King of the Castle

The bloke and I are at Sellick’s Beach, south of Adelaide, as the afternoon shadows lengthen and the sun is lower in the sky. Our attention, of course, is focused on the water, a vast expanse, the Gulf of St Vincent.three

While I watch the sea and the fisherman sitting in the back of his ute, I wait for my internal compass to set. Which way is the Fleurieu Peninsula? We’d come that way today. And would that then be the Yorke Peninsula over here, where parts of the bloke’s family originated? And, I’m thinking, so this is the Gulf, named by Matthew Flinders for Admiral John Jervis, the Earl of St Vincent. I remember, vaguely, having to label it on a map in geography a millennium ago. Gulf; it’s such a weird word, for a kid raised in a state without one.

I might have missed the castle if I hadn’t decided to clear the foot well on the passenger’s side on the car.

The castle, across the road from the beach and just up from the rubbish bin, looks out to sea, just as we had been doing.two

Little stones and pebbles have transformed the house, once a carbon copy of the sorts of houses the last of the baby boomers grew up in. And now, here it is, a folly, a dream, a hobby, the result of a desire for transformation.

The who and the why of it, I don’t know. What I do know is, I’m glad I didn’t miss it. It’s nice to think about the work in it. A couple planning it together, him up the ladder; it’s always the men up the ladder, the women passing the things that need passing. The pair of them standing back at the end of yet another day on the project. She’s got a shandy in her hand. He’s poured it from the long neck first and now he’s drinking from the bottle. No point wasting a glass, he’ll have told her, not when I’m going to polish it all off.

Have I got this right? Did the castle bring them closer together? Were they happy in their castle, wondering how they’d manage when the other one died, each hoping they’d be the one to go first so they didn’t have to be alone. I can see that. It’s a love story. A happily ever after, and why not have a fairy tale ending? If you can transform an ordinary house into a castle, odds on you can transform an ordinary love into a long-lasting romance.

But maybe it didn’t work out like that. Maybe he’s spent too much time on it. Time he hasn’t spent on her or the kids. Perhaps it started off as something that soaked up the little bits of extra cash leftover at the end of the pay week but had begun to have first call at the pay packet. Then there’s no money for shoes, or another baby, or for her to get her hair done. A holiday is out of the question; no time, no money. And besides, he would say, once I get this finished we won’t need a holiday ever again; you will be a queen living in a castle. And he’d try to jolly her along for a while until there was no more jollying to be done. Eventually, once the kids had left, she’d leave, and there he’d be. Left behind but certain it’s all been worth it. Or maybe not. Maybe it hasn’t been worth it, but now, he figures, he’s paid the price, he might as well and enjoy it.

Maybe he’s got a new woman now. Someone he met through bowls or Probus. Oh, that’s you up on the hill; she would say when they met. And she would have kept quiet about how she’s always had a little giggle about the self-appointed king who lived in the castle, up there on the hill, beside the council rubbish bin.

I know this castle is a man’s dream. No woman will have done this. Not a castle, with knights fighting just above the garage. I just don’t know which way this story has turned out.

I’m barracking for a happily ever after.

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