We were greeted this Dry season by a lively green frog jumping out of the toilet bowl. Forget your city ways, it croaked, you’re living with Nature in the Top End. I was not inclined to agree until said frog had been safely deposited outside, where it glared at us from the arm of a chair while we ate our first al fresco meal.
Each morning we’re serenaded by bird cries: the chirping of the spangled drongo, the warbling of honeyeaters and the olive-backed oriole, all species native to Darwin. We have two resident black cockatoos, a flash of red from their tails displayed in flight.
It’s been a season of blue cloudless skies by day, cool breeze by night, with locals revelling in their release from an unusually long buildup. Climate change makes itself felt here, with mangroves dying and dams diminishing in the practically rainless wet. Easy to forget this ever-present threat as we bask in Dry season warmth and cool off in the backyard pool in nearly every home.
A season too of music, dance and drama as the city comes to life with its annual Festival, held each August. Lights festoon the trees and people throng to Festival Park to watch vaudeville or circus shows, and eat their way through a variety of ethnic food offered by the many food stalls. Being so close to Asia, Darwin is one of Australia’s most multicultural cities.
There are darker aspects here: the recent revelation of children being tortured in detention shocking locals and the world. Along with hundreds of others we attended a rally to call for action to redress these injustices. There are many asylum seekers awaiting visas, some under threat of return to the countries from which they fled. I did a stint giving information about DASSAN (The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network), founded by my eldest daughter, at the busy Nightcliff Markets, one of three held each Sunday.
Being theatre buffs, we enjoyed two excellent plays: ‘Lippy’ by an Irish company which had its Australian premiere in Darwin, and ‘Broken’ by Darwin’s own Mary Ann Butler, and for which she won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Both were excellent productions, and so easy to get to, compared to struggling through traffic jams ‘down south’.
There’s plenty of culture here if you know where to look, from the outdoor Deckchair Cinema, showing mostly art films and serving yummy food, to the activities for Science week. We enjoyed solar-powered movies under the stars at Darwin’s seaside ‘de la Plage’ café.
We are now given the title of ‘Temporary Territorian’ after spending a good part of each year in these tropic climes over twenty years, not only in the Dry, but in all seasons. Our many friends here ask ‘How was your time away?’ when we return to Darwin, as if our home is truly here and we occasionally take a trip down south. They’ve even stopped saying ‘It must be the Dry ‘cos you’re back!’
The main reason for our visit is to catch up with close family, children and grandchildren, who are lucky enough to live here and to enjoy Darwin’s carefree lifestyle. But I have a sneaky feeling that even if they weren’t here, I’d still come back to Darwin!