Our first day at Yorke’s, and we went to Daly Head, since it’s such a favourite. Not another soul on the miles of white sand, and lots of deep rock pools to explore and sink into, a few beers in hand and big hats to shield us from the midday sun. The beginning of a week of perfection.
A week at the beach, here at last. I love these long, hot days. This year felt especially hot, too bright on the deck for my morning coffee and the days at the beach achingly dry and warm. But on reflection, just as it should be. Driving home from Innes on those dusty tracks, covered in suncream and sweat and saltwater, sticking to the chairs and dreaming of a cold beer all a part of the charm I think.
I didn't take many pictures this year, I miss that. We've had some glorious times.
Deep in Yorkes with this one. Every day a mess of morning coffees on the deck, hats and drives down to Innes, sandy orange quarters and salty crisps on the beach after a swim, naps, cold beers as the sun sets and cooking dinner with all of my favourites. The days become one, but I think this was from Sunday. Daisy is like a fish, she loves the sea.
Bits and pieces I came across in my phone from Yorke's, back at new years. Three years in at that little town, that quiet corner of the world and I'm getting worse and worse at recording things. Pictures and words. Maybe it's a sign that I'm getting better at the relaxing though? Maybe I'm more present these days? It may be that I'm just lazy.
I do know that I need to be better at using my camera again. I got into a wonderful habit of it, felt like I was getting more efficient with it, and that the pictures were closer to how I see the world and not just a gamble of settings and light exposure. But that was a year ago, I don't even know if I remember where the charger is at the moment. So, instead, some blurry and filtered pictures by way of my phone, covered in sand as it was.
The last day, last sunset of the year and these four girls dancing barefoot on the sand giggling. There might have been a nudie swim and splash in the shallows after this picture and I'm very sorry to tell you it didn't include me.
Last Tuesday morning was windy and overcast. Not cold, but grey and not quite tempting enough for a morning swim. I tried for some yoga on the deck but was hounded after about half an hour by four small girls. Daisy clung to my legs and crawled under my hips in downward dog, hanging upside down, all blonde hair and baby soft skin, roughened by days in the sand. I get her to stretch her arms up to the sky and then bend down and touch her little toes, then we 'creep, creep, creep our hands forward with our bottom in the air' and there you have downward dog. We kneel down with our hands in prayer at heart centre and she says 'namaste' with me, though it sounds move like 'namma-day' which makes me smile. When they all left for the park, and the house was quiet and the breeze cool through the open doors, I made tea with honey and had a second breakfast of the last of the raspberry crumble. Thinking I better get out and soak up the day, I walked from the jetty past the headland and along the length of the next beach by myself, moments of cloudbusting grey and glimpses of bright silvery sun. I found cuttlefish and shells, driftwood and seaweed, but what I really wanted was coal. Sophie found some coal our first day at the beach, washed up, apparently, from a shipwreck in 1909 that killed 60-odd crewmen. Locals still find occasional pieces on the shore, more than a hundred years later which is about the best thing I've heard in months.
The others swam in the afternoon, when the sun came out and the temperature kicked up, but I stayed at home in the quiet. It was nice not to have to put suncream on, and pour through page after page of Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. I can't really write about it here, hard to know what to say of such a beautifully written, intelligent, heartbreaking and moving book. Only that reading it on holiday, where I can spend hours with it, not a few pages here and there before bed, was wonderful. It's reading your way into another world and it's impossible not to immerse yourself in it.
By Wednesday, the last day of the year, the sun high and ready for adventure, we drove into Innes with Brown's Beach in mind. I love the drive, the low-lying scrub, salt lakes and dusty roads, and only twenty minutes away. I hadn't been to Brown's before, not since I was younger, so was overwhelmed by how stunning it was - without hesitation the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. I suppose it depends what your thing is, but the sprawling national park, the slow walk down the hill, the long stretch of coast, the rock pools and softest sand, and clear, plunging blue water was a kind of perfection. I'd barely put my hat on when Ehren found two starfish on the rocks. Gloriously indulgent dips in the cool water, handstands in the sand, shell-seeking, salt and vinegar crisps under the beach tent, a little frisbee, not too many tantrums, some laying out in the shade with my sister for a whole ten minutes while the smalls were occupied with something else - it was a pretty perfect way to end the year.
We got home in the late afternoon and I put on a slow roast lamb while we played Scrabble and ate what cheese was left. We walked down to the beach for sparklers at sunset, the last of the light and the locals cleaning squid in the shallow water. The girls scootered home and went down to bed like a tonne of bricks, all the saltwater and running done with. We opened a bottle of soave , and later a Sicilian grillo I had brought, and had big piles of potatoes and salad with the lamb for dinner, and a bottle or two of Croser. We talked and laughed, worried and reminisced and wondered, and I brushed my teeth at 11:50 so I could go straight to sleep once it struck midnight and I'd said my happy's and hugged it all out. It was all just right.
