I arrive at my weekend B&B to find my host in unaccustomed shorts and thick gloves heading up the hillside clutching something purposefully and carefully in his hands. I whizz over to see what it is – a small goanna, beautifully marked and vibrating with panic. It's already put its jaws around J's thumb which he had to expose to untangle it from the garden netting. I refrain from delaying its release by grabbing the camera and it races up a tree out of reach of galumphing humans, even if they are only trying to help.
The afternoon is very warm and the river reserve J has been shaping for a few years has been slashed by council (at last) so we pack seats, insect repellent and wine and head down to one of our favourite places under a huge old casuarina to watch the long long day draw to a close. We can hear the murmur of small rapids – there's a lot more water in the river than there usually is at this time of the year. A young kookaburra half-laughs above us and then arrows across to the other side of the river.
The sun is sinking and provides us with another pleasure as it back-lights a red spider spinning its evening web racing down, up and across in a very business-like way.
The next afternoon is very hot, so we turn to the river. We walk down the track where I used to wash carrots and beetroot in market-gardening days, and cross towards a developing island. We pass a small eel heading in the opposite direction to hide very effectively in the weed. I'm not wearing my glasses so I have to take J's word for this. Today I lose my balance in the deep sand and topple straight in: none of my usual dithering before immersion. The water is almost blood-temperature and no one else is about.
We sit in the water in the shade, chatting in a desultory way and looking for schools of tiny fish. When we've cooled off, we dress and return to our wine spot. It's been a busy day (three beaches will have a post of their own.) As light fades I sprawl on a cushion and look up through the branches of the massive casuarina, river wrack caught in its branches from the last flood, a good 40 feet from riverbed. The fine tracery of needles and nuts against the sky is replaced by the tracey of branches as I look higher. There is no sign of last night's spider or its web.
On Sunday J spends the morning with water: transferring water between tanks; drenching the garden to tenderness; and trawling through boxes of fittings in search of the appropriate nipple as he refines the fire-fighting system. There has been a small bushfire on Nerrigundah Ridge, alarmingly close and putting paid to summer complacency.
At lunch time we head off to an art exhibition at Bingi where a friend is exhibiting exquisite botanical drawings. The Priory is on a hill with 360 degree views to the sea and over Tuross Lake to the mountains of the Great Divide, and the wind is rioting, slowly spinning a shark sculpture. J was last here in the early 1980s for a clearing sale, nosing around to see what he could find of use in our new poverty-stricken rural life. No sign now of the old sheds and paddocks. They've been replaced by a manificent house, marble floored, and a garden inhabited by sculptures and statues. The artist, Barbara Romalis, is trying to place a delicate pottery nativity scene and can't find a base to her satisfaction. J scrutinizes the paintings by Peter Mesenberg, and pronounces them excellent beyond envy.
My bush weekend is drawing to a close. After lunch we return to the river, startling a foot-long fish (bass or bream?) and loll and idly splash and talk about the magic vastness of geology and other smaller matters.
I return to my beachside home to prepare for the imminent arrival of my Queensland family: son and his partner, two grandchildren, a dog, two kayaks, two motorbikes, eight or nine surfboards, pushbikes, camping gear, and maybe even the bread maker. My resident son amuses – or is it bemuses – me with a video gone viral of Kelly Slater's home-made surfing wave, ending a very pleasant Australian weekend.