As beautiful as it is living here in the rolling green paddocks, tucked away on the side of our hill, it’s also rather nice to have a change of scenery. The first few weeks of January are well suited to spend some time on the coast. The breeze off the ocean is often cool, and if the weather turns extremely hot, it’s the place you want to reside. We didn’t plan to be away during one of the hottest weeks in recent years, it just happened that way. But I’m glad we where housed right on the beach in our little caravan when the hot weather arrived.
The north wind blew hot. The sun belted down with ultraviolet fury and punished the beach sand, turning it hot like a bed of coals, so hot that bare feet was not an option. It only took me one experience of burning feet to forever remember to wear my shoes when heading beachside. Everyday our fellow holiday makers hit the waves, boogie boards, surf boards, board shorts and bikinis. Zinc covered faces, sunscreen greased bodies and bright beach tents rattled in the wind. Joyous screaming kids running from waves, dogs barking at balls and the smell of BBQ. It’s the Aussie beach experience. Its lovely.
The beach break for me means seafood. All types of sea food. I fish and I forage. This trip I was very lucky to be in possession of Dad’s bamboo surf rod he build the year I was born, 1976. The rod is a perfect example of Dad’s meticulous attention to detail. The people who know my Dad would agree, he’s no Rex Hunt when it comes to fishing. I reckon he had more fun making the rod than fishing with it. It’s a beautifully crafted rod. Strong and very functional. Each loop perfectly set and glued, the handle lovingly made with marine rope, tightly wound and glued. It’s a rod that gets people talking, and sure enough garnished some attention amongst other campers. Dad told me that the rod has never caught him a fish. Instead he’d stored it in garages over the years, ensuring its immaculate condition. Why he lent it to me I’ll never know. I’m a user of good tools. I like to set these tools into action, use them for their original intention.
My first afternoon on the beach was one of fine weather. I waded out to the breaking waves, the water initially cold and fresh, hell for my nether regions. I’d rigged up with an large anchor sinker and two wire leaders, baited with blue bait. Swinging that rod back for the first time was exciting. I know, silly to be excited about a some old fishing rod. But this was the one my Dad made. It was family. Back the bamboo bent, my arms reached forward with all my might stopping to allow the sinker and line to fly, and out she did. What distance the line went! Better feeling than any new rod could offer. Maybe I was just being sentimental, but this thing just flew. My Dad had made a superb fishing rod. Purpose made.
I fished for hours, on that beach, the odd man out. Most other people surfed and swam. I fished the waters on the edge of the break, away from where waves were worth catching. The fishing wasn’t amazing, but I did manage a few mullet and one lovely Australian Salmon. With the poor fishing, my darling Kate organised a few hours spell on a charter boat. She said it was a gift, but also dropped a comment with her serious voice… “bring me home some fish… I want fish”. With the detail clear, I fished hard and returned triumphant. A haul of sweet tasting flathead, a few dog sharks, mackerel and my fist ever snapper. We ate the fish very simply. Cooked with butter and olive oil, sometimes with a coat of flour, always with butter, lemon, salt and pepper. The whole family enjoyed the fresh taste of each difference species. Ooohing and aaaahhhing over the beautiful tastes. It’s great to see my kids eating food like this. Fingers grabbing meat straight off the bone. Food so fresh and natural. It makes sense. Sense in a shambolic world is what keeps me going.
After a few more sessions on Dad’s fishing rod, I decided the remainder of the week would be well spent on other duties. The kids and I, along with some visiting friends hit the rocks in search of a feed of mussels. The tide was well and truly out, but still too dangerous for kids to forage past the intertidel zone. So I picked some myself and returned to the van to cook them with garlic, butter and white wine. For extra zing I added some American flare, a seasoning mix called Old Bay which I picked up on my travels last year. Jack and I found it difficult to stop devouring the pot of mussels. The kids gave up trying them so it was really our duty to eat them. The juices at the bottom of the pot where soaked up with bread. The taste of ocean.
The unavoidable end to the break finally came, we packed up the old van and headed north. On the drive home, along the winding Great Ocean Road my mind drifted. I though about Dad’s beautiful hand made fishing rod. That rod represented a time past. Was it a time where men did things of real value. Where men preferred real adventure to virtual adventure. Man is different now. Facets of the old Australian male have changed. Is he redundant? Has a new man taken his place? Does he still desire to make things of purpose? Or does he prefers to buy things already made. Are certain skills being lost? Sure some are being revived, but most will fade. The spirit of adventure may fade for some, replaced by responsibility of paying back loans for stuff. Is that now what we must accept as the norm?
When you spend some time in a van you’re forced to live with less. Its a great experience. You can re-evaluate what is actually important. What you can survive with, and without. Its been a nice start to the year. Its been a nice living reminder to keep up the lifestyle I committed to. I life of living with less, using less, impacting less and living off the crumbs of society.