On farewells

In which I’m grumpy, even if I know I shouldn’t be

Sometimes I think, ‘Well, if I just keep talking eventually I will have something to say. But mostly I have no more to say than a person who has nothing to say and no less than someone who has not a lot.

We went out for lunch and it was father’s day. We didn’t know that when we booked. Really we were supposed to be going out for a meal together–the four of us–because I’m going away for a bit, and that’s what you do when someone goes away. You all go out together. So now I’m feeling slightly grumpy that my lunch wasn’t really for me and not only that the meal wasn’t all that great because of course they were doing the whole set menu thing that all the cafes and restaurants do on their busiest days. And I’m grumpy with myself for being churlish, so I’m mostly trying to talk myself out of that.

But we wouldn’t have gone out if we’d known it was father’s day. First, because the meals are always rubbish on days like today. And second, because I try not to buy into the commercialism of it all. I had a wonderful father, and my children’s father is wonderful, but there’s too much pain and hurt in the world regarding fathers and as much as I think it’s important to celebrate the good, I don’t think there’s any need to make the hurt greater than it already is. It feels extremely exclusionary to me. I try not to make a big protest about it, but equally I don’t make a big song and dance about the celebration of it either.

And now I really must go and pack. It’s my worst thing. I’m even worse at packing than I am about being gracious when my farewell lunch gets taken over by something I don’t even agree with.

The puppy is still cute.

On Friday

In which I remain distracted, but am finally focused on the task at hand

I’ve spent way too much time this week distracted by the horrifying spectacle out of Canberra, culminating in the previously unthinkable relief that our prime minister is Scott Morrison. I’m not actually relieved about that because along with the deplorable human rights abuses committed by him, he abstained from voting for the marriage equality legislation despite his own electorate voting in fovour of it. Still, I guess overall it’s situation unchanged for someone with my politics so the week has ended as it began only I’m a little more despairing about the state of politics generally. I fear that the ‘they’re all the same narrative’ is set like concrete in our psyche now and that cannot be good news for civil debate. Oh, and the planet is still on fire and the Australian government certainly won’t be rocking up with a hose to fight it.

Anyway and anyhoo, the mister did ring me only moments after the results of the vote were announced to say that our new puppy will be arriving on Wednesday so life does go on for now at least and I’m fairly certain the sun will rise tomorrow as they say.

As a result of my distraction this week, it’s now 8pm on Friday night and I am in front of my computer, a toasted sandwich for my dinner and a shitload of work to do. I’ve finally switched ABC News 24 off and am listening to Double J’s playlist of greatest women on their spotify playlist. It is ace. And to be fair, even working is better than sitting down in front of the television watching my team who promised so much so early in the season lose the final game of the season.

I did have a much more interesting post underway for today but then I ran out of time to polish it off, because I was too busy writing even more emails to politicians, so it’s this mish-mash of nothingness instead. Until tomorrow.

PS I’ve tagged this Friyay. It’s a word I learnt from instagram. I’m using it ironically just in case you were wondering. I’d never use it for real.

PPS As well as getting my blog back on track, I’ve started a tinyletter, you cant sign up for it over here over here

Adelaide Central Market

In which I take hours to do my shopping but it’s worth it

I’ve been lurching from one thing to another lately and was starting to feel really ground down. And the more ground down I felt the more grumpy I was getting myself because all in all my life is pretty straightforward right now and then I was getting more ground down by being grumpy and so on and etcerearrrgh … looking at what I was doing there wasn’t a lot I could change in relation to my actual activities because it’s all fairly standard has-to-be-done kind of stuff: get the lads back and forth to things, go to work, do the shopping, fit some writing in … so I thought I had better try to build some breathing space in. That’s why I’ve gone back to doing my shopping at the Central Market every week. It’s been part of my routine for over twenty years, in fact whenever I’ve been living in Adelaide I’ve done most of my food shopping there. The foundations of the habit were really laid when the boys were little and it was an easy thing to do with littles. On Saturday mornings we would meet my dad for breakfast and then he would take the lads for a wander around while the mister and I did the shopping. We would often walk there from school and kindy so that we could stock up on apples (there was a time when the floppy adolescent would eat twenty apples each week). And when we were living in Abu Dhabi the market was one of the touchstones I used. After sausage rolls at our aunty’s a lasagne at Lucia’s was our first point of call whenever we came back for a visit. Walking into the market is like taking a breath of my whole adult life. It was a good decision to build it back into my week.

