For about 6 of the last 7 years I’ve attested a barrel tasting at the NGV – a wine tasting event where you get to meet the winemakers and chew on some good wines in a great venue, with fine food to nibble on in between. I always look forward to it, as do my wine loving friends.
For whatever reason it wasn’t on last year, but on again this. I was quick to snap up tickets. Last night it was on.
I got home from work, fed Rigby, then drove to Brighton Beach station to catch the train into the city. As it has been mostly lately it was bitterly cold. The sun had set, and on the platform were maybe a dozen people beside me. Among them was a blonde woman of about 35 with her two young children, both blonde and cute.
My eyes were drawn to her straight away. She was well dressed, in interesting clothes. She was not beautiful, but comely – a word I have never used previously, but fitting. I looked at her and thought straight away she was not Australian. It’s strange how you sense that. She didn’t look any different really, but right away I thought she was Dutch or German, or maybe Scandinavian – northern European anyway. I glanced at her and away, and again, curious about my reaction.
Part of it was that she had noticed me too. You know how it is. You sense it, feel it, something intangible, but supported by the fleeting glances sent your way. If I noticed her, she did me too.
The train came and we piled on. They sat just across and ahead of me. The kids – really very good looking kids – surprised me by both speaking English with an Australian accent. When their mother spoke though there was an accent in her voice, and later I heard her speaking another language to them. An Australian husband then, I thought, lived here a bit and become a mother here. It’s common – Hampton is chocka block with expats and their families.
In the reflection of the dark window I could see her. Every now and then she would look my way. Once her young daughter, about 4, pointed my way. I looked at her reflection trying to understand. It was a face, and a persona, I could perfectly love, I thought (funnily, this seems the counter to my previous post). There was a calmness about her, not something normally I would especially drawn to. It was mixed in with other things that in combination I surmised worked for me. There seemed something curious about her. I knew the way she would look at me. I could her laugh, and the occasions she would use it. I knew she would feel for me what I did for her. What I’m saying I guess, is that I felt like I knew her. It happens sometimes. I don’t know if she felt she knew me – I suspect I drew her attention for more superficial reasons – my appearance, the attitude in me. All the same, we could have known each other.
I record this because it happened. Nothing more happened though. I did nothing, didn’t really look at her again because there was no point to it, and because, well, that’s how it happens sometimes in life. Your paths intersect, then diverge once more.
The train pulled into Flinders Street and I left the woman and her young family behind me. I walked across the bridge towards the art gallery. It was a cold but clear night. The lights were on, shining on the smart architecture and shimmering on the waters of the river. Smart people headed towards performances at the arts centre, or came the other way in their work clothes.
I met up with JV, and later Donna, and did the usual rounds of the winemakers, sampling wines and comparing notes, not once spitting, and climbing all over the food whenever the waitresses exited the kitchen with their trays laden with it. It was fun as always.
About three parts into the night I spotted a women wending her way through the crowd sizing it up. I didn’t think much of it, but then a minute later she tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I minded being interviewed, Sure, why not I said, She smiled at me and asked my name, then led me through the crowd. I recognised her. She’s been a soapy actress once, and then in nineties – or was it the eighties? – had formed a group with two other women – the Chantoozies.
It seemed a bizarre coincidence, for about 7-8 years ago I had met another of the Chantoozies on another wine tasting venture. There were three of us that day sampling wines around Red Hill. We were at Mantons Creek when a very attractive woman walked in wearing jodphurs – her horse was outside. She had wonderful cascading blonde hair and lovely eyes and a warm smile. We got to talking and it turned out she was lovely person too. That was my first Chantoozy. Last night I met my second.
So I had my interview on camera and went back to my friends and they asked me questions about what had happened and laughed at the coincidence of it all. For me it signified something more.
I had some low patches last year. There were times I felt distinctly not myself, and sometimes dreadfully so. For better or worse you have a self-identity. I remembered who I had been, but felt no relationship to it any longer. It was debilitating.
I’ve been in the process of mending that, and with the passage time since I can reasonably say what happened was an aberration. Still, in material terms I’m well short of what I was. I don’t know how the H in these pages comes across. In my mind I don’t like to be in the background. I’m vain, have a decent ego, and inspite of my tribulations, am still reasonably confident. I want to be at the front of things – I want to be the person plucked out of the crowd. That it happened last night was the validation I needed to believe it was more than just in my mind. I don’t know why she picked me, but it surely wasn’t random.
That’s the thing, you know. There were times last year I felt invisible and irrelevant. I’m not sure I’m relevant again yet, though I’m working on it, but I can safely say I’m no longer invisible.