Thursday, May 07, 2009

Beware the Buster

Theme Thursday stays with the elements, but shall I? Read on oh ye of little faith!

I remember when we were newcomers to this wide brown land. We spent our first school term in Sydney’s Manly. No that’s not a statement although Sydney is indeed manly. Manly is a seaside suburb accessible by ferry and road.

We lived in this backward and tacky little touristy town and it’s 1930’s style dark brick, damp, badly furnished flat with far to much 50's laminate and aluminium and chipped cups which drove my mother insane. She was, if not anything, a woman of impeccable taste and quality. The flat was company paid temporary accommodation until the new immigrants could get their bearings and purchase a home.

I loved it. The first three months in Australia were full of wonders such as coconut oil sunscreen, rubber thongs, Vegemite and frozen tetra-pack Sunnyboys! People ate out of lunchboxes and ordered their lunch on Friday. Hot meat pies on even hotter days and sweltering in the old music room, learning the lyrics to "Old Father Thames" whilst the blowflies bashed at the window pane and the fans whirled like dervishes. This country was amazing!

I would have been almost 12 at the time and going down to the beach with mum and the siblings at about 3:30pm after school was a guilty pleasure that an English schoolgirl could only dream about – especially a month before Christmas!

Now Manly, is a popular tourist spot and home of the Manly Ferry, the Manly Surf Club and the famous Manly Aquarium, Chocolate by the Bald Man and Gelatissimo , the Manly Wharf Hotel and a number of other visitor-worthy landmarks . It has a large and open ocean beach connected via the originally named “Esplanade” to what is now the Ferry Terminal and Manly Wharf. The wharf is now hive of activity with the ferry terminal, bars and shops and bustle but back then it was basically a jetty on one end of a fenced, shark protected harbour beach. The sort of beach suitable for toddlers and tots without the danger of rollers or sharks or men in budgie smugglers baring their buttocks whilst pushing out timber surf boats. Not unusual for the pasty pommies to dally on the beach for half an hour after school.

There was mum of course in a ridiculously unfashionable pink floppy hat and legs so pale they’d blind you by glancing at them but she had a nice figure for a woman of 34! Then there was nine-year-old Hippybro before he was a hippy, donning a nice pair of terry toweling ‘trunks’, 7 year old Babybro with a ridiculous marine flat top style crew-cut just left a little too long at the sides. Then 2 year old babysis in frilly knickers and a pretty little 'parlour maid' style hat plonking about the sand.

One afternoon, not long after our arrival in Australia, there we were, enjoying a warm afternoon, beautiful view, sparkling water and plenty of playmates and people. Then the beach population begins to thin. Ever so slowly at first then noticeably, people began packing up as if some secret sign has been issued that we cannot interpret.

Transistor radios are duly turned off, umbrellas gently folded, towels shaken, toddlers called from the pool and people began to leave. There was no drama, no urgency. Surprised at the exodus and still enjoying the beach. We remained. We happily continued to play and splash in our ignorant seclusion.

Then it hit . . .the swell came through the heads with a roar, the wind sand blasted our pale pommy skins as we madly tried to pick up thongs and towels, buckets and spades and flying hats from the sand. My poor old not very mechanical mum struggled with the inside out beach umbrella but without an ice cube’s chance in hell of ever righting and folding it before it took flight across the road, her running and trying to hang onto her hat and hold down her skirt at the same time, shrieking like a banshee and disappearing across the road after the errant brolly!

Rain pelted from the previously unnoticed clouds so hard that it left big dimply splotches upon the sand and began to even out the footprints and indentations left by the smarter beach goers. So with my mother chasing the umbrella and squealing at the top of her voice. I was left to scoop up the baby and what we could find of our playthings, rally the boys and hastily make a retreat to the shelter of our nasty flat. As fast as it came, it went. Leaving the air cooler, the road steaming and the beach deserted.

Clearly what Australians had heard on their transistor radios, that we had not . . .was notification that a Southerly Buster was on it’s way. That slice of cool blustery tempest that usually lasts about half an hour before calming and leaving us with miraculously lower temperatures. The temps can drop as many as 20 degrees in an hour after a southerly. After a band of stinking days, it brings cool relief and we actually hang out to hear weather forecasters say the words " . . and tonight, a cool change at about 5 o'clock!"

And all of a sudden, Rosalie Gascoine's picture makes sense . . .

These days, we look for the signs. A menacing skyline many miles away, the transition from blue to menacing cumulous nimbus and threatening thunderhead, the conspicuous absence of birds and cricket songs and the wedging of large labradors between computer desk and couch. That quiet stillness and almost phosphoric smell that can be detected just before the first lightening strike.

Well either that or we just watch the channel 9 news weather!


