Stream of self-consciousness

by Bill Ralston / 10 January, 2013
A toga party and a surfeit of savvy make for a ticklish problem.
Hot Seat cartoon by Steve Bolton
“Of all the stalls in all the ablution blocks in all the campgrounds in the world, I had to walk into his.” /cartoon by Steve Bolton.


I’m being held prisoner at the beach. For nearly a month now, I’ve been a hostage of the heat of the sun and the unceasing roar of the surf. Sharing my captivity has been a good stock of crayfish and a phalanx of bottles of white wine lining the table on the deck overlooking the sea. It’s hell.

Around here, there is a lot of nattering about wine. When is the appropriate time to open a bottle? The current consensus is that the sun and yardarm are aligned at about 1pm. Yesterday I ventured my long-held opinion that a cold pinot gris is a fine breakfast wine.

“Pinot gris?” said some misogynist dismissively, “That’s cougar juice!” Now, admittedly some older ladies on the prowl may favour a light white wine or two but I thought the label a trifle unfair for such a gentle wine. Nevertheless, after that, of an evening I tended to reach for a sauvignon blanc, instead.

There’s no doubt that beach life brings about subtle changes to your behaviour pattern. Every night, neighbours or friends pop in for a drink and dinner fresh from the Weber, resulting in a succession of small parties. That posed a problem last week, when one of us had a 50th birthday. We could have had a party but we have a party every night; how could we make it different?

The answer was to have a toga party. The last time I wrapped myself in a sheet for an evening’s entertainment I was 18 and had just seen a National Lampoon movie with John Belushi chanting “Toga! Toga! Toga!” at an American frat-house party.

Our Roman-themed affair was more decorous than Belushi’s – but only slightly. It certainly marked out the night as different from any other, although the sight of dozens of people clad in bed linen or dressed as helmeted legionaries hooting and hollering on the back lawn must have been puzzling to the neighbours.

The biggest excitement of the past month did not come from the toga party but from the potentially lethal forces of nature.

Early one morning, I was exiting the bach for a long overdue comfort stop behind a lemon tree outside when I noticed a blood-red dawn breaking to the north. “Wow! That dawn looks like fire,” I thought as I took my relief.

Halfway through the process it occurred to me that dawn is normally first visible in the east and the blood-red sky was caused by a roaring brush fire 100m away. The fiercely crackling flames were reaching many metres in the air.

It may be old age or a looming prostate problem but I found it impossible to cut myself off in midstream and raise the alarm. I did not relish shouting “Fire!” and having a dozen people tumble out of the bach, the caravans and the tent only to discover me buck naked in the backyard holding the family jewels.

It seems even a small amount of sauvignon blanc imbibed the night before can produce a prodigious amount of urine the following morning. As the seconds ticked by, I tried to ascertain the direction of the wind. Was the fire coming towards us or was it headed in the opposite direction? I envisaged a newspaper story about a dozen people tragically killed in a bach fire and, curiously, the charred corpse of a nude man was discovered outside, holding his pecker.

Just as I realised the wind was in our favour, a woman from down the beach ran past clutching a small fire extinguisher and raised the alarm. Luckily the sight of the wall of flame absorbed the interest of everyone and I was able to complete my task before anyone noticed me soaking the lemon tree.

Bearing in mind the side effects of sav blanc, I now have returned to the lighter delights of pinot gris – cougar juice or not.
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