The Common Wealth of Summer
As I wrote the “Next Issue” page of GOQ’s launch issue, I was stretching for a short sentence that would capture the way summer feels. In the end, I came up with “huntsmen under the eaves, flathead under the boat, grandpa under a fl oppy hat.” I didn’t give it another thought: our deadline was looming. It was only later that I realised the connection: the huntsmen, the flathead, the hat... were all connected.
Nain was my grandfather, Dad's dad. His real name was Adrian, but the grandkids couldn’t pronounce it properly. He was a doctor, a busy and serious man. He’d been widowed when I was four, and I have no memory of my grandmother, his wife. There were many dimensions to him, even in the eyes of a small child – he had a ferocious wit, a pencil moustache like Errol Flynn’s, and a huge, devouring love of his annual summer holiday with the family. Every January, we’d rent a fi bro house on stilts in McRae, and our cousins would rent close by. Nain would arrive late and would shuffle between the two families, sleeping in the dark flats under both houses, along with a large, military-grade rubber boat he’d somehow acquired.
On scorching northerly days, he'd plonk himself in a lowslung deckchair at the beach, his feet in the lapping water, a terry-towelling hat perched comically on his wise head. From an old esky, he’d produce big 750ml cans of beer – the steel ones with the seam down the side, and he’d pour them into anodised aluminium cups, slurping the froth with relish while he made caustic cracks about the beachgoers around us. Surrounded by his sunburnt family and their sandwiches, he revelled in his own caricature.
Once or twice a day he'd float serenely in the water for a few minutes, but he didn’t swim and he certainly didn’t stoop to ball sports. Though I was conscious my dad was athletically built, Nain was built like... well, like a scholar.
After the beach, as dusk settled, he’d emerge showered and refreshed, his favourite air rifle resting in the crook of his arm. He’d patrol the outside of the house, shooting at huntsman spiders under the eaves, on the premise that there were women in the house who needed protection from them. God knows what the landlord would’ve thought of this ritual. We would either trail in his wake or be confi ned to quarters lest we were felled by a ricochet. Once satisfied he’d eliminated the threat, he’d retire upstairs for a scotch and some smoked almonds. It was the 1970s, and that was how grandpas rolled.
Once each summer, he’d lead the men on their snapper fishing trip. This entailed much discussion the night before, a pre-dawn start and a rented tinny from Dromana. They’d pack handlines as thick as telephone cables and enormous hooks, but they invariably returned with fl athead. I didn’t meet a snapper until I was nineteen.
Then came the midwinter day when I found myself in the back seat of my grandfather’s car as he drove my father to Sorrento. I don’t know why it was me in the back, or where all the brothers and cousins were. They stopped at the Koonya Hotel and Nain, who loved a drink, propped himself on a barstool beside my father, who barely drinks at all. For a long time they talked, father and son, feeding me twenty cent coins to play Space Invaders. I let the machine lie idle as I stared out at the bay, steely and mournful. Weeks later, Nain died from cancer. To this day I don’t know what they discussed. My memories of Nain are almost exclusively memories of summer. And of the beach. When we set out to make a journal about the sea, we discovered an interesting thing. People wrote us emails about how the stories in the launch issue called to mind their own families, their own memories. It turns out it’s impossible to talk about the sea without talking about people. Winter is solitary by nature: it’s all about theatrics and mood. Summer on the other hand is naturally communal. It can appear fl ippant because it’s often bright and foolish. But something’s really happening when we’re supposedly doing nothing: we’re flat out building memories.
40 Jeff Raglus
50 Snags and King Browns
54 The Kickflip Caliphate
62 The Silent World of The Joseph H. Scammell
72 With Silver in His Smile
80 The Fall
102 Love and Loss on Erith Island
106 The Unseen Land of Bass Strait
116 Slated For Destruction: The Falls of Halladale
32 The Sunlit Zone
22 The Sea Guinanes (Part 2)
58 My Father’s Footprints
18 The Church of the Open Sky
Laura Hill at St James Church Tyrendarra
98 Too High
Fishing with Doug
Bud-Burst on the Bellarine
and The Food at Land’s End