A Sandy Beach Almanac

You've landed at Sandy Beach, NSW, Australia: Lat. -30.15331, Long. 153.19960, UT +10:00 – local map & zoom Google map. I live in a cabin on this beach, 25 kilometres north of the traffic and shops of Coffs Harbour, 600 km north of Sydney. My intention is to post observations of Nature and life within 1 km (1,000 paces) of my South Pacific home.


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Monday, January 03, 2005

One thousand, two hundred and eighty-five

I paced it out. One thousand, two hundred and eighty-five. That's how many paces it is from the rocks at the south end to those of the north end, among which northern cluster is one boulder about three or four metres high (Cormorant Rock, I call the guano-capped mini-monolith).

As I strode and ambled, I thought of Neal Cassady and his (attributed) last words: "64,928". The literary lore has it that the greatest writer who never wrote perished alongside a railway track while counting rail sleepers on the cold, inebriated night of February 4, 1968.

As I discovered, and you'd think I'd have known before, one of my paces is almost precisely four of my hand spans. As Nature would have it, my hand span is near as dammit to 25 centimetres, providing a handy metric rule. So my step is one metre and Sandy Beach I reckon to be 1.285 kilometres in length, at least around the arc of the delicious waterline that lapped around my ankles. As I live in roughly the centre of the beachfront, my aim of writing about the area one kilometre from my home allows me the whole beach, the headland (on the southern end), 1km of hinterland, and more to share with you.

Of course, I might have lost count and messed up the calculation. There were at least four moments along my surveying route that interrupted my concentration.

First of these was a remarkably proportioned, young, bikini-clad woman leading two small black dogs on a leash at some distance from me. I won't pretend it was the dogs that distracted me, although I don't like to see dogs on the beach, and it is against council regulations. I did find her easier to forgive than some others I've seen. I might have lost count then and as I pondered the grim reality that if she were 19, as I guessed, she was closer in age to my granddaughter than my daughter, and that God is quite uncaring in the apportionment of libido and age.

A second thing that might have interfered with my important measurement of Sandy would have been my stooping to pick up a lime-green tennis ball that had washed in on today's low surf. When I got home, my landlord's dog caught it on second bounce and I think Millie has a new chewable toy, if a salty one.

Thirdly, I passed and saluted a man of about my own age, clad in cozzie like myself, apparently another Sandy Beach flaneur who I see quite often on the road or the beach. As I needed the fingers on both hands to count my steps, the salute might have thrown my calculations.

I don't generally salute, I usually *#)~. (I don't believe there is a word for a *#)~, the Australian bush greeting, a kind of twist of the chin and neck, often accompanied by a kind of click of the tongue on one side of the mid-palate, emitted through a crooked smile and accompanied by half a wink on the same side as the *#)~. Aurally, it's a bit like a quick budgie.) But yesterday we'd *#)~d so I thought today he was worth a *#)~ and a slightly inhibited, Henry Lawsonesque, salute. His smile and 1/2*#)~ said he thought it was a pretty beaut idea.

It's with some embarrassment that I admit that the fourth distraction was yet another young woman, a little closer in age to my daughter you'll be relieved to hear, and perhaps you'll be understanding of me when I say that she was topless and bloody good at it.

The weather is warm, but not as warm as yesterday, with a mild and steady breeze bringing the cooler air from down south. And a somewhat overcast sky has dulled the ocean's blues. The number of tourists has declined accordingly, and I suppose that down the Pacific Highway the Coffs Harbour video stores, mall, pubs and clubs are doing a bit better business.

But as at most times, I don't have Coffs on my mind, I'm recalling a cheeky little Willie wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys), the first bird I saw when I stepped outside today, a bird from my childhood in the bush outside Sydney. He was there on the railing at the edge of the stretch of grass that separates Sandy from my home, 520 paces north of the southern rocks, the place marked by the coconut palm (the one that gives only the tiniest fruit because I live too far south of the tropics). I think there's also a residual flicker of the young woman with the small black dogs, and the one with the big white puppies, but this, too, shall pass.

See ya tomorrow *#)~.


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