The beach bums and their bright smiles

If you live in Sydney there’s really no acceptable excuse to stop you getting out and enjoying the glorious views on offer from almost every vantage point.

That said, I do believe it’s possible to take it a little too far sometimes, and recently I’ve stumbled upon a group of nutters doing exactly that.

While the rest of us plod reluctantly along the pavement in the pre-dawn light, with creases from our bed linen still fresh on our faces,  they congregate by the ocean in hot pink swimming caps and bright smiles.

Lately, even the sun’s been reluctant to get out of bed when this crowd of Speedo-wearing enthusiasts are gathering at the water’s edge, stomping the sand in a pointless attempt to keep out the cold.

Before you know it, they charge en masse into the surf and disappear around the point with varying degrees of speed and grace at their disposal.

I’ve studied this ritual quite a lot recently, as my dear friend and I curse the cold on-shore breeze each morning in our quest to get fit again, and I’ve realised something quite remarkable.

No matter how early or cold it is and no matter what the weather, these brave souls are out there embracing the day and all it has to offer. You just have to look at their faces as they wade out of the ocean a short time later to see it shining bright in their eyes.

They might be crazy, but they’re good crazy.

Advertisements

The church bell and its midnight serenade

One of the absolute pleasures of living in the country is the silence. Mainly because it’s just so easy to find. Particularly in the evening and even more so in the dead of night.

In the city it plays a much tougher game of hide and seek. There’s always someone or something determined to disturb the peace; sirens squealing, revellers rejoicing, someone using the bathroom in the apartment above yours.

The beauty of silence is that it’s content to let the really unique sounds be heard. The ones that need only a second to make a warm smile shine within.

Last night I heard just that, a magical sound.

It was well past midnight and I’d become obsessed with finishing the Jodi Picoult novel I’d found abandoned on a bookshelf at my parents’ house. There was a frost sneaking through the window and barely a whisper to be heard outside besides the occasional curt bark from a curious dog.

Then, it happened. Somewhere in the distance a quiet wind nudged a church bell into breaking its silence. It tolled only once, but that’s all it needed to say. The sound carried quietly across the dark night and the thousands of people sleeping peacefully amongst it.

It was a short moment, but it was bliss.

The gym gentry and their fitness regime

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I don’t find exercising easy. It usually involves a couple of long hours of heated discussion beforehand between the fitness fanatic I long to be and the lazy git I love to be.

On the days I actually manage to begrudgingly drag myself onto the treadmill, I always find it just a little deflating when I walk into the gym to find muscle-flexing, Lululemon-clad fitness fanatics as far as the eye can see.

Being a gym, though, it’s a rare day that you see anything other than that.

That’s why it was an absolute pleasure to walk into the gym yesterday morning to find Arthur and Rosemary working out in quite unorthodox attire.

Arthur was clad in denim jeans, held in place by a snazzy pair of braces, and finished off with a pair of black shoes that displayed all the hallmarks of Hush Puppies’ sensible design. I can only assume that he’d decided, quite wisely I think, to kill two birds with one stone by exercising in the outfit he’d planned on wearing to lunch afterwards.

Rosemary was looking just as smart in a lovely blue and white floral frock accompanied by equally sturdy footwear.

How did I know their names were Arthur and Rosemary, you might ask? They were wearing name tags, of course. I’m not sure why, but it made me smile at a time when I usually struggle to do anything but grimace.

It was the best workout I’ve had in a long time. Watching Arthur, Rosemary and their posse of name tag-wearing buddies wander around the equipment enjoying a bike ride, or a stroll on the treadmill, before retreating to the lounge area for a cuppa and a biscuit was the most refreshing thing I’ve seen in a long time. Even after enduring a bit of sledging from one distinguished gentleman who thought my sister-in-law and I weren’t walking fast enough.

That’s what a workout should be like.

The car journey and its travel companion

When you’re in the midst of a seven hour car trip, it’s never long before you pass a road sign warning, “caution: monotony ahead”. I find it’s usually around the four hour mark when the many forms of entertainment – books, Sudoko puzzles, iPads, games of eye-spy – you packed as a travel companion just aren’t that interesting anymore.

It’s at this point that anything able to stop the rot of boredom setting in is welcomed.

On a recent return trip to Sydney in my trusty little car, I saw something that did just that. There I was, dutifully obeying the speed limit, when a silver Subaru came hurtling past me. From my righteous position at the helm of an obedient motor vehicle, I cast a disapproving look across at the driver. That’s when I noticed it. The first three letters of their number plate were A.O.K.