Adelaide Fringe: Louise Reay, Eraserhead

In which I see Louise Reay’s Eraserhead at Tuxedo Cat’s Broadcast Bar

I am going to interrupt my chronological narrative of shows I have seen at the fringe to tell you about the most unique show I am likely to see. Monday is one night when I can sneak in an unexpected show or two. There isn’t much fringe on on Monday nights (again, read it twice and it will make sense I promise), but I haven’t been to anything at Tuxedo Cat’s Broadcast Bar yet and they do indeed run their programme on Mondays. So yay. I know this is going to sound very, ‘Yeah, nah, I liked their early stuff,’ but thank goodness for the Tuxedo Cat. The large fringe hubs like The Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony are brilliant fun, and they have added a dynamism to the fringe and opened it up to audiences that might not otherwise have existed. But the danger is that their emphasis on carnivale and big-name stand-ups can suck the life from other smaller, quieter events and shows. Through the many evolutions of Tuxedo Cat (and it does sound a little like a Pokemon so perhaps I should call that ‘evolves’ instead of ‘evolutions’) Cass Tombs and Bryan Lynagh have been fighting the good fight to provide a venue that is more than a little bit left of centre. I’m not sure about the idea of ‘real fringe’, but definitely we need a range of different spaces and venues that allow audiences and artists of all types and flavours to see and be seen.

So now I’ve got that off my chest, by happy happenstance, the Tuxedo Cat Monday lineup included a show that I especially wanted to see, Louise Reay’s Eraserhead. The few comedians/artists facey groups that I’m part of have all had at least one post talking about Louise Reay, a comedian from England who is being sued by her (ex)partner for defamation. This goes far beyond the midnight tangles I’ve got myself into wondering about whether I should or should not say this or that about my mother, will people get the wrong idea, will they think I’m making fun when really I’m trying to demonstrate my love? Mine have been usual worries any one who writes any kind of memoir struggles with from time to time.

Being sued for defamation takes things to a whole new level. I can’t comment much on the whys or wherefores because, as explained in the many articles around the place such as this one the comments for which she is being sued weren’t in the show for very long. But I will say, as have many other comedians and artists (such as this one), I find its potential precedent a truly troubling one. And speaking feministically, I would also point to the issues of control. And just so you know where I stand (in case I need to spell it out), I will certainly be contributing to her crowdfunding fund to help pay for legal costs.

As to the show? Under the advice of lawyers, the original show has been scrapped and this has been written and put together in a matter of days and that does show. It is not seamless, and it is clear that she is sometimes still finding her timing. She holds a script in her hand for much of the time, reads directly from it for some of the time. But where that is often an unforgivable weakness, I saw that as a true strength. Sometimes ‘the show must go on’ is more than a simple cliche, it is a call to arms. A celebration of solidarity.

There are moments of palpable vulnerability and rawness that give us a glimpse of how deeply she feels the impact of being sued and the subsequent silencing of her work. We meet her mother through pre-recorded skype calls and her own sense of humour and her love for her daughter shine through. I was the oldest person in the audience by some way, and the closest in age and experience to her mother. Seeing the calls with her mother in combination with the aforementioned vulnerability it was all I could do last night to stop myself stalking Reay’s mother and sending her a note to say, ‘It’s okay, we’ll look after her while she’s over here, she’ll be okay.’

Reay is a truly unique performer, willing to take risks and to push her art. She has previously performed shows for English audiences in Chinese and mime as demonstration of the truth that communication is only seven percent words (and I was pretty pleased to find that my own rather basic and rusty Chinese allowed me to understand nearly all of the dating scene). She isn’t only unique, she is talented too. She writes beautifully, her delivery is disarmingly precise, and she has an oddly unassuming but charismatic presence on the stage. I have no doubt that she will one day soon be filling the tents down at The Garden of Unearthly Delights and I for one will be happy to buy a ticket in advance so that I can skip the huge queue to get into the GOUD.

