I am not a beach-going Australian. I grew up inland. My younger sister and I learnt to swim in concrete cattle troughs (lying under the water to grab the noses of unwitting cows) and in the dams (one of which was allegedly bottomless, and all of which were said by my father to be inhabited by bunyips, which liked eating children but were scared away if there were adults in the vicinity). Sometimes we would go and stay in my father’s godmother’s house at the Gold Coast (it was built by her father, a ship’s captain I think, with narrow steep stairs and porthole windows and a big clam shell for washing sandy feet), but that was a 6 hour drive. The first time my younger sister walked over the dunes and saw the sea she said, “Look, Daddy! What a big dam!” I like the sea, but I find it large and unfamiliar and unsettling, and prefer to walk along the sand – I have a lot of sympathy for the hero of There’s a Sea…, and now that I’ve grown up I’ve bought a new copy to replace the one I lost.
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