AWAY

DSCF0375I wrote a while back about taking some time away, after Christmas. My year wasn’t my best, and having a week by the beach with friends has been just what I needed. We headed out on the road on the 8th, stopping in Ardrossan for the bakery and a late lunch of Cornish pasties and potato pies in the park. I love seaside country towns. Things seem so slow and wide and easy. Before we hit the road again I bought an acoustic Bob Dylan album, very early folk stuff, for a dollar at the hospital charity shop and have hardly stopped listening to it since: You’re No Good, Man of Constant Sorrow, Pretty Peggy-O.

We have a house here at the bottom of Yorke’s, near the cliffs and plains of Innes National Park at Marion Bay – a town with just one pub, a bait shop, and a few blocks of beach shacks. So far, my days have been heavy with pots of coffee, reading on the deck, dusty walks to the beach and cold saltwater. I have had morning naps and afternoon naps, Scrabble games and carrot cake brought from home. The house we have is pale timber, built on stilts for the cool air and the view. In the evenings, I can feel it pulled from side to side as the tide comes in just a few blocks away and the wind lifts. It near rattles and shakes. There is shade underneath where we park the dusty cars, and the railings of the balcony are a mess of wet bathing suits and beach towels at all hours of the day. There are nine of us here, and for my nieces and my friends’ young daughters, the beach is everything. They bury themselves in the sand and catch their breath ducking waves, squealing with delight, exhausting themselves in the sun so much that their eyes are red and tired by 7 and they battle the idea of bedtime with the last of their will. I haven’t washed my hair all week and it is a very salty, curly tangle, already lighter from the sun.IMG_6052DSCF0361We’ve eaten watermelon in the afternoon at the beach, each bite sprinkled with sand and calling to the bees and March flies. The water here is glorious. It is the kind of clear that takes your breath away, and on yesterday’s walk to the lighthouse at Cape Spencer it crashed wildly against the cliffs below, here at the bottom of the world. Innes is untouched beauty, national park hiding occasional dirt tracks and low, lush green scrub – we have seen snakes, lizards and emus and oh, so many birds. From the pier the boys tried to catch snapper, and watched local kids spear-fishing squid and stingray.

IMG_6208We have blackberry ciders with lunch, and drink gin and tonics with fresh lime on the deck at twilight, or sometimes well before. I’ve been reading a lot – trying to catch up on a year spent mostly working and blissing out with HBO – books and journals and the local paper. I read a brilliant piece about class by Tim Winton, in December’s Monthly (The C Word: Some Thoughts About Class) and an inspiring piece about UK gardener and writer Alys Fowler in the last Dumbo Feather (Alys Fowler is a Punk Rock Gardener) that will have me digging my hands in dirt all through 2014. It also had a lovely interview with my crush, Ira Glass, and most beautiful was a profile on dancer and chorographer Martha Graham by Ruby J Murray – the first line being one of the best I’ve known: ‘once you’ve seen her dancing, you understand how she died twice’. I finished one novel two days in and am about to start local Adelaide Hills writer Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. Everyone I know has loved it, has been engrossed and enthralled and I can’t wait. And if I get through all that, I’ll be one of the many reading Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch.

IMG_6046IMG_6121Having my nieces here has been a kind of bliss, missing them all year as I do. They have grown and changed and talk the day away and play imaginary games. They’re strong and brave swimmers and dedicated sandcastle engineers. Daisy feels older, she turned three back in September and is big enough to open doors on her own and happy enough to sit with me on the recliner chair on the deck in the late afternoon, singing Beatles songs and pretending to be a fishy. She is sharp as a tack and always hungry. I’m fairly certain she spent an hour baking with me just for the few minutes at the end where I let her lick the bowl. Harriet is six and tall, all arms and legs and first to lead the way with me, wandering through the scrub, clearing a path through the dunes and wildflowers to the deserted beach. She is kind, as ever, with the littles. We have found starfish at the beach, and just this morning, joined in with a few local kids having a crab race just below the rocks. We dug out tracks and finish lines and I had my word on the medium sized one (who lost each and every race).

We head home tomorrow. It will be nice not to have to smear suncream all over this pale Irish skin morning and afternoon, a production line of bodies and hats as we all ready to head to the beach. We’ve eaten like kings and got through most of the food we brought, so I’m hoping for a last supper of fish and chips near the wharf to round out the week beautifully.IMG_6243