Australian Suburbs, Summer

I’ve been around a few summers now, and though a lot of things change, much remains the same. I’m older of course – that’s definitely different – but I find that in the summer I return to many things I enjoyed as a kid, and with much the same sense of joy. As an adult there is a different take on it all, both because I have more freedom now than then, and because I have experience I could only imagine at back when I was a 10 or 12 year old boy. Yet, I remember, being that 10 or 12 year old boy and looking at the world of adults with some interest. While I was running around with my friends in a pair of shorts, or splashing in the pool for hours at the time, I absorbed the activity of the adults about us – how they sat, talking easily, casually, dressed in their shorts too, a t-shirt beneath the blazing summer sky, a cool drink in their hand – a beer, or a G&T, or perhaps a brandy and dry back then. They laughed as they watched us, mellow in their own world, the worries and concerns of the office left behind, talking instead about the cricket or the latest headlines or what they had planned for the summer holidays as they sipped those drinks.

I’m a big boy now. While I’m not exactly the father figure I might have been, nor am I that kid anymore. I’m seasoned by many years of sun, of drinks of every description, of affairs and plans and hopes and difficulties. Still and all I have much more in common with my dad as he was then, than I do with the kid that I was – except that I take the same boyish pleasure in the simple things as I did then.

Yesterday was like that. It seemed a classic summers day in the Melbourne suburbs. It was 39 degrees out. After some shopping and a breakfast at a nearby cafe in the morning I came home to read the newspaper in air-conditioned comfort. In the afternoon I packed a towel, a pair of boardies, as well as a bottle of Havana Club in a bag, put a straw hat on my head and drove over to JV’s to splash around in his pool.

We made one Cuba Libre and finished it off quick, and then another. It reminded me of a debauched few days in Bali some years ago when we drank all day and swam and spent most of our break intoxicated to some greater or lesser degree. That’s different from when I was a kid, and for a moment it made me think of how alcohol has been so much an integral part of my adult life, how it is for all of us, the one constant. Good, or bad? I shrugged my shoulders and poured another.

It was quite a scene, like a Jeffrey Smart picture yet to be painted: Australian Suburbs, Summer. I could see it in my minds eye, straight lines, bright colours, something both banal and significant. We floated in the pool on lilo’s, our feet overhanging the edge as we drifted in eddies, chatting while we sipped at drinks before placing them back in the convenient slot built for them. The lilo’s were navy blue, the water a pale aqua. The pool was bordered by dark red tiles, and surrounded by the green of lawn and garden. The sky might have been brilliant blue, as so often it is, just to complete the picture – except this time it wasn’t. The clouds had gathered, painted white upon the sky between which the sun sneaked through.

This is the life, eh? one or the other of us muttered. It seemed superficial, a little decadent, but also somehow deserved. Shit happens, we know too well – so isn’t it nice to forget that for a bit and just enjoy?

Later, inside, I spoke to JV’s dad, visiting from Sydney. I know him reasonable well, and think he’s a ripper bloke. He’s Portuguese, a solid and very cheerful 5’7″ – I often wonder how his 6’1″ son came from him, but perhaps that’s as much environment as breeding. Each year they return to Portugal to visit family, to stop in a flat they own in Tavira, which is where I first met them. We’re talking about how things are over there, very bad he says. We agree once more how good we have it here, and how so few are oblivious of it. He is a happy and proud Aussie now, glad to have taken the punt and grateful for how it has paid off. I feel the sun in my skin, already a little pink – a new sprinkling of freckles have appeared on my shoulders. The air-con is cranked up, music plays, adios I bid them, wandering out to my Audi to drive home.

It’s a small thing, a few classic moments on another Australian summer’s day, the radio cranked up in my car as I drive the short distance home, the sunroof open. Those times before have gone, as sometimes we laugh about, but there is an ongoing link from those days till now, and the days still to come. For now I know it, appreciate it. I wonder what will come, fleetingly, know one day it will end, for me, while it still goes on for others. That’s not my concern now. Now, is now. Now is fine. Live with that, and move on to the next.

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