Staying with Coralea as a young Isaac was a riot. A two-story wog mansion with lots of hiding spots and two staffies to rile you up. Concrete everywhere, living room floor, front yard, kitchen, the lot. Max used to chew rocks and the other dog would run across the road to the willow tree. I was busy going down the carpet stairs on my tum and crashing in a heap near the door. Coralea would pick me up and give me a cup of juice. Aw yum. Then I was back at it, chasing the dogs and sneaking around the back to play with the hose. Coralea always put on a good show – and now, many years later, it was just as good.
At the end of a long and corrugated road, all the way lined with dusty shrubs and flaking weatherboard shacks, there is a magnificent opening towards the great Southern Ocean. A serrated rip divides the scrubland of the shore from a sea that is teemed with dark red algae; armour against the sharks. As an island, some people move here to buy land and a caravan and live off the odd contract job; while others come for the surf and the pub and an excuse to hear the hum of their Land Cruiser.
After a morning in the surf with not much left in the locals’ guts but salt water, they called it a day and benched themselves overlooking the bay. Picking bits of ocean out of their beards and talking about a man who ripped the sleeves off his wetsuit, salt dried on the backs of their necks. And just there, like a single daffodil amongst the elephant graveyard, sunbathed an unblemished, unweathered debutante of womanhood. With a naivety that could only be stolen by a barbarian no lesser than Barbarossa himself, a pirate famous for indiscriminate misdeeds. There she sat turning in the sun, tanning her young Scandinavian skin by the edge of a distant land. Undisturbed by the old surfers, but a story for the pub that may become legend one day.
Vic got himself a new shirt for Christmas. And in no way was it lacking your surfing platypus, your sunbathing crocodile and a crayfish with a spatula. Although Vic is usually one to keep his collar popped, gold chain polished, and chest hair blowing in the wind, all while he drives a Calais and pay cash for everything – he didn’t have much trouble adjusting to a life in the fast lane with this new number. It was a proud moment for Vic.
When winter arrives, there’s nothing more rewarding than rounding up your twelve most compassionate mates and going to Thailand. Well this year I did the opposite. I went south, to Cradle Mountain. Filled up the esky, stuffed the boot and fired up the Golf. We’d packed the tools for lamb stew, cinnamon whisky, walking in the rain and Settlers of Catan! And amongst the Pencil Pine and the famous Fagus Tree was a glowing wooden hut, the fire roaring and the kettle boiling up a storm.
They build em tough over in NZ. And they need to be if they want to sink fifteen Heines before bed, and still not wake up with an axe clean through the forehead. A long lineage of lumber jacks come from the place. That’s why they invented the Swanny! A fine piece of apparel you can buy even in Aussie. But it’s not gum trees they’re chopping, it’s pine mate. Drove past a couple testing out the two dollar petrol they do there. I’m only used to the buck-twenty stuff so it was a bloody treat. A few blue skies and it was nothing but a true blue time.
It can be hard to tell the kids from the grown-ups when everyone’s having a good time. The people you haven’t seen in years are like school mates after a summer holiday. And how good is it to be back together playing four square before the bell goes off. It’s ok though, we’re older now, we can pace ourselves. Especially when the Cascade lagers in the bath tub never end, and when another log on the fire won’t hurt anyone here. But finally the bell did ring – and as it did, the sun broke out to warm our fingers.
As the weekends became less warm, I took the camping box and a mate to the coast. Somewhere we could do a burnout at sunset and set up tent by the car, cook on the gas stove and look at the stars for a while. The clouds were blue and the waves were hard to predict. Darkness came over and we scrambled up the dunes.