Day Twenty One - Appreciative August
One of the things I love about living in South Australia and being a Wide-Eyed-Work-From-Homer is that I'm out and about these days when I used to be locked up inside an air-tight cube farm with a timesheet. I can stroll the 'hood, chat to oldies on the bus, browse in shops without a whining child on my leg and actually find a decent car park between the hours of 9:30am and 3:00pm.
What I mostly appreciate though, is the amount of humour and camaraderie that's revealed during these times.
I was on the 106 bus tootling down Magill road, observing the passengers that get on and off during non-peak hours. Chattering retirees, iPodded uni students, hung-over Centrelink customers and, well, me. Across the aisle was a sixty something bloke with an adorable little dog on his lap who reminded me of Eddie from the show 'Frasier'.
I couldn't help myself - it's an affliction that embarasses my family all the bloody time - but leaned over and patted the cute dog on its back. It was only then that I noticed the 'Lions Club Hearing Dog' lettering on the lead.
"Sorry love, but you shouldn't really be doing that, you know," the dog's owner told me, smiling. "He's technically at work and can't get distracted or he'll want that kind of attention all the time."
And before I could answer, he added, "I can lip read but I need him to tell me if the green light flicker is on to cross the road, or if someone's already dinged the stop bell for me to get off."
"Oh," I said, smiling back, feeling pleased to deliver my next remark, "Then maybe you should get a dog that's ugly so that people like me won't be tempted to pat it."
"Yeah, like my wife," he said loudly, before waving and getting off at the next stop.
The Sunday just gone we had my 'little' (thirty seven year old) brother Dave, his wife Sonia and their boys Matthew and Jack over for lunch. Several hours of discussons, laughter, good food, great coffee and excellent wine later and they needed to leave in order to make it in time for dinner at a friend's place in the hills. "Alrighty boys, go to the toilet and wash your hands before you go," Dave said, sounding eerily like our own father.
They did so, and were outside playing with Sapphire in the front garden, waiting for me to do what Love Chunks calls 'The Read Farewell' - at least another half hour of talking, 'yep, well have a good trip', more jokes, more talking and a dash back inside the house to retrieve something nearly forgotten before the leaving process actually comes into effect.
"Er, Kath, Love Chunks, are you there?" Dave called out from the bathroom. "I'm stuck - the door won't open." Ah yes, the curse of having an 84 year old house full of original fittings and chock full of character. Love Chunks tried the door from our side.
"Yeah the thingy that slides through to the lock doover-whatsit has gone in and then fallen right down," he said, authoritatively. "I'll go and get a screw driver."
There was giggling as Sapphire and seven year old Matthew became aware of the situation. "Hey Uncle Dave - smile!", laughed Sapph, as she took a photo of the door. "At least you won't wet your pants. Plus you can have a shower and we can slide some blocks of Lindt under the door when you get hungry." The silence on the other side of the door was likely Uncle Dave flipping the middle finger.
The half hour 'Standard Read Farewell' had long since expired and whilst the older kids were laughing, five year old Jack was not. "Daaaaaaaad", he wailed into Sonia's arms, "Will I ever see you again?"
"Dad will come out soon," she said, stroking his hair. "Hey, this is your time to get on the trampoline while the other two kids are busy taking photos." He ran outside eagerly.
"Er Sonia," I ventured, "Do you think you should ring your mate and tell him you'll be late? After all, Dave is trapped inside the toilet."
Or take two days earlier, when I was with Amanda Blair on 5AA as one of the panel of adults invited to road test some showbags that were going to be on sale at the upcoming Royal Adelaide Show. Amanda reckons that seeing as it's we adults that are going to be shelling out the money for them, then we should be the ones who get to check them out.
There I was with Amanda eagerly pilfering the Hi5 gear for her eldest, me wearing the 'Don't Hassle the Hoff' t-shirt and sitting alongside three senior male journos. One wearing a wig (the Advertiser bloke, wearing David Hasselhoff's piece and drinking Gatorade from the Men's Health gym bag); another trying to pick up stray Bertie Beetles with a grey plastic robot arm (the children's book writer); and the third leaning into the microphone to see if we could hear the poprocks exploding on his tongue (national news director).
As it was a pupil-free day at Sapphire's school, she and her mate Selene came into the studio with me, but were outside in the producers box as they watched five adults turn into giggling children ripping open packets of chips, lollipops, warheads and headbands. Lord knows what they made of the scene.....
Before the radio show, poor Sapphire needed three days off school last week thanks to a bad cold that turned into tonsilitus as well a throat infection and a bout of rather un-fun asthma. She stayed home with me and watched the Olympics. By the end of day one she could spot the mistakes made by the men in the gymnastics combined apparatus event quicker than the commentators could and provided me with a great deal of laughter and good company.
In addition, Sapphire had also obviously used her convalescence to ponder a few issues that concerned her in life, and sought out the answers from me. She was quietly eating her stewed apples (it's the only way we can get her to eat fruit), Skipper the bunny was on her lap and I was next to her, reading a book I was supposed to be writing a review on later. These were the questions that were fired at me in between medal ceremonies, those frustratingly sexist Coles commercials and exciting water polo quarters:
"Hey Mum, I don't get it - why do bears love honey so much?"
"Where do sesame seeds come from?"
"How does the electricity actually go through the wires on the roads to our house and into the plugs?"
"If there's a God and Jesus like a lot of people at my school believe, then who made God?"
"How come chickens don't have lips - how do they kiss?"
"Why do people notice farts more than perfume?"
"Why is it only when a woman shows her nipples that it's rude but she can show all of the other bulgy bits of her boobs and nobody cares?"
"When I do a big poo in the toilet, it plops down and water splashes on my bottom. Is that water cleaning my bottom, or do I need go and wash it?"
I'll end with my final example which occurred, yesterday, when I was interviewing the genial Gary, owner of Bracegirdle's coffee and chocolate shop in Burnside.
Loads of customers, a milk delivery guy who had to walk in four times to deliver a week's worth of dairy, heaps of regular characters that a modern-day 'Cheers' writer would love; tons of the most artistic and beautiful chocolates on display and he, an ex-Phys Ed teacher telling me that even though making chocolates, coffee and establishing the business has been a 15 hour a day seven days a week enterprise for the past three years, he's never once woken up dreading going in to work.
Our gaze met over the 18-hand made chocolate selection, Royal Show 2008 gold prize winning shiraz truffles, novelty koala and penguin and bag of 99% Belgian buttons I'd just bought and we both burst out laughing. "Check us out, two ex-teachers, yakking for an hour about two of the finest foods known to man. Life's pretty bloody good, isn't it?"