How perverse that after a cold, wet and windy long weekend, not to mention a depressingly washed out Manly Jazz Festival, the day everyone’s back at work has dawned sunny and warm. Poor bastards. I can still go for a run sometime today and duck across the road for a swim at lunchtime, but most drones are back in the hive (Wasp Season has left an indelible impression, as you can see).
Across the road from my place, the victorious Manly Sea Eagles rugby league team are having their prolonged celebration in a block of holiday apartments, and my, my, aren’t they simply the last word in tedious? It’s such a shame, actually, because even though we’re not league followers, we went down to the pub on Sunday night to join in the community spirit of the grand final, and whooped and cheered along with the thousands of other people who filled every Manly bar and pub for the game, and felt glad for their win. But having spent the public holiday listening to them heckle passersby from their penthouse balcony, a stunning and painfully uninterrupted repertoire of sexism, racism and homophobia spilling in a long blue stream onto the street below, I can safely say it takes the sheen off their success to see (or rather hear, over and over again) that off the pitch they’re nothing so much as a pack of obnoxious tools. They’re still there, more’s the pity, but at least I’m in my office today and can’t really hear them from here. But a family game? No, I don’t think so. They’re doing a much better impression of the idiots in Animal House, except with worse language.
There seemed only one way to manage the situation last night, and that was to get drunk myself. An old school solution, a fail-safe strategy. Poor Llewie didn’t even see it coming. He had to work yesterday, but I marched down to the ferry to meet him with a thirst in my gut that would not be ignored. Oh sure, I made a show of pretending to accept his protest that it was Monday night, usually a booze free occasion in the Jenkins household, but really I lured him past the new Thai joint Mortar and Pestle (2 Darley Rd, Manly, 9977 112) knowing full well that Llewellyn can resist plenty of things, but not Thai food on a restaurant’s opening night. Never. No chance. So I arranged my face into a surprised expression when Llew followed me into the fruit & veg store along from Mortar and Pestle and suggested we try it. I prodded another avocado and, yes, carefully now, softly, softly, let him think this is his idea, said “Are you sure?”
I hefted an avocado and then proffered it, as though it alone was the sole alternative. No, Llew? You wouldn’t prefer an avocado for dinner? Really? Hmmm, well, okay then, if you insist. I replaced the avocado, dumped that coriander and burned down the road to put our name on the waiting list.
“We’ll just go have a drink and buy a bottle of wine,” said that paragon of Monday night abstinence, my husband. And I thought, mission accomplished. Bravo.
G-r-e-e-e-e-e-a-t meal (and no accident – we both worked late the other night and found ourselves on the last Jetcat from town. Too late to cook so in we strolled, ordering all new dishes and delivering an identical verdict. And at forty bucks, it’s almost criminal). Seriously yummy. We had chicken wings stuffed with vermicelli, spices and chicken mince, then these Thai-style spring rolls that were so fresh and more-ish, topped with crab meat and a sticky palm sugar sauce. I could have licked my plate. In fact I think I did… I seem to remember both of us running a sly finger round the plate when no one was looking. Then we had a pork belly curry; it didn’t have coconut milk in it, so it wasn’t a wet curry, but it was perfectly melt-in-the-mouth with just the right amount of heat. It was whilst eating it that we ran out of wine. Llew heroically volunteered to dash across the road for fresh supplies, but unfortunately the wine he returned with was corked, so after demolishing the duck and three basil stir-fry, we decided to head home.
Once here, I insisted we have a glass of wine from a bottle on the rack. We put a Doors record on the turntable, and lowered the awning so the footy players could no longer see straight into our sunroom. That’ll show ’em. Now, Llew and I are generally very compatible when it comes to spontaneous bouts of inappropriate levels of alcohol consumption, but last night, Llew pleaded exhaustion and tried to get me to see sense. Bed-shaped sense. But would I listen to reason? No, I was on a mission by that time and deaf to all logic.
“Please come to bed,” said Llew.
“No,” I said. “I don’t want to. I want to listen to records and drink more wine.”
And because I’m 36 and no one can send me to my room, I did. And it was marvellous. The music made me happily nostalgic, so I started calling friends overseas. Once I was on a roll I really started to get excited. Mostly I got message banks – now that daylight savings has come into effect, I think it’s that time of year when the difference isn’t conducive to calling anyone in the northern hemisphere – but I did manage to talk to Jezebel (his name’s Jeremy, but I have called him Jezebel since we were 16 years old), who’s in Berlin, and Sarah, who’s in Egypt, and is, in fact, an Egyptian. Tremendous! I hadn’t spoken to Jezebel in years. And it does make a difference, hearing someone’s voice. Because it’s so clearly them; Jezebel’s laugh is wonderfully unchanged, and hearing it just closed the gap of all those years. And Sarah? Well, she’s a hard lady to pin down, a journalist for Associated Press who’s always off to dangerous places, the thought of which make my hair stand on end, so it was entirely by chance that she was in Egypt and using that mobile number at all. What a perfect outcome. When we were all studying together in Canada as teenagers (international secondary college, final two years of high school, basically), Sarah was like a Siamese twin by our second year, such a close, inseparable friend of mine that – and this is slightly embarrassing to admit – I’ve never quite gotten over the inevitable and wrenching goodbye. When the time came for my friends and I to go back to our own countries and resume our very different lives, to me it didn’t feel like anything so much as the end of the world. I have always missed her. Will always miss her. I accept that constant shadow beside me, where she and my other best friends from that time used to stand, as simply part of the space around me, part of the atmosphere, as natural as air, but last night, there was a flickering, and for the briefest time, she was there.