A confession: I took the weekend off. I ran away. It was lovely.
I pulled the Bumblebee out of school at lunchtime, flung him out of the car at The Big Merino in Goulburn, then scooted to Sydney, where I started by exploring the delightful shop that is Artwise Amazing Paper (pretty much your best option for buying a variety of decent bookcloth in small amounts in Australia these days. If you know of any others, please tell me.) and then wandered down City Road to attend the new-look Meanjin launch at Gleebooks.
I had a lovely time, listening to some damn good writing, meeting poets, filmmakers and journalists, and ended up in a pub somewhere near Sydney Uni comparing fertility stories with amazing women and admiring Sophie Cunningham's intense sunburn.
My hostess, who lives in a stunning townhouse in Enmore, had been meanwhile attending a family funeral, and so I hadn't clapped eyes on her yet. She had assured me by text message that she'd left me a key and turned the alarm off, but unbeknownst to her, her partner had come home in the meantime and re-alarmed the house out of habit before he went away for the night. So I got back, well-lubricated, opened the door and got fully upstairs before I became aware of a high-pitched squeal that made me pause mid-step. Could it be? I started downstairs immediately, and only got halfway before the alarm started, a noise that assaulted every cell in my body, vibrated through my teeth and seemed to put a hot needle through my ears. Ay yay yay!
Luckily I'd been told the code last time I visited, and although I am numerically dyslexic and dreadful with names and dates, I rarely lose a pin or code (something to do with the body memory of the movements on the keypad). Within seconds I'd turned it off, and the silence that resulted was almost as loud as the alarm. Wow. If I'd really been an intruder that noise would have physically pushed me out of the building. Even earplugs wouldn't have helped. I guess it works as a security measure. And a sobering one. Heh.
Saturday, as anyone who lives in Sydney would know, was a scorcher. 33 degrees! It's Spring, that's crazy. This is why I would never live again in Sydney. G (my hostess) and I cruised Enmore and Newtown, eating breakfast and exploring shops. I found another good paper shop and an excellent button shop. Then we picked up Best Beloved from the airport (flying in from a air security conference at the Sunshine Coast in Qld -- tuh) and kept moving down towards Brighton le Sands.
Sophie seemed to have spent Friday lying on a beach, forgetting to turn with the sun (she had a very directional sunburn!). Our time at the beach was quite different. All of us pale and wimpy -- G especially so, since she favours the white Victoriana pseudo-goth look -- we preferred to sit in the shade and enjoy the sea-breeze and watch the weirdness that is the Eastern Sydney Jet-ski Gangs cavorting on the beach. It smacked of Puberty Blues, with jet-skis substituting for surf-boards, right down to the pairs of mismatched girlfriends in bikinis, sitting amongst but separate from the tanned, beefy, strutting blokes in groups flinging footballs around the girls for extra attention between bouts of jetskiing.
We stayed there for a while, eating fish & chips, fascinated. Or at least, I was. I love people watching. At one point I said 'What do you think these blokes do after a day on the beach -- do they stay in a pack & have a BBQ? Go to a pub? Go home to their mothers? What do you reckon?' And G and BB stared at me and couldn't believe that I bother thinking these things. But I do. One of my personal fascinations with life is that there is only 24 hours in a day for everyone, but we all make completely different choices about how to spend that time.
The other thing that struck me was the amount of noise. There we were, sitting beside a beach, and there were planes landing across the water from us, jet skis and boats churning around in between, cars and motorbikes roaring behind us, and yet I could still hear the waves coming in and out. But I couldn't hear much else...
That afternoon we went from the ridiculous to the sublime. We dropped G off at home, and then headed to the Southern Highlands to spend a night with Bernice Balconey. She lives on a humble piece of land owned by someone else, in a lovely little house surrounded by garden and bush. Apart from the trains that rumble past infrequently, it's serene. We did little but eat and read and talk. And go to a market where I found a vinyl copy of ABBA Arrival to replace the one I'd STUPIDLY sold when I was 16 to raise enough money to buy a packet of cigarettes. Talk about great regrets. I feel like a part of my soul is restored. Even if I never play it again (which is unlikely, I love my turntable), it is good to know I can look at it and remember things, like how dumb I was at 16.
Of course, when I got home on Sunday afternoon I had to jump straight on the computer and meet a couple of deadlines that were looming so close I could feel their hot breath on the back of my neck. But I still managed to watch Dr Who, on the edge of my chair. PFFWWORR. Can't wait for next week, even if I have qualms about the next Doctor (ok, I googled him. I'm a curious cat). I just have to have faith in Russell. He hasn't let us down yet.
And this morning I decided to catch up on the weekend edition of the Canberra Times and discovered a death notice for a nice old man I've known slightly for the last ten years. He's a classic WWII veteran, overlooked by the young, appreciated by his peers who, as he left the room, would say in hushed tones, 'He was interred, you know, by the Japanese. Never talks about it.' He was always dressed beautifully, with freshly bryl-creamed hair and ironed shirts. He had a great sense of humour, and even when diagnosed with demensia, wore it with dignity. The last time I saw him, I sat next to him in a doctor's surgery, and we had a wonderful conversation about life, the universe, etc and the Legacy Ladies he looked after. He won honours in the war, and is being given full Air Force Honours at his funeral, tomorrow. I don't know his family well enough to go to the funeral, but I wish them well. He was a lovely man.
Speaking of lovely people, did I mention that while I 'wasn't blogging', I lost another auntie? It's been a year for that sort of thing. She lost a battle with cancers and other lurgies. She was a lovely person, married to the uncle that flew over from Fiji when my brother died and consoled me with my first plate of Oysters Kilpatrick. Gawd, the things you remember. I would have like to get over to WA for the funeral, but it just wasn't possible. Colonel and Lady Duck went instead, and caught up with extended family (hello!).
I believe in the power of threes; you know, that bad things come in threes. I know it's a superstition, but it seems to work for me. I was worrying about this the other day, about the aunties, when a great-aunt of BB's died. I've relaxed now. That's enough aunties for the universe, methinks.
Time for work. I've decided to make book covers today. A nice, big batch of them.