I’ll tell you, that car could have been driving on two wheels through a tunnel of fire and I would’ve forgiven it, just for its number plate. For the next little while my car just chewed up the road and spat it out as I spent my time thinking of the many situations a number plate like A.O.K could assist with; 

“Hello madam, we’re conducting random drink driving breath tests today, please breath into the machine,” the professional police officer would ask. To which I’d reply with a smile, “no thanks, officer, I’m A-OK.”

“Wash your windscreen?” the cleaning technician positioned at a set of inner city traffic lights with a water bottle filled with dishwashing liquid would ask gruffly. “No thanks, I’m A-OK,” I would offer with my trademark smile.

They’re just so versatile. The owner of that silver Subaru must’ve been happily A-OK the day they walked out of the registry office with those number plates in their hot little hands.

The commuter and her eavesdropping

I overheard a delightful conversation on the bus this morning. Some may call it eavesdropping but, honestly, privacy is the last thing you can expect on public transport. 

The orator at my end of the conversation was a very distinguished looking gentleman with silver hair and a smart suit. He sat across the aisle from me, leaning on a golf umbrella that most likely promoted a reputable law firm or investment fund.

At first I was only vaguely aware of someone mumbling nearby while he greeted whoever it was that answered his call. Then, all of a sudden, it got interesting.

“Hello darling,” he said.

Now, hang on, I thought, as my ears instantly stood to attention and the book I was reading suddenly hit a slow spot. Who’s this he’s speaking to? His voice had become soft and, when I looked over at him briefly, I saw he had a big smile on his face.

“Are you ready for your big day?” he continued.

Big day? It’s hump day, I knew that. Hardly warranted the sort of enthusiasm and encouragement his tone of voice was eliciting.

“Have you got your bag packed and your new shoes on?”

Ahhh huh! I’ve got it. It was the new shoes – dead giveaway. Today’s the first day of kindy for a lot of kids across Australia.

More often than not, I find taking, receiving, or listening to someone else’s, phone calls on public transport a little awkward. No matter how quietly anyone speaks into their handset, it feels as though they’re shrieking into the other traveller’s eardrums at point blank range. It’s very difficult to ignore.

Today was different. Today I could’ve happily listened to this grandad’s (I’m assuming) wishes of “good luck” and “have fun” for the entire journey.

What a lovely call to receive on such a big day in your life.

The city and her foibles

The city always looks a little different to me whenever we’ve enjoyed a few weeks apart. In the little while I’ve been back in Sydney after 14 heavenly days of rest and relaxation in the country, I’ve realised the city’s occasionally rude and impatient foibles have become less noticeable. Better yet, they’re far less irritating.

How, you ask?

  • When I wake up in the morning to the sunlight scalding my eyes it’s as if Julie Andrews, and not ACDC, is singing a delightful melody about what pleasures the day will bring.
  • I’m happy to wait patiently at the bus stop for a chariot that takes my fancy, rather than hastily scampering onto the first one that comes along.
  • In fact, I even smile at fellow commuters as they jump the queue in front of me.
  • I’m also rediscovering the simple pleasure of exchanging morning pleasantries about the weather with my bus driver.
  • I don’t care to play Russian roulette with traffic at pedestrian crossings anymore.
  • Instead, I’m unable to stop myself from adopting an almost whimsical expression at traffic lights as I wait calmly to cross the road when the little green man tells me to.

Yes, I think it’s true. Absence can make the heart grow fonder. At least for a little while.

The wireless and its crackle

I’m quite proud of the fact that none of the gifts I was blessed to receive this Christmas could be classified as an iFad of “must have” 2.0 gadgetry. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Instead, I received many happy reminders of how lovely it is to take pleasure in the simple things.

First there’s the cackling wireless, or radio, I received, complete with manual tuner and valves that need a few minutes to warm up before they’ll speak the gospel of AM radio. Yes, only AM radio. Even better, the number of stations available to you varies greatly depending on whether you use your body as a human conductor for the aerial.

There’s something so totally enjoyable about having a wireless humming away in the background bringing news from far off places. What makes it better still is the satisfaction of going fishing in the sound waves for the blue marlin of AM radio – the BBC World Service. I haven’t found it yet, but I remain ever hopeful that it’s out there.

Complementing my cackling wireless is the stationery I received to write hand-written notes to friends and family. The beautiful set of notecards offer just enough space to let someone special know you’re thinking about them; a sentiment we seem to discard far too casually these days.

Personally, I think there’s nothing sweeter than receiving a letter in the mail from someone you love who took the time to put pen to paper, just because. It’s something I’m going to take great pleasure in doing as I’m listening to my wireless.