From disbelief to dread: the dismal new routine of life in Sydney’s smoke haze | Charlotte Wood

There’s nothing like going to sleep with the taste of ash in your throat to give you an actual, physiological understanding of real fear

Here’s the dismal new routine of life in inner-city Sydney. I get up around 7am, sniffing the air. Sometimes even through closed windows you can smell how bad it is, but today it’s hard to tell. I pad through the quiet house to peer out of the glass kitchen door at the sky: it’s cloudless, a fine pale yellow. Some days the light is deep orange, a colour so striking that only a few weeks ago I’d be compelled to snap a photo – but now it’s horribly familiar. When it’s that colour, you don’t open the door. And you double back through the house to make sure every window is tightly sealed.

Today though, I step outside and take a (shallow) breath. Not too bad. In our tiny courtyard the smoke is not actually visible right now, but it still takes a few little forays, stepping back indoors and out again, to determine whether the smell is worse inside the house or out. This morning, outside seems marginally better, so it’s time to move through the house, opening all the windows and doors, turning the ceiling fans up high. With luck we’ll get a bit of “fresh” air throughout in the next hour or so, before the smoke returns.

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