The Beach 2

After my grandfather died, the uncle who inherited the bach sold it. The other two beach-loving uncles bought their own places on the same side of the peninsula. We moved to the other side and for several years shared the bach of my mother’s aunt and uncle. It was a typical old bach small and dark and smelling of dust and mice.

The shape of the available building land meant there were only about a dozen baches on the strip of land at the foot of a hill. A stream fed a lagoon along the access road and we looked for the herons that fished there. The stream was a good source of pipis, a small shellfish that I was addicted to. I ate them warm from the cooking pot with a bucket to collect the shells. My uncle shelled his portion dipping each one in a saucer of vinegar.

The stream ran to the sea and to swim there you had to cross an area of hot sand dunes. If you were sensible you wore footwear; otherwise you ran across the sand, complaining loudly about your burning feet. We were not a swimming family and after a nasty incident when I was caught in a rip, swept out to sea and almost drowned, I was very cautious of the waves.

Most kids swam in the stream which was about waist high at low tide. My unce liked to set a net in the stream. He was very good at giving instructions so I was the one who put the net out, cleared it and brought in in while he stayed warm and dry on the shore. I was always afraid I might meet a small shark or a stingray caught in the net. Luckily I found only fish. The job I really disliked was cleaning the net of little pieces of stick and seaweed.

My father bought the empty section (lot) next to my uncle’s bach and had a new one built. It was a simple place with two small bedrooms and a living kitchen space but what made it wonderful was the indoor bathroom with a shower and flush toilet. Dad added a garage which was about as large as the bach. It held the car, the boat and trailer, fishing gear, tools and several lawn mowers. The bach smelled new and fresh and we all loved it. When my parents sold it because of health reasons and because both their kids were living overseas, I was devastated.

I can still recall nights when I was almost asleep, listening to the waves and the news on the radio before my parents went to bed. Then I remember waking in the morning to the aroma of fresh snapper cooking along with our tomatoes, eggs and maybe leftover fried potatoes. I haven’t forgotten playing cards with my father. He was a very noisy winner and a poor loser who would invent rules to improve his score. We took walks along the beach and explored the rock pools on the reefs for tiny fish and crabs. A large rock called The Old Man’s Hat was a favourite destination. And of course we always collected shells.

We may not own the bach now but I still own a boat load of memories.