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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt

Scotland the Brave at the Ocean Baths

It is early in May and we are still soaking in the gentleness of autumn at the sea. The early mornings at sunrise can be a little cold as a chilly wind wraps itself around your face, but this morning was just perfect. Not a breath of wind or any hint of winter – we made coffee for our thermo mugs and I fetched my bag of shells.

I have a very large glass vase on my kitchen counter which needed filling. It has taken me more or less two weeks of beach combing to fill it with beautiful shells from the beach just a seven minute walk from the house. The extras needed to be returned to their rock pools, so with hats, coffee mugs and the bag of shells, we stepped out into the sunshine.

As we walked up the street, the resident family of magpies called to each other from their respective perches in the tall Norfolk pine, electrical pole and corner house balcony. Municipal warnings of swooping magpies are visible on the street-lamp posts, but I have yet to be attacked – they seem far more interested in their complex conversations which must take a great deal of concentration.

We had missed sunrise and the sun was already dancing across the sea, as surfers clad in their black wetsuits formed a long line of dots behind the breakers. As we got to the Ocean baths, I was surprised to see what appeared to be a Scottish pipe band setting up just behind the fresh-water showers. Just a few minutes later the rousing sound of pipes filled the air as the Newcastle RSL Pipe Band and their mascot, a very dignified boxer marched past in formation with a large group of people in their “swimmers” in tow. It seems they were opening up the official winter season for a local swimming club called the ‘Merewether Mackerels.’ A ceremonial song was sung by all the participants after which large blocks of ice were thrown into the water. From our vantage point on the steps below the life-saving station, we were moved and delighted at our good timing, the bagpipes certainly can tug at the heartstrings. What an incredible morning and so unexpected! As I made my way with the shells to the rock pools, I noticed a large pelican ambling across the rocks and I thought – what an absolutely perfect morning … one of those times when you want it all to just stand still, that perfect moment when you experience Joy!

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