|Cruising up the Clarence|
basis of experience of the past week. There are many things I probably should have done but my attention has been deflected by the arrival of the sun and a more appealing chronological method called "Yamba Time".
A few things have been achieved, not that achievement was the goal. In no particular order then ...
... Sue's brother-in-law celebrated his 60th birthday. Russell is a man I greatly admire and have come to call friend, despite making it difficult for him in any manner of ways. He compartmentalises his reactions to life's habit of crowding in on him better than any individual I know. He is quiet and measured and has survived marriage into the same hectic clan as I. His real strength is his devotion to Dr Who. How could you fail to love a man like that?
On Sunday, Sue and I enjoyed the hospitality of the Clarence River Ferries on their weekly music cruise back up the Clarence. Sue enjoyed their hospitality to somewhat excess and during the last hour was literally dancing in the aisles. I joined her sometimes but largely it was only to cut in. She has a habit, when the red fuels her sense of adventure, to drag men from the audience with a persistency that might be annoying if engaged in by anyone else. Beguiled by her still girlish looks and come hither smile, they rarely resist. Luckily, I can still boogie well enough to embarrass the best of them to return to their seat ... usually the lady's aim because she loves to jive and I'm her jive talker.
The scenery up the Clarence on such a clear, sunny day is spectacular and the chug of the old diesel engine works its own intoxication on you. We passed an old cottage on Palmers Island where a legendary local used to bait and catch bull sharks straight off the banks, winch them up a pole and turn passers by white in the knowledge that these aggressive killers had been swimming beneath them all the time. These days, his former cottage is well down market from the millionaires bungalows which dwarf it on either side. A former neighbour, an Ingham's son, has his on the market for $2.75M. The old bloke finally died, although some said it was rumour spread by sharks and wouldn't believe it until they saw him strung up his own pole, feet first.
The music lacked the flair of live musicians, but Warwick and Kelly sang well to musos in box and with no bass player or drummer, the sets were longer. Warwick's anecdote had that air of authenticity that sometimes masked hyerbole, but not often. It's a cruise we would always recommend. Four hours costs just $30 a head. Food and beverages are available on board. We had a cheese and fruit platter for $15 which was more than enough for us. The alcohol was a little dear for what was available but tea, coffee and soft drink were all reasonable.
Sue left the boat still dancing but gradually lost her co-ordination over the next couple of hours. Final drinks at the Pacific Hotel proved to be an unwise addition to the afternoon and she was snoring not long after the sun left us, waking sometime in the middle of the night for dry toast. What happens on tour etc.
Bookachino in Yamba Street hosted me for a poetry reading on Saturday morning. I read a selection from "Head Full of Whispers" and a few new poems. The newest, "So Easy To Forget", is about the thirteen cub scouts that drowned in the Clarence at Grafton, late one Saturday afternoon, just before Christmas in 1943. Twenty three of them were crowded on a 4.5m punt, crossing from Susan Island back to the wharf at the end of Prince Street, beside the Crown Hotel. As they drowned, their mothers stood on the banks screaming their names. Not many dry eyes in the house. Sold some books but more importantly, caught up with some people from my past. Pauline Marlin had driven around from Iluka, where she has retired. Pauline and I worked together at Ben Venue school in Armidale in the 1980's. It was wonderful to reacquaint. She was staggered by the size of my boys. Another lovely surprise was Ken Noble, the best friend of my uncle, Brian Langston. Ken is a spritely 80 and recalled much of our collective past and some delightful stories about my favourite uncle, a boyhood hero who taught me how to bat. Ken lives in Yamba and has volunteered in schools since arriving fifteen years ago, helping kids with reading.
My host, Helen Anderson, couldn't have been more inviting. Its fantastic when bookshops welcome you in and give you the chance to promote your work. Drop in there when you get a chance. You can even score a coffee while you browse.
For the rest of the week it has been an endless parade of coffee stops, walking, end of days beers at the Pacific Hotel where we go to count the fishing fleet out (the beers have nothing t do with it), bike rides, pretending to be interested in dress shops, family gatherings and lots of reading. Two books have become dust so far: "No More War" (1958) by Linus Pauling and "Moonshot" (2009) by Dan Parry. Pelham Warner's "Cricket Between Two Wars" is currently in front of the reading glasses.
Perhaps I should buy a bookshop and live here but that would ruin its holiday appeal and there is always the reality that one day I'll age and medical facilities here and in the area are scant. I would hate to die before all available possibilities have been exhausted and when not many are available, growing older elsewhere seems a better option.
Far off thinking. For now, I'll just take breakfast out to the balcony and drown in the lustful sunshine.