Life’s a Beach


Right now I’m sitting in a sunny beachfront apartment just north of Cairns in far north Queensland. Hubby and I bought the place many years ago, as an investment, a tax reduction strategy, and a holiday home. Hubby wants it to be our retirement home, too. Unfortunately, I don’t.

Let me be plain. Life here is bearable. I can tolerate the heat and humidity. I can endure the constant greasy feel of sunscreen on my delicate northern European skin. I can live in a constant cloud of Eau d’Aeroguard, the Queensland Cologne. It’s gotta be better than dengue fever, endemic here.

If it’s a choice between breakbone and stinknose, stinknose wins every time. Although they do say deet – the principal ingredient – is carcinogenic.

Indoors, there’s the the constant white noise from ceiling fans and aircon units to cope with, without which it is impossible to live. Certainly impossible to sleep, though I often dream I’m on a neverending transcontinental flight.

I can deal with the mould. Leave a drawer closed for a day and it will smell. Forget carpets and rugs. And anyway, I quite like tiled floors.

Don’t put doors on your wardrobes. In fact, don’t have wardrobes. Fit coated metal baskets and shelves. They should last a few years before they rust. Dish drainers? I know they look hideous, but stick to plastic.

Those aircon units? The outdoor parts rust out fast. See those gorgeous brushed aluminium light fittings? Those shiny steel bladed fans? In a year they’ll wear a cancerous white bloom.

Of course there are upsides. Sitting on the balcony of an evening, sipping wine and listening to the surf. The cool and gentle breezes wafting off the ocean in the morning. The salty air blowing through your home to corrode everything it touches.

The beach is right in front of you, if you happen to like beaches. The hike to the stinger net at the far end of the bay, the one patch of sea that’s slightly safer to swim in, is only about ten minutes. Sadly, the mesh is too large to stop irukandji jellyfish, the smallest and deadliest of them all.

See that pretty island, about a third of the way to the horizon? That’s their breeding ground.

Right behind the stinger net, across the car park, is a breeding ground for slightly bigger nuisances. It’s a swamp known as Deadmans Gully, home to saltwater crocodiles. There was one patrolling the surf here yesterday. The nets don’t bother them much, either.

We missed the cyclone which came through here a couple of weeks ago. It ripped away half the beach and the wind flung messy and often dangerous debris at the building. The whole facade had to be hosed off, and all the windows cleaned.

Thankfully, this time the tide didn’t come up high enough to block the rain pouring off the mountains behind, like last time. Then the building was surrounded with water, which retreated, leaving a layer of thick mud. Thank goodness we’re on the second floor.

Not that any of the residents stayed in the building when the weather turned feral. Everyone decamped to the cyclone shelters in town.

So, not my ideal retirement locale. So far, we’ve compromised on half the year here, and half the year in Victoria. But not for a few years yet. Not for quite a lot of years, if Abbott gets his way.

On the other hand, I hear the previous owner of our apartment – who was very reluctant to sell – still loves the place, and insists on staying in it whenever he visits the area.

I wonder if he’d like to make an offer?


About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)