My father has had a big impact on who I am today. Many of my memories of him from when I was a kid involve him doing something risky or dangerous with his mates, being seemingly fearless and doing his mildly embarrassed laugh if something went wrong (which something occasionally did). If you want to hear him make that particular laugh, ask him while I'm present about the time the family left me behind at a service station. He still feels bad about it, so he does that laugh.
When I was very small he would take us kids each in turn and hold us out over the water of the lake in Ballarat. He would then fling us up in the air, clap and catch us again, just for the giddy laugh it would give us. He totes dropped me in the water once and had to go in after me. Definitely a great example of my father's buzz for risk and his humour at misadventure.
One common place for adventures was a swimming lake out of town in Creswick called Calembeen. Dad and his mates would climb Calembeen tower and leap off into the dark lake water below, always cheering those who jumped really high, really far, really fancy, or inevitably, really badly. At some point when society became more aware of safety, the planks were removed from the top tower so that only the metal frame remained. A gate at the entrance to the upper platform stairs barred entry. That didn't stop any of the daredevils or mad dogs as they called themselves, from climbing up onto the top platform and leaping into the water. They even brought along a water skiing rope, tied it to the platform and would then use it to swing out far and high to the centre of the lake before dropping in. Oh gosh. I just remembered dad's bright orange speedos, too.
Summer would hit and dad would come home from work while it was still light. He'd see which of us kids were up for an adventure and he'd pack us off into his ute or into the station waggon and we'd drive to Calembeen because the beach was an hour away and Calembeen was only twenty minutes away. The ute was strange because it alway smelled like cement. The brown leather seats would be hot in the sun and if more than one of you went, someone would have to sit in the middle with their knees around the gear stick. You could fit two kids in the ute, but I'm sure that sometimes we did fit three. We'd wear our swimmers, thongs and take a well-worn beach towel. While dad and his mates would jump off the tower, I mostly remember just trying to get up the courage to swim in the dark lake water. Often I wouldn't get in until right before it was time to go. That motivation of 'now or never' would see me get in the water, realise it wasn't so scary and then have no time to enjoy it once my fear was confronted.
Sunscreen wasn't something we would wear often. We would sunbake, not to get a tan but just to enjoy the sun. I remember having a few days off school as a kid because of how badly sunburnt I was after sunbaking with dad. Mum would always be furious. Sunburn on the back of the thighs and knees was the worst.
With summer upon us know, my sister Goldfields Girl and I went for a visit to Calembeen and had a picnic and look around. We found lily pads and duck eggs and a nice little spot to watch the sun get low on the water before it dropped behind the pines. Lakes in summer are so different to the beach. They're definitely something I'm nostalgic about.
On a side note, everything in this blog post is affordable! So if you're swooning over it, be brave and check them out.
Towel: Cotton On
Photos: Goldfields Girl