As a child, the predominant sound of summer was the cricket commentary on the transistor radio tuned to the ABC. Australia’s pre-eminent post war commentator was Alan McGilvray, who called every Test in Australia until his retirement in 1985. The tenor of his voice would carry us through so many summer days. His considered descriptions were a background to jam and sauce making, long drives to holiday destinations and general daily routines.
Dad would come in from whatever he had been doing on the farm to check the scores, to see how many runs Australia had made. Bill Lawry would doggedly stand at the wicket for hours. Ian Redpath, Doug Walters and Keith Stackpole were names which rolled around the airwaves in those days. “Jenner comes in from the members end,” the radio commentators would create the image of the match long before black and white images appeared on the television screen. We knew Australia was desperate when Doug Walters was brought into the bowling but he could often get the break that the bowlers had struggled to achieve.
The sound of a tennis ball being thwacked by a racquet used to be synonymous with the Australian summer but that has markedly decreased in significance. The heyday of Australian tennis with Rod Laver, Margaret Court and Ken Rosewall inspired many to refine their backhand on courts throughout the continent. There are many idle, silent and over grown tennis courts around these days.
On very hot days in our asbestos soldier settlement house, I would lie on the bathroom floor. I would read to pass the time in the pervading heat. The high pitch noise of cicadas was mixed with the beat of the sprinklers’ spray as Dad relentlessly watered the lawns.
If the pressure of ripe tomatoes demanded that sauce be made, then the wood stove would be cranked up despite the summer heat. The aroma of the sauce bubbling would drift into the heat of the day and become a pungent mixture which attacked the senses. It was a challenge to lose myself in a novel when these forces were at work, seemingly against me, on a bleaching summer’s day.
Seed pods on the lucerne trees would snap open in the silence of the still, midday heat. Flies would buzz relentlessly at the back door and the dogs would lay flat out in shade, patiently waiting for the hope of relief in the evening.