Celebrating the Queen’s birthday

It’s Tuesday morning at work and I’m feeling old again. Chatting with the barista getting my morning coffee earlier I commented that I’m living the life I had 20 years ago, but in today’s body. It doesn’t quite work, something he understood and entirely agreed with. Might see you for another coffee later were his parting words, the tacit understanding that in times like this coffee is like medicine to the ailing body.

The weekend was tailed by watching the Netherlands defeat Denmark on a big screen at the Station Hotel in Prahran. I went to support Cheeseboy and was greeted by a pub full of orange clad Dutchies wearing funny hats and shouting hup, Holland, hup! There was the odd Dane mixed through the crowd, and of course the token Aussie. It was a good natured crowd, and fun to be part of it even as an outsider. The Dutch, along with the Irish, must be my favourite nationalities – good value, fun loving, down to earth types. I don’t mind the Danes either, especially now they’ve got an Aussie princess, but I can’t support everyone and Holland where always going to be the better side – and they duly won, 2-0.

The weekend itself was spent down the Peninsula. We headed off for the annual Winter Wine Tasting and did our bit to fulfil that brief. We visited perhaps half a dozen wineries on Sunday, chief amongst them Paringa Estate, Manton’s Creek and Balranald (Quealy) Vineyards. Tasted some truly excellent wines and didn’t resist the urge to take some home with me. At most places, the bigger, more visitor friendly vineyards, there were crowds of people sipping at the variety of pinot’s and chardys. The restaurants were full of people like us, well to do yuppies I’m afraid to say, well heeled, well dressed, and well appreciative of the good things in life.

It was cold though fine. It’s a beautiful part of the world and the clouds in different shades overlaid each other prettily, just like some wine labels. In the distance occasionally the sea could be glimpsed from our elevated perch, grey and moody but also somehow compelling. Wood smoke curled into the air, its pleasant and homely tang in our nostrils. The ground was wet underneath and in places had churned to mud. On the slopes rows of vines went up and down the hills like cornrows, prettily symmetrical.  Once more I looked about me sizing up the area as a potential home. It ticked off most of the requirements and I could imagine myself doing this and that, but not yet. I’m not yet ready, but I figure the day will come.

In the evening we checked into our cottage in Rye then went for dinner at a restaurant sitting on the foreshore at Sorrento. We spent too much money and ate too much, the general trend of the weekend, served by travelling waitresses out from the UK. Out to sea lights blinked on and off erratically in the heavy darkness. It was still and cold and if you looked for long enough you could discern in the dark a layer of lighter cloud framing the sky. For the most part we only glanced that way, our focus on the food and the conversation and the brightly lit comings and goings in the restaurant.

At a little after 4am JV and I got up to watch the soccer. In hindsight I’d have rather have stayed in bed, but I had to show my support. Rain dripped down outside as I reclined on the couch wearing the Socceroos jersey from the last campaign. The gas fire glowed and the game began. Despite the hour I felt wide awake and I imagined that all around Australia others had got up as we had to do the same thing: that if we could peer into the homes of our neighbours we would find a similar scene. It was a nice thought, but that was pretty well the end of those.

I don’t particularly want to discuss the soccer, for reasons I don’t feel inclined to elaborate. I will say that Germany was extremely impressive, clean, incisive, ruthless. Ozils, their playmaker, will be acclaimed a great footballer before his day is done – he’s just 21 now. Germany is a smoky for this year’s title – though it’s hard to see them beaten on that performance – and a very good thing in 4 years time when this young team is more seasoned. As for the Socceroos – well let me reserve comment for the moment.

Yesterday was breakfast in Blairgowrie, cars everywhere zipping into parking spots as they became available and inner-city types clutching newspapers lining up to get into inner-city type cafes. The location was different, but otherwise it was very familiar. Good coffee and a tasty breakfast in us we went on to Sorrento and shopped for a couple of hours up and down the main drag.

Sorrento is a shopping experience. Once you find a park – sometimes a big if – it’s like you’ve been transported into an upmarket shopping strip by the sea. There’s nothing basic about Sorrento. Half the buildings are clad in lovely sandstone and have been there since the area was settled. The shops are beautifully composed, like retail art works, where passionate amateurs flog interesting home wears and bric a brac amid cafes and fashion stores. The streets throng with people in long-weekend mode. Walking up and down you rub shoulders with amiable Toorak types down at the beach-house for the weekend, and the rest of us indulging in a bit of holiday luxury – you’ll spend money here and now you wouldn’t in the familiar surrounds of home.

We headed back, checked out Red Hill Brewery, then returned for something left behind, before finally heading homeward in a long stream of traffic going the same direction. I walked in the door at about 5.30 feeling bloated and tired.

Was it good? Sure it was good.

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