This is Australia

This summer just gone was the hottest summer I can remember. Never before do I recall willing on Autumn like I did in February. And never before have I had the strains of Gang Gajang’s ‘Sounds of Then’ running through my head so often, wearing musical grooves into my brain.

Out on the patio we’d sit,
And the humidity we’d breathe,
We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields
Laugh and think, this is Australia.

For me, no other song conjures up so perfectly the feel, sensations and experience of our hot summers. Pure association, I guess.

Not that we have canefields in this area, more like dairy, beef cattle, and other small farming operations. But the point remains, we all sat on our patios, or verandahs, or under the shade of trees, catching whatever breeze there was, no matter how warm, trying to breathe.

I got sick of being hot, I was so over sweating, all the time. I got tired of waking up tired. I got fed up with the limited wardrobe – clothes that don’t touch your skin, anywhere, at any time (this is hard to achieve).

One stinking hot weekend, a thermometer hanging on the verandah of a home 5 minutes west of our place, topped out at 49.5C (no, that is not a typo). We might as well just call it 50C. Fair dinkum, that’s basically a warm oven.

I gave up growing vegetables. I usually have an on-going, never-ending supply of lettuce in my herb garden over summer. But this year I had to concede defeat. Despite my efforts to save the seedlings: caging them to provide protection from the ravenous rabbits, drooping old t-shirts over the cages by way of keeping the harsh, ravaging sun at bay, and watering them regularly, the poor seedlings still failed, quickly and convincingly. There was clearly no hope.

Other plants in the garden turned up their feet, gave up, relenting to the dry, the heat and the beating sun. Our dam levels dropped to the lowest we’ve experienced. The days were scorching and the heat relentless.

Nights were hard, with only a fan to cool us, we did not sleep well. We got grumpier and grumpier as the summer wore on. Waking up felt terrible.

And oh, don’t we love to complain about the weather! It’s such a popular topic of conversation in Australia. I think Aussies talk about the weather to excess anyway, but give us a ‘weather event’, broken records or a “not even Pop remembers a summer as stinkin’ hot as this one” kind of season, and we can’t get enough of it. This summer, I even bored myself with my whinging and complaining.

You know you’ve fully adapted to country life when.. the most frequently viewed website or used app on your iPhone is – our national Bureau of Meteorology. The BOM site, as it’s affectionally referred to is our bible in times of dry and in times of wet. We love it. We view the rain radar regularly. This last summer, we checked it in vain, desperately looking for signs of precipitation and relief. None came. Even the forecast rains never fell.

There was an upside though, to our extreme summer. A big fat beautiful upside. And it was this – we jumped, and dived, and backflipped, and summersaulted off jetties into crystal clear water, we snorkelled, we swam, we boogie-boarded and we stand-up paddle-boarded.

We had late-evening beach sessions, dinners on the beach, dinners outside. We escaped searing temperatures by camping on the coast. We indulged in all the wonderful things an Australian summer has to offer.

A few weeks ago, there was word from the old cockies who farm inland from here, around Nowendoc and Mount George, that the springs were swelling and the rivers were being flushed. A sure sign that rain was on its way apparently. As we gazed at a big expansive clear blue sky with a hot sun still beating down on us, we doubted and we questioned. But they were right, the rains did come, within about a week, along with cooler temperatures. Mid 20’s now has people bringing out their cardies, because trust me, that seems pretty chilly after 46C.

It felt like a very long and a very hot summer. We ate lots of ice blocks, had only cold showers, and our ceiling fans worked overtime. We complained but we also had fun, created happy memories and as in the Gang Gajang song, we laughed.

Now to Autumn, and to getting back out in the garden. Things have started to actually grown again! You can almost hear the plants singing while they soak up the rain, stretching, putting on growth, sending out roots, and making up for lost time.

Sounds of Then (This is Australia), Gang Gajang, 1985

I think I hear the sounds of then,
And people talking,
The scenes recalled, by minute movement,
And songs they fall, from the backing tape.
That certain texture,that certain smell,

To lie in sweat, on familiar sheets,
In brick veneer on financed beds.
In a room, of silent hardiflex
That certain texture, that certain smell,
Brings home the heavy days,
Brings home the the night time swell,

Out on the patio we’d sit,
And the humidity we’d breathe,
We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields
Laugh and think, this is Australia.

The block is awkward – it faces west,
With long diagonals, sloping too.
And in the distance, through the heat haze,
In convoys of silence the cattle graze.
That certain texture, that certain beat,
Brings forth the night time heat.

Out on the patio we’d sit,
And the humidity we’d breathe,
We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields
Laugh and think that this is Australia.

Photo credits: all images of ‘jumping off the jetty’ thanks to my sister-in-law.



7 thoughts on “This is Australia

  1. Escaping the heat ‘last’ summer (see blog below), I am grateful for our weekend away together at Manning Point, thanks Rebecca Carson Harper! So was our 14 year old Border Collie, Jack. I don’t think I’ve ever slept directly under a mosquito net out in the open before. It was great until I awoke at 2am and mistook the (then darkened) white clouds above me for massive storm clouds. Yes, in hindsight I should have checked the radar before I woke everyone up.

    Ummm… sorry about that.

  2. What great memories you’ve gained . happy family. Never give up on your dreams, it’s never to late to achieve, it’s never to late to start living the life you want to live.

    • Thanks Laura. Yes, you need a song like ‘Life in a Northern Town’ to conjure up images of the UK. Very different images!! Thanks for reading x

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