Written 5 October, 2020.
At last we’re leaving the city on the way to the bay. At Aldi’s, because I’ve decided to make us vegetarians to save my heart, we buy every sort of vegetable they have- purple eggplants, two sorts of tomatoes, zucchini, red and yellow capsicums, big brown mushrooms, cabbage, golden halves of pumpkin. Vegetables are lighter than fish and chicken to carry, but very bulky, so we run out of shopping bags. I’m dreading my cooking because i’ve always done omnivore cooking- I even did it in my students days to earn money- but at the house is Charmaine Solomons’ Vegetarian Cookbook. Surely Charmaine will save me.
Walking through DB’s boasted is always fun, especially since DB always helps us carry out bundles, this time, our many vegetables. Old boats come to die at DB’s, stranded on the mud, abandoned by their owners who once loved them. DB tries to track the owners down, sometimes for 20 years or so, but eventually, he chops them up.
DB has at last careened our boat. We’re very grateful: he says we’ve been very patient. He charges us only a tiny amount because he says he’s often used it.
It couldn’t be better hands, we say, almost together.
His assistant, long stretched-out Billy, has suddenly abandoned him. Billy was funny, smart, ingenious, acrobatic, strong and not a man you’d want to cross. We all feel the loss of Billy, but Billy has been disappearing into alcohol all year. He lived at DB’s on a cousins’ huge old steel boat he’d promised to fix: but he hasn’t done any fixing for a year. The boat has a great gaping hole in its bottom you could could drive a truck through, says DB, so it couldn’t float: Billy lived on the boat but on DB’s slips. DB needed his slips back for other boats and asked Billy to move it off, and so Billy left.
Now DB doesn’t know what to do with Billy’s boat.
We wave him goodbye. With the careening, the journey takes us only 50 minutes. We slide into our jetty. GG goes upstairs and I begin to load the flying fox. And immediately the bay comes to meet me.
My friend J is walking along the track with Andy, and Trippy barking out in front showing everyone the way.
We’re going to pick up our new house numbers, calls I.Annie’s got them. Want us to pick up yours?
The council has newly ordained that we have numbers as if we’re on a street, not a creek.
I call back that i’ll join them, delighted to be included. i’ve only got one more load. Ad hears us and comes out of his house and joins them.
I catch them up on the track talking to our two new neighbours, C and M, who are leaning over their porch, eating out of bowls. I feel I could hug them all. After the city so silent, so engrossed, so indifferent to me. In the talk, someone mentions that most of us are baby-boomers.
Except you two, I say to C and M. I joke that they are our “youngies”.
They seem pleased. They’ve probably been worrying about getting old. I always was. Soon after I turned 20, I felt blighted by age.
We’re generation Y, says C.
At Annie’s, the business about house numbers becomes a discussion about fire safety. Annie was in a fire further upriver, and without water, they fought it with only wet hessian bags, as my Dad did, all those years ago when we lived-in the Blue Mountains.
We need a plan, she says.
Written down, I add. I remind them of our generator fire. When it burst into flames, we panicked and ran around as if we’d never heard of fire.
DY adds that a plan to escape in our boats is no plan at all, for the tide might be out.
We go over and over our need for a plan, and eventually we part, agreeing that we’ll train as a group. None of us wear masks. We trust each other- was that wise? I feel if I wore a mask, it’d be suggesting that someone had been careless….not sure what to do.
Back home, I find that C, Gr’s wife who seldom comes to the bay, has visited. I go to her place and we stand admiring the cliffs so close to their house, and talk abut fire-safe clearing. Gr, a trained mechanic, has found a tiny bush orchid on a fallen tree and glued it to his rock with super glue. We laugh, marvelling that that’s possible. A flight of fifty to a hundred cockatoos fly over, and we talk favourite birds. C has seen a goshawk. We look up goshawks in their field guide. After a life-time of feeling shy , out of place and tongue-tied, here i feel accepted.
It’s late when i get home to start cooking vegetables, but I must try. We have a large packet of peas in the freezer from our days of ordering our weeks’ food through Homer’s cafe. it can no longer fit in the freezer, so i follow Charmaine’s suggestion:a warm pasta salad with home-made mayonnaise, finely cut onions, tomatoes and peas – and instructions on making the mayonnaise. We sit on the deck in the deepening dusk to eat it it. GG comforts me that it’s OK, but I’m secretly longing for chicken cooked in its own juices.