Saturday, June 6, 2015
THE BEACH REPORT, 2015
[16-20, January, '15]
Last Friday night at Kerford Road Pier (how long refurbished?) admired first large swell of the season --the facts probably contradict me but 'season' is the present's accumulation of summer sights & sensations comprising anybody's personal calendar --the first swell, of course tidal but suggests the oceanic, that potentially unbounded heave… Fishermen camped there, solo, pairs, families, like they're parts of the pier or shadows of parts, leaning over the railing, winding up long throw of line, or wandering a few steps to the left then back, in a little circle, leaving the rods to their own devices, bait in buckets, hands in pockets, some Greek, some Vietnamese, some Lebanese, one old Australian family, catching supper, grown old in their routine, three generations, old ways the best but approving of the new planks replacing the worst of the pier, that is I am, remembering it was broken, possibly bound for dismantling…
Mid-afternoon the next day at Elwood there's a surf, line upon line of frothing & crashing white water presaged in last night's churning dark green. On the Sunday I'm the only one in the sea --larger swell but warmer than before. Impossible not to go in. It's in my blood now, in my head. Two beached jellyfish hardly portend harm. But there are rocks now, uncovered or shoved there by the violent water. The force of the waves prevents swimming, but crouching then standing up as the large waves hit, or falling down before them, or floating in the furrows interspersing successive onslaught is exhilarating. A quiet bay-beach's version of staring down the sea…
[21-25, January, '15]
It was never a 'milk pond' was it? --notwithstanding the Queen of Sheba in an encyclopaedia at nine or ten, or Krishna bathing in the pool with the Gopis, story discovered during Indian reread in the '80s, voyage through seas of etymology en route intimations of the larger meaning. Yet the water's flat-white of cloud & lambent light rehabilitates misnomer invested in the remembered lines of dairy cows moving indomitably across farm yard, leaving behind the inviting, therefore warm, surface of shit & piss & mud & milk. And before it's lost or I squeamishly censor, include in this sensation of gentle ooze or curdle, imagery of the lactations & ministrations of the multitude of breast-feeding mothers one's naturally known as oldest son to young mum, or lover & chum of the women of my own generations… '50s Nursing Home --floral, sunlit, balmy --or parental bedroom's built-up pillows, starched sheets, redecorated by dad for the event… For sure, another temperament in the New Age & Feminist '70s, but same mother & child contiguity of major & minor face, throat, arms, breast, mouth-- and amidst the sometime struggle, remember long moments of their imperturbability, as the sea is, which is what this is all about, forever & ever-ness…
But mill-pond it is, in particular Elwood's on the 20th January, a ten out of ten --warm water, sweetly welling waves, regatta flotilla out to sea whose racing dinghies equip first glance's dhows from out of Egyptian infancy, divine shape I constantly reproduced back home in first English school '52, '53, --Australian high summer's cliche sumptuously achieved. Another day I rate it the impossible Eleven because the sunbathing crowd's suddenly here as well. Beach comes into its own. Pods of swimmers but mostly well-oiled, sitting or lying on the sand, with or without umbrellas, young families, children & teens, young male & female singles, tats (sleeves, calligraphies, figures) abundant as the traditionally, now Brazilianly, bare.
