In step

I feel very well used this morning, and it’s the result of a couple of days living the right way.

I was in the office on Friday and afterwards caught up with JV for drinks – first to Cabinet, overlooking Swanston Street, then Union Electric, then 1806.

It was a lovely evening and well suited to have a cold drink under the open sky, which is what we did at the first two bars – not so much the last. We had intended to head home but thought to stop for one last cocktail. I thought of 1806, which probably has the best cocktails in town, but which is dark and enclosed – much better suited to late on wintry nights with a romantic companion.

The last time I’d been there was on such an occasion. It would have been 1am in the middle of winter when I went there with a woman I’d just had dinner with. She was a yoga teacher, and we’d had a great night. I liked her – she was attractive and smart, and a vulnerability to her that me tender. I remember that night we had dinner at Il Solito Posto, and how I looked in her eyes at a certain point and clasped her hands and told her things about herself, she had no idea I could know. I didn’t, except by reading her, but I was right, and it brought her closer to me.

We went out a few times, but this was just as I became homeless, and a lot was going on for me. I had limited dollars, and though I had peered deep into her soul, was unwilling to reveal mine. I was ashamed and embarrassed and never revealed to her my circumstances. I regret that now and understand how it might make me seem mysterious – at the very least. I was not ready for it – but that night at 1806 was a highlight, showing her the Melbourne I knew.

This time I got a message from another friend while I was there wanting to catch up. I was keen to head home, but I’d not seen this friend since well before lockdown. We ended up spending another hour there, and I was in one of those moods that come rare these days – the engaging, witty raconteur.

Yesterday morning I went on my weekly walk with Cheeseboy and our dogs. He told he was working in the garden in the afternoon, and I offered my help if he needed it. Sure enough, at about 2.30, he called asking if I was willing to come over?

I’d been sitting at this very computer and reading this very blog. I’d been prompted to check things out and found myself reading of my travels in 2004 when this blog begins. It was fun recalling it all and living it again.

It was a warm day, and I lathered up in sunscreen and helped Cheeseboy clear the trunks of cut back bushes and remove weeds. It wasn’t arduous work, except that the sun had a bite to it and the repetitive nature of bending soon had my back playing up. I didn’t mind too much, though I had to take a break occasionally and lay stretched out on the bare boards of the back deck.

We had a cold beer at the end of it at about 5.30, and then I headed home, covered in dirt. There’s something satisfying in basic hard work. You may ache afterwards, but it feels like you have done something virtuous, and yesterday I felt as if I was adding some karmic credits to my account.

I was sore and burning from the sun and ran a lukewarm radox bath when I got home. The dusty soil had adhered to the sweat and the sunscreen so that I was coated in grime. Taking my shoes and socks off, I found the dirt had even got between my toes. I soaked for about 15 minutes between scrubbing myself clean. Then I dressed in well pressed, clean clothes, which is exactly what I needed.

I was due to go out for dinner, though I had little appetite or energy. It was better once I was properly dressed. The fabric felt crisp against my skin, and I was careful to look the part – I wanted to dress up, just a little. I put on a pair of pale Prussian blue summer weight cotton pants I hadn’t worn since last summer and a mauve shirt with suede boots. It looked good, and with the glow of the sun on my skin, I looked like a healthy buccaneer.

We had a G&T at a bar before going onto a steak restaurant – part of a chain, but reliably good. The meal was fine, we flirted with the waitress and shared a bottle of red. Out in the ‘burbs, it was a different crowd from the night before. There were many couples from young to middle age, the women in dresses and the men in shorts with short-sleeved shirts. There was a table of rowdy yobs too, probably a cricket club or something out for the night. The restaurant seemed full of men either yobs or short, or a combination of both. We were the outliers – both of us well-groomed and over six foot, and probably both of us a bit older.

We discussed the Top 100, which was released yesterday. Back in the nineties, I would buy these CDs. I’d listen to Triple J waking up and each year would tune into the countdown. Not anymore. I doubt I know more than 10 of this years top 100, and what I know is different from what others now know, and in that, I’m out of step.

About half an hour later, I was driving home through dark streets. I flicked through radio stations searching for music I wanted to listen to – some David Bowie, then an old song from the eighties I immediately remembered was sung by a guy called Climie Fisher, then, as I drew close, some Pink Floyd. Perfect.

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