Thursday, December 30, 2010

Apres-Christmas Weather

Cyclones are the hurricanes of the Southern Hemisphere. They range from a bit of rain with all the force of a damp firecracker to the MOTHER of all tropical depressions.
This year Townsville had the cyclone, and we had a solid tropical storm come for dinner and stay for the weekend.
It began with spitting rain and gale force winds - hell for cycling - and hell for going to the beach because the blown sand would sandblast your skin as you crossed it on the way to the water. 
Then the rain hit. Things got wilder and wilder with rain and tree branches lancing in from every direction of the compass, so naturally we all piled into the car and went out for a drive along the Spit to the edge of the shipping channel.
Out there Mum was determined to go for a walk out in “nature in the raw!” Which was fine and beaut – until she reached into the backseat and pulled out ONE weather jacket. Her size.
Suddenly, Dad (I was exempt on account of a head cold) was a lot less enthusiastic.  Mum immediately took the initiative and pointed out that it was all his fault, because “he's a man, and if I’d asked him to bring a jacket he wouldn’t have brought one, so forgetting to bring one in the first place was just eliminating everything that would have happened if I remembered and it should have been his responsibility anyway.”
At which point Dad noted dangerously that when he left the house, he hadn’t had any idea that he’d be going out bushwhacking through a tropical depression. Mum found a small plastic bag under the backseat of the car, about four inches square, and placed it over his head as an umbrella, and right when I was really starting to enjoy the show they both suddenly stopped LOOKING at each other and stepped out into the rain.
They lasted about five minutes.
It really was damp out there.
Back in the car (Mum exhilarated and Dad dripping) we drove back down the Spit to the beach.
I sat in the car and felt it rock and shudder as if it was been played with by a very large and careless God, while Mum and Dad climbed back out into the weather and  walked down toward the maelstrom of swirling sand and water - and came back in another grand hurry, as the wind began to blast the sand through their clothes.

That night it fizzled out into a nice, normal tropical storm, and the next day, for the first time in a week, we could go riding and enjoy it because the air was so STILL.  No wind, just a small, tentative breeze every 30 seconds or so, whenever the air threatened to become muggy.  The beach had been sculpted into enormous dunes and the beaches were closed down for a few days.

There’s a certain streak of bloody and sarcastic masochism in the Australian psyche – a disdain for danger coupled with the historical inclination of thumbing the nose at authority (on principle these days, rather than because authority had just transported them to the edge of the known world in the bilge of a ship, the way it used to happen). By day two of the beach closure, people were going swimming anyway and ta'hellwith'it, so the Life Guards picked up all their  “NO SWIMMING!” "DANGER! BEACH CLOSED!"  and "DANGER!!!!!  STINGING JELLYFISH!!!!" signs (They'd been getting a bit desperate toward the end there.  I asked one of them about that last sign and she blushed.) and settled for sitting on the waters edge in en-grumpy-mass, with jet skis and banana boats and surfboards and rescue slings arranged between their enormous exasperated sulk and the water. They set up two flags, and herded us between them and sat on the beach with dangerously folded arms, their slitted eyes practically daring us to "go on, get pulled out by that massive rip just to your left… yeah, that one right there.  I’m the one who’s going to pop up on my jet ski next to your gasping, flailing body when you're REALLY far out from shore, and as I haul you aboard, I'll say I TOLD YOU SO.  Lots and lots and lots"

I've never felt quite so guilty for going swimming.

I'd like to interject that I respect and appreciate the lifeguards - most of whom are volunteers, and I sympathized entirely with their plight - they were in the right all the way, and we should absolutely have respected their superior judgement, and I would never never never have gone in if everyone else hadn't been in already.

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