But the suburb's elders, especially the matted & thatched, the double & treble tyred, where are they? Probably back in St Kilda, blackening all day, up against walls or rocks, pier rampart, dug-in --dug into Odessa's lingering dream, the older scales of St Kilda's dream, Post-War, pre-development, the old St Kilda which is my own St Kilda even from the '60s, enough of all-that's-left to attach historically --amalgamation of histories intersecting one's own to which one adds the emigrant's. Native's the one whose particulars are inherently the time & place, sung as sprung, conversely subject of emigrant's eternal wondering…
[early a.m., 7th February, '15]
Yesterday's long dash (yes, that's a contradiction but good intentions (leaving Shop at 5 for immediate train from City to the 'Garth, then change into trunks & up the road with Loretta for the 6-15 or so 246 to Elwood, but crikey! gone 7 by the time we crossed the main road & onto the beach
Long time between dips (o summer where art thou? (("Hey-la-day-la my summer's back" (a kind of Death in Venice white light of sand & smooth sea suspension, whole beach of all-day-&-night bathers ahead of us
And into the water (colder than the air temp suggested or account of L. & cousin's morning stroll there anticipated (and everything's returned, everything the ten day hiatus rescinded (other world, summer world, water world
Can't help thinking every time I'm sitting at the kiosque (this time beneath umbrella (cuppa & etc, notebook, luxuriating in the balmy air (how Dad would have relished this and did in fact when he sat back after exertion of swimming & beach games (ah, Isle of Wight memories, Whitecliff Bay etc (suddenly & poignantly in sync with the world
Young proprietor (shorter hair than last year, black crew-cut rising out of sheer scalp style (serves beverages (Ah, I say, the real English Breakfast Tea, and he says And the real French doughnut made by a real Frenchman, no kidding (ring doughnut, sugared (hugely satisfied with his lot Dad would breathe in & out audibly, comment This is the life
And it is (transformative (weight of working day lifted, dissolved (I'm still finding the words for the equation recalled from Spengler of forest & cathedral, a little piece I'm scribbling about train-carriage view of the country from Bendigo to the City but harnessed to description of the great Sacred Heart church, the art within it, the art of itself, stone & wood (in my battered green-covered notebook
Morning to afternoon the weather turns around. Nothing else for it to do or for its word to exist, otherwise non-differentiation's literatureless world. Try saying that with the sun in your eyes or a gobfull of wave. Said by whom, to whom? Rummage old shelves for the answer. Brighton Rock for sandy, salty, mouldering hotel airs; Malcolm Lowry for solitary, strung-out soliloquy. Racier, Wide Sargasso Sea? Rowdier, La Bateau Ivre?
I take the chance, depart autumnal, overcast; arrive summer once more. Most people seem to have been discouraged. Not for the first time I'm by myself in the sea, which is tantamount to owning it. Disowning it is the fully dressed man face down in the sand five metres from similarly hung woman whose afternoon began & ended when her Weekend Magazine threatened to fly away in the breeze.
I glance at them from the good sea. The size & force of the waves increases. I'm unconcerned. Footing's secure, drowning's someone else's fear : aged three, clinging to mother's neck, screaming blue murder.
[12th February, '15]
One-fifteen I'm the only swimmer but five minutes more and there's another, in his own space to the left of me. Entered the sea Point Ormond side of the kiosque & delightedly found it rock free. This day the water is clear again & the extreme saltiness gone. Whitecapped waves enlarge through the afternoon. It's become a day for sailboarders. How would youngest brother Robin have coped with Australia (imagine him twenty years ago in wet suit on Weymouth Bay, ahead of England's fashion have to say)? An afternoon but never a life. Go for the afternoon & stay for life? Life as though an afternoon? Does or doesn't bear thinking about? Old guys' contemplations --old emigres --old old --osteo-, arthurio-, rheumatico-, heaven help us! But sea & salt & sun surely soaking one with the necessaries. Ah, Lorenzo, escaping English constraint, embracing Idea entwined with whichever of the Elements inspired it…
Walking back from the Beach down Byrne Avenue to the bus-stop in Elwood's bright little bustle, the skipper of old terrace house, sitting on sun-caught pavement wall, legs extended across the tarmac like a shadow, greets us Good evening, adds Sorry for my smoke! But we love it, I say --which I wouldn't offer any regular chimney. Perverse if you like but daily defining individuality, autonomy… It wasn't a Sobrani (Black Russian) or Gauloise or even Camel, perhaps an aromatic roll-your-own, but rare enough this H&S era to momentarily restore an ancien regime of the senses' maximum value --smelling, seeing, tasting, --apertures of life's far-outest education… Joined the old guy's laughter as though schoolboy found-out revolved through wheel of bravado --but quite properly his right, our right --that crucial bug in our humanity increasingly stomped on by the H&S. They want H&S clones, automatons, --docility reformulated as the social norm, sterility as health --all that & more. Excuse my smoke? Excuse us for living!
