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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The first swim of the season

What heaven, what bliss!

It happens the same way every year: the weather starts hotting up, the tourists start swimming (and people in Melbourne) – while I say to myself, ‘Hmmm, not quite hot enough yet…’ Then suddenly there comes a day so swelteringly hot and humid that I think if I don’t get in the water RIGHT NOW, I’ll die or at least go crazy.

When I do get in, of course it’s a shock – so cold. So I dunk myself straight away and in a few moments the temperature’s perfect. After that I don’t want to get out; I stay until my fingers and toes are thoroughly wrinkled. I’m not talking ocean; never could cope with surf. I grew up in Launceston, at the end of an estuarine river, and swam at river beaches. Tasmania is a very small island, so I did sometimes get to ocean beaches too, but never became at home in the waves.

Here, I have both. What we call the river – really a creek – is just at the end of our street. It’s an estuary too; just a little further on it meets the Pacific at a vast, sandy beach that Andrew and I love to walk on in the cooler months. From our house we often hear the thunder of the surf. I might not care to swim in it but I do love the sound! It would take me three minutes to walk to the river, ten to walk to the beach. But I don’t want to cool off only to get hot and sweaty again walking home, so I don’t; I go in the car.

I’m not one of these bronzed Aussie sporting types, I’m afraid. Even in the creek, I don’t go in for strenuous swimming. Forget the Australian Crawl, all that overarm and turning the head from side to side while spitting out great gouts of water. No, I do a bit of lazy side-stroke, and mostly float happily on my back, gazing at the sky and the tree-covered banks. Sometimes the trees are hung with ibis; sometimes pelicans cruise the sky or the stream. There’s usually a few insistent gulls skittering over the sand.

Today there were no birds. It was a very windy day. The tide wasn’t full; you could see that it had come all the way up to the rocks and then receded a little. The narrow strip of sand was still wet. But it was high enough, and it was flowing upstream. I like it better that way. The current is strong in the middle of the creek, and I prefer to be swept a little way upstream than down towards the sea. Today the wind was blowing the water into rapid waves, and being an estuary it always tastes salt. I could kid myself I was in the ocean after all.

When I arrived, there was a man lying immersed in the shallows and a young couple just entering the water while their tiny dog stood guard on the bank. I passed some polite remarks. I think the man in the shallows didn’t speak English; he looked foreign, and smiled rather blankly at everything I said. The youngsters were friendly, but were more interested in kissing and canoodling in the water than chatting to me, so I tactfully turned in the opposite direction to give them a bit of privacy. After a while, first the man left, then the couple, and I had the whole creek to myself. Lovely.

And by the way, with the weight I've lost the bathing suit looked a lot better today than it did last summer! Then, I used to wrap a towel around my waist as soon as I got out of the water – not only to get dry, also to hide. Heck, I used to wear it before I got in the water, too, just walking from the car to the edge of the creek. I’m still a fat lady, but today the towel was merely for drying myself; I strode in and out of the water without feeling any need to cover up.


  1. Sounds lovely, although getting used to hot weather at Christmas would probably do my head in. :)

  2. Yes, Northern hemisphere people do have a problem with that. :) If you grow up with it, it seems normal.

    Christmas in Oz is about lazing around in the heat, lying on beaches or back yard lawns, drinking cool drinks (sometimes alcoholic, always delicious), maybe a spot of cricket if you're a bloke, and flaking out after stuffing oneself with turkey and Christmas pud etc. highly inappropriate for the weather.

    We Wiccans take it away from a calendar event (which presupposes that the Nativity actually fell on 25 December, which is questionable). To us, it's seasonal, so Yule falls midwinter whichever hemisphere you're in, and Litha or Midsummer is celebrated in, of course, midsummer. But it hasn't really caught on in a big way, I have to say. Some people try for 'Christmas in July' but most are happy with the good old Aussie Christmas as described above.

  3. I'd find it weird too - it's what you're used to I guess. Although I would love a southern hemisphere New Year; that's not something I'm particularly precious about being cold and dark!

    This sounds like a lovely day though. It is raining here and dark and cold... I can imagine being where you were... and very much wish I was!

  4. Spare bed when you feel like popping over! (Double; you can bring Dave.)

  5. You've described Australian summers so perfectly!! It hasn't been hot enough here to go for a swim yet but I must admit I can't wait for the first swim of the summer, and your post has made me even more anxious for it! I really think there is nothing like hot Australian summer nights! And backyard cricket :) Have a lovely summer Rosemary!

  6. Ahhhh, you location sounds like heaven. We're in the middle of snow here right now, and your vision of swimming makes me eager for summer again.

    Hot weather at Christmas doesn't really bother me. I'm originally from Texas. We were lucky if it got down to 50 for Christmas, winter or no.

    So, I assume you had your Spring Solstice this weekend (as we had Winter Solstice). Hope it was a blessed one!

  7. Thank you! We officially call it Summer Solstice, but December doesn't feel like Midsummer – February is our hottest month.

    You can keep the snow! (I hate the cold.)

    What part of Texas? I have very fond memories of the bits I visited in 2006.