Even hotter, Hotter, HOTTEST !!
I should have known that it would have been tempting fate to write a blog last week about the weather because it only got worse.
We had spent a night in Adelaide in order to attend a funeral, but there was a positive side to the experience: eight full and restful hours of sleep in our own air-conditioned home. As we drove back to our 'renovated 1900s farmhouse' situated between Berri and Loxton, the happy conversations petered away.
My mind, however, was engaged in a frenzied mental moshpit: 'Another five days in the hellish heatbox - no, don't be negative, it's your holiday. Think of it as getting back to the simpler life, of mind numbing heat - no! There'll be cooling breezes and the sounds of nature - yeah, like the horse-sized wasps, eye-gouging blow flies and the crack of falling gum tree branches......' My negative side was clearly winning the argument. The only positive point I could accept was that the heat of the day would be a form of workout that would help me in my quest to lose those pesky 2005 kilograms.
Three ours later our ageing Magna station wagon puttered along the dusty drive towards the house. Despite the car immediately switching to oven mode as soon as Love Chunk took the keys out the ignition, Milly the dog still seemed to be torn between staying in the car (and hence, with some chance of going back home again) or jumping down to resume her frenzied dance amongst the ant hills. Us humans slowly unpacked the car and rustled up some hope that the inside of the house might be miraculously cooler than outside.
As the dietician would have said to Elvis, Fat Chance. Perhaps this was the time, then, to go and see the Overland Corner Hotel, home of my ancestors the Brands. We passed by the turnoff to Loch Luna and for the first time since coming back to the Riverland I felt relieved that we hadn't been able to get a booking there. A more desolate place would be hard to find; dead trees, water hiding beyond the salt flats and heat that burned out the blue of the sky. Overland Corner was also situated in this type of landscape, but it was a welcome oasis. It very much revealed its humble English origins and the owners had carefully planted and watered some lawn amongst the shade of a large gum tree.
Alas it was too damn hot to sit outside and the added bonus of having several hundred blowies that were the sort that kept going straight for your nostrils regardless of how much hand waving you did in front of your face forced us inside. The hotel's front bar was about the size of our bathroom but we eagerly ordered some drinks. The hotel-keeper, Andrew, served us. In appearance he personified the bogan South Aussie - longish goatee, shaved head and chunky tattooed body. We tried to engage him in some conversation, being only the second group of people he had there. "Hey Andrew, my great-great-great grandmother was Mrs Brand, the first lady who ran this place."
With sweat rolling down his temples, he looked about as interested as Kate Moss at a good parenting convention. "Ep," he nodded. Even the letter 'Y' on 'yep' was just too hard for him in this heat.
A moist nose touched my leg and I looked down to see a red heeler, tail wagging. "What's your dog's name, Andrew?"
"Boots." His tone didn't encourage me to ask why, but Love Chunks took another tack: "Andrew, we read that you guys serve lunch. Do you have a menu?"
"Ep. Look above youse." There, above the bar, was the menu, written in chalk. Everything fresh-fried straight from the freezer; schnitzel, nuggets, calamari rings and a fishermans' basket.
Despite our misgivings we ordered some and ventured into the dining room with our drinks. Our actions stirred Andrew a little because he said, "Bit hot down there." And so it was. There was an air conditioning vent in the ceiling but it was only there for show that day. We still ate our lunch there determinedly and Boots sat under the table, hoping for some spillage.
Well it was a nice visit and that Andrew sure was a chatterbox, but a swim was definitely needed afterwards as we unpeeled the t-shirts stuck to our backs and hoped that our backsides didn't look as though we'd pissed ourselves. "Let's go to Lake Bonney! I always loved swimming there." This was true and any kind of swimming water was going to be OK by us today.
We found a spot on the grass in some shade and reeled from the hot air. The 44C temperatures were being reflected off the lake and sucked the moisture from our mouths. We ran towards the water and flung ourselves in - it was too hot to worry about how cold the water would feel when it first touched our 'goolies'. "Geez, this is like a hot bath!" Love Chunks said. A hot muddy bath, but who cared, it was water. An hour later, I climbed out and was dry before I reached my towel, so I went back in the water again. We did this all afternoon until we had to admit that it was time to head back to the hellishly hot farmhouse.
All of us had cold showers that were as warm as the waters of Lake Bonney. Love Chunks cooked tea on the barbeque - steaks and sausages and we sweated endlessly as we ate, brushing the flies away with our non-utensil-using hands. Sapphire disappeared into the bathroom, a cheap 1970s low-ceilinged, non-insulated addition in full afternoon sun which was therefore the hottest part of the house. She emerged a few minutes later, her sweat-soaked hair slicked to her head and looking hotter than she did in the Overland Corner dining room. "Oh Mum, don't go to the toilet, it's too hot!"
.........and for the first time in my life I was glad to have constipation.