In the meantime you should go and see this show, not only because it needs to be seen, but because you won’t see anything else quite like it this fringe.

Adelaide Fringe: Love Letters to the Public Transport System

In which I see Molly Taylor’s Love Letters to the Public Transport System.

The second day of the fringe, Saturday, I was reminded how truly wonderful it is that the mister is now living permanently back in Adelaide. For the last two years, the first term has been a blur of school cricket, district cricket, cricket training, cricket coaching (one on one), early morning swimming training, late night band rehearsals and a brazillion other adolescent activities all requiring my support in some way. This is the first first-term (read it again slowly and it will make sense I promise) that the mister has been back in Adelaide and he is like, ‘Woah! For real?’ and I am like, ‘Yep,’ and then I roll over and go back to sleep and let him get up to take the floppy adolescent to swimming training and the future prime minister to one of the two cricket games he plays on Saturday and could he please stop at the supermarket on the way home because we’re out of milk again. So anyhoo, while the mister left home at 6.30 am and did his final pick up parenting duty at midnight, I was left to tidy the house a bit (which mostly involves shifting the tsunami of school bags and sports equipment that builds up at the front door of the house during the week), do an hour of work, a quick rehearsal and then take in two pieces of excellent theatre, again at Holden Street Theatres.

To be honest, if you want to be sure that you are taking in the best theatre that the fringe has to offer, you can pick up a copy of Holden Street’s programme and just work your way through that. Of course, then you would be missing the quiet, hidden gems like my little show, but I’ve told you about it, and given you the details an embarrassing number of times so you won’t miss that one at least.

I decided to do a quick Saturday binge to try and get a few shows in before the intensity of my week began and I bought tickets for Love Letters to the Public Transport System for 4.30 pm to be followed by Henry Naylor’s Borders at 6 pm. I was not the only person who had this idea so I shared my afternoon’s theatre experience with a bunch of people I didn’t know, although I did recognise a few because this is Adelaide and there’s always someone you were in a meeting with as a graduate thirty years ago, or someone you were just cursing quietly under your breath as they loaded forty-two items onto the ten-items-or-less conveyor belt.

Love Letters to the Public Transport System is a monologue written and performed by Molly Taylor. Without a car, Molly has long relied on public transport and this is the story of her attempts to thank you the people who have taken her back and forth to her destined encounters. The spark to write is ignited after Molly falls in love and, living in the glow and wonder of that time, wants to share her gratitude. It is a potentially naff premise. But she writes so beautifully and she is so genuine in her wish to share the joy of love’s first flourish that even if you do think, ‘this is potentially naff’, you will soon be telling yourself off for not just giving in right from the start. Her face is full of expression that drew me in within seconds and the simple staging helps bring a focus to the storytelling so that it wasn’t until I was thinking about it afterwards that I realised she hardly even left her seat (if at all). Plus, she delivers it all in her Liverpudlian accent giving it a lilt and a poetry that my drawl-tuned self lost herself in. It is a celebration of the joy of life, our inter-connectedness, our duty to each other to share life’s goodness.

I went along to this by myself, and perhaps because it was 4.30 pm on a Saturday afternoon when so many of my compadres are at the U16s cricket, I was among the youngest in the audience. Except the woman next to me who was drinking a Cooper’s Ale which was a little enticing, but she was too cool to speak to me, whatevs. Mind you, she was a better theatre companion than the woman to my right who dragged an A5 pad out of her bag and began taking notes–which is fine, I often take notes myself–only her pad was one of those ultra-crinkly black and gold ones so whenever she finished a page and folded it back I couldn’t hear anything except crinkling. And the crinkling went for a long time, because in an acknowledgment of how loud the crinkling might be she did it veeeeery slowly so as not to disturb the rest of us. Humans, eh? Oh, also, the man in the row in front of us who, when asked if he could move along by one seat because there was just one seat between him and the next person and the theatre was getting full and if he moved along one seat then two people who had come together could sit together at the end of the row, said, ‘But I was told it’s General Admission and I can sit anywhere and I’m sitting here.’ Srsly, WTF, my friend, you looked like a goose and you embarrassed your friends. I’ve just read over this paragraph and it’s made me laugh that up there I’m telling you about our duty to share life’s goodness and now all I’ve done is bitch and whinge. I did love at the end how we all kind of sighed collectively and the gentle chatter as we left all knowing that we had shared beautiful, funny, moving theatre.

