That said, there is one story that does bear telling properly. As a birthday present for me, Sal had decided that we should take a trip along the coast for a few days, and towards the end of our stay in Melbourne, that is what we did. I’d been part of the way along the Great Ocean Road on both of my two previous trips to Australia. For various reasons, I’d never quite made it past Apollo Bay, and I’d certainly never made it as far as the twelve apostles, a collection of large limestone rock formations just off the coastline near Port Campbell.
This time, Sal had booked us a night in a lovely apartment just outside Apollo Bay, so there was no excuse not to make it to the apostles themselves–although I never did find out where the name came from, given that there not only aren’t 12 of them, but, being large lumps of rock in the sea, they also bear very little similarity to what I’d imagine the founding members of a religious cult in the Middle East a couple of thousand years ago would have looked like. Incidentally, Wikipedia is no help in this regard, either, although it does tell me that they were originally called “The Sow and Piglets”. Frankly, that’s even more baffling–perhaps this is like one of those dot puzzles they give to reality television contestants to test how susceptible they would be to a space-related practical joke (“yeah, that one’s a pig, and those are the babies… no, I’ve got it, sorry, I think that one’s Jesus…”)
Our gorgeous apartment was situated a few kilometres along the coast from Apollo Bay, just up from the beach with only the other three apartments for company, which provided a nice illusion of being completely isolated (while maintaining the luxury of having the town only a stone’s throw away). It was another one of those “it’s bigger than our flat” scenarios, what with its two bedrooms and bathrooms, spa bath, lovely spacious kitchen, front and back seating areas and automatic coffee machine. We didn’t want to leave.
After we’d spent a little while wandering around the apartment saying “Wow!” a lot, and taking photos, we decided we’d better go and get the lobster we’d planned to have for dinner, so we sauntered into town and down to the port. Rather worryingly, given that one of the main things we’d planned to do there had been to buy a lobster, and eat it, we entered Apollo Bay’s only fish shop to see the fishmonger at Apollo Bay’s only fish shop scraping up the remaining ice from the empty cabinet at the front of Apollo Bay’s only fish shop. But, luckily, he did indeed have a cooked lobster out the back for us, which he duly produced and offered to cut in half (but not before Sal had asked if we could take a photo–not something I think I could do in Sainsbury’s without being laughed out of the shop, mind).
Returning to the apartment, we settled into the plush leather sofas with a glass of wine to get on with the important business of thinking about having dinner, or maybe a spa bath. So there we sat and watched not very much happening at all on the empty beach that was immediately outside. And through our floor to ceiling windows it was rather like watching a very big widescreen tv, as we watched the man and woman from the apartment behind ours wander down to the beach, he rushing ahead slightly with a carrier bag and her holding back to admire the view. Then he knelt down in the sand and started fiddling with some rocks on the beach. Being the pragmatic sort, I thought he might be constructing one of those BBQ things in the sand where you bury some fish and roast it underground in some way, but Sal, being a girl, knew immediately what was going on. Sure enough, after some more fiddling the woman was finally allowed to approach, and as he now properly got down on bended knee, she did a little excited jumping up and down thing as he produced the ring. And we sat in our lovely apartment in our comfortable sofas shamelessly trespassing on their very private moment.
Later, much later, when they’d gone back to their apartment, we wandered down to what was now effectively our private beach and walked about for a bit. Sure enough, there it was in the sand, crudely constructed out of small stones: “Will U Marry Me?”