The black swans have gone from the inlet. I'm missing their talking cries as they fly overhead. I'm missing the strobe flash of the white beneath their wings as they rise from the water in a noisy pack and take off for another side of the inlet.
"They've all gone inland. They like those paddocks flooded with water. They'll be nesting soon," Old Salt said.
Dab chicks move in vast rafts, glittering in the late sun. They hold their own wake across the skin of the inlet. They are furry, almost like ducklings until I see them up close, their grebe beaks diving under the water and plopping back up again. The whole mob cruises in a single direction. I've seen them fly over the water, just touching the surface.
Terns work the water wherever they see the dab chicks. All the birds want the anchovies coming out of the river with the new rains The water swells into the rock cliffs, obscuring every piece of beach. At Millers Point there are crows, pelicans, honey eaters, magpies, blue wrens, splendid wrens, spoonbills, snowy egrets and black swans, muttonbirds, Pacific gulls (when they feel like it).
I drove from the Pallinup to the trucking company compound that takes our fish to the markets in Perth. The gates were locked. Saturday. They weren't expecting us but the storms had put all the fishermen (and women) back a day or so. Unruly, whom I'd followed for the last 100 km, and Grievous' brother pulled up beside me. They both pulled the bungs from their ice boxes, standing out of the way as the mullet and bream and ice water pissed out all over the road. Less water, less weight on the trucks they had to pay for.
I rang the trucking company.
"It's Saturday!" a driver said said. "Fuck. Okay, I'll come down. We're not taking fish up to the city til tomorrow though. You'll have to put them in the chiller overnight."
He turned up within the half hour, spinning around his fork lift with pallets for the three of us to load up with the fruits of our labours. I filled out a consignment note and stashed it under the paperweight. He weighed the fish and nodded to me.
I went home, the fishy clothes and loaves of bread and tomatoes spilling from my army surplus bag as I lurched out of the car. I knew my Mum was up on the veranda and waiting to say gidday but I wanted to just sit in my own spot for a while, make some coffee, return home, pat the black cat ...
On my pin-up board was the ticket to Handel's Messiah. 2.30pm.
Oh, Handel, give me a break, I just want a hot shower.
Honestly, when it comes to priorities, a hot shower after four days living in a fishing camp shits all over Handel's Messiah.
Then I remembered that Haimona was singing bass, and that I was supposed to turn up.
I had a shower, washed my hair. I even put on a frock. Can I leave out the middle bit? The bit about the society news; of who was there and who was not?
The thing that grabbed me about The Messiah is that everyone knows the narrative and everyone knows it will end badly. It's a bit like Ned Kelly or Mr Wolf or the story of any other bad ass in history.
So I'm reading the itinerary and thinking, "well, I, err - I know how this story ends."
It's the spectacle alone, yes? This should be as good as the story. Such is the endurance of such talented folk as Handel.
I was drowsing with the tenors and altos.
And roused with the chorus.
And then that soprano made my teeth hurt. It is quite amazing to experience a real soprano singing straight into your body ...
This all sounds like I was having a terrible time at the end of a very long day, but I wasn't.
It was just great. It was great.
When the choir kicked into "Hallelujah", I closed my eyes and leaned back on my pew. I could not hear them with my eyes open. It was possibly one of the most gorgeous moments in my life. Unfortunately I forgot that King George the 3rd had set the precedent for everyone to stand up when the the strands of 'Halleluja' rang out.
007 and Haimona's girl both poked me.
"Stand up, Sarah. Stand."
So I stood.
So tired. Eyes closed.