New year’s cleanse

I’ve spent the last few days celebrating the new year down at Wye River. It’s a beautiful part of the world, but then most of the Great Ocean Road is spectacular. This time of year the small town is swollen by thousands of holidaymakers. It took me back to my childhood.

I went down on Sunday morning. By the afternoon I was in the surf. It wasn’t a particularly warm day, and it seemed like I was the only person there without a wetsuit (how different to when I was a kid, when only the odd surfer might). The sun had some bite to it though, and water was not as polar as it might have been. I went in wearing my old-fashioned boardies thinking I’m not going any further than waist deep. But then you get drawn in. The surf was good. It was busy with body-surfers and boogie boarders. The water surged like a living thing and I remembered it from when I was a kid when every year for maybe a dozen summers we holidayed down by the beach. My body took to it, recalling how to turn side on to the waves or dive beneath them, how to ride the swell lifting you with it, and when to turn and surf with the crashing wave. It wasn’t long before I was all in, in and back, out beyond the waves at times feeling it take me, before catching a wave on the way back in. It was all fantastic muscle memory, and my body was exuberant with it.

That night I sat at the campsite with my friends and we had a green chicken curry before lacing into the beer and spirits as the hour approached, conversation roiling around the table, and laughter with it to the soundtrack of some Spotify playlist. As new years eves go it was different, but welcome and fresh.

The next day was slow, walking to the cafe, to the beach, then back to the campsite to read by the creek. Come the evening we fired up the barbie and opened up some reds. We played 500 until we were merry and then went to bed.

Come yesterday I was looking forward to a hot bath and some comforts of home, though they do it well. I’d slept well both nights, assisted by alcohol. Yesterday afternoon I boarded a bus in Lorne and made my way back to Melbourne via Geelong. I had my bath late last night after first having a home-cooked dinner with the friend who’d looked after Rigby for me.

The trip away was good for me. It was good to get away anywhere, but particularly to a place so rustic and raw, so simple in a way and laden with nostalgia. Good to be with my friends.

Last week was pretty tough for me. I felt literally down in the mouth, which is an awful feeling. When you feel that grim you want to avoid contact with any who might see you that way. You can’t smile, everything is hard. I’m pretty good at tossing off a few deflective one-liners and otherwise acting as I always have, but it feels not just a sham, but utterly transparent. The astute will notice, including sometimes the last people in the world you want noticing – which makes it worse.

It took a while to lose that feeling. The surfing helped because it was so natural, but even so, I was reticent. Gradually I eased out of that, knowing in my mind that I have to change it. That’s my resolution, among others, to be less glib, more open – which translates as honest and vulnerable. Donna tells me I’ll be surprised at how people react to it, and the test will be back at work.

Now I’m home until Monday and besides a few chores, I’ve set myself I need to get writing on the new book. I’ve started, but it’s torturous going. No-one ever said it would be easy.


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