Late Saturday morning, warm and overcast. I drove out to pick up Tracy from her walk along the cool path that runs between the ti-tree and the beach and came home with a single bed, two Parker pens, four tennis balls and six books, including Bolte: A Political Biography and The New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons. On the way back we had stopped at a garage sale (William calls them garbage sales: four-year-old unintentional wit) but this one was good. I almost bought the Pentax SLR camera, perfect condition with original hand-case, box and instruction book, $5; but my hands were full. Someone else could have it. The bed, in excellent condition, is for Thomas. It’s a very beach-housey bed, of the type they used to call bedsteads, with polished walnut head and base connected by large iron interlocks to the timber-framed wire mattress support. We slept in these as children. They used to sag with use, especially when we jumped up and down on them, but this one is perfectly flat.
Sunday evening, six o’clock. Radio news item: hot weather warning. Cut to a spokesman from some government department or other advising ‘people’ to ‘ensure adequate fluid intake to avoid dehydration’, before continuing - after a kind of verbal semi-colon pause - ‘however if you choose to cool down by swimming, do so safely to avoid drowning’. It wasn’t the radio’s fault, but I punched the dial just a little too hard and switched over to 3MBS where you can listen for hours without some government spokesman telling you not to die at the hand of your own stupidity.
Next morning the Herald Sun front page screamed Get Out Now. The accompanying story had the CFA chief - or it might have been police chief Simon Overland, they all sound the same - advising ‘people’ in Code Red ‘catastrophic’ areas to leave early if that was part of their plan; or alternatively, if it wasn’t part of their plan, to stay. The language in these announcements is beyond absurd. It's a kind of jargon end game. The bureaucrats have reached a point at which their language is now simply refusing to convey any sense of what they actually mean. Perhaps they don’t know what they mean. They could drop the ridiculous radio ads describing the new fire warning system and just play the old Manfred Mann song (with a few changes) instead and save everyone the pain of trying to understand.
If you want to stay
Well that’s all right
But if you’ve got to go, go now
Or else you’ll have to stay all night.
(And who are ‘people’ anyway? Do they mean the public?)
Monday. 43 degrees. In and out of the water. A northerly blew across the bay and if you sat behind the ti-tree after immersing yourself it felt cool. No fires on the horizon until late in the afternoon. A dark smudge rose above Mt Martha and drifted away to the south. It turned out to be the Inghams chicken processing plant. No code red warnings for chickens.
6 p.m. Dark grey cloud moved across the bay from the west and for almost a whole minute, fat drops of rain danced on the bay, simmering the steel grey water as we stood knee-deep in it. Hot rain in the afternoon reminds me of childhood; in particular, one hot afternoon at Williamstown beach that turned stormy, and hard rain hit our faces as we swam in to shore, and I rode home rolling around covered in sand in the back of my father’s EH Holden wagon, the seats filled with other children.
Last night was Melbourne’s hottest night in a century and the equal hottest on record: a low of 30.9 degrees celsius. That means the next hottest night was over a hundred years ago. Global warming, early twentieth-century style. All that railway building.
Too hot these days for elaborate cooking. Vegetable salads, rice and seafood just about covers it.
A late dinner: one cup basmati rice and three cups cold water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, stir, bring to boil, simmer three minutes, switch off, leave for ten minutes, lift off lid. Perfect rice. Quarter one potato, one yellow button squash, one onion. Chop one carrot into rounds and a head of broccoli into florets. String a dozen each green beans and snow peas. Cook vegetables progressively, adding snow peas last with seconds left to go. Pile vegetables over rice, smother with hot chili peanut sauce. Drink cold beer.
We sat on the balcony and watched the honeyeaters scrabble in the ti-tree and the gold of the late sun creeping up and out of the boughs until it was dark.