Love Letters is a well-tested work that’s been showing since 2012 and comes to Adelaide after seasons in Edinburgh, a tour of Scotland, and time at the Royal Court Theatre, London. I only mention this because watching it did indeed freak me out in a, ‘Gah! What was I thinking? Why should I ask anyone to spend time on my show when they can come to this?’ And I had to give myself a stern, ‘It’s okay, everyone starts somewhere, everyone’s art is legitimate …’. Also, Molly Taylor was running a workshop on writing monologues that I would love to have gone to (to which I would love to have gone), but it was on right in the middle of my season (‘my season’ ha!) and I thought I would do myself more harm than good by thinking, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it, oh, if only I’d known.’

So if you’ve read this far you’re probably thinking, ‘Didn’t she say she went to two things?’ Well, yes, I did, but I will write about Borders in the next post. In the meantime, you should one hundred percent go to see this show.

Adelaide Fringe: John Hinton, Origin of Species

In which we watch John Hinton’s Origin of Species from his Scientrilogy (highly recommended)

I wasn’t sure how putting on my own show would affect how many shows I would see at the fringe. I wasn’t sure first, how much energy I would have for getting out and about; and second, whether seeing other people’s productions would spook me and shake my confidence (foreshadowing). As it turns out, I’m exhausted and easily spooked, but couldn’t bear the thought of missing the great shows I knew were out there so I’ve been to quite a number. Not as many as I would normally get to, but a decent amount nonetheless.

I began on opening night of the fringe by getting myself, the youngest lad and our German exchange student down to Holden Street Theatres by 6pm to see one part of John Hinton’s Scientrilogy. This is a trio of pieces, each focussing on a great person of science, The Element in the Room (Marie Curie); Origin of the Species (Charles Darwin); and Relatively Speaking (Albert Einstein). The lads and I had seen The Element in the Room the year we first moved back from Abu Dhabi and it was one of our highlights, so when I saw that he was bringing all three back to Adelaide I was keen to get to see the other two. The one playing this Friday night was Origin of the Species.

Getting us all there by 6pm involved some after-school contortions that probably would have won me a place in a burlesque show at the Garden of Unearthly Delights, but we got there with enough time for the hungry adolescents to buy an overpriced sausage in a less-than-fresh bun. Now, I’m as happy as the next person to buy an overpriced sausage as part of a fundraising exercise for the arts but the unfreshness of the bun was a bit of let down. All the same and nonetheless, it was extremely pleasant to sit under the trees of the HST grounds waiting to be called in for the show.

The show itself was an absolute delight. John Hinton’s physical theatre is captivating, his singing is on-point, and his jokes are delivered with precision. We all had a pretty good idea what Darwin was on about, but through this piece of musical, comical theatre, John Hinton gives us something to think about, something to laugh about, something to talk about afterwards. This show is perfect for people looking for a fringe experience to share with a group of people of many ages, interests and tastes.

Okay, I was going to write about my whole week’s watchings in this post, but we are already at 500 words and I still have quite a few shows to tell you about so we will take a break and reconvene in the following post.


In which Leonard Cohen has the last word

Going out for a drink on a weeknight in Adelaide is easier than it used to be, but you can’t leave it too late because the only places that stay open after eleven have music that is too loud for our middle age sensibilities. We had to deal with the possum’s doorway to our roof space first. That meant we had to wait for it to get dark so we could be sure that the possum had left its cosy house in the ceiling space. No one wants to block a possum in. The mister and the floppy adolescent were on the case, but the floppy adolescent needed to finish his pulled pork enchiladas before he could even think of going up a ladder or holding a light.

The mister’s been here since last Friday night, and he’s leaving on Saturday and we haven’t had much of a chance to sit and talk and let the conversation take its path to wherever it might lead. The thing is, in a week, there’s been the Future Prime Minister’s cricket final spread across two days (his team won, and there’s hurrah!); a couple of deadlines; the mister wanting time to hang out with the floppy one, and so on. This is one of the very real challenges of this global commuting caper – finding time to have the casual conversations that glue a relationship together.

