Behind the strip of sand that leads down to the seashore is a stand of straggly ti-tree that arches over a sandy walkway parallel to the beach and edged with the kind of tough stringy grass that grows by the sea. I walked across an almost melting Point Nepean Road and crossed into the shade where an old couple sat on deckchairs behind the ti-tree, facing the water. The man turned to me as I passed. "It's better than air-conditioning!" he said, almost gleefully.
He was right. The oven-blast northerly had cooled on its way across the bay; and even though the temperature was nudging forty degrees behind us where the sun smacked the white-brick shop walls, here in the shade of the ti-tree the breeze was cool. That was Friday morning.
We had attempted to escape town late on Wednesday night via a scorching freeway in the newest member of the Kitchen Hand Volvo fleet, a 15-year-old 940. It stopped dead at the Forster Road exit. I called the RACV. Half an hour later Tracy and the boys were heading back to town in a cab. I waited with the car for a tow truck while intermittently trying the ignition; twenty minutes later it fired up. Do I wait or do I take a risk and go? I went. It failed to make it home by a mere 1.2 kilometres, giving up in exactly the same time as on its outward journey. To me, that says engine management system or engine computer or whatever the hell they call it. The engine hadn't overheated but the computer thought it had.
Home again, it was 10 p.m. now. We opened up the house again and threw up windows and tried to encourage some cooler thirty-five degree air to come in and push out the really hot stuff inside the house. It kind of worked and kind of didn't. The boys fell asleep thinking this was what you did in a heatwave; shut up the house and ride around on freeways and catch cabs home and open up the house again.
Next morning - Thursday - we tried again, using an older member of the fleet, one without an engine mismanagement system. It got us to the peninsula just fine and without complaining. Thank you, old Volvo. We spent most of the day in the shallows and came home late with excellent grilled barramundi with tartare and lemon and chips from the Blairgowrie fish shop. We ate outside. Cicadas ticked in the trees. The heat didn't go away.
Friday morning dawned with a sky as red and angry as I've seen. We took refuge in an air-conditioned cinema in the afternoon. Something about dogs taking over an old hotel. Once you've owned dogs, you can't beat a dog movie for pure escapism. If you've never owned dogs, you'd probably be bored.
Saturday was cooler than expected and we returned home today to walk around a parched garden and see what was left.