Yes, February was always the busiest month and you get fewer days to do it in.
And the weather! When I was ten I read Colin Thiele's February Dragon, about as accurate a portrayal of February weather as it gets. Another early read was Ivan Southall's Ash Road published in the early 1960s, and with a darkly prophetic title given the events of 2009. And 1983 and 1967 and other years, for that matter. Do children still read Australian literature or just Andy Griffiths these days?
It's all rain into March; but on the last weekend of February we sweltered at the beach. As the sun fell on the Saturday evening, Tracy walked the ti-tree lined slopes with Alexandra reclining in the stroller. They returned. She smiled. I took over. Walked down to the beach. No sleep. Onto the sand where after dinner walkers, many with dogs, were enjoying the sunset. The water was still warm, tide on its way out. Earlier in the day, I had been a couple of hundred metres offshore with the boys on their small surfboards and we had noticed thousands of beetle-like creatures with yellow backs on the water. Now they were gone but other things were in the air, buzzing and zooming. Back to the house. Thomas asleep; William with Tracy on the balcony gazing into the hot black sky and wondering which were stars and which were planets. The bugs were here too. Some had made their way into the house. A large sonar-equipped winged thing was tapping impatient feet at one of the windows. I liberated it, and it buzzed off into the night in search of dinner or a mate or both.
That was over a week ago. Today they came to town. I walked the boys to school and against the wall of a large building on Sydney Road were piled literally thousands of black beetles the size of Tic-Tacs. They were not going anywhere but were alive and writhing. They are refugees from the rain north of the state, reported to be the highest on record and more to come. And they said it would never rain again. Or someone did. The others probably just repeated it mindlessly, like robots at prayer.
It was a warm evening decorated with passing florid clouds that had already rained themselves out somewhere else. So out we went under the great firmament armed with glasses of beer, a check tablecloth and a barbecue fired up good and proper.
Calamari with oregano.
Dust a few dozen calamari rings in seasoned flour. Easiest done with a plastic bag. Simply throw a tablespoon or more of flour in with the calamari rings, hold the end closed and shake. Perfectly floured.
Heat some oil in a cast iron pan. You want it really hot. This is best done outside on a barbecue grill well clear of children and other humans to minimise splash burns. Place calamari into smoking oil and lift clear and drain after no more than sixty seconds. Have your guests line up for deep-fried calamari and serve with a green salad, kalamata olives, good quality fetta and freshly sliced vine-ripened tomatoes. And cold beer. I like to make a 'flat' Greek salad - cover a platter with a layer of sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, crumble fetta over them, toss with olives and dress with good olive oil, vinegar and crushed dried oregano. I have an instant supply of this in the garden - as the herb overgrows, the ends dry out naturally and you simply pull off the dried leaves, crushing them in your hand. Perfect.