I’m still running and thinking about Kevin.
Along the cliffs where Gordon’s Bay meets Clovelly is a mix of ostentatiously orange mansions – rusty symbols of 90’s excess, making the last of the 1960’sand ‘70’s redbrick flats look simple and beautiful.
At 6.15am its already really hot on the hottest day in Sydney since the 60’s and my body is a pain fest of sweat and regret that I ever had an idea to run. There’s a kind of gasping coming out of my throat, but I know, if I can just make it to the top of the hill, my reward will come in the sweet descent of the stairs.
I remember as a kid, visiting an old deaf aunty who lived in some tall red-bricked flats in Clovelly. Great Aunty Greta, rumoured to be holding the family fortune from the secret bookmaker winnings of Uncle Les, was an inheritance investment and must be visited according to Dad, and we were dragged there about once a year in our most uncomfortable clothes.
The musty, mouldy moth-ball smell, the carpet in the entrance area that set your teeth on edge and the sound of the heavy door slamming, which echoed through the building like a scene from the movie ‘The Shining’. Greta had flaming dyed red hair, a thickly powdered face and a pink flowery house dress. Every sentence had to be shouted several times and she’d nod away, smiling – I think Greta understood more than she let on, and she once gave me the most magnificent doll I’dever seen. Or was that my sister she gave it to?
At last that childhood memory is over and it’s down the steep stairs of death to the Clovelly carpark on the water’s edge. Along the path before the carpark, you get the sense of being just below sea level – it’s an odd feeling and makes you look twice at the waves rolling in – like being at the shark tank at the aquarium and watching them glide over your head – your geographic brain-sense goes on high spatial alert and your mouth falls open ever so slightly.
I note the German couple are still in the carpark, as they have been for the last few weeks, holidaying in their 1990’s dark green Ford Laser station wagon. The council started raiding tourists in the Clovelly car par recently due to the large number of campervans and squatters in the area over summer. Residents of million dollar properties complained that tourists were brushing their teeth – and worse – in full view of public opinion. Shock. Horror. Happlily the German couple have sunk under the council radar – their station wagon unworthy of a second glance. I’d like to take them a cup of tea in winter if they are still there.
Clovelly Beach is like your Greek grandparent’s backyard – it’s all concrete. A lovely narrow channel of seawater protected from the open ocean by a slightly raised reef, and with convenient ladders down to the snorkelling oasis of fish, sea urchins, wobbegong sharks and stingrays rays so popular with everyone in summer.
In November last year there was a most spectacular event – brown algae suddenly grew in the salty water around Clovelly and at night it glowed a bright blue. It seemed like a portend to the end of the world – what with the solar maximus flare activity and talk of the Mayan calendar.
The lifesavers at Clovelly have a morning fitness routine that involves running around the inlet in nothing but speedos, or lady speedos and then leaping in the water, swimming furiously across and out the other side. Repeat ten times. I try to keep the pity off my face and delicately leap past in my fake lithe running style designed to impress attractive athletes in budgie smugglers. Oh no – I can’t say budgie smugglers any more without thinking of Tony Abbott. Ew! Quick think of something else – Kevin Kevin Kevin. Yes we are all connected.
In Raymond Carver’s book of short stories “What we talk about when we talk about Love” there’s a story about two couples who sit around trying to articulate what love means. There’s lots of discussion, and one of the characters believes that her former boyfriends’ abusive behaviour and eventual suicide was a sign of his love for her. Another character believes that only spiritual love is real love. Everyone has a different idea of what real love means. But the best part is when another of the characters tells a story about an old couple, long time married who were in the intensive care unit of the hospital all wrapped up in bandages after a terrible accident. The character leans over to the mouth hole of the old man to hear that the old man is very upset – because he can’t see his beloved. This is the first time in 50 years that he hasn’t been able to look at his wife. The point being that we could talk all we like – but actually with a simple gesture such as looking into someone’s eyes can establish a deeper connection with another person.
When I try to think about what connectedness means to me I recognise geography and a sense of place as making me feel more connected, a sense of belonging. My primal landscape. But what am I connected to exactly? Are there people in my landscape?. Walking and running through the terrain helps uncover some of those connections and contradictions. The mind ticks over. What is sitting in my unconscious that I refuse to recognise? I have a feeling that it will all be revealed up ahead – where Waverley meets the sea.
Continued tomorrow –