For some reason the Sydney winter begins on June 1, not June 21. So by last Sunday we were well and truly into it and I was feeling a bit perplexed as to why I was at Dee Why beach. At least there was no danger of sunburn under a grey and overcast sky at 7.30am.
But there was a good swell and scores of balding, paunchy wet-suited surfers were out there, bobbing in the water, waiting for the next wave. As the day wears on, the younger fellas gradually wake up and head down to try their luck. My friends were both ridiculing a solitary stand-up paddle surfer who looked like he was piloting a submerged gondola. This is apparently is the latest fad to hit the beaches. I don’t think it will last long.
At that temperature, time and season, everyone at Dee Why looks eccentric. I suppose I did when I managed a few shivering strokes in the rock pool. Another swimmer was tirelessly clocking up lap after lap. It wasn’t until she clambered out that I realised she was about 70.
On a nearby slope looking out over the Pacific an elderly woman wrapped up snugly in a woollen dressing gown was meditating in a lotus position. Another figure, so swaddled in warm clothes that it was hard to tell what age or sex, stood motionless for an hour or more under the Norfok Island pines touting free Falun Dafa meditation classes. Two Chinese girls were boxing. A geeky young man who looked very cold and miserable was playing games on his iPad on the sand. As the morning wore on pairs of young mothers emerged, pushing super-strollers with wheels stolen from mining trucks and clutching take-away coffees.
Surprisingly, the water was not all that cold. So if you happen to have a free Sunday morning on your next trip to Sydney, set aside time for a few laps in the Dee Why rock pool and a free Falun Dafa class (between 8 and 9.30am).
This week, we have a varied collection of articles. Christopher Tollefsen reviews a new book which argues that there is a deep compatibility between science and religion and a hidden incompatibility between science and naturalism. David Glance hints that someday we will be able to attend university on YouTube for free. Pravin Thevathasan writes from the UK about a recent decision by British doctors not to relax their opposition to assisted dying. And I have written an historical feature on the 19th Century Kulturkampf in Germany. There are some interested parallels with the current situation in the US.