Grow Up said...

I do like a good storm. When the tail end of hurricane Charlie hit in the 80s my friend and I spent most of the day outside (in wet gear, but still soaked) checking out the usually piddly mountain streams that had transformed into raging torrents.

Kath Lockett said...

....or we (as in 'me') marry a weather forecaster who, unfortunately gets so absorbed in his other work at the bureau that when he gets home and I ask, "So what's the weather going to be tomorrow?", he says, "How should I know?"

nick said...

You must all have been a wee bit embarrassed at your ignorance. But it was mean of the others just to slip off and not warn you. Glad I wasn't caught in one of those.

We saw the Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre in December. She was a brilliant artist, a shame she was never well-known outside NZ and Oz.

Anonymous said...

Hi Baino,
I have to say, that I love Manly, and aspire to own a place there (a flat/unit) would suffice but where we ended up is somewhat more affordable. We visited some friends in Little Manly at the weekend. How lovely it is there, and how I envy them the cottage that used to belong to the gas workers. Today you'd pay a few million for the privilege.

I hope we're still on for coffee sometime. I will email you soon,
Love mary

Grannymar said...

We had rain like that yesterday. It swept in like belching smoke bouncing and dancing on the road and it sounded like the windows were being attacked with pellets of sharp stone.

ian said...

That's the weather we call 'summer' in Ireland!

Terence McDanger said...

Summer in Ireland?

Last year, it happened on a Tuesday I think.

River said...

Southerly Buster. There's a term I haven't heard in yonks. We certainly could have used one or three of those this last summer.
The other thing? Frozen sunny-boys. Now here's a memory. Spending all day at the beach as a kid, watching the sun-baking rows of teenagers showing off for each other, waiting for this or that couple to finish their cokes, we'd mosey up and ask if we could have the empty bottle. We'd collect a few and take them to the kiosk at the end of the jetty for the cah refund, saving the money to buy fish'n'chips for lunch, then after lunch we'd continue the routine, but this time using the refunds for frozen sunny-boys or milkshakes.

Brian Miller said...

wow what a story. caught you unaware... always watch the locals, don't want to be left sitting when the cannibals arrive, i always say. lol. interesting pic to go along as well.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful read....I could picture your family.... nothing like a learning a lesson about the (new) local weather!

great tie in with rosalie's piece!

Candie Bracci said...

Wow,see the weather is just unpredictable!It must have been something though!

Have a nice day :)

Colette Amelia said...

that was a great yarn! Great one for the most difficult wind topic!

Anonymous said...

Baino, great tale. I guess it would've paid to know a bit more a bout the local weather! Parts of Florida are like that, and you can almost set your clock by the windy storms...

The Clever Pup said...

What a great descriptive post. Thanks for informing me about the Buster.

Canada has the Chinook, but that's about it.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Ah that sounds just like a KwaZulu-Natal thunderstorm - comes suddenly, lasts about half an hour and cools down Durban to a bearable temperature. But a bugger to be caught in it - a total tempest!

Leah said...

This is so brilliant, I loved it. Your story-telling ability is beyond vivid, you're a wonderful writer and tale-teller. I can actually see your mother chasing the umbrella. And the "men in budgie-smugglers"? OMG you made me LOL.

California Girl said...

this is the first i realized you're not a native Aussie. You have the lingo down so beautifully. Great story Baino!

Wings said...

Very interesting post! Always love reading your take on it.

Ronda Laveen said...

Great story, Baino. Loved the imagery and felt like I was there. I know all about the "wedging of large labradors between computer desk and couch." The poor critters. They get so stressed in fear of their life.

Sandra Leigh said...

LOL - budgie smugglers. Gotta love it. You are a great storyteller. I found your whole post fascinating.

Dot-Com said...

I agree with Ian, that's indeed the weather we call Summer in Ireland! Actually, we're having some of it right now, and it's not even quite Summer yet!

Marianna said...

Oh dear...that is quite a phenomenon. And quite an experience.
I mean wind bringing sand on you...painful!

Thanks for sharing
Happy TT

Baino said...

GrowUp our corner creek is like that, nothing but a trickle until we have a downpour. Love storms myself.

Then what use is he Kath . .a forecaster who can't predict the weather! Thank God for the evening news!

If you know it's coming Nick, it's a welcome change. They're often just referred to as 'a change'. She's magic isn't she. The artistic recycler.

Mary, the young Irishman who visited us in January LOVED Manly, I found it a bit crowded on a Sunday but he couldn't get enough! And certainly, always up for a cuppa!

Why GM that was a very eloquent little comment! At least our summer rains are warm. You can stand out in them and get soaked without catching a chill!

Haha! Except your rain is cold! Ian.

