I’m on my way to the beach again.
It’s where I go when the going gets tough. Having recently lost my little dog and my front teeth, I need to swim.
I pull up to the Waratah Bay car park, put my temporary denture in the glove box, don a face mask and head off over the sand hills, where the sound of the ocean beckons.
There’s one family on the beach and they are packing up to leave.
I head straight in as I know I should not swim alone.
As they disappear down the track, I catch the most perfect wave and glide into shore. Thrilling!
A man and his two dogs show up, so I head back in for a while, frolicking like a performing porpoise.
I grew up across the ditch in the ‘land of the long white cloud’. The ocean has been my constant companion.
My father taught me to swim and gave me my love of the ocean. We were always at the beach, even when he was a publican in Cuba Street, Wellington, and ‘under the influence’ most of the time. He was funny: a one-time policeman, jazz musician and a serial womaniser.
“The ocean has been my constant companion”
When he became abusive, we fled to the west coast of the South Island, where my sisters and I would find solace at the beach.
It seems incredible to me now, that as 10 and 11 year olds we’d head off down a path through tobacco fields and swim all by ourselves.
I winded myself surfing on a huge wooden surfboard that went nose first into the sand, but somehow I survived.
I even cooked spaghetti for some random guy that was camping there. Thankfully, he was not into little girls.
My mother recently reminded me of how, as a teenager, I would ride my bike on a 30 km round trip to go to the surf club I belonged to. Swimming and kissing were my favourite things back then, and I guess they still are.
We have lived in Victoria for 40 years now and always close to the coast. It’s non-negotiable for me.
I was an ‘Ice Berger’ at Brighton for a while. A guy in the steam room asked me why I had joined them. When I said that a swimming pool does not compare to the joy of the sea, he replied, “Good answer”. I was accepted then though, in the end, I preferred swimming on my own and would head out from Elwood Beach around the buoy and be home in time for breakfast.
I think I am settled at last. I have lived in 60 different houses throughout my life and I may have found my forever place. We are nestled in a subtropical rainforest in Binginwarri, just a short drive from Port Welshpool, which is my absolute favourite place to swim. If I feel like something more challenging, I venture a bit further to Woodside Beach where the surf can be wild and wonderful.
“Such a joy to wash the cares of the world away with salty water”
The other day, one of my sons rang me from Adventure Bay on Bruny Island and told me he’d gone swimming at night in the freezing cold.
“That was brave,” I said.
“I had to,” was his response. Like me, he suffers from arthritis and finds water to be healing too.
It’s lovely to be weightless, and such a joy to wash the cares of the world away with salty water.