A DAY AT THE BEACH
It was a fact. We were sick of lush meadows stuffed behind clumps of rhododendron and boring rows of hawthorn. Six months away from home and we were hanging out for sun-parched paddocks and a sea that was clear blue, with sand that was warm under foot. Dad promised us a holiday at a proper beach. He kept his word, but even he couldn’t deliver good weather for it.
Our holiday arrived in a squall of wind and rain, but Dan and I climbed into the car behind Mum and Dad and chattered all the way. We were sure the bruised clouds would disappear and those weather leprechauns would turn on summer for us. The purple ‘dendrons gave way to open road and eventually we glimpsed snatches of sea at the end of long fingers of rock pointing into the Atlantic. To our cries of ‘Are we there yet?’ just to annoy Dad, the car swept round the last bend and there it was…the sea. But no sand. The ocean, driven by the force of an Atlantic gale, had overwhelmed all trace of sand and was pounding the low wall of the Strand. We stood beside the car, hunched against the wind like the spindly grasses bent horizontal at our feet.
A distant tanker pitched and rolled, slowly being driven onto Bull Rock whose monstrous granite head seethed foam through ranks of black teeth. We watched as a tiny orange craft struggled to winch small figures to safety. A tide of black oil grew wider.
We went back again the next day to join a small crowd on the cliff top. We stood in silence watching the still-furious sea. That ship died before our eyes; a grey hulk breaking up in Joyce’s snot-green sea; a bull elephant lowering itself into a muddy waterhole.
It was a slow death. Dan and I were quickly bored.
‘D’you think there’ll be some sand tomorrow?’ we asked.
Mum explained about the oil slick.
‘It’s not fair! Stuck here all week and no beach?’
Dad gave us a look that said, that’s enough, and then he turned to Mum and cocked a thumb at the tanker.
‘Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles,’ he said. ‘Ship happens.’
We had no idea why Mum and Dad dissolved into helpless laughter.
A year later Dad’s job took us back to Australia. Our very first treat was a day at Bondi.
© Rhonda Pooley, 2014 A DAY AT THE BEACH