The tides of time wash up mem­o­ries

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

FLOT­SAM and jet­sam — what a fab­u­lous phrase. My fa­ther used it a lot in the Eng­land of my child­hood to de­scribe the “bits and bobs” that would wash ashore at Brighton.

In the truest sense of the phrase, flot­sam means float­ing de­bris, usu­ally from a ship­wreck, while jet­sam refers to items jet­ti­soned from a ves­sel in dis­tress, pre­sum­ably to lighten its load.

I don’t re­call ship­wrecks off Brighton, on the shin­gled south coast, un­less you count pad­dle­boats bump­ing into the plea­sure pier, which is now a rather im­por­tant her­itage-listed land­mark.

The lit­tle ves­sels all had num­bers back then and a chap with a boom­ing voice would call you ashore af­ter 15 min­utes on the wa­ter and Dad would sud­denly be­come deaf and would pre­tend his watch had stopped and refuse to obey.

And then one day the puffed-up pad­dle­boat mar­shall ac­quired a loud­speaker and called us in with such a great show of blus­tery noise that surely he could have been heard in Lon­don.

This pic­ture, taken ear­lier in Jan­uary at Putty Beach, the na­tional park oa­sis on the north­ern end of Kill­care Beach on the NSW cen­tral coast, has noth­ing to do with pad­dle­boats. But as great, glis­ten­ing heaps of kelp washed ashore at my feet and ar­ranged them­selves in lovely pat­terns, I thought of my late fa­ther and those mag­i­cal hol­i­days at the beach each sum­mer, sit­ting very still on the wet and gritty sand, will­ing some­thing ter­rif­i­cally in­ter­est­ing to wash over our feet as Mother sat in a hire-by-the-hour saggy deckchair and wor­ried about my lack of plim­solls and ten­dency to catch cold.

I used to hope for pi­rates’ skulls and gold coins to wash our way but the most we got was the car­cass of a poor seag­ull.

Never mind, it was enough to squat be­side Dad, wrig­gling my toes, tast­ing the salt spray, lis­ten­ing to the cough of seag­ulls and know­ing that one day he would be gone but I would al­ways be able to go down to the beach, any beach, and sit very still and feel him close.

Fol­low on Instagram: su­sankuro­sawa

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