The setting was a classic end-of-summer Canberra afternoon: hot, dry, windy. The group was sitting outside under the carport, in a space kitted out with carpet offcuts, pine shelving and a hifi system playing Neil Diamond's Hot August Night on vinyl. The light was at first sharp and brittle, but it burnt away slowly as the records were changed. The women, sipping cold white wine, were brightly coloured in floral pinks and burnt orange. The men, sucking at recycled bottles of home brew, were discussing umpiring decisions from a local cricket game earlier that afternoon. The roast pork was ready and resting, the cream for the plummy dessert had been whipped gently, with special ingredients folded into it for extra lushness.
I had closed my eyes and I was in 1977, in my parents' Duntroon backyard. The cat that just jumped on my lap could have been our black & white Persian, Sadie. The dog that walked past was George, the Tasmanian Rock Hound* we shared with another Army family. The kids shouting in the front yard in their pyjamas were all my cousins, avoiding bed by keeping away from the adults. But I was sitting near the adults, a quarter of an ear to their conversation, another quarter on the music, the rest in my book, sitting very close to have first crack at the food when it finally arrived, and old enough to be included in their meal rather than fed earlier with the smaller kids.
I suddenly opened my eyes, and it was 2009, and it was Zoe's backyard, or rather, side-yard. Owen had umpired a game that afternoon, it was his home brew, their Neil Diamond, Dr Sista-Outlaw's pink dress, my orange top, our kids using light-sabres to whip each other up into a frenzy before the tears fell and we shoved the lot of them in front of a DVD. And it was Zoe's amazing milk-roasted pork with couscous and green beans, followed by something divinely creamy and plummy. And I was still old enough to eat with the big kids. In fact, I *was* the big kid, the oldest of everyone there.
Last night we drove along the highway for 90 minutes to eat a meal with my beloved buddy Sacha, who was down from Brisbane for five days to mind her son in her ex-partner's house while he went to some men's drumming thingy in Tasmania (or so his son says, with a cheeky smile).
Sacha is a wonderful host: she invited a whole stack of lovely locals that she wanted to catch up with, cooked a (gentle) curry meal and plied us with wine and chocolate, then put us to bed in a spare room with a couple of recent glossy mags (she knows my tastes well) and let us sleep in.
She also had to babysit the beagle, and since I know some of you are hardcore beagle fans, allow me to introduce you to Wilson:
Isn't he lovely? He belongs to Sacha's son, and was quite the star of the party, especially when he started hoeing into some icecubes (the only thing he managed to wrangle out of us, despite using his eyes to his best begging capacity, and after his food-stealing attempts were thwarted), licking and crunching them up happily.
These photos were taken this morning, when Bumblebee's dad (who lives reasonably near by) generously allowed B to drop by and see Sacha for a few hours of his access weekend. The boy and the dog got along swimmingly.
In case you don't like beagles, we also walked down the road and met a couple of stunning Burmese cats who live in an equally stunning sandstone house with their very creative owners (who were at the dinner). Here is Sacha with one of the lovelies:
Such sweet kitties, a male and female, who are wholly indoor cats, but have a wired-in cat run at the back, between the house and the amazing ceramics studio. Sigh! Imagine having a lovely house with another one attached to the back, just for making things!
Double sigh. Anyway, dinner is ready (takeaway, we couldn't be arsed cooking). See ya.
*Actually an Australian Terrier, but he didn't chase balls or sticks. He was passionately devoted to rocks. He rocked.