[February 19th, '15]
Alternatively driftwood, sea-snake, dog, but suddenly identify the shape as large ocean gull beside me, bottom up, fishing. Two flew over the waves the length of the beach last time I was here --index of nothing of Nature, only would-be beach bum's peregrinations. (Peregrine? Nah, language isn't that helpful! --more helpless in language than the sea, tossed or becalmed, at elements' mercy.) Long skein of seaweed looks like a strayed squid. Severally folded width of white cloth-like jelly-fish. My own left-hand unintentionally brushing hip jumping me out of my skin.
At the bus-stop made to pay for Famous Five unheroics when bird on wing shits on me, wishfully misapprehended at first as leaking air-con from adjacent cafe or even broken pipe from same building's bathroom above the pavement. Bird's shit wakes me up to real world. Evidence of what food that grey brown muck smear on my house-brick coloured cotton shirt? Thank God no flying quadrupeds!
[28th February/1st March,
Summer into Autumn, 2015]
Sea's stillness last calendar day of Summer instills the timelessness often adduced. 'Time out of time' I say, as though the Beach is a self-contained cylinder, propelled from suburb to sea & back again, or even a tunnel --Wellesian, Vernean? (--image born of industrial age's sky's-the-limit inventiveness, centre of the earth & outer-space alternate playgrounds of scientific dreams --& any such dreamer an engineer on frontier of mind & matter, pith helmet optional, blessed by commerce & empire--
remember saying to my brother & father "Everything conceived eventually materialises", watching telly, 1970 or so, visiting home in what had been the village of young family's growing up, --in bed-sit now, in the Docks district across town, --prodigal's return from Oz. As a kid would have it, our eternal & infinite address : "Mon Reve", Shelley Road, Thornhill, Southampton, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Europe, The World, The Earth, The Milky Way, The Solar System, The Universe. No where else it could be! Thought but not spoken before : "anything imagined will come about!" Really? Actually? brother exclaims with troubled look. Yes, the mind's like a computer; we put in the questions & out come the answers : whatever can be imagined will eventuate… Dad straightens tighter to himself, maximising attention to the story on TV, leaves speculation to his sons. What was that film? From an elapse of 45 years, brother suggests Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner… I'm thinking of a sci-fi thriller --maybe a better episode of Dr Who, in which a diabolical telepathic & shape-changing battle or duel with cosmic consequences ensues in rural southern England where sharp moustached army officer with detachment of men run around like headless chooks, plainly out of their depth & probably in the wrong film let alone dimension? Or could it have been Doomwatch, or even UFO?)
Such stillness, transfixion, I saw in Seurat's painting, Bathers at Asnieres, hanging at the National Gallery in London. In the piece I wrote in 1975 for my ABC BOOK, jumped from French riverscape to Melbourne's seaside, explicating the figures' "pink rotundity" & "torpor : "Even on a bay beach, where only a minor bend of the imagination recalls the Ocean & states of being not contained within a pretty border, the men & women occupy the sands & changing currents as solidly as they did the green bank. It is most of all a domestic scene, the installation of soft cubes. The seven-eighths naked men & women blob the sand. The gulls blob the first height of air. It is on the cards the tableau melts at nightfall. Each succeeding day has the sand a trifle whiter, requires a fuller foot to tread it, a wider posterior to settle upon it. Summer's seven years pass slowly."
Different friends ask if I'd ever consider moving to Elwood, but perhaps as L says our cottage at the other end of the bus line already is that house by the sea. But, seed sown, where in Elwood would it be? Byrne Avenue, old & new dwellings, renovated homes & apartments, old fences, new walls, old & young happy families, hippies, professionals, laid-back first timers, old timers, dogs, cats… Normandy Street, larger detached houses, mansions, grand in the white-glossed way, nobody & nothing along the street except luxury cars…
Big seas, surf, winds, inaugurate first day of Autumn. Couldn't be larger contrast with yesterday. The contradiction includes another : grey brown green water beneath black hills of cloud on the Point Ormond / Port Melbourne side, and clear blue sky scudded with cirrus on the Elwood Lifesaving Club side. Remarkably warm water following previous night's wind & thunderstorm, though dirty with storm detritus. As life is…
[28th February/1st March, 2015]