It would be over 49 degrees Celsius in Esperance; South West of Western Australia, where we holidayed with some close friends, a few years ago. It was so hot we were forced off the beach to swelter indoors with ineffectual ceiling fans rotating their bored, fly speckled blades; so hot birds fell out of the trees stone dead.
We headed out early; aware a scorcher was forecast, to Wharton Beach one of the world’s most beautiful beaches with it’s white sand, turquoise waters, long placid waves ideal for bogey boarding.
My friend, a keen boarder,and her husband, applied white zinc to all but their teeth and eyeballs, causing fits of laughter until we too applied it to avoid the inevitable sunburn. Then it was time for hours of perfect bogey boarding until our belly’s were rash red and the midday wind picked up, blasting us with burning, moisture sapping wind which felt like a huge, outdoor incinerator.
This is how I like to remember my friend on that extreme and beautiful day; grinning with hands gripping her board.
My friend had lovely hands; not manicured or bejewelled, but reliable, competent, kind. They were hands ready for adventure; curious hands that tackled many things, kind hands that brought comfort, competent hands that knew how to do so much.
Sometimes, due to her avid gardening, my friend’s hands became dry and cracked around the fingertips, particularly the thumbs. I gave her gardener’s hand wash and moisturising cream but I’m pretty sure she never used them. The last time I saw her hands, they were untangling a patients drains, drip and myriad of tubing. Behind the busy hands, her face was full of shadows.
On the evening of that burning January day those few years ago, we prepared a barbecue outside our shared house. Everything was set up; everyone ready to eat, wine glasses in hand, and hungry with that hunger made of ocean swimming, walking and salty coastal air. The reticulation popped up as if on queue and wet chairs, tables, and platters of food. Hastily we deposited glasses and ran about rescuing food and furniture. Hands on hips my friend surveyed the scene and decided on a new location with her customary; ‘Never mind’.
In loving memory of Hilary.