February 15, 2010

... like a fish needs a bicycle.

The title refers of course to the well-worn phrase (incorrectly attributed to Gloria Steinem) that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." However, my use of it here is prompted not by feminist irony but by nostalgia.
I have recently returned from a month spent house-sitting for friends on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, which also happens to be where I grew up. During that month I re-discovered my love of a daily swim in the sea, and also the appeal of being able to cycle in safety on dedicated paths. (See the fish/bicycle connection? Yes, it's a bit tenuous I admit, but at least I explained it fairly early on so you didn't have to read too far.)

Since I left the coast at the age of 15, I've always lived at least an hour's drive from the beach, sometimes many more, and although I've been back to that area almost every year, it has never been for more than a few days at a time, so this was a very different experience.
It was a completely forgotten delight to be able to "pop down to the beach for a quick dip" at least twice every day, without the tiresome logistics involved in having to drive all the way across the city as I do here in WA.
Several times a week I combined the two pleasures by cycling to the beach (a pleasantly flat 10km), enjoying the surf for an hour or so, and then cycling home again.

And provided I was early enough to beat the holiday-makers, here's what I found each morning - what a treat!

In fact, I was totally unprepared for the overwhelming sensation that I was back where I belonged, and the famous poem by John Masefield keeps haunting me:
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

I'm certainly not planning to set sail anywhere, but I do think it's time I made my home by the sea again.


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