We spent the weekend down at Culburra Beach south of Sydney with our friends and their nine months old daughter. It was wonderful.
We don’t do nappies. We specialise in the not-crying, gurgling gorgeous girl thing. She was good at it.
The weather was fine and the ocean was mild. There was a pod of dolphins playing in the surf only 50 metres from shore. Once we’d satisfied ourselves they weren’t great white sharks we went in and tackled the scrappy surf as well.
My Tarzan days are over. I was knackered after about five minutes.
A dolphin had bitten off my left foot which made it all a bit harder but I don’t like to complain.
It was a long beach and the end of the season. Blokes were fishing ankle deep in the shallows, dogs were chasing seagulls and clouds, there were surfers at a break further along and a trio of young girls told us that the water was warm but there were most likely stingrays.
‘There are always stingrays,’ Gracie told us.
Another lazy weekend in perilous, dangerous Australia. When I dragged myself from the surf I saw bluebottle jellyfish washed up amid the seaweed.
It got me thinking. Was all this ever care free?
I grew up near the coast down in Victoria and spent every Summer at the beach. My recollection now is that those days were care free. Sand castles and surfboards and not much sunscreen lotion. My recollection now is lying face down on a towel with the saltwater tingling on my skin as the sun dried me out, the roar of the surf, the squeal of other kids, sand, a breeze. And bliss.
Maybe I was worried about homework, or girls, or wearing glasses, or being too tall and skinny. I know I worried about all of those things but I don’t recall worrying about them at the beach.
I bet I did. There were girls there, almost naked. I was too tall and skinny, and almost naked. I wore glasses (without them I was totally naked, even clothed). When I think about it now the beach had everything to worry about except homework.
When am I care free now, as a grown-up?
I’ve worked in a slapdash but consistent way for 35 years and I’ve spent most of them being very happy. I don’t feel blessed because that implies divinity, but I do feel lucky.
The harder you train the luckier you get, as the football blackboard reminds me. Have I trained hard?
Ish. The usual privileged white boy Australian experience – love and joy, death and disappointment, happily a few recent Geelong premierships (sport can be transcendent), rude good health, a big family, travel, once too tall and skinny. Those were the days.
Now when I wake at 3am (not often) I find my thoughts are often worries: what about this, I must remember to do that. It is all connected to the here and now and next. Where is care free?
Like all of the best times care free usually happens when you’re not looking or noticing. You value it later on or don’t notice it at all.
I think grief accumulates, whereas happiness is ephemeral – but happily more frequent.
The last time I remember noticing and registering at the time that I was care free was in Thailand and I was in a beach bar. Wallington had gone for a walk out on the sand bar and I was having a beer and eating warm roasted Chang Mai peanuts. There was a Bob Dylan CD playing softly in the background.
I forgot that I was tall and skinny and wore glasses. I had a girl and she was out there on the sandbar and she was beautiful.
I had no homework. Bliss. Care free.