How did it happen? I’m stretched to know. The shattered shards of a relationship reassembled, only to find the missing fragment is the one which made everything watertight and from which all meaning flowed.
I simply can’t remember. Perhaps a stroll through where it happened will evoke the past, allow the floating tendrils of past memory to again enthral me.
There was the genteel middle class-ness of it all. The red cut brick of the one flight up to the ground floor of the six-pack apartment, spaciously garden set behind a grey green shrub lined slightly unkempt garden. Muted pleasant voices floating through open windows while cooking dinner. No-one dared stop to eavesdrop, it wasn’t done here. Conversations blended with the dull drone of the backdrop television. The shadows of the branch overhang, the glistening droplets of the just sprayed foliage, the aroma of the decaying leaf litter takes me back there, to that place, those moments, that time.
And yet frankly I wasn’t there. I lived sixty or so miles away in Geelong, an industrial town, declining as its employees working for car makers, wool spinners, and educational institutions watched in vain as their jobs went to cheaper countries, somewhere but here. In a tiny cul-de-sac named Cogens Place, on the margin in a once grimy workers area of the Geelong CBD I found a rental. The surroundings spoke of incipient gentrification. The spot was well placed twixt the beachfront, parklands and hospital. I loved that little place, one and 1/4 bedrooms with sloping back veranda covering laundry and an outside dunny, yes, so old yet sporting two dunnies, how chic I felt. I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough. I’d spent two night in the car after being turfed out of the local motel when they over booked me during a yachting regatta weekend; when I’d first arrived from the North … but that as they say is another story. In fact, “if memory serves me correctly,” I also spent a couple of days at Port Arlington, which now comes to mind and deserves its own zinger.
I’m unclear how we got here, internet most likely. There was a vegan café, on second thoughts a restaurant, on the wharf at St Kilda, seafood at Mordialloc, now isn’t that a name conjuring more than it is. Mordialloc, Mordy to its friends’ marks where suburbia starts broadening its acreage. Squeezed into the wedge of seaside Beach Road and its confluence with the Nepean Highway, this once seaside retreat is now absorbed into the commuter surrounds of ever-expanding metropolis Melbourne.
And over time we fell for one another. She had married well, very well, and without the chance to have kids adopted a Korean girl nineteen years earlier. She and the daughter lived together in this redbrick idyll; the divorced father well supportive of them both. The girl had matured beautifully into a gorgeous nubile young thing well-schooled at the Methodist Ladies College, gymnastics, choir and all. And of course, a dog. A house dog walked by others but still their dog. Days of the whining of Leonard Cohen, olives and OJ, lavach bread, smelly cheeses and dried tomato with roasted aubergine. The palette adjusts but not the eardrums. Leonard is as they say, an acquired taste and the accompanying videos in smoke filled concerts from earlier decades is truly slumber inducing. But gosh its romantic.
And then there were all sorts of societal things to go to. I felt outta my depth, enjoying the challenge but gulping for air, a scuba diver whose air tank has run out.
She’d been a researcher for the final leader of the Australian Democrats who were keeping bastards honest. The rage still filling loyalist hearts has been insufficient to keep Don Chipp’s vision alive, the embers though still glowing could not be fanned to a fire, no matter the huffing and puffing. A final swansong in Canberra marking the end of term of the last Democrat parliamentarian was planned, would I like to go?
“Why not?” I thought a chance to trade in my work dungarees and tog up.
The Hyatt Hotel restored to its former 1920’s Art Deco glory was the hotel of choice. To say the least, it was opulent. She sashayed to the events at Parliament House while I absorbed the surrounds. When called to the House, we sat up in the public gallery, watching proceedings in the Chamber below.
Hon. Peter Costello lolled on the back benches having not found the fortitude to challenge the incumbent Prime Minister for the position. I mean lolled, though his back was pressed to the rear seat cushioning his legs were crossed at an almost ninety-degree angle to his torso such that his arse must have been sliding on the leather seat swab. He looked …. comfortable, very. His gaze casually wandered around the Chamber then up into the press gallery around the Chamber to the public gallery. As his eyes swept the assemblage, he fixed on me, I’m sure he did then he waved. Not a big hearty wave but a raise of the arm with wrist flick type wave. I was taken aback.
“Why’s Costello waving at me?” I croaked.
“Don’t acknowledge him,” came back a short under the breath response.
“He’s waving. Look!”
“Then look away,” she said. And like a dummy I realised the Member for Higgins didn’t have me in his sights, it was her.
“I stood against him in the last election, and I’m not here to see him! “she said.
Chastened I ignored Hon Peter Costello, though in truth it wasn’t me he was acknowledging.
We left the Chamber and through the corridors of power, though I’m sure there were more, the only person I recall now was Bob Brown [Dr].
Final Democrat Leader Lynn Allison’s farewell function was held at one of the boat houses on the Yarra on the south bank up stream of Prince’s Bridge.
Prince’s Bridge where when as a young tyke from Clifton Hill Mum and Dad had taken us into see some fair, parade, festival or something by train which terminated at Prince’s Bridge. As we crossed the bridge the flat bottom tour boats called me. Such boats call to all little boys. The sturdy pillars of the bridge provide a stone balustrade over which adults can view the scene below. But not for tiny tykes. The openings between the pillars are about the same size as the pillars so a glimpse is all that little folk can see. The solution is obvious. Stick your head through the gap in the pillars for a one eighty view of river life. And that’s what I did. Watching the boats bound for cruises to the Yarra mouth or upstream to Richmond and even beyond was so exciting.
“Can we go on one of those Dad?” I called.
I wondered why there was no response. Kneeling on the pavement head secured like a cow in a milking stall slowly I realised I was stuck. I writhed this way and that. First the head left then right, then the body right then left, even up and down. The steady stream of passers-by only added to my Dad’s embarrassment. He moved away as Mum tried to settle me and maybe even extricate me. It was no use. Though logic says if the head got in there then it must be able to get out, logic was for the moment suspended.
Shit, then a policeman arrives. Social embarrassment times twenty.
“So, what’s goin’ on here?” he says suppressing laughter. Mum states the obvious.
“He’s got his head stuck in the bridge.” She says stating what the policeman can clearly see.
He tells me that we need to calm down and that though it may hurt a little he’s going to pull me out. I can’t imagine what the pain of removing the massive tonnage of Prince’s Bridge from my shoulders might feel like, but I know it can’t be anything like the pain of having to carry it around for the rest of my life, and I’m only seven.
“Ok,” I say as bravely as I can.
“On three then” the copper says.
He counts more quickly than the sing song way we recite numbers at school and before I know it, I’m pulled free.
It’s difficult to find Dad in the milling crowd on the bridge. He’s moved further to the centre of the bridge where a cuffing to the back o’ my head will settle the pain of extraction. But I digress.
As we cross to the south bank, I can see down to the private school rowing sheds, where maybe if I get a scholarship I might one day be schooled. I don’t get a scholarship but do get to the boat sheds when Lynn Allison says goodbye to public life years later.
The attendees from many Melbourne branches of the Democrats speak to the party’s demise. Mostly its aged hippies of Chipp’s era and even older pre-hippies with keeping bastards’ honest sensibilities. The hair colour of choice is white, grey or blue rinse for ladies and grey, thinning or bald for men. There’s naught to comment on dress. Hearty congratulations for jobs well done, there’s an Auld Lang Syne feel to the hopes for the future, vague talk of mergers and pumping life back into the “Fight” but I suspect the blood to revive this body politick is embalming fluid [red].
I can remember walking back to the car along the riverbank after the farewell, but that’s it. How did this happen.