The Robin is the One
Easter Sunday brings a heavy hangover and, mercifully, a late barbeque. Our driver is cooler than us, and mans the stick shift like a weapon. As we tear down Southampton’s streets, I try to pinpoint the key differences between the suburbs here and those at home, and particularly those in the inner west of Sydney, where there is a multitude of terraces and space is at a premium. I am familiar with the narrow streets and limited parking, and the compact rooms and squares of outdoor space. It is different here though. We may have more vegetation, and they may have more exposed brick, but it’s hard to say.
Wendy’s home is as warm as its owner, full of food and photos, and birthday cards standing on every surface, as a symbol of affection. Lucy grabs a beer. ‘Hair of the dog‘, she nods, sagely. I follow suit. Sitting on the deck under the sun, we meet a steady stream of extended family members and, again, marvel at the beauty of this family network. They are funny, which I love, leading to an endless stream of quips, jokes and stories, many of which poke fun at one another. I’m all for never letting a burned sausage or ironed sheet go un-mocked.
Some stories have me in stitches. Fireworks launched, bazooka-style, through a neighbour’s window. The saga of a borrowed suitcase and its purple padlock. A clothing toll at the front door for a worse-than-wear reveller. The neighbour’s garden is also good for a giggle. It’s not every day you see a bird feeder hanging from a prosthetic leg.
Lucy and I offer our own stories, exacerbating traditional fears of Australia. Do we live with huntsman spiders? Sure. They eat the plagues of mosquitos. Do we live with killer snakes? Absolutely. They eat the plagues of mice. Do we see sharks? Yes, but only little ones, capable only of taking a bite. The crocodiles are worse, but they live up north…unless the floods have drawn them southward.
It feels like home.
Monday begins at fish-and-chips o’clock. I miss breakfast in anticipation, which is fortunate, given the portion sizes. We balance them on our knees at Weston Shore, and I take this favourite photo of Lucy, outlined on the horizon:
After eating our body weight in battered cod, it is time for Pitch and Putt (or Pigeon Putt, as it shall henceforth be known – long story). I take many photographs of our efforts but seek permission to post only this one, which I genuinely believe to be a masterpiece.
Ye Olde Whyte Harte, where we celebrate our golfing prowess, has low ceilings, exposed beams and an impressive range of beers on tap. We discuss the range of gins from Portsmouth Distillery, under the watchful eye of a hare with a shotgun. The Tudor, we are told, is created using botanicals found on the wreck of the Mary Rose, including ‘Dandelion, Hazelnut, Hemp seeds and Cherry’. This strikes me as particularly creative, but I am fearful of indulging my affection for gin.
Outside, diners eat black pots of mussels, as we drink pints from decorative, labelled glasses, and are visited by a robin redbreast who evades our attempts to photograph him.
Karen tells me that robins represent being visited by a loved one who has passed, which makes me feel reflective, if not melancholy, after the losses of late. Later, I discover that, in Norse mythology, robins were once sacred to Thor, the god of thunder and, in Christian folklore, they sang to comfort Jesus in his pain upon the cross, staining their once-brown breasts red. They represent rebirth and good fortune, and the end of one phase and the beginning of another.
I am taken with an Emily Dickinson poem called ‘The Robin’, the final stanza of which reads;
The robin is the one
That speechless from her nest
Submits that home and certainty
And sanctity are best.
We walk down the cobbled streets of Hamble, the ‘fancy’ part of town, where a gold mailbox commemorates an Olympic medallist from the area.
And, down by the water, I delight in a messy gallery, fat pigeons and a remarkably happy, muddy dog, who wags his tail furiously as he splashes on the shoreline.
At Banana Wharf, we drink pints and shiver as the sun goes down.
It feels like a new beginning.