Tempus Fugit

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Time flies, as any wag will tell you, when you’re having fun.

But here in Sydney, as our glorious summer holidays are drawing all too swiftly to a close, my mind has turned to Virgil’s original words, written in his Georgics centuries ago.

Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.

Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour, as point to point our charmed round we trace.

VIRGIL trans. Rhoades

We have had a fortunate summer, sun-filled and surf-drenched, with barefoot days and balmy nights.

And while the clocks sometimes seemed to slow during the past six weeks, time — inescapable, irretrievable time — has slipped steadily, stealthily by.

tempus 1I mean it’s there, if I look for it.  I know I could find snippets of it between the pages of the dozen novels I’ve read since Christmas, or catch a glimpse or two between beach towels flapping in the breeze on the washing line. There’s probably a drop or two left in a wineglass on a windowsill somewhere, and a few morsels thrown in with the leftover salads in the fridge. I will no doubt discover a few more bits in with the various brightly coloured cards and plastic pieces of board games we’ve played during the heat of the day, or find some slipped into the pocket of one of my kids’ shorts with a couple of movie ticket stubs.

But now, at the end of my favourite month of the year, there is only a day or two left before school resumes for my girls — a new start for one, a familar return for the other — and I will admit feeling slightly nostalgic and a little bereft. The irreparable hour has well and truly flown, and I am reminded of my favourite childhood picture book, Robert McCloskey’s Time of Wonder, about another summer, spent by another family comprising, as ours does, of a mother, father and two sisters, far away in Maine.

I know this feeling is universal and, ironically, timeless: Virgil wrote about it in the first century and McCloskey was still picking up the theme in the twentieth.

But I also know that there will be a certain heaviness in my heart and a lag in my step when we wend our way from point to point on our own charmed round this evening…down to the beach for one last swim as a family, and back home again for a BBQ and a quiet glass of wine.

That charmed round isn’t going anywhere — and I am well aware we are beyond lucky to live where we do — but it’s never quite the same once school has started again, and the long summer days have lost their laziness, and a perhaps a little of their loveliness.

Take a farewell look at the waves and sky. Take a farewell sniff of the salty sea. A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going. It is a time of quiet wonder — for wondering, for instance, where do hummingbirds go in a hurricane?

ROBERT McCLOSKEY

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Home…

The Flags are Up!

The Flags are UpSummer.  Glorious, sultry, turbulent summer — the subject of this Great Southern Land’s greatest love affair.

The season we yearn for, along every seaside centimetre of this vast island’s perimeter, in this sand and saltwater obsessed nation of coast-clingers.  Our time of glorious wonder, complete with severe clear skies and the solace of a seabreeze on a sweltering day.

It’s on its way.

Anyone born within cooee of the coast can tell you the signs.  It’s not just the rising temperature, the lengthening days, the lingering golden light of evening.

It’s the flags going up at the start of the Surf Lifesaving Season, and the banners advertising registration days for Nippers.  It’s in the sharp briny scent of the sea, the smell of sunscreen and surfboard wax.

It’s in the first incessant, maddening calls of the koel.  The thwock of cricket balls in the nets at the local park, as footballs are ditched in favour of willowtree bats and dreams of one day wearing the baggy green.  The crash of the screen door after the kids have been reminded for the zillionth time not to let the mozzies in.  The satisfying crunch of a Stelvin cap unscrewing from the top of a crisp Sav Blanc on a Saturday afternoon.

It’s the slide into Daylight Saving Time on the October long weekend, when altering the clock also requires adjusting your headspace, signalling the start of the great unwinding of the end of the year. The deep exhalation as we shuck off out shoes and slip into thongs — we’re talking footwear, here, people — secure in the knowledge that once the race that stops the nation is run on the first Tuesday in November it’s just a few short weeks until the rounds of office parties and Christmas drinks begin.

It’s in the grin that tugs at the corners of your mouth on the first really hot day, knowing that soon enough there will be six weeks of school holidays, of tracking towel-slung to and from the beach, of backyard barbecues and endless lawn mowing, of a whole season of sand being trailed through the house and ever-present in the shower recess, and nights so warm that the sheets are kicked off every bed in the house as cicadas shrill and the Southern Cross wheels overhead in the deep Antipodean darkness.

I felt that grin today.

Ah, Summer.  It’s really on its way.