Written 13 April, 2020
In the evenings we have fires, the pot belly upstairs and a tiny one in the cabin. It’s glorious to go to sleep in soft flannelette sheets with a fire crackling. I wake at 5 to hear GG re-stoking it, and half an hour later I stir, go up the steps, try to nurse K’s fire back to life, fry her an egg and sprinkle it with thyme and leave it on a plate so I don’t have to confront her after last night, go down the steps to the cabin with a cup of milk tea – the last of the fresh milk!- and sit on the deck in my dressing gown, watching the dawn, writing this. I fall back into bed, and wake in full sunlight.
The tide’s coming in. Fishermen fish on an incoming tide. I’ll row to Dy’s cove, catch a fish for dinner, row back- 20 minutes, he promised. GG reminds me that the pathway between the oyster leases and the channel lies between the two white posts.
I nod yes.
I used to row up the pathway, years ago. Anywhere else and you can get caught in oyster leases, and risk a hole in the boat. This morning I can’t see the pathway. GG rings in the mobile in my tracky pocket.
“You’ve gone and rowed too far,” he says. His voice is cranky, he’s can’t bear my vagueness. I don’t mean to be vague, it’s just that I forget not to be.
“Row between the two white posts. Look at them”- he’s trying valiantly not to raise his voice- “are you looking at them? Now? The two posts?”
From the water level where I am, the bay bristles with white posts.
“You’re looking in the wrong direction. To your right. Right!”
I always get right and left mixed up but I work it out as if it’s a mathematical formula. I write with my left hand. Therefore the other hand is the right. It suddenly comes to me that out here, in this fraught Paradise, a long, comforting partnership could break up. I do my best to look right. I must be doing it correctly, because he says, a bit mollified:
“Go that way.”
He clicks off, sighing loudly.
I row, trying not to notice that there are many beguiling white posts and turn at the two nearest white posts, where he seemed to be indicating. Even this far away from the house – I’ve been rowing now for 20 minutes- I can hear his yowl of irritation hurtling around the bay. I rapidly row back, turn left, row towards another pathway of white posts, turn- another yowl of irritation, louder this time, going out the bay, down the river, out to sea, off to New Zealand. But I can’t be directed by someone who can’t see what I see, so I decide to ignore all further yowls despite what harm it may cause us, pull off my floppy hat, with its trim of cream roses tinged with pink, to have more all-round vision, row on and find a pathway, although it seems to end in huge forbidding black posts which indicate the leases. I turn the boat in a circle while the yowls continue hurtling past me, so I row back the front, and that way I can see where I’m going. My rowing back-the front becomes less rowing, more spooning. I spoon the river, spooning my way past huge logs that floated down in the horrific storm and are now stuck on each other and the leases, and finally get to the channel and then reach the far bank, far enough upstream from the point so I don’t get mowed down by a day-tripper, and search for somewhere to tie up. The yowling has stopped. But everywhere there are treacherous huge branches, so low they could knock me out of the boat, or muddy rocks where if I stepped out, I’d slide. I decide to sit in the boat and drift, for surely no harm can come to me if I drift gently. I bait the line with a prawn, a nice dry non-slimy prawn- – drop the line in, breathe deeply and for the first time, sit back and relax. From now on, all will be fine.
Suddenly from beyond the point there’s a roar, and not a day-tripper but a huge oyster barge beetles around the corner, full speed, bearing down on me in my puny rowing boat like a semitrailer bearing down on a frightened wombat crossing the road. I grab on to the nearest low lying tree to try to steady my boat, and it swerves away from me and roars past, the driver never, never slowing down, but tugging his hat in an old-fashioned gesture at the lady in the floppy hat festooned with cream roses with pink tinges, just like my father used to dip his hat to every woman he passed in the street, whether he knew them or not. It kept him veery busy as I walked beside him, smile, tug, smile, tug, for no woman could be left out, he’d explain: it implied that she wasn’t a lady. Perhaps it’s my hat that’s brought out this courtesy, even while he almost runs me down.
But the worst is to come. There’s his wake. In his white V-shaped wake, my little boat tips wildly 45 degrees this way so I’m almost touching the water, 45 degrees that way so my cheek almost brushes the rock. All I can do is grip the sides of the boat, willing it not to turn over.
Then his wake breaks on the shore, the boat steadies, I steady. I breathe, relax. But my line has caught on a shelf of wild oysters, and no matter how much I jiggle it, it stays caught. I tug the line, break it, wind it in, and, without a hook, decide to give up. By now GG will have forgotten his anger. He always does. be mollified. I row for home, get there not 20 minutes but an hour after I set off, I climb up the 40 steps, fall on the sofa and fall asleep.
An oyster farmer(not the one of today) rushing to work. Our creek is light industrial, producing many of Sydney’s rock oysters.
A transformed K, charming and sweet, stands smiling down at me and handing me a bowl of lentil porridge with rice, her first chore of the day. Her second chore is to find someone who’ll sell us those blockout curtains we couldn’t buy online at Ikea or get delivered to DB’s boatyard.
“Perhaps Ikea took notice of you,” she says, “After all, that was two days ago”. I laugh. As if. I think of the surly young man and my cheeky retort. As if. A company can’t be that agile.
But she’s right! Ikea will allow us to purchase our blockout curtains online, and they’ll deliver them to DB’s in his boat yard at Brooklyn- “no immediate delivery available but a delivery in the future”. I pay and hope. As long as they deliver by winter.
Sophie Davis sent me her drawing for today:
In the night, another email from Shelley in New York: