Cave Woman

There is a shallow cave at the south end of the beach. Actually, it is more of an over-hanging cliff than a cave. But this is where Cave Woman lived for much of the eighties. She slept on a narrow shelf of rock, with her few belongings poked into a recess at the back of the cave. Occasionally, I would drop by the cave for a chat, but it was not until I took her a cup of coffee one moonlit night that I heard her story; about the car accident and her “bwain” damage.

She was usually happy despite her meager circumstances. But, on one occasion, I found her crying, after a big swell had washed right through the cave. Beneath the blubbering, she kept repeating: “I have nuffin’, no bed, no clothes, no nuffin’!” I comforted her as best I could, but there was nothing I could do to help, until a week or so later, walking up Bondi Road, I passed a pile of stuff that had been dumped by the roadside. There was a broken chair, a few boxes of kitchenware, a crappy frying pan and an old mattress: a bed for Cave Woman! I grabbed the foam mattress and, somewhat pressed for time, I tossed it off the edge of the cliff hoping it would land somewhere close to the cave.

Sometime later, I paid her another visit. This time, she was in good spirits and was eager to tell me something. She had just returned from a jog and her hair was disheveled after doing a few somersaults—which had become a regular spectacle for amazed onlookers. She proceeded to tell me how, one night, she was so grief-stricken that she began praying: “Please God, please, please help me Lord. And you wouldn’t believe it!” she said with excitement: “From the heavens above, a foam mattress did fall and landed right next to me!” She was beaming. “You don’t believe me, do you. Everyone thinks I’m mad, but I’m telling the truth!” I hugged her and said emphatically that I did believe her. She looked so relieved.

We sat for awhile, looking at the stars and listening to the waves—pondering the Universe.

John Webber

Peggy Bacon in mid-air backflip, Bondi Beach, 1937.

Peggy Bacon in mid-air backflip, Bondi Beach, 1937. Photo: Ted Hood. State Library of NSW –NCY36/167


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