It’s strange, the things that last and those that are allowed to die.
I’m on the V/Line back from Geelong, looking out at the waves of blue-grey fields as the pair in the seats behind are discussing exactly why they could never go out with a short fella. “I’ll do him, but that’s it. As long as he can reach, y’know? I wouldn’t go out in public with a little guy, not sober.”
|Morning Fog over a Farm. Ted Szukalski.|
Ignoring the odd industrial park, and the rolling commentary from the trackpant-twins, I squint and could believe it is 1916 and I’m against the window of a troop train slicing into north-eastern France. The mist has lifted from the hills, someone’s playing Bieber from their iPhone, and it’s the last bloodless morning before the Battle of Verdun. Written history makes decisions on our behalf; what is to be remembered, which dead can be overlooked.
I think of General Nivelle's order to his shaking French guard, to repel the German offensive: "They shall not pass"; I text Ed and Kathleen to say I’ve left my headphones in the sheets of their spare bed.
I’ve spent the night at Ocean Grove with old and great friends. We go to the nearby pub where a cultish family band are mid-set on the main stage – mum on flute, the kids on castanets, lead vox, and double bass, creepy dad on ukulele and bad anecdotes. It’s the second night of the Ocean Grove Live Music Festival and the audience is an unbalanced mix of cranky pre-teens and local old blokes angry that some faggy city blow-ins are monopolising the pool table. Ed has squeezed out a win against the woman who sells the raffle tickets, secured the table, and in doing so claimed a victory which we will be (fairly) hearing about for the rest of our days.
|Ocean Grove Hotel, 2011.|
Earlier, we had watched the fleeting sun drop on Ed and Kathleen’s back deck as we scratched out a strategy for my career-shift to boutique moss farmer. I go to the bathroom and find Bram Stoker’s Dracula amongst the unexplained collection of used toilet rolls. Back outside, a half dozen of those clip-on toy koalas lie about the place, relics of the last Australia Day barbeque. Ed gets a decent fright introducing the neighbour’s dog when it near clears the fence to take his face off. We sit back, make plans for homebrew, and I think about what would matter if I lost these people.
Getting off at Southern Cross, walking, I pass braver folks than I on the way to watch my beloved Brisbane Lions be turned to mince by Carlton. Christ Almighty. The 96 home, I’m begging for a shower, shave, and walk the pretty way down Park Street. I go by the gorgeous place with the old, protected ‘Briquettes’ ad on the facade, a re-done Kingswood out front.
|Park Street, Brunswick East. 2011.|
It’s strange what lasts – cars, wars, advertising, friendship. I walk home, shave, shower, and wait for the woman I love.