heaven” and “grass growing”.

It didn’t say anything about savage, steel-girder rain blasted out of black and bad-tempered skies by sudden detonations of mind-shattering lightning.

It did not mention rain so large, so heavy and inexorably wet that it pounds the grass into a green slime and carries it greedily away into our rivers and oceans like a Viking bent on rape and pillage.

It’s no wonder Australia doesn’t have real mountains. They’re all at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, carried off and hoarded there by avaricious storms.

And then there’s the bit about heaven.

This rain doesn’t come from heaven. Heaven is rainbow coloured and has lambs and fruit trees.

This rain comes from clouds the colour of your worst nightmare, clouds that look like the inside of a croc’s mouth when it’s closed. On your head.

Not even clouds, really. Bags! Great bags of inky black rain, and someone up there — someone with horns — rips the bottom of out of them and drops the lot on us. I’m sure it’s malicious. If it wasn’t they’d save some for other countries.

But I’ve lived in other countries and rain there understands its job. You can go out in it and still stand up. An umbrella will shield you from it. Here you can hide under a square metre of steel plate and still require CPR to survive.

In Italy the rain smiles with the same benevolence as the sun. Tomatoes drink it with tomato relish.

In Spain it has inspired love songs strummed on soft guitars.

In Australia when there’s a storm you couldn’t hear a live Pink Floyd concert if they held it in a church.

In Australia it eats paddocks and river banks and even the hard, tarred bitumen surface of roads.

When I first got here years ago I went out on the Pacific Highway after a moderately unfriendly storm and drove the Holden Kingswood station wagon over a puddle.

It swallowed the entire front wheel assembly. The car came to a halt 30 metres up the road. I went back, rolled up my sleeve and plunged my arm in the puddle to the shoulder and still couldn’t find the wheels. Rain did that.

And just in case the rain doesn’t get you they load it with wind and thunder bolts.

When I experienced my first Australian downpour it occurred to me I should be grateful it didn’t hurt more. I mean, they could put acid in it.

Then I heard of acid rain and I thought, “My God, they do put acid in it!”

Someone told me cane farmers did it; but, hey, I’ve met cane farmers and they’re nice people.

No, there are dark forces at work up there. Next thing you know they’ll be mixing rain with cement.

But I’m forgetting – they already have. They call it hailstones.