For example, I was half a glass of sparkling in when I was able to say, ‘Yes, that’s true, but we’re in a post-neoliberal age now.’


‘Yes, Paul Keating said neoliberalism is at the end of his life. I’m the one who’s coined it the post-neoliberal age, but everyone’ll be saying it by tomorrow. You can use it at work if you like.’

‘Keating, hey? Bet he didn’t tweet that?’

‘No,’ I said. It is hard to know where to take the conversation when you’ve got no real idea what you’re talking about and you’re a little distracted trying to work out exactly where you know the woman at the next table from.

We ordered two plates of tapas and I took another picture using the snapchat-type feature facebook seems to have ripped off in their latest update. (This is an aside, but when I discovered it a few hours earlier, I said it’s to stop the flight of middle aged ladies away from facebook and the floppy adolescent told me I was wrong and I said, ‘It might come as a surprise to you, but middle aged ladies do have value,’ and then both the adolescents piled on in a flurry of outrage that I would suggest that they have anything except complete respect for women.)

For my second drink, I joined the mister in a glass of shiraz there being no cabernet sauvignon available by the glass. It was my first red of the season, but the temperature in Adelaide had dropped to sufficiently autumnal levels to allow it. I am a most sophisticated wine drinker and said, ‘Well that’s more like a European shiraz than a Barossa, isn’t it?’ The mister agreed. ‘It’s still not cab sav though, is it?’ I said.

At 10.30 (not on the dot but close enough) the waiter came and said, ‘Were you interested in ordering last drinks at all?’

We looked around and realised we were the last ones in the bar.

‘No, thank you, we’ll just get the bill.’

The relief! Writ large across his face. Though of course, we should take our time, take your time, there’s no rush.

On the way back to the car we stopped and looked in the windows of a place that would be the perfect space for my new business. Well it would be perfect if it cost next to nothing and fitted itself out. And then we drove home along Anzac Highway and parliament was on the radio and I got a notification on my phone that the plans to make changes to 18C had been foiled but they still seemed to be talking about it on the radio but I did not feel like listening to odious people saying odious things so I arranged for us to listen to some music.

If I’d had Redgum’s It’s One More Boring Thursday Night in Adelaide in digital form I would have played that for the laugh. Instead, I put on Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker. I often listen to that when I’m driving home at night, but of course I’m usually driving home by myself and it takes me by surprise when the mister says, ‘What’s this? I haven’t heard this.’ At first he’s like, ‘Bloody hell, are we listening to this all the way home?’ But that’s okay because Leonard Cohen is like that, and by the time we’re on The Esplanade we’re up to If I Didn’t Have Your Love and the mister’s like, ‘Wow, that’s beautiful, isn’t it?’

So now next time I play that album, I can think of the lovely night we spent together, the mister and me on a boring Thursday night in Adelaide.

Tuesday morning

I’m not at all athletic, I’m uncoordinated, and I don’t especially like sport. But I do go to the gym three or four times a week. I go because it is good for my equilibrium, for my heart and my arteries, and because as much as this shocks the 20-year-old me, I love it. I even, for a little while and after I’d been training seriously for a couple of years, considered becoming a personal trainer. After all, I reasoned, who could possibly make a better trainer than someone who knows what it feels like to be rubbish at nearly all athletic activity? What could be more inspiring than the sight of a trainer who regularly gives herself a black eye at body combat and sprains her nose with a medicine ball?

That was one of my less brilliant ideas and although I did end with a certificate III in personal training, I think the fact that it took me two goes to pass one of the exams says a lot. I just could not get straight in my head the difference between hyper- and hypo-extension.

Anyway, at the gym I do see a personal trainer two mornings a week, this morning being one of this week’s mornings. I’ve been seeing him for about six months now so we’re starting to get to know each other a bit, and we have a bit of chit-chat (but not much because I am usually struggling to breathe and he’s usually trying to encourage me to do things I don’t much want to do at the time he is suggesting I do them). This morning, knowing that I was taking a few days off work while the mister was here, he said, ‘How was your day yesterday?’

