Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

9.1.08

Umbrellas.

7.30 p.m. Still 38 degrees.

I was in the bay, a few hundred metres off shore. Tracy was on the beach in the shade of some ti-tree with Thomas, who was snoozing on the big white and blue beach towel.

I was playing with William. The water is still only knee-deep here. Another few hundred metres farther out, timber depth markers indicate where the shelf drops off; and beyond that the jetskis go smack-smack-smack one way along the gentle swell and then smack-smack-smack the other way. You'd think they'd tire of it but they never do. Like mosquitos in the night.

William and I looked back towards the shore. You know what I miss about the beach? Canvas unbrellas. Espcially the old ones designed in alternate concentric circles of colour and white with fringed edges. Or segmented into primary colours between the ribs; green, red, yellow, blue, etc. You see them in pictures of the beach printed in photogravure magazines of the 1950s; delicately poised on the sand over canvas deckchairs and picnic blankets.

Now it's all beach tents. I had one of these once. I didn't like it. They don't breathe. The old umbrellas gave shade without stopping any breeze that may be pushing about looking for someone to cool.

Also, my beach tent proved almost impossible to fold up. You had to form the two self-contained arches into circles and then line these circles up together in order to squeeze it into its round bag, all the while stuffing the fabric in between the folds. There was no locking mechanism on mine; the bag was the only way to contain it. Packing it up was like wrestling two octopi.

Then one day, the arches of my tent refused to co-operate and became irretrievably bent out of shape and it was impossible to get it back into its bag. Of course, I couldn't leave it on the beach. I had to carry the deformed tent across Point Nepean Road at the lights, holding it together as best I could without letting the wind carry it and me away as I crossed the road in front of stopped traffic; and then try to squeeze it into the back of the car while lowering the tailgate on it. It shot out several times like some kind of weird bright blue and yellow escaping animal before I finally tamed it and slammed the boot on it. I got it home and backed the car in and opened the tailgate and the bastard of a thing sprang out like a bomb going off. I left it behind the gate in the driveway and flattened it with six housebricks until a hard rubbish collection took it away about six months later.

Umbrellas never do that.

*

I stopped thinking about umbrellas and we waded back to shore. Thomas had woken up and we did what everyone does here about this time on an impossibly hot night.

Fish and chips on the beach.

Grilled whiting, chips, potato cakes, two segments of lemon, tartare sauce and white vinegar. No salt on account of the children. Cold bottle of sauvignon straight from the bottle shop across the road; crockery and cutlery from the car. Quick set-up on the picnic blanket, two fold-up chairs.

It doesn't get any better. Back up the hill and through the ti-tree and home about nine in gradually fading light. Still hot.

2 comments:

lucette said...

This made me impossibly nostalgic for summer! We still use umbrellas in Ohio--although I think I've seen a beach tent or two, not knowing it was an international trend.

kitchen hand said...

I'm off to buy a 'brella, Lucette.