ESTUARY

©Julie Boyd

Riva, Skoi git art ov the eschewry. No Chelsi , ya havta go in the car wiv your Mum. As my small canine companion swam towards River and Skye ever hopeful of a pat, I couldn’t help smiling at the irony of their names and situation, I wondered whether ocker Mum would remember to collect all the broken bottles and party balloons for the rubbish bin in the midst of packing up the family trappings, or whether it would all be left for the locals to clean up. Those of us who live here are constantly dismayed on weekends at the people who leave their rubbish behind, as if they expect a maid service to clean up after them.

Behind us a couple of kids in kayaks they  had rented for an hour were stuck on a sandbank, as some of the locals ran past with their surfboards under their arms, looking strangely dressed up, not in their usual wetsuits.  On the other side, a bloke was considering whether to unload his jetski. The water is so shallow because of the silt now filling the estuary. He thought better and drove off- thank goodness. The noise of those things gives me migraines and scares the wildlife.

Jorge-dog did score a significant number of pats, as the kids decided that was preferable to obeying Mum, until she roared again – they started crying, and Jorge decided it was best to exit the scene, so he helpfully showed them what getting out of the estuary looked like.

The cries of frustrated Mum and screams of disappointed kids followed us as we continued our walk along the sand. Our estuary runs into the sea at a stunning headland which makes the area very environmentally fragile. When we first moved here to live, 7 years ago, the sand used to be covered with soldier crabs so that it looked as if the whole beach was blue and constantly moving. That was before the big developments started pouring their illegal runoff into the fish nurseries, killing all the marine life.

The tide had just turned and was starting to stream out. Near the mouth it becomes very narrow and deep. It can get up quite a current which can trap unwary visitors, so Jorge-dog is always on the lookout for anything unusual. He spotted a young man stumbling down from the carpark, boardies askew, to fall into the water and lie there with his head under. Jorge raced over to sit beside the water- his signal that something has worried him and needs attention. As the young man finally lifted his head and realised he’d floated almost out of the mouth toward the open sea he started scrambling to find a foothold in what becomes quicksand in those circumstances. As I looked around for a branch to hold out to him, he managed to pull himself to shore and sat, mumbling about hangovers. Silly boy, people lose their lives in an instant in these waters.

We were intent on reaching the headland as a near neighbour’s son was being married there at 2 o’clock. We could see people gathering, all dressed in cocktail outfits. The boys pulling uncomfortably at their suits and ties. Some of the city girls in ridiculous high heels were struggling and sinking into the sandy soil, complaining loudly that their expensive stillettoes were getting wrecked.  The celebrant stood, flanked by two simple white silk flags that billowed in the breeze, framing the reef and a pod of dolphins playing in the surf. My shorts and thongs were pragmatic and fitted with the garb of locals having a sticky nose who stood respectfully to one side – before we realised we were in the direct line for the video being filmed and figured we didn’t really fit the formality of the occasion. A mate who was a guest told me she’d scored her glittering shoes at Vinnies that morning for $5. She didn’t care if they were wrecked by the sand.

Yesterday there had been a downpour. Flash floods, which are becoming a regular feature of our life, swamped the roads, and on an incoming tide there was nowhere for the rain to go. So instead of water running out, it was bubbling back up through the stormwater drains and flooding the streets.

But the rain had stopped, the sun was shining, and the bridal party in their traditional outfits looked ecstatic.

Time passes quickly and I often forget what day it is as one day runs into another at the beach. There is a timelessness in the movement of the tides, and the height of the sun that makes calendars superfluous. Then suddenly instances like this make me realise just how much time has passed. It seems only yesterday that the groom was standing at my door with his mate, explaining that they had nothing to do with the robbery I’d experienced the previous night. When my laptop and backup disks had been stolen – 20 years of work gone in an instant. How they even knew about it still remains a mystery to this day, but that young boy in his tattered boardshorts and bare feet was now a bespoke suited young man in his early twenties working as a Real Estate agent who had just sold his first million-dollar house, and had a big win at the Melbourne Cup, according to a friend standing beside me. She said that as a result of this wonderful fortune they were off to Fiji for a honeymoon.

I stopped myself from saying ‘do they realise there is a military coup there and they’re deporting Aussies,’ as a fleeting memory of my own honeymoon in Fiji ran riot through my brain.

As Jorge-dog and I walked away to start collecting the rubbish left by the daytrippers on our way back home, the kids stripped their ‘good’ clothes off, grabbed their boards, and headed off into the break of an incoming tide, and I wondered whether karma really does exist.