Once again, Australia Day has brought heat exhaustion, UV exposure and that mix of back-country tameness and outright insanity that is peculiarly Australian.
How can one better illustrate this than with the example of the 'Ducks for Dollars' annual 'race' at the Foreshore: part of the general celebrations. It's a fund-raiser for the surf lifesavers, really just a water tombola and all very laudable. It also involves surfboards carrying giant rubber ducks, and several thousand rubber ducks being heaved into the harbour and 'raced' to the other side of their little pen (purely tide-propelled). Personally I had trouble scooping my jaw off my sunburned chest as I saw this going on, but it all seems to be perfectly accepted and not even vaguely amusing to the local populace.
There was also the 'tugboat ballet' (which we also caught a brief glimpse of) where 'tugboats perform in an incredible display in the water.' Well thank goodness it was in the water, at least. Would have hated to see them stuck on the side of the hill. They got one bit right: incredible. I mean, don't get me wrong, tugs are pretty amazing but dancers they ain't.
On the other hand there's the Stockton swim. 700 meters one way, 1,400 (oh yes, we've been honing our maths) both ways. We watched the 700 as one of Ian's students was in it. Now, I take 25 minutes to swim 1km at the Ocean Baths, and reckon myself quite OK. The very last, last person who came in today had a time of just under 17 minutes... which is about 30 seconds faster than what I can do. The winners do it in about 7 minutes. In the hordes and bunches of people who did a lot better than this were grannies with long white hair and children who looked no more than about 13 – which I don't understand because I thought you had to be about 15 to enter. I wonder if it's like faking your age to join the army used to be. … Mind you, it wasn't all grannies and children. I did see a few pretty … um... honed specimens breeze past. The kind you think 'gosh, they really make them like that, it's not just airbrushing techniques.'
We took the opportunity to have a harbour tour on one of the ferries, as they're free on Australia Day. I think it might have been a bit dull for the Littles because it was crammed full of statistics and 'interesting facts' about the coal exporting and other mercantile business in the harbour. It might possibly have been verging on dull even for the adult contingent. I mean, it's all very impressive and of course very important... but so is bacterial action in decomposition of organic matter. Doesn't mean we necessarily want to watch it for a whole 45 minutes. Actually, come to think of it, I might even prefer the latter. The Non did however get a freebie water-bottle (seems to be the thing to give away round here) so she was pleased. Is by now building up a fine collection.
Another opportunity we took, on account of the zero-cost factor specially for the day, was a tour of Fort Scratchley. …. As even the Mr said, glad we didn't pay to see it. Mind you, it was obvious what it would be, and it turned out to be exactly that. An 'old' fort which had never seen action, run by exclusively male volunteers with a minimum age of 96, who were the perfect hybrid between trainspotters and Dad's Army recruits – several decades after the curtain fell on the production. Probably didn't help that we were by this time almost falling over with the heat. However, we have now 'seen' Port Scratchely. I think that's one ticked firmly off the list of things to do. Lovely view from the top, though.
Back at home, the Mr somehow managed to conjure up a wonderful stir-fry from an apparently completely empty fridge, and then much later on in the afternoon, Merewether Baths.
Merewether Baths were packed and hot even at 4:30, and we ended up rolling about on the sand until well gone six. Very reluctant to go back to that heat-trap of a house. Honestly the insulation here is absolutely nil, the place is freezing in the winter and oven-like in the summer, it's frequently a relief to be outside in both extremes. I guess the place keeps the rain out but that's about it.