‘Yes, good,’ I said, ‘The mister and I went for a walk along the beach and had breakfast on Jetty Road Brighton.’ We have to say Jetty Road, Brighton to distinguish it from Jetty Road, Glenelg. It’s a beachside suburbs thing.

‘Oh, where did you go?’

I told him where we went and he said, ‘But why wouldn’t you go to Cream?’

Turns out that Cream is the place the mister and I had walked past and thought, ‘Well, that’s intriguing, a teensy, tiny place with loud music,’ and then promptly forgot about.

‘You have to go,’ my trainer said. ‘The coffee is ten out of ten. Also they’re really young and they play gangsta rap.’

I didn’t pay much attention to that last bit because Jetty Road, Brighton, a southern suburb of Adelaide is not a place you would normally associate with gangsta rap. Especially on a Tuesday morning.

Anyhoo, I came home from my hour of jump squats and tricep dips and said to the mister, ‘We should go to that place we saw yesterday,’ and it being a beautiful morning we walked along the beach in the direction of Jetty Road, Brighton.

On arrival at Cream we discovered that the cafe was full.

‘You’re full?’ I said.

‘Every morning.’

‘Can we put our names down for a table?’ I knew to say this because I’ve seen it on the movies never thinking I would need to say it at Jetty Road, Brighton.

‘What name shall I put it under?’


He wrote Gracie and I said, ‘No, it’s Tracy. Gracie is the wrong demographic.’

He laughed as if he might be old enough to understand the joke.

‘You get a free coffee for waiting. What would you like?’

Okay, so how weird is that? You stand outside on the footpath and they bring you a free coffee while you wait twenty minutes for a table to buy the thing they’ve already given you for free. Anyway, we stood outside, looking twenty years older than everybody else who was standing outside. My trainer is right about many things and he was one hundred and ten percent correct about this. Ten out of ten for the coffee.

Some interesting things happened while we were waiting for our table, but I don’t really have time to tell you about them.

The food! Oh my goodness, I could not choose. The mister suggested that we could share and I said WTF WE HAVE BEEN MARRIED TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND WHEN HAVE I EVER WANTED TO SHARE MY BREAKFAST and then I refused to tell him what I was going to order. Actually I didn’t tell him much at all because every time I spoke he said, ‘What? Sorry, I can’t hear you.’ On account of he has the hearing of a middle aged man and the gangsta rap was fairly loud, particularly for a Tuesday morning.

I had the stack of hotcakes with maple bacon. In truth, it wasn’t a stack because I chose the ‘one hotcake’ option, and I’m not sure how anyone would eat the ‘three hotcakes’ option. I’m certain that my trainer would not have recommended that as post-workout fuel, but holy moly ravioli it was delicious. The hotcakes were fluffy, the bacon was crisp, the maple was maple. I did have to leave a little bit on the plate, because I could feel a bit of a chemical reaction inside my body as the sugars from the maple began to ferment and joined forces with the weekend’s gin which I think had not entirely diffused. No lies, by the time I finished, my hands were shaking and thank goodness for the sea breeze on the gentle walk home.

Not Last Night, but the Night Before: The Esplanade

A summer storm is blowing in and now is the calm before. The air is heavy but not heaving, the wind is a whisper and the sea is not-quite calm. The water, the clouds, the sky are grades of grey and blue. They suit my mood which, at new year, is resolvant melancholy.

(no, you’re right, resolvant isn’t a word, but what then is a melancholic when she is resolved?)

In the houses of The Esplanade – town houses with sea views from front windows and neighbours’ clotheslines from the rest – BBQs are firing, sundowners are downed. I walk along the wide paved path between the houses and the sand. Around me, thin and sinewed runners take straight lines while children on their scooters turn and weave. Babies in prams, on hips, in slings. Men and women grown old together are walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm or three steps apart.

Below, in the sand and the sea, families and couples and tribes of young adults (through the eyes of middle age these last are grown up children, aren’t they, but don’t tell them I think that way – they’ll only roll their eyes). Mothers wrap first towels and then their arms around shivering children. There are rubber balls, tennis balls and frisbees. From here, there is no sound when they hit the sand, a splash when they hit the water and, when the throw is bad, the stinging slap against wet skin (ya fkn dkhd, what was that?).

