Happy Winter Solstice folks! We didn't have a family bonfire this year, instead there was major flooding, lightning bringing down power lines, wind at 9 or 10 on the Beaufort scale uprooting whole trees and other extenuating circumstances that involved women without nipples...*
During this time I've had the worst head cold in years, spent a fair bit of time at the inlet cold, sick and lonely (in isolation basically; no one wants me any where near them), surrounded in butter menthol wrappers and dirty dishes. Yes, and whingy whiny too. So a day or so before the Solstice, when the morning was still and warm with pre-storm languour, I popped a mushroom in my mouth and dragged my sorry carcass down to the beach to sit on a rock, to feel the sun ripple through my chilled spine.
I sat on the same rock where I snapped the crocodile a month or so ago and sipped some hot apple cider vinegar and honey. Over at the boat ramp sat a white ute with fish tubs on the back. Couldn't see the man's boat and then I could - a white rooster tail over the other side of the inlet. As he got closer, I could see that it was Steeleye, his red checked shirt and khaki waders his standard dress code. Dog sat to attention at my feet and whined.
We chatted about the cobbler while he packed the fish. 'Caught three last night', he said as he hefted some stingray wings into the icebox. This is really unusual here and worrying for me as I love wading.
Pelicans began to crowd his boat, growling at each other like kelpies waiting for the scraps. Steeleye gave me a couple of blue manna crabs, rare as well in these parts but the inlet was open for so long last year that all sorts of strange things have been going on - cobbler, stingrays, blue mannas. I even found a marron once, trying to find the fresh and stranded in salt water.
The shroom began to kick in, doing its work on my molars first and spreading to my jaws, behind my eyes. I thanked Steeleye for the crabs and gathered them up by their claws. Walking up to the house, a lightening of my spine and the clicking of crabs at my side, I heard Steeleye's ute rattle along the track, boat trailer thumping behind. Wouldn't be back for a while, he'd said, too many yellow eye mullet and they're only 40 cents a kilo at the moment.
Back in the kitchen I boiled up the crabs to crimson and spread newspaper over the bench. Wasabi and some vinegar in a little bowl. I jointed the crabs' limbs and sucked out my first feast of the season, lifted the carapaces and vinegared away the yellow guts.
I was supposed to drive down south and stay with family that night before the Solstice but I couldn't handle the thought of swagging it on the floor, sick. So instead I fed on fresh crabs, feeling the heady rush of the shroom trip swimming into the fuggy ache of the head cold, listening to Marianne Faithful recite The Lady of Shalott.#
* Not really.
# 'She Walks in Beauty' by Marianne Faithful and Warren Ellis is a wonderful album if you are into either of these two AND the Romantic poets all in one place.