It's absolutely gorgeous weather in that early autumn kinda way, when the dastardly easterlies cease their bullying and mornings are stilled with mist on the harbour. In about an hour the moon will be eclipsed although apparently no soul knows yet for exactly how long. It's one of those events that even the boffins cannot work out until after it's happened.
A helicopter chugs, full of tourists. back and forth across the Sound between Whaleworld and Breaksea Island.
In the main street an LED traffic sign is parked up, advertising free life jackets for salmon fishers.
There are folk dressed in khaki buying coffee and quinoa at the wholefoods store, with red poppies and 'ANZAC Centenary Volunteer' emblazoned across their uniforms.
Out at Sandpatch, that wild place where my Mum and I and others used to go to scream/swim/sit/fish, people line the new boardwalk a hundred metres above the beach and read the interpretive plaques.
"Can you see the salmon?" I hear someone ask.
Birds work the water when the school comes in. From the top of the hill, we can all see that the people on the beach are in the wrong spot, that the school of fish have arced into the next channel. There are sighs and breathy excitement from the perch.
Someone told someone else in a moment of loose-lipped late-night vulnerability that towns with the Southern Ocean and an IGA in common are a really great place to visit over Easter. It's a Hemingwayesque paradise, they said, red-faced. The weather is sweet, they said, the whiskey is pure and great big fish throw themselves into white plastic buckets to escape a worser fate than being eaten by another fish.
This stuff is all true but it makes me so grumpy.
I've just spent the last few weeks interviewing commercial salmon fishers who are facing the end of their tenancy on a particular beach and consequently their lifestyle as they know it. The two families have fished there for two or three, even four generations. They have four years until the local council knocks down their shacks.
"It's a lifestyle choice. They've had their day."
"We've fished here since the 1940s."
"They shouldn't be locking up their shacks. Get rid of them. That beach should be open to everyone."
"Knocking down the shacks will kill my Dad. Mum's just died. Why couldn't they just wait until Dad's gone?"
It's a complicated scenario. The recent closure of the commercial herring fishery has compounded the difficulties these fishers face. Normally they'd rely on the herring if the salmon season was bad but this year was pretty shitty and then they lost the herring market too. This week the ancestral salmon fishers are moving out of their camps. Their shacks. Their tents. Their caravans. Coming back next year depends upon a whole lot of bureaucratic circumstances.
In the mean time, if you are looking forward to the 'experience' of catching a salmon for your holiday down south ...
Well, good for fucking you.
Please be careful on the rocks.