Following on from our New Year’s Day walk in the Wollongong Botanical Gardens, where we had resolved to start the year out the way we intended to go on with it, on this morning, Sunday 2nd January (2022), my sister and I headed off for a beach walk. We didn’t take our phones with us, so no camera – but I have written before about the joy of the beach right on our doorstep, so here are some recycled photos. I hope they bring back happy memories Sis. You can click on each photo to get the bigger version.
Walking is a reflective activity. Sometimes when I am deep in trying to create a writing piece, scenes and conversations will play in my head, and I try to capture them by recording the thoughts on my phone, for transcribing at home later.
Even though I usually walk alone, a similar thing happens when you are with another person. Many challenges have happened in my sister’s life over the last ten+ years, tests and trials that she has had to face up to alone while raising two children and maintaining a house mortgage in the tenuous environment of casual hospitality work. I know ‘about’ this, of course, but in that hour or so as we walked up and down the beach, just we two, no other relatives or party preparations or general buzz of busy life intruding on and interrupting our conversation, I did my best to be an active listener. I once took a course on listening skills and learnt (or was reminded of) that technique. Sometimes it is all too easy to appear as if you are listening, when all you are doing is waiting for the other person to take a breath or pause so you can jump in with whatever you have to say. This can happen particularly as we get older and our overaged brains have a tendency to lose a thought as fast as it forms. This time, I did my best to really listen and appreciate as my sister recapped those years, and acknowledge how, even though they may have changed their shape and significance, the challenges are not over yet. As the younger of us by some seven or eight years, there is a tendency for my sister to look to me for advice – which I am only too happy to give – I mean – maybe TOO happy to give, but I learn from her, too. And on this walk, I learned to be doubly grateful for how easy my life has become. My first twenty-five years may have been one heck of a struggle, but they are long behind me now. Those years belong to another lifetime, another person. As a wise person told me recently: ‘We don’t have to keep living the past to know that it happened‘.
Okay, enough philosophy. My sister and I also share a lot of laughs, and as the days together roll on, we are starting to finish each other’s sentences, or hit on a punch line at the same time. The word of the holiday is sarcasm. We grew up quite separately, so I got the smart mouth, while she got the more innocent worldview. She is often teased good-naturedly at work, because she takes people at face value and responds to the words people say, rather than the double-edged irony in the delivery. But she is wising up 🙂 There was a healthy dose of satire in our beach chat, too.
Back at the apartment, we showered off the sand we had souvenired and spread our swimwear on the balcony to dry. But the wind which raged on New Year’s Eve was still strong, and I looked up to see my beach dress get picked up and carried away. We searched for it, but no luck. It was so light, and the wind so strong, I reckon it was carried the mile or so to the wharf or a ship at anchor in no time. Perhaps it is wrapped around a ship’s funnel even today.
That little excitement over, we settled to a tuna salad lunch – healthy eating to go with our healthy walking – and then put some lamb shanks on to simmer until dinnertime. I remember when butchers practically gave away this tough cut, now they have become a gourmet meal. Rosemary and parsley from the garden, combined with garlic and other herbs and spices, drowned in stock and a liberal dose of red wine all went into the stockpot with the sautéed shanks. Then we set about preparing a platter of savouries and sweets for the two ladies who were about to join us for a wine or two. My sister used to be a florist. I haven’t put my finger on the difference in presentation of our grazing platters, but hers is definitely the best!
Each time I’ve introduced my sister to the various neighbours who live here, with whom I’ve developed friendships, the conversations are distinctly different. In part because of the range of ages who live here, and in part their different backgrounds. On this day, we were well into a wide-ranging modern discussion when Bill got home from golf, but his joining us did not stop the flow 🙂 Before we knew it, several hours had passed!
The lamb shanks were literally dropping off the bone by dinnertime. ‘Literally’. It’s an overused word isn’t it? Does it signify that the lamb shanks actually dropped off the bone? But I threw it in this story anyway. We served them (the shanks, not superfluous words) over new potatoes in their skin, roughly smashed instead of mashed, and green beans on the side.
Then we did something we haven’t done during the five prior days of this holiday. We plonked ourselves in front of the television. After channel surfing for a while, we settled on a comedian. It was an American show we hadn’t seen before, Dry Comedy Bar, and it was soooo refreshing that the comedian was not swearing or shouting. Earlier that day, I had remarked to my sister that it had been some years since I had a really good belly laugh. Now Sis and I were laughing so much we were on the verge of hiccupping. Turns out the presenter, Bob Zany, is known for a particular style.
At one point during his dry and observant routine, there was a joke that took the audience a while to ‘get’. He eyeballed them, leant forward, and said ONE WORD.
You guessed it yet, folks?