3 September, 2020.
We wake to heat, the sun streaming in, light bouncing back at us from the river, calling that it’s a holiday. The temperature is said to rise to 29 degrees, so unexpectedly at the end of winter, and we must obey the call. I talk GG into a boat trip, at least through the searing middle of the day. An hour up the river, there’s a general store and a pub at Spencer. Dy arrives at our “cafe” so over coffee we invite him and Trippy to come to join us.
The river is wide, so gloriously wide, that governor Phillip came here in the early days of the colony to see if it rivalled Sydney Harbour. It doesn’t , but almost. Tolstoy came here and said it is the most spectacular river in the world. There are scattered settlements, including a tiny village a half hour away from home, at Marlow’s Creek. We exclaim enviously, the orderly houses and pretty front gardens and towering cliff behind and most of all, its electricity, until suddenly we notice that in the middle, there’s been an avalanche- a rock has fallen from the beetling cliff, brought down other boulders, huge trees with it, and buried a house.We are silent and grim, quietly praying, each in our own ways, that no one was inside that house.
Sobered, as we pull in to the public wharf at Spencer, a man leans out from a a boat just leaving.
If you’ve come for food, there’s none.
Nevertheless, we dock. The owner of the shop tells us its their last day, that his wife has always cooked hot foot but now she’s sick and after ten years, they’ve sold up, to be near a city hospital.
I didn’t sell it, I gave it away, he jokes to another customer. I have to look after her. He’s told his story many times. His wife sits on the front verandah with friends, immediately recognisable for her thinness, and haunted eyes: death istoying with her. People’s faces behind masks are hard to read, but his pain shouts from his eyes.
No food but you can always drink, he says, and so we order. The shop has a cafe license but not an alcohol one, so we obey the law and walk across the road to the pub, which is just a sign swinging on a tree, with seats underneath. It’s called “The Dunkirk”.
Since I’m a celiac, I always carry food. We eat my crackers, tinned oysters and chocolate, and I drive the boat home, although I never dock it, for I don’t see in three dimensions, never did. Dy has given me an application for a boat licence- he’s applying for one as well- so he points out that I can log up this trip. It’s been a sad holiday, but as we put-put onwards, our sadness seems to sit on the huge, gleaming river, float on it, as if the river is sharing it, being part of it, helping to lighten the terror of our frailty.
At home, mooning sadly in my garden, I see that while we’ve been away, Dy has split some of our new chunks of trees the tree loppers left. Outside the pergola, he’s made a pile of bread-loaf sized chunks for our pot belly fire, to keep us warm. He knew we were running low in wood, and he knows of GG’s one arm. Such kindness.