Better luck this summer Terence. Actually I remember last year, I think our winter temps were the same as your summer ones! At least you don't have water restrictions!

River I swear they've got smaller though. There were Raz's as well do you remember them? Does SA have a name for their cool winds? WA has the Fremantle Doctor.

Lesson learned Brian. Rosalie Gascoine was an astronomer's wife who ended up being very bored in Canberra and started using things she 'found' for her art. I love this one because it's all orderly on the left then turns into a blustery shamozzle on the right as if the wind has blown all the letters.

It's the sort of mistake you make only once Kim! Now we can read the signs (or watch the news)

Candie the southerly buster is pretty predictable. Usually every three or four days in the summer. This year was very unusual, three weeks of almost 40 degree temps and no cool change!

Collette, I'm trying to keep the Thursday thing a little bit Australian.

Subby, I believe they're even more reliable up north here too. Darwin is always about 33 degrees with an afternoon storm!

Ooh Chinook, that's also a helicopter and a type of salmon! I didn't know it was a cool wind as well.

Kwazulu-Natal - how very exotic. Sounds far nicer than a 'southerly buster'.

Thanks Leah, not nearly as eloquent as you I fear but I tell it as it was. I'll never forget my brother's little red terry towelling trunks they were totally daggy!

No Cali, we were ten pound poms and came over in 69 on an assisted passage. I am naturalised though so proud to call myself an Aussie.

Thanks Wings. Like I said, I'm trying to thread a little of Australia into the blog every Thursday.

Ronda, my dog is the worst. She can feel a storm coming long before I do. I don't need the weather forcasters. If Lily's wedged in her 'special' place, it's time to get the washing in!

Thanks and welcome over Sandra!I do jest a little, they only wear their budgie smugglers during surf carnivals. Otherwise the lifeguards are all covered up to protect them from the sun.

Dot, well at least it's green and cool. I prefer winter myself!

Marianna, nothing like being sandblasted off the beach. Free micro-dermabrasion!

VE said...

Excellent story. Having not been to Australia yet I'm enjoying reading about life there.

Poetikat said...

I really hope that the rubber thong was the kind you wear on your feet!
I wonder if that's where that song came from, "Time For A Cool Change"? I think it was The Little River Band. Are they Australian?


Renee said...

Ouch that rain sounds like it hurt.


laughingwolf said...

ooo nasty way to learn... why did the locals not warn you? :(

Ribbon said...

I love being at the beach when it rains.... but yes not without warning and only when I choose.
A bit of a nasty first time experience.
Love the way you've told this story.

best wishes

The Silver Fox said...

Great story!

Baino said...

Thanks VE, it aint no Carribean cruise but I try!

Kat, absolutely right. It's common vernacular here and yes, it was the Little River Band. Aussies all of them.

Haha not so much the rain Renee but the windy sand blast did! Mind you I pay good money to get a little dermabrasion these days!

Pommies weren't particularly popular back then Wuffa. Maybe they just didn't notice us, conspicuous as we were. Let us learn the hard way!

Thanks Ribbon . .I guess you're very familiar with the Freemantle Doctor! I prefer the beach in the rain to the sun frankly (I can stay clothed!)

Why thank you Foxy, thank you very much! Now Baino has left the building!

Megan said...

A great buildup to the buster - and then, whoosh! it's gone, just like that.

Baino said...

Haha . . just like me! Big build up then poof!

laughingwolf said...

seems all 'DPs' were treated the same, many still are :(

Mrsupole said...

Sorry I am being so slow, I am so sick right now, not sure if I do have the swine flu, but one grandson's school was closed due to a case there. I think I will have to go to doctors to see if I do. Or it is a very bad cold.

I liked the story so much, you made us feel like we were right there with you. You have a talent you know. Not everyone can do this. And I wonder if they did that on purpose or just did not think about it. But my guess is they did it on purpose. Although maybe they were afraid to talk to strangers. You were all very lucky that nothing bad had happened because of it. Oh and I wish that there were many times during our summers that something could cool us down by 20 degrees.

It is so nice how you have all made your life there and it seems like such a nice one. I am still praying for your job interviews to go well. Keep perservering and it will come. I liked the list of things to write on the beginning, I was laughing at so many, your brain is oh so dirty.

God bless.

Baino said...

Sorry to hear it Mrsupole. I do hope you get well soon. Lots of fluids and rest now. I'm sure it's not swine flu. I think it's been blown right out of proportion. We do have a good life, that's true even if money's a bit tight and the job search is going well, thank you. . get well now

Cuppa Jo said...

Such a wonderful post. I love such memories.

Manly, huh? Why's it called Manly?

And sorry about the song. Not necessarily my favorite either.

i beati said...

marvelous story I could picture you then and nowSandy