A spotter plane (fixed wing, I know these things) flies close to the shore. This summer, sharks are spotted every second day (it’s the bogans on the jetty chucking the crab nets off the jetty down at Brighton; how shocking sharks in their own habitat what do u expect u moron – this is what I’ve learnt from facebook). I have heard the sirens sound and seen the water cleared while helicopters hover and rubber boats charge out from the shore. Cartilaginous beasts and their teeth are not welcome here.

Dogs, their owners walking in opposite directions, slow down, sniff, then chase. Their owners stand, facing each other, calling their dogs. The dogs run, first to one voice then the other, back and forth, splashing through the shallows and kicking up the sand. The human voices first are high, then as frustration grows they deepen. Who knows why but the dogs stop their frolic and part, running towards their owners.

I have been past the café, the storm water drain (a trickle now but it will gush when the storm blows in), the sculpture. I have turned and now I’m nearly back at the start. My children will be home from cricket and surf lifesaving and needing to be fed. But I’m not ready to go home, not ready to leave this place where the land meets the sea and we are, all of us – walking, swimming, running, calling our dogs, chasing our kids – together but apart.

I sit on an empty bench. It is dedicated by plaque to a man whose name I will never remember by a woman I’ll never know. Now that I have stopped I can hear the sea rolling in. The waves are breaking softly across the sand. That sound must have been there while I was walking but I guess I couldn’t hear it above my thoughts. At my feet are three cigarette butts that were pushed out of shape by smokers’ thumbs before they were flicked to the ground or flattened under shoes. I see smudges of black ash, chewing gum stains and ants on their well-trodden path.

Snatches of conversation sound behind me. I don’t know what she wants from me … I know and that’s the situation in Germany too … yeah but mate, who gives a fuck.

Another plane – a jet – taken off from the airport a few kilometres down, flies out, gaining altitude over the sea before it banks and flies back towards the shore. I have already told you that I love the sight and the sound of those jets, but every day I love them more. They take my love and then they bring him home to me. The goodbye is getting harder but it takes less time to find my equilibrium.

A woman and a man are together in the sea. They are facing the shore, and she is behind him, her arms wrapped around his shoulders while his cannot be seen. He turns his head. Her neck stretches forward.

They kiss.

I think, Who knows what goes on beneath the surface.

Perhaps their feet are buried in the sand and they are grounded.
Or maybe they are floating.

On umbrellas (and other things)


I took the borrowed umbrellas out of the borrowed car and held them out to the Floppy Adolescent standing beside me. As he reached across his forehead and pulled his fringe into place, I drew my arm back.

‘It’s all right,’ I said. ‘I’ll carry them.’

‘You don’t have to carry them all. We can carry our own.’

‘No thanks. That’s an argument waiting to happen.’

‘Mum, please. You can trust us. It’s just umbrellas.’

We have been together, the three of us, the two of them and me, for a week and they have been together longer, their extended Abu Dhabi summer break taken in a South Australian winter.

Brothers on holiday together.

Needle, bicker, hug, laugh.

Rinse, repeat.

Add umbrellas.

I handed the umbrellas to him (I know, right) then I locked the doors of borrowed car and the rented apartment and we began our walk towards the tram.

‘Oh God, look at you,’ I said to the lads. It is as if the outside light is somehow different and suddenly I could see them for what they were. Their jeans ripped at the knees, the sleeves of their jumpers too short, everything unwashed. How long has it been since anything saw the touch of an iron?

‘Mum, we look fine.’

‘Howcome you care so much about your fringe, but so little about your clothes?’

‘Mum. Please.’

‘At least tell me you thought to clean your teeth.’

The look! Teenage disdain perfected, but these days I am unaffected.

‘That’s the tree!’ The lads both pointed. They have been kicking the footy day after day for hours. At least once per session as far as I can tell the footy lands in the fork of one of the Norfolk Pines that line The Esplanade. This day, a police car had pulled up to watch them throwing rocks into the tree as they tried to dislodge the ball. ‘It’s all right,’ the lads reassured me when they recounted the story. ‘They were laughing. The had to watch us because there was nothing else for them to do. They’re bored. No one robs houses on Thursday morning.’

