Four of our friends – two couples – bought a beach shack north of Sydney about six months ago, and Llew and I finally managed to elbow our way in the door last weekend. Talk about pushy – we were not to be deterred! Of course, we chose one of the hottest weekends of the year to get in the Welsh Dragon and drive in no-air-conditioning-discomfort for four hours straight from work on Friday. I had to reapply sunscreen in the car, and the sole conversation for the duration of the trip involved weather and body temperature updates along the lines of, “Oh my god, it’s so hot!”
Yep, we don’t miss a trick.
By the time we slid out of the car at Manning Pt, we were in a heat-induced state of supreme catatonia. The life of the party? No, sadly rather more like its undertakers, come to bear away all the fun. The torpor was extreme, and with apologies to our gracious hosts, we retired early, promising to perk up the next day.
Lies. If anything, we were even worse. Perhaps this is what actual relaxation does to you: saps your strength until it’s all you can do to drag the wine glass to your lips. My friend who took off the whole of January? The one who wanted the glorious extended summer holiday of her youth? Sick, sick as a dog for the last ten days, so sick she ended up presenting at hospital with suspected pneumonia, for god’s sake. That’s the fat thanks she gets for giving her body a badly needed break; it just spun on its heel, swooned and shortly thereafter completely packed it in. How is she feeling now? Ripped off, and who can blame her? So I wonder if this is what happened to us: a rare weekend away, and some distance from the rat race, and a blanket of stars, and SPLAT. Squashed flat.
Anyway, I can’t imagine we’ll be invited back to Manning Pt – Llew and I were as bricks tied to the weekend’s feet. I was so hot and tired I couldn’t even talk – me, the unsinkable, unstoppable, turbo-powered motor mouth! I was rendered practically mute, and even the tale of my Sunday morning run-in with the new proprietor of the Manning Pt shop (bitch) failed to raise a laugh upon my return to the house – if this had been a comedy routine, I would have been booed from the stage, no doubt copping a piece of chewed gum in the back of the head as I fled. My form was that bad. It was truly that bad. My sole consolation is that Llew was no better. We were two wet firecrackers, suitable for nothing more than the bottom of the bin.
I do love a coastal/country town, though; in Manning Pt, there was no doubt we were somewhere in Australia. The light, the heat, the sky, the 4WDs, the corner store, the burnt coffee, the hot sand, pelicans, the inked-up locals and their sticky-fingered, ice-block-eating barefoot children, the barking dogs, the pristine bowling green of the local club, the hazardous unpatrolled surf beach, the live band echoing over the river from the pub on Saturday night, the persistent whine of lawn mowers as men in shorts and thongs tended their pride and glory, the fishing off splintered jetties, the gamblers plugging coins into poker machines in the middle of the afternoon, the milkshakes and deep-fried fish. Sure, Llew and I badly lacked form this weekend, but Manning Pt? It proved a real treat (thanks, guys!).
Oh, I also got behind the wheel to take on those country roads, clocking up around 80 kms of driving between Saturday and Sunday. I drove to Old Bar with my friend T doing the instructing Saturday afternoon, and that went off without a hitch: I drove to the shops, then I drove to the beach, then I drove around the neighbourhood, then I drove to the prawn and oyster shop, then I pulled over when we saw an antiques sale, then I drove home feeling extremely pleased with myself and very grateful to T for being such a good and calm teacher. Sunday on the way home I drove out to the freeway. All was going well until Llew told me to pull over so other cars could pass, and I misjudged the distance between a letterbox and the Welsh Dragon’s left flank. I clipped the mirror and left a little red paint behind on the letterbox. Something to remember us by. I also had to swerve to miss an oncoming car that drifted into our lane – that was quite frightening – but managed to do so without incident. After conquering the major roundabout at the entrance to the freeway – the last thing standing between me and the petrol station that was to be the changeover destination – I was more than ready to call it a day. But I’m learning!