“Take them for a swim,” Mum implores.
She says hot days make us ‘ratty’ since we can’t go rambling on our own anymore after the fires. Tony is up at Parker’s playing tennis. Johnny dozes in his little bed. Bart cries hotly and hungrily.
“Right, come on you two” Dad says, “We’ll go up to Heany Park.”
Matt and I get our bathers on. Dad packs some towels and we take the short drive up Bergins Rd onto Heany Park Rd. It hooks left then past Fordhams, then right and right again around the farms all the way to the bush at the base of Bald Hill. We see the black scars of the fire on the hills up close for the first time – they cut deep into the paddocks and into the bush. Almost a week after the fire the smell of burnt grass is still around us.
“Can we go for a walk up and look at the burnt bit?” Matt urges.
“No,” says Dad.
“Did you come here to get the water in the firetruck?”
“No Matt, we were up on the other side of the hill. One of the other trucks came in here,” Dad says and looks out in the direction of destruction now so calm and quiet.
The bush hangs low over the inky water. Matt jumps straight in and breaks the oily surface litter of leaves and gumnuts which float and bob, spreading out in broad ripples.
I am a bit afraid of the pool at Heany Park.
It isn’t blue and sparkly like the Doveton pool but an abandoned, deep black rectangle of still water with thick concrete walls. Dad says it was an old water basin for the farmers to irrigate their crops when there were vegetables grown here and they did also use it as a proper swimming pool a long time ago.
“Are there leeches Dad?” he calls.
Thanks Matt for reminding me of the leeches.
But it is so hot I jump in quickly.
The water sits warm and still on the top but you break through to an icy layer below.
I swim beneath the water for a bit – hanging weightless like a mermaid in a dark, silent world. I sense the depth of the pool but can’t touch the bottom. Matt pops up in the middle of the polol, swims back to the side and then in again, trying to dive deeper each time.
Dad just swims up one end of the pool and then back again.
Something brushes my leg
“Arrgh,” I cry out.
“Did you get a leech Chas?” Matt asks excitedly.
“No – it’s just some water weed.”
I hope it was water weed. Sometimes if you go to Churchill Park just in shoes and socks you get leeches on your legs and Dad picks them off and the scooped out flesh bleeds for ages.
The cold water settles our tempers and we rest on the concrete like lizards waiting to be warmed again. The air dries us quickly and we return to the pool like a pair of otters, slipping in and out onto the bank and diving in by return with ease.
In the depths my skin turns pale and ghostly. My limbs take on strange shapes as the light bends and breaks around me.
I wonder if perhaps, somewhere at the base of the pool, there are those fish with lights coming out of their heads gaping at us in the blackness.
You can read a bit more about the history of Heany Park here.
Looking at google maps, there is a wide reservoir of water and Heany Park remains as a nature reserve but the long unloved old pool – probably deemed too dangerous and deep, appears to have been filled in.