Thursday, June 4, 2009

Life’s a Beach

Barry Humphreys' alter ego, Les Patterson expressed his anguished dilemma: Whenever I go to the beach I dunno whether to lie on the sand and look at the sheilas or lie on the sheilas and look at the sand.

Life is a beach especially during the deflated week between Christmas Day debauchery and New Year renewal because there's no better place to hang out all overfed and bloated, partied-out and hung-over shielded by shades and brain-dead, than on the beach.

We might lack the magical vision of gently falling snowflakes and miss the dubious pleasure of rugging up in an overcoat and scurrying around with frostbite to the nose but we in Australia have something the Northern Hemisphere doesn't; the beach. I mean really FANTASTIC beaches!

And I swear it is the closest thing Australians have to a unique culture and, on some glorious days when I'm gazing across a turquoise ocean dotted with sails, sniffing the salt air and watching the children play on the sand, I swear it is the closest thing we have to Heaven.

All ages, nationalities, classes, shapes and sizes can enjoy the beach. It is the ultimate egalitarianism. Social pretensions are shed along with clothes as beachgoers expose oiled tummies, flabby thighs, bouncy boobs and bottoms in a blatant collective act of uninhibited exhibitionism. It is primordial and we love it.

As a mum, I love it because not only do I get to perv on the parade of human flesh and pore over the newspaper in peace, make a valiant but futile attempt to tan my shins and pretend I am sporty when I trip down to the waters edge, but I get to entertain the kids for free, without messing up the house, without arbitrating fights... and we can scoff into fish and chips straight from the paper as the sun sets.

Kids adore the beach. They can run and swim off all that excess energy. They can build entire kingdoms in the sand. I've seen toddlers absorbed in creative sand play for hours. It works some strange hypnotic magic, lulling them into a state of whinge-and-whine-free contentment.

Parents everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to the beach for such moments of peace and sanity. It is at these times (like when they are angelically asleep in bed) that we are glad we chose to be parents (or had parenthood thrust upon us). All seems right with the world.

My happiest childhood memories are snorkelling with my brother on the reefs, chasing catfish, spying starfish; doing underwater handstands and somersaults, bogey boarding in the surf for hours and fossicking in the rock pools. One of my most painful memories is sunburnt shoulders, which turned to blisters. Most Australians harbour such memories. It is what we grew up on; what we are made of.

The ocean is a treasure we are blessed with, which we have a moral responsibility to protect. My commitment, as I sit on this magnificent beach, is to help care for the beautiful region where I am privileged to live. Where ever you live, in whatever natural environment you enjoy, I hope you feel the same.

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