Most of the rest of the time was spent beach-ing and walking, riding bikes, a pub lunch for the best fish and chips with cold like a dream pints of Coopers Pale Ale, and a bit of midnight fishing for the boys. The old house was a lovely mess of towels, clothes, small sandals, books and coloured pencils. I spent a lot of time on the couch, weaving or reading - I love the books you find at holiday rentals. They had some local histories, a Japanese cultural guide, short stories by DH Lawrence and the complete poems of Robert Lowell. I nearly cried when I read Water:
It was a Maine lobster town - Each morning boatloads of hands pushed off for granite quarries on the islands,
and left dozens of bleak white frame houses stuck like oyster shells on a hill of rock,
and below us, the sea lapped the raw little match-stick mazes of a weir where the fish for bait were trapped.
Remember? We sat on a slab of rock. From the distance in time, it seems the colour or iris, rotting and turning purpler,
but it was only the usual tray rock turning the usual green when drenched by the sea.
The sea drenched the rock at our feet all day, and kept tearing away flake after flake.
One night you dreamed you were a mermaid clinging to a wharf-pile, and trying to pull off the barnacles with your hands. We wished our two souls might return like gulls to the rock. In the end, the water was too cold for us.
Just a few pages in and only the third I read from the collection, but I stopped there. It doesn't get any better than that.LAST YEAR AT YORKE'S.
In The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Flanagan names the flora of Tasmania in a way that makes you feel like you're there, under 'the boughs of the wildly snaking peppermint gums that fingered and flew through the great blue sky overhead'. Walking to the beach yesterday, Daisy noticed some overgrown hebes in the front yard of the house a few doors down. She tried to pick one for me. She's four and hundreds of kilometres from home and she knew at a glance that they were hebes.
I wondered for the next few blocks if it the saltbush and rough ground cover that stretches back from the sandy beaches and cliffs of Innes was native, or if the wildflowers, yellow and white and tiny specs of purple grew anywhere else.
I'm resolved to learn the names for things.
Losing track of days here on the coast. I think this was SUNDAY, but couldn't be sure. We've only been here a few days and already I've napped and had stingy eyes from suncream and sand and saltwater, come a close second at Scrabble and eaten my body weight in cheese and what Daisy calls 'pink dip' (Gaganis Brothers taromasalata, for Adelaide folks who know just how good that is). The cricket is on the telly in the background all day when we're home, and I've got scrapes on my knees from biking to the beach. We drove in to Innes today and walked down to Stenhouse Bay, dodging emus on the track and holding the kids hands too tightly on the windy jetty.
Just yesterday bragging about Japan and today readying for my week at the beach. It's a charmed life I lead, eh? While the week in question is not actually until late December - just after Christmas - now is the time to book houses if you want to go to the small town that we want to go to. Marion Bay is where we went last year, and between the bait shop and the local pub, and the few houses for rent, it's nothing but beaches and national park for miles. I love Yorke's Peninsula. I love how quiet and rugged it is, and I love that we are creating memories each year we go. With my best friends and their small girls (all four of them, blonde bits of cheek and giggles) and a lot of food and wine and beer and gin and books and Scrabble. A week at the beach, early morning walks, everyone in the kitchen for breakky, a few litres of suncream and always small sticky hands to help, singing, finding sand everywhere, crying children and sleepless children and cuddly children and afternoon naps. Last year I didn't wash my hair once, all week. It was amazing.
I can't wait to buy new bathers for the season, and start thinking about which books to take. I'm going to teach Sophie some yoga and I want to get one of those underwater phone cases so I can take pictures of the littles at the beach. I am going to try Deb's new cauliflower slaw and cucumber lemonade. I'm listening to Big Star right now just dreaming of the dusty roads and the long, hot drive.
I 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.We’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.
We 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.
Having 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.
Ehren, his partner Sophie, their two daughters Lola and Coco, my sister Kate, her hubby Nick and their two daughters Harriet and Daisy and I will all be staying in Marion Bay for a week or so in the new year and I couldn't be happier. Marion Bay is the last town on the coast before Innes. And Innes is the national park that makes up the bottom-most part of Yorke Peninsula, or Yorke's, as we folks from South Australia call it. It's a pretty stunning and dramatic climb of land between the gulfs that sees the swell of the Southern Ocean and, in January, a whole lot of sun.We all rented a beach shack together down south a few years ago and I remember slow mornings, bike rides along to the bluff, salty afternoon swims and games on the beach, fish and chips, cold beers on the porch at sunset and lots of reading.
This location is even more amazing and I can't wait to spend the week unwinding together. Living so far away, I barely get the time to catch up with my favourites properly, just phone calls and quick dinners when I'm in town. This will be days on end of unwashed hair, pots of coffee, cooking together and doing the crossword, of napping and quiet and laughing into the night.
* Image via Flickr, and just right for that beachy long-summer feeling I'm so looking forward to, I think...