Gosh that pine-lime dusted doughnut is good, I think as I trudge around the track, the warmth of the snack offering a small level of solace against the chill night wind. I might get another.
As I round the corner I see that it is too late. The pretty pink paper lanterns are now dimmed, the deconstruction of the tent has begun. I am a little sad. Along with the huge neon sign of the schnitzel food truck, the doughnut stall added colour to the black and grew nightscape.
I love colourful lights in the night, the idea of life in the dark. It’s why I was looking forward to the night shift, after the end of the live entertainment. But of course I’m not here for that. I am walking in memory of Peter, Darren and Jo, of cherished colleagues who are no longer with us, and in the hope that others will not join them in suffering the scourge of cancer.
The Relay For Life is an annual event that raises funds for the Cancer Council. I have now done a few, including the one in 2019, the last time I stayed the entire night. My feet were wrecked by walking in shoes with damaged soles during that relay. I am taking it a bit easier this time, but it is a good escape from the exhaustion of work, in addition to being for a good cause.
I arrive later in the afternoon than planned, having done a session of karate, showered, hung a load of washing and vacuumed the house. Many of the team are already there, but I am doing the night shift anyway. The layout of the track at Don Lucas Park in Sutherland is different and I feel like it is less crowded, but I might be wrong.
There are no fairground rides and I suspect that the number of food trucks is down, though they do have the ultimate Australian combination of gozleme and potato on a stick in one stall.
I plan to nap in the afternoon. It doesn’t happen. There is too much chatting to be done.
We stop to watch the moon rise over the ocean. As dusk falls, the moonlight shimmers on top of the quiet seas.
We eat pizza for dinner, walk some more, then, after the other entertainment stops, join in for trivia at 11 pm. The team comes fourth.
It is dark now, many of the participants hiding away under the marquees or in their tents to catch some sleep. I circle the track with the team leader. The moon is just past full, the air chilly, kept at bay by a jumper and Japanese heat pack. I am still wearing shorts. Somewhere out there is the ocean.
And so it is that I find myself walking circles in the night, enjoying the peace and time for thought.
At around 3 AM legs tire and even our leader needs to stop. I treat myself to another plate of poffertjies, the little Dutch pancakes I enjoyed last time. They’ve run out of ice cream.
Then I go up to the car and try to get comfortable in a sleeping bag. First the back seat, then the front. It’s difficult to fall asleep.
I must have fallen asleep eventually, to some relaxing music on my phone. I wake at around 5.30 AM. The moon is shining through one window, rainbow annular ring of cloud surrounding it. In the opposite direction I can see ominous cloud against a pale dawn background out across the sea.
Pinpricks of landing lights resolve into silhouettes of aircraft descending after crossing the continent from Asia.
It takes me a while to motivate myself to get out of the sleeping back and back on to the track. I’ve pulled up stiff, but okay. No big blisters on the sole.
I arrive to watch the orange sun peek over the horizon for the start of a new day.
After more laps there is a free breakfast of bacon and egg rolls, then more walking, more aircraft descending.
There are more clouds to the west, grey with rain. Will they hold off until the 10.30 pm end of the relay?
I cannot last that long. I need to drive home and I know that the refreshment of a short sleep will not last. I must be awake enough to control the car safely.
I farewell the remaining members of the team and drive home, shower and collapse into bed. The rains have arrived.
With B driving, we make it out to the French Market at Taren Point Public School for a lunch of baguettes and cake. Then back home, where I fall back into the satisfaction of dreams.