When I was a very little girl, one of the jobs I enjoyed doing was helping my mother to hang out the washing. I would hand her the pegs as she put the washing on the line. We had our own measure of the heat of the day. If it was a cool day, two hankies would be pegged together. (It was never cool enough for each hankie to have its own peg.) If it was a warm day, three hankies would be pegged together, and if it was very hot, four. I would ask, ‘Is it a three-hankie day or a four-hankie day?’ as I felt the sun beating down on my hatless head, and my mother would tell me. I would then pick out the right number of hankies, and a peg, and hand it to her. Sometimes, if she wasn’t in a hurry, I would be allowed to pair the socks, and hand them to her with a peg as well.

Today is a four or even five hankie day. I hang out the washing and the line spins around, catching the wind. It will be dry before I get to the bottom of the basket. The thyme plants have shut down for the day, their leaves compressed. The birds have already headed down to the creek after spending the very early morning in the garden, looking for seeds and bathing in the birdbath. The sky is that far-away blue colour.

Even after I’ve come inside, and despite wearing my hat, I can feel the burn of the heat pressing down on the top of my head.