A View



Motionless, the man sat staring out across the wild grey water. The surf pounded the sand. Spray carried on the strong wind, swept up the dunes to the path, road and houses that lined the coast. I walked past the bench where he sat. My dog, Tasha, trotting along at my side eager to reach the beach.

His gaze didn’t waver. He sat upright. Dignified yet sad. Dark hands held quietly in his lap, a thick fleece jacket hugged against his slight frame, corduroy trousers and a strong pair of Australian work boots, which looked incongruous on this African man.

I knew he was from Africa. It wasn’t just his skin colour and cropped, tightly curled hair. His features were familiar to me. I guessed he came from East Africa where I had worked for many years. I wondered why he was here. A tourist? Unlikely. A refugee? Maybe.

Facing the oncoming weather, I turned down the stairs. Tasha tugged on her lead eager for release. Storm clouds darkened the sky. I could see a grey curtain of rain approaching. We would have less than ten minutes before the front hit us.

I unclipped Tasha’s lead and she raced across the sand chasing imaginary ghosts, sniffing piles of seaweed and disturbed sand, and occasionally looking around to check I was still there. I walked fast. It was going to be a short walk so I needed to make the most of it.

The sky had blackened. As we returned along the beach and ran up the steps, wind and rain lashed us. He still sat there, unmoving. Should I offer a lift? Shelter? Water ran down his face. Was it mixed with tears?

Tasha, enthusiasm gone, tail between her legs and head down, stood next to the car. Already wet-through she was not happy. I dithered for a while. Then I made a decision. No, I wouldn’t break into this man’s solitude. I headed for the car.

As the heat seeped into me in the hot shower, thoughts of this stranger returned. His image was to haunt me all day. I wondered once again why he was there looking across the Indian Ocean to his homeland. Why on this beach? If he was a refugee he was unlikely to be living in the surrounding area, for this was predominantly home to those who had made it in life, financially and socially. No one else was seen there besides the occasional backpackers and, in the summer, transitory groups of tourist day-trippers.

A phone call broke into my thoughts


 The opening paragraphs of a short story ‘Shopping Trolleys’.


Wild Weekends


Margaret River, Western Australia

Nowadays  my wild weekends are more about the weather than behaviour. When did that happen I wonder?

In my late teens as a university student living away from home, the weekends were truly wild. I think partying hard became a culture. Then in my early twenties, with a decent income and less free time, cramming as much into the weekend as was physically possible became a way of life. Even with the move to new countries and cultures in my later twenties and thirties, weekends were still focused on enjoyment, partying and very little chill time. It must have been the onset of a family that slowed me down. No longer could I be egocentric and hedonistic, I had new duties and the great desire for more sleep. Finally I’d slowed down.

Standing braced into the wind while the surf roars and pounds, I breathe the salty air.  This weekend was all about breathing, getting in touch with the self and spending time on just being.

In what has become a far too hectic life I am relieved that my mobile phone lies switched off at the bottom of my handbag somewhere in my room, that the laptop is unattached to the internet, but there just in case I feel like typing rather than writing, and also that no-one knows exactly where we are. Of course I will turn the phone on at least once a day to check if there is a message from my family, not because I want to play Candy Crush or check Facebook.

It’s only a few hours from where I live but clichéd or not, it could be a different world. Isn’t that what short breaks are all about? A break from the life we are in.  I wonder about those who can’t afford to ‘get away’. Can you get away without actually going anywhere? Is that what meditation is all about? Did we need to drive all this way to find a space to walk, eat, read and talk, to meditate, do chi kung and tai chi, and help the energy flow more easily through our bodies?

Perhaps if I was more disciplined I wouldn’t need to travel so far to feel my body relax, my mind run free and my spirit revive. I could perhaps sit on the deck in my back garden and try to block out the hum of the highway, or rise early to meditate before the rest of the household can come into my space, or walk the beach without silently planning what I will buy in Wooolworths, or to remember to put the washer on as soon as I get home to wash my daughter’s school uniform, or even breathe deeply as I drive to work instead of worrying about the driver behind me who is texting on her phone and liable to run into me. But of course she does, and that’s another story…