G apostrophe day!
I arrived Friday afternoon at 3.40pm and was met by my grinning, smoking brother outside the baggage terminal. The domestic flights in Australia are a return to the good old days of minimal security, anyone can wonder into arrivals. To be honest, I’d have thought that makes it easy pickings for bag thieves, but it was good to have some company as I began the cliched wait for the soft black canvas and leather handle.
This was the first time I had met Scott’s girlfriend. She’s called Jess and she’s the bomb. Really liked her. I was worried that maybe I had put her off at first. Excited to see Scott, still a bit drunk from breakfast and full of sarcastic joy to be in a new place I didn’t stop talking from the airport to the opera house where we had a few sundowners and toasted our good luck. However, I think by the end of the weekend we had become firm friends.
It really has been a great few days. On Friday night we met my good friend Sarah Daggar-Nickson. Sarah was my best pal in those dark London days of branding consultancy and bottled beer. We used to stay up late and talk about how nothing really meant anything any more and push each other to say and mean ever more cynical things. I haven’t seen her since 2006 and it was nice to ease back into each other’s company with Scott and Jess there. We had a proper chance to catch up and talk shit last night when we went out for thai food in Elizabeth Bay where she now lives. Fuck, that’s a good place to live. Like a more bohemian New York, too hot to get stressy. Someone should set a grown up version of Skins there, or something.
On Saturday Scott, Jess and I headed to Bondi Beach for the true Aussie experiences. I fulfilled my role perfectly by getting sunburnt to fuck and having a scary moment out on the waves. I haven’t really been swimming in proper waves before. I know, how sad, twenty-six years old and all. Scott and took a tennis ball out into the sea and chucked it about, getting further and further away from land. Now, I should just say at this point, we were not being reckless. We were not the furthest of the swimmers out and we kept between the flags. We were mucking about trying to swim the waves. This is immensely good fun and if you’re lucky you can ride one for ten metres or so. Every half and hour the salt water in our mouths would get too much and we’d come and sun ourselves before going back in.
On the third trip I finally got the hang of swimming with the waves and had the awesome experience of being lifted on the crest of whitewash before being slammed down along. Truly exhilarating and despite our tiredness and retching mouthes I begged Scott for “one last swim.”
He obliged and we headed out, chucking the ball back and forth as we hoped on one leg and waited for big waves to ride. After a little while Scott said he couldn’t feel the bottom any more and should we move in. I agreed and we started to swim. I stopped again to touch the sand, but my foot just kicked at more sea water. Feeling frustrated I swam towards the shore again, the salt water fizzing on tongue, the general fatigue of the day creeping up on me ever more rapidly. I gave it a thirty second flourish and then confidently tried to stand. My head went under, yet I could feel the bottom. A wave head me in the head leaving me gasping for air. The salt in my mouth was making me feel quite ill and my arms and legs feel heavy. Slightly panicked, I set off again. I gave it my all, which I know realise was a mistake. A clumsy splash of front crawl for a minute or so. I was now pretty close to a number of other swimmers frolicking about in the waves, grinning at the violent white wash. Again my right leg went down with confidence, again it was hit nothing. Now I was panicking. I felt really tired and sick, the shore looked so far away. Immediately I et off again, conscious that every second spent treading water was tiring me further. I no longer had any idea where Scott was. The yells and laughs of the other swimmers pissed me off. I wanted to scream: THIS ISN’T FUN ANYMORE! I wanted to scream: HELP ME. It suddenly struck me how easy it is to drown. Every wave that comes pulls you out first and then, if you can’t get on top of it, come down on your head, pushing you no further towards the shore. Earlier, as we’d battled our way out beyond the white wash, we’d cursed this fact of nature as the force of the crashing wave were enough to keep us back. Like climbing a hill, it’s all to much to struggle to get there, but too easy to fall down the other side. My writhing front crawl-cum-doggy paddle went on for what seemed like ages, but was probably about a minute. A wave sucked me back and then crashed down over me, the foam spinning me round slightly. The same, exciting feel as before underpinned by something much more sinister. Earlier we’d seen The Bondi Rescue crew patrolling the Beach. Now the stars of their own reality TV program these copper Adonises flexed in front of boom mics and celebrity spotters. “You’re just the kind of person they’d feature,” my brother leered, “English bloke thinks he can handle the Australian surf.” So it was with fear of embarrassment, and not death, that I lurched forward those final few yards (yards, not metres you Aussie meat heads) and touched down (just) on the sea bed. Ahh, sweet beautiful sand. I would kiss you, but I don’t want a gritty mouth.
Shattered and sick I picked my way in subjected to regular frothy knocks on the head, like the condemned man pelted with rotten fruit on his way to the gallows. As I staggered to chest, then waist, then knee height a new fear presented itself. Where was Scott? I looked around, but everyone here looks like Scott. With his tanned, muscled chest and blond crop Scott is native now. I couldn’t see him, but figured I could nothing with the waves trying to sweep me off my feet. I lolloped (with sense and purpose I might add) towards shore.
I was not so worried that the same fate had attached itself to my little brother. More that he’d lost me and swam ever further out looking for his fatter, whiter, city-slicker of a sibling. I was worried I’d killed him with my ‘hey I’m a stupid doggy-padddling twat’ behaviour.
The thirty seconds of panting and scanning the beach and beginnings of greeny-blue later and all was good again. Scott came ambling up to me from a few metres further up the beach.
“Fuck, I couldn’t feel the bottom.” He began. Turns out the same HAD happened to him and he too had needed three or four desperate swims to get out of danger zone. Jess found all this very amusing. As did Sarah when I told her the next day. “We always say Summer doesn’t begin until the first British tourist has drowned off Bondi,” she giggled. Ha ha.
Later on I cranked the clich-o-meter to overdrive when I peeled off my shirt to reveal the most violent shade of pink I’ve ever clapped eyes on. Nice. I’ve been dowsing my top half in avocado and cucumber after-sun ever since. Luckily, I think by the time I get back to Blighty I’ll just looked nicely tanned. The only proof of my pathetic tourism this blog, ah the curse of being a writer.
I fly today at six, but I’m out of this hotel at twelve. Good riddance to this place. After the delights of The Oaks Horizon Apartments in Adelaide I’ve been confined to the box room. Twin beds, back-to-back and no natural night. Yum! Still, the air-con is just cool enough and things were at least clean. I think back to the place I stayed in London last year and count my blessings.
It’s unlikely that I’ll write until I’m back home. If I crash land on a desert island I’ll send your love to Hurley, Jack, Kate and the gang. If you’ve been reading this blog for the last week, I hope you’ve enjoy my travel ramblings and you stay with me for the exciting installments yet to come. In the next three weeks we have London, Brighton, Oxford, Frome, Great Yarmouth and Leeds. Stay tuned.