We arrived at the tram.

It used to be that when we came back on holidays I had an Australian SIM, an interwebby usb, a metrocard for the tram. Now too much time has passed and the SIM is too big for my phone, the telco has deactivated whatever it was that fired the usb, the metrocard is lost. I stood in front of the ticket machine and followed the steps, one by one, none of it in my memory now, everything being relearned. One dirham coins look like ten cent pieces to me, but not to the machine. We had gone two stops before I was holding our tickets. In the seats at the front of the tram umbrellas had turned into swords.

By the time the tram arrived at Victoria Square the darkness had started to fall. The lights were coming on, the street lights white, and a soft and buttery glow came from the office windows. When I am travelling, this is the time that I feel most alone, most not-at-home. My breaths grew shallow and caught in my throat. I swallowed to pop my ears.

Pirie Street. Rundle Mall. We got off the tram.

‘How far is it?’

‘Just down here.’

‘Yes, but how far? How long will it take us to get there?’

‘Not long.’

‘How long is not long?’

We crossed North Terrace, walked past Parliament House and the bleak, grey space of the Festival Plaza, stark and barren even in the soft light of the early night.

Inside the Festival Theatre it was how it had always been, but it was not what it used to be. Everyone used to be younger, the carpet used to be thicker, the stairs down to the bistro were steeper.

We looked at the bar snacks menu and I ordered. The cabernet sauvignon could have had more shades of marshmallow, the chicken wings could have had less sauce, the salt and pepper squid could not have been more like rubber. The chips were good, but there were not enough to go around. You never know with chips, do you? Sometimes too many, sometimes not enough, never just the right amount.

Bicker, needle, hug, laugh, bicker, needle, hug, laugh.

My boys looked shabby and they had umbrellas.

‘Please,’ I said. ‘Do we have to be the loudest wherever we go?’

‘Mum.’ They spoke in unison. ‘It’s only jokes.’ They wrapped their arms around each other’s necks and walked back up the stairs.

We watched The Book Of Loco a play about a mother’s death, migration and displacement, the edge of madness. I know, right?

I felt my Floppy Adolescent sitting with me and I remembered. My father and I sitting in the Keith Michell Theatre watching a Harvest production of Equus. Or maybe it wasn’t Harvest, but it was certainly Equus. And I felt so grown up sitting with my father. And when, at the end, my Floppy Adolescent stood and clapped and said, ‘That was amazing,’ I could not stop myself.

‘Oh God, you’re crying, aren’t you?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Mum. Really?’

On the walk back to the tram it rained and we were happy to discover that our umbrellas were fit for purpose. At the tram stop it was cold and it was windy and there was no romance in public transport. The rain died down as we got on and by the time we reached our stop there was no more rain, the wind had stilled.

A few steps away from the tram and we could hear the sea, the waves rolling in. All week I have been falling asleep, waking up to this sound. Sometimes it soothes and other times it stirs, whistling through my veins like they are empty alleys in my soul.

A man on a strange reclining bike rode past and out onto the jetty.

‘Do you think he’s going fishing?’ That’s my youngest boy.

‘He hasn’t got a rod. Are you stupid?’ And that’s my oldest.

Bicker, needle, hug then laugh. They looped their arms around each other’s necks and walked, loped two steps ahead, elbows digging into ribs, knuckles ground against skulls. Bicker, needle, hug then laugh.

From behind us I heard the rumble, loudly, of a plane.

‘That’s the plane to Dubai. That’s the one we catch.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because it’s nearly ten o’clock and this is Adelaide.’

I looked in the direction of the airport, but I could not see the plane. Too much cloud? Taken off in the other direction? I wanted to speak. I wanted my boys to know, I wanted them to understand that this is an Adelaide sound, that when I was their age and my parents brought me to Adelaide and we stayed in my grandfather’s house this was the noise that woke me. Planes just taking off or landing. This was the sound that reminded my body where I was, where I had woken. Somewhere safe that wasn’t home. I had no idea that those planes were flying to places I would one day see.

The lads ran on ahead. My heels clicked on the paving, the sea rolled in, the wind had started again.

There was no rain and the Norfolk Pines were silent.