Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Mar 4

Bermagui, NSW.
Saturday 1.15pm:

This is embarrassing. And on a beach with other people, too.

The woman in her one-piece swimming suit, huge sunnies and sensible hat is laughing at me. I can tell. She’s acting like she’s concentrating on her small daughter’s antics as the kid waddles about the water’s edge giving a little shriek every time her toes get wet. But I saw the woman look at me and I reckon that big smile on her face has little to do with the cute kid’s love/hate tussle with the sea and more to do with me.

You see, I’m wearing budgie smugglers. In public. I’m like Tony Abbott.

Normally, no way, but this was an emergency. I’m on the road and have just done a show at the folk festival in nearby Cobargo. I thought it woud be refreshing to have a swim in Bermagui before my evening gig.

One problem – I forgot my swimmers. They’re modest swimmers – big baggy pants with accumulated sand in pockets that always fill with air bubbles when I first enter the water. At frst I float and then I sink. They are also my tennis, garden-weeding and changing-the-Barina’s-oil pants.

But they’re not here.

So, I tried the local surf shop for some cheap swimwear. Oh, there’s swimwear of course, but no way am I spending $70 on a pair of board shorts with red flames flaring from the bum.

Finally the girl in the surf shop said, “What about these? They’re only $20.” She was holding up a teeny little packet (and laughing). Budgie smugglers. Black. Cheap. Petroleum by-product.

She was having a go at me, I’m sure. But I bought them anyway. I mean, it’s just for today.

Now I’m walking as fast as I can across the sand to the water. I feel naked. And compressed. There’s pressure on my testicles. I’m like Peter Garrett.

I must look like a balloon with its end tied. I could run to the ocean’s safety, but I don’t want to jiggle. Jiggling is a bad look. I thought people would be staring at me but they’re turning away. A young family packs its beach bag and hurries up to the car. A pretty woman pulls her bikini top back on.

There’s this bloke at the festival who’s in charge of rubbish. His name is Neil. He makes sure everything that can be recycled is and that all compost gets composted. He cares about the environment. He’s not like Abbott or Garrett.

He’s a big bloke with an impressive belly under a well-stretched blue singlet. He wears heavy work boots and a full beard. But the really distinctive thing about Neil is that he always wears the shortest cut-off denim pants I’ve ever seen (on a man). It’s his trademark. You’re lucky if they reach down to testicle level. Neil sits down and it looks like two coconuts sharing a denim hat.

But he’s never the subject of ridicule. No way. He’s big. (Even the rest of his body.) And he does good work for his community. He doesn’t need a suit to puff up his credibility.

I walk past the woman with the child. I smile at the little girl and she shrieks. Probably the water touching her toes. Her mother leads her away.

I dive into the cool sea.

Suddenly my little nylon/spandex combo feels quite comfy. (There seems to be more room. Maybe it’s the cold water.)

I feel unrestricted as I swim. I feel naked, powerful and free. I’m like Neil.

I like my budgie smugglers.

(And they’ll dry quickly.)

Can’t wait to show them to you all.

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