One of the wonderful things about living in Perth is the Fremantle Doctor. Every afternoon…

Actually, I’ll rephrase that. MOST afternoons he comes to visit the sweltering suburbs, bringing relief in the form of what the Sand Gropers (Western Australians) call “a light breeze”.

It quickly became blatantly obvious that my idea of a “light breeze” is completely different to that of a Western Australians’. Personally, I’d describe the Fremantle Doctor as anything from a brisk wind to a howling gale, but it’s just an opinion.

Since we lived on the escarpment overlooking Perth, we received the full benefit of the doctor almost every afternoon. The only days the doctor doesn’t do his rounds are during a week in February when, like every other doctor in Australia, he decides to leave his patients to their own devices and go on holiday. Unlike most other doctors in Australia, though, the Fremantle doctor only takes a weeks’ holiday. Most specialists seem to leave their patients for six weeks.

Unfortunately, the Fremantle Doctor’s holidays coincide with the hottest summer temperatures. I can only conclude that the incessant 45 degree daily highs finally get the better of him and (heat) exhaustion force him to take a short break, leaving the rest of us to sizzle and suffer in the scorching heat.

We took a drive out to a place called Toodyay on one of these summer days,  comfortably – and more importantly, coolly – ensconced in our air-conditioned four wheel drive. As we entered town, we passed the local outdoor swimming pool. It was obviously the easiest and cheapest way for the local populace to keep cool because I swear that the entire town was in that pool. It looked like the crowd from a Manchester United game had been plucked from the packed stands at Old Trafford and dropped in this pool, en masse. No one was more than an arms’ length from their watery neighbour in any direction. The temperature in that pool must have been hot enough for a warming winter bath.

Over here on the eastern seaboard of the country, we don’t have the pleasure of the Fremantle Doctor. What we get instead are out-of-the-blue squalls. John & I are fortunate/misfortunate enough to live across the road from our local Bowling Club. Neither of us bowls but that doesn’t stop us, and most of our neighbours, from enjoying the noisy hospitality available in the club house. The Club House being an old-fashioned, fibro shed that’s been painted and had a couple of air con units put in there, so it’s at least bearable in the summer months.

We’d gone across to the club with some of the neighbours for a pre-Christmas drink and were happily sitting in the covered area outside. While vaguely wondering whether we should risk having one of the sausages from the Christmas barbie stand that the club had set up that afternoon, we heard a boom.

A massive wind hit us!

The sausages, bread, napkins, plates and ketchup went sailing past us. The plastic chairs literally flew the full length of the bowling green without ever touching the ground. People ran to help the guys on the barbecue to rescue the food and furniture and the rest of us took shelter as the heavens opened and the rain came belting down like a waterfall.

I quickly called the girls to place a bucket under the leaky roof in the dining room (that’s another story) and we went inside to finish our evening.

I really must be getting old because I spent most of the rest of the evening lip reading. The fibro walls of the club house, coupled with a tin roof and zero noise insulation, magnified the sound of the rain hammering down. That, coupled with the racket that a group of semi-inebriated people make made the place unbelievably loud.

I couldn’t hear a thing. I spent an exhausting evening trying to hear enough of people’s conversations so that I could fill in the gaps and understand what they were saying. Hopefully. I’m sure I got it wrong once or twice, judging from the weird looks the others gave me.

What I didn’t consider during that entire evening was how our brand new Gazebo had fared in the storm. We bought it a couple of weeks ago, somewhere to shelter when we’re in the pool area, a nice place to have an evening drink, a bit of shade when we’ve had enough sun. It’s a big thing and because we don’t want to permanently fix it to the tiles, John half-filled the legs with stones.

When we got home that evening, the girls could hardly wait to show us what the storm did. The bucket under the leak in the dining room was half full of water, but the best bit was in the pool. The Gazebo was in the pool. Still intact, curtains still on, rocks still in the legs, upside down in the pool area.

We spent several hours of the following day underwater, unhooking curtains and covers, unscrewing fixings and getting rocks from the bottom of the pool.

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