The writing competition was run by the West Australian, the state paper. The brief was to write about the WA summer and what it means to you - memories, adventures and outings, time spent with family and friends. The best submissions were to be published as a series and the winner (me!!) would receive a MacBook Air laptop...
7am. It feels like the sun has been up for hours, the birds sure have. There is still a touch of cool in the air, a memory from the night before. But the inevitable summer heat lies just beyond the horizon, you can almost feel the anticipation of the scorcher ahead in the joggers and dog walkers, who are hurrying home. Mum is madly doing some loads of washing and hanging it out while Dad waters the veggie patch and roses. By the end of the day the towels will be as stiff as boards and the tomatoes will have roasted on the vines.
8.30am. The house is chaos as we pack for the beach. The boot is already full of balls and towels and umbrellas. Mum is trying to squeeze an esky full of fruit and sandwiches in somewhere, and Dad keeps asking everyone where his glasses are (they’re on his head). We all pile into the car, arms and legs everywhere. We make it to the end of the street before returning home so the youngest can pee and Dad can grab his hat which he left on the kitchen table.
10am. Despite living on the world’s biggest island with thousands of kilometres of coastline, it seems the whole of Perth is crammed onto the same few metres of beach. The water is the deepest of blues, the same colour as salvation. The brilliant white sand is reflecting the sun’s intensity, and despite Mum’s best effort with the 40+, tomorrow we will all be as red as a cooked crayfish. We weave a path through the forest of beach umbrellas and towels as we head back to the car. The bitumen is so hot that if you stand too long in one spot, your thongs start to melt.
1pm. We are holed up inside. The door and windows are closed tight against the heat outside. Even the blinds have been closed, and we lie on the tiles in our bathers in the semi-darkness. It’s too hot to muck around and instead we get the old board games out – Monopoly, Game of Life, Guess Who. The fans are whirring overhead, a constant white noise that we don’t yet realise we will miss when the weather finally cools. It’s too hot to eat anything but watermelon and icecream, and Mum doesn’t even tell us off.
4pm. Dad has fallen asleep on the couch in front of the TV. When Mum tries to turn it off, he wakes and complains. Everyone is restless and tired. We have been chasing the same two flies since lunchtime. Despite our best efforts with the chopsticks, no one can replicate the Karate Kid’s efforts, but when Mum gets the fly spray out we all feel cheated. Someone fills the old paddling pool with water, and when we sit in it, the water only comes halfway up our legs.
7pm. The sun is slowly sinking, taking with it the intensity of the day. This is the edge of relief. The whole neighbourhood smells like a BBQ as families emerge from their daytime hibernation, and there is life again in the streets. We are waiting for the first chirp of the grasshopper that will signal the end of the day. Dad is opening a beer, the kids throwing bits of ice. Mum brings out huge bowls of potato salad and tinned beetroot, and we eat with renewed vigour, our plates in our laps.
9pm. After dawdling in the shower (not too long – water restrictions!), our wet hair leaving a blessed cool patch on the back of our shortie pyjamas, we say our good nights. The windows and doors have been thrown open to catch the night breezes. It’s still too hot even for a sheet. No one can sleep in anticipation of tomorrow. But it’s not the heat we are waiting for this time.
Later that night. The kids are finally asleep. Mum and Dad pull the washing basket piled high with brightly wrapped packages out of its hiding place, and begin placing them underneath the tree. Dad eats the four chocolate biscuits left for another man with a pot belly, while Mum just laughs at him and drinks the milk. With the Christmas lights twinkling silently behind them, they join hands and head to bed.