English people are renowned for obsessing about the weather (well, if that’s true it’s because they get their fair share of miserable Northern European grey skies, rain and chill) but, from my observations, we’re all pretty tuned into meteorology especially now we can access the forecast via our Smart phones.
Melbourne’s winter this year has thrown all sorts at us and, as an all-weather dog walker (try telling Bertie it’s pelting with rain and blowing a gale and we need to wait till it’s cleared), I’ve been out in some pretty inclement conditions. That’s where my UK training comes in handy: you simply layer up against the cold, don wellies, mac, hat, gloves and scarf and get on with it. Forget the whinging Pom thing, we’re remarkably resilient when it comes to weather.
We’ve had one of the coldest winters for many years with snow blanketing many places around Victoria that are normally untouched by such extremes. On Monday morning I was amazed to see a sprinkling of frost in the park when I took Bertie for a walk. I found it rather magical and it reminded me of Blightly, apart from the parrots screeching overhead, that is.
But on Sunday, the wind and rain held off and we enjoyed the most glorious winter sunshine. It was as if the weather Gods had called a truce and bathed sky and land in gentleness. I took Bertie on our favourite walk along the coastal path from Hampton Beach beyond Sandringham and towards Half Moon Bay. And what a wonderfully nurturing experience it was. As we descended the steps to the dog beach at Hampton, we passed a man chopping back some branches that had blown onto the path. He also had an orange ukulele with him and said he often came down to the beach to practise. Sadly I missed his practice but I did hear a Chinese woman singing a bit further along. She was sitting meditatively on a rock oblivious to passers-by and walkers. How I admired her insouciance! Then I met a South African couple walking Gorgeous, their Staffy. What a wonderful name for a dog. Everyone seemed to be smiling, even the dogs.
For once I was not caught up in my head and felt really alive to what was going on around me: the calling of gulls; the gentle lapping of waves; the salty briny smell of the water; and the busy high notes of the fairy wrens as they flitted about. It was a day to breathe in, to feel the expansiveness and to be thankful.
We walked on and on, clambering up and over rocks, up and down grassy slopes, onto the path then back onto the beach for a bit of ball throwing and paddling. After a couple of hours, we stopped off at my favourite cafe, the Sandy Beach Kiosk by the Sandringham Yacht Club. It’s cosy, casual, scruffy, wonderfully unpretentious, serves hearty food and is dog-friendly. Over a cup of English breakfast (what else?!), I caught up with some other spaniel owners and their little girl, read sections of the Sunday papers and generally put the world to rights. A perfect Sunday morning.