Southerly Buster

The southerly buster was such a powerful phenomenon in my childhood, not only serving as a dramatic finale to days spent at the beach, but also signalling that summer itself was drawing to a close. There would be a crackle and you could sniff the air and know the weather was turning. It was quick. You’d notice that the nor’easter—the summer breeze that lulls us—had stopped. With a cold change approaching, you had maybe half an hour to get your stuff, get on the bus and get out of there. If you chose to stay, you could see the whole beach clear out, you know, from tens of thousands of people to half a dozen in the course of an hour. It was a marvellous transformation. The southerly tidied things up. It drenched and cleansed, in both a physical and, for me at least, an emotional sense. It felt invigorating. Not just the power of the rain, but the thunder and lightning that accompanied it. I remember when I was a kid, we would drive out to Ben Buckler and stand in the full force of the southerly. My mother loved Bondi. We scattered her ashes off the rocks at the north end. I pay my respects to Mum whenever I dive off the rock shelf, before swimming across the bay. But even before she passed away, I liked diving off the rocks rather than wading into the water. It feels like you are diving off the edge of the continent into the depths of the ocean, as though stepping off the land, you are surrendering to the great unknown. But, there is something I find reassuring about the shape of Bondi—it’s got what for me are encompassing arms of sandstone, like you’re in its embrace. Of course, facing south, we are exposed to the most tempestuous weather Mother Nature can dish out. But, kinder conditions eventually return and, besides, the occasional shakeup probably does us good, lest we take our good fortune for granted.
Murray Cox

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