After spending the morning shivering in a fruit and veg warehouse taking photos of a man on a forklift as part of an interview on asylum seekers, I tripped out of the 57 tram and rang Love Chunks, still sick at home.
"Did you see the doctor?"
"Yep. She says I've got a temperature, have infected snot and need to stay home for another three days."
"She? So you had to see Dr W, the woman with all the warmth of a frozen tail pipe?"
"Yep. She was nice to me, actually."
I snorted. "That's because she fancies you. You're quite a youthful catch for a humorless 70 year old from Eastern Europe. Have you had any lunch yet?"
.....I caught my reflection---- oh, who am I kidding? I saw - deliberately sought to see - myself in the shop window. Every now and then I like to see what a 41 year old lover of polar fleece and sensible shoes looks like out on the street.
It wasn't the clothing, the thighs or the still-smouldering zit on the chin. It was my hair. Thin, unkempt and some kind of unholy merging of sideburns and overgrowth forming a set of extra ears that only Fozzy Bear would covet. My local hairdresser is a 'walk in and see who's free' kind of establishment and cheap, which is my kind of place.
"Sit down, sit down," Tan indicated, smiling. In Vietnamese she presumably told Hannah to re-heat her lunch because she had a wrinkly old koala to attend to.
"I want it short. Really short," I said, and closed my eyes. I've always loved the feel of someone cutting, brushing, patting or spraying my hair and am therefore uncharacteristically non-chatty in the hairdresser's chair.
"You like? And at the back?"
"Yep. That's spot on. Low maintenance. As soon as I have to start blowdrying or using pongy spray, it's time for a cut."
At home, I gulped down some leftover spag bol under Love Chunks' silent but polite dismay. "It's um, it's like the mid-nineties again," he said.
Sapphire, at the school gate, was more open. "You look TERRIBLE!"
I disagreed and after dinner, I left my detractors at home to attend a meeting. The evening was freezing, with the cold wind blowing the maccas wrappers further on up the gutter and numbing my ears.
At the gate to the neighbourhood house, I met up with Miranda; a sixty-something, elegant widow of impeccable breeding, a smoky school marm boarding school accent and cherry red lipstick. "Oh, is that yoooooou there Kath? I didn't recognise you."
She paused, patting at her own silvery mane done up in a bun. "You do realise, don't you dear, that you're likely to attract the amorous attentions of an entirely different crowd of admirers, don't you?"
"I always have done," I said.
Our local community group was ready to start. I took my cue from Cate, who managed to ease the tensions of the local stirrer last month by calmly responding to his tiresome remarks whilst not dropping a stitch in her knitting. It was quite a sight to see a gorgeous young lawyer putting a 55 year old bullyboy in his place whilst putting the finishing touches on a scarf for her husband.
I too, whipped my knitting out. Con, usually a shy IT guy who finds me a bit too, um, cheeky, had a chuckle. "What you making there, Kath? A beanie for your head?"
"Er no, Con. It's a long scarf of seven squares that are then sewn together as blankets for the homeless shelter."
My dignity restored, the Scotsman started the meeting.
No sooner than he'd said, "We haven't had time to put an agenda out this time, but I'll go through the usual---" than he was heckled by Bob in the far corner.
"HEY SCOTTIE how come youse haven't done the heritage walk yet and I've got to tell you about the council chick who I tried to speak to at the bowls club who was really rude to me and I've got some ideas on how we can---"
"Um thanks Bob, but we'll get to each of those in turn because we have a lot to get through and the people that have volunteered to do all of the things you mention are going to give us some updates tonight."
Again there was a dignified silence, which I then ruined by trying to yank the lid of a plastic take-away container. In it I'd emptied three bags of peanut M&Ms, which rattled and clattered across the laminated table like a mini Marachi band. "Sorry about that - take some and pass them on."
Our visitor, a local politician, hoovered them up enthusiastically, eyes averted from my gaze. The two local newspapers were shown around, with biro rings drawn around the letters to the editor on issues that we were discussing.
"Oooh there you are Kath," Con said, his mouth full of green and gold-themed chocolates, "Blowing your nose for some reason?"
"It was to highlight the sort of rubbish I most often find when I'm litter ninja-ing," I whispered. "Tissues are everywhere."
Bob tried again, his voice more slurred this time. "Kath when are you gunna tell us what the hell you've been doing about the Heritage walk?"
Eyeing him over my single pale green square of knitting, my cheeks bulging with chocolate and a hairstyle that was still being sniggered at made my efforts at dignity and control slightly less successful than Cate's. "Ermf, I've taken aboutpfh a thousandth photosth that I'm going to sortthth througtthhh" I mumbled, swallowing some M&Ms whole.
Cate saw my struggle and gently reached over to take the knitting out of my hands. "Let me do that for you." I blurted out a slightly less muffled answer, my throat now hurting as the peanuts slid painfully against the side of my oesophagus. Cate handed me back my knitting. "I'll have to show you how to increase the tension of the wool and not move your hands around so much," she mouthed.
Thus placated, Bob turned his beer-soaked attentions on to another local matter. "So what's the council doin' in the park? There's all these barricades and shit everywhere and---"
Miranda sat up straight. "Bob have you been drinking? If so, shooosh," she scolded, putting an admonishing finger to her mouth.
The entire room went quiet as we silently admired her bravery and wondered how Bob would respond. He didn't and The Scotsman moved onto the next item.
".....And now we have our final item. Some of us have received formal invitations from the developer at Bombards to go to a cocktail evening tomorrow night to check out the apartments that are for sale." The glossy flyers were passed along the table. "Considering we fought against it at the council and VCAT, why would they want to invite us along?"
"Ah phark the council," Bob yelled. "We need to find someone who unnerstans us all; someone who'll tell the knobs up on high where they can shove it---"
Dear sweet Reg, pushing seventy if he's a day, spoke up. Ever the faithful coordinator of Neighbourhood Watch and meeting peacemaker, he held up a poster. "I've been asked by the Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek to publicise their native tree planting event this Saturday. They could always do with a few more hands and a few more shovels."
Bob grunted, "Yeah well I'd love to see someone get off their arse and do something down at the overgrown parklands by my place because those pharkers-----"
"Thanks Bob," The Scotsman lifted his hand up to stop him and then smiled. "You know Bob, you should channel some of your energies that you've displayed this evening and attend the cocktail party tomorrow night."
Our secretary Sandra smiled as she packed away her laptop. Her meeting minutes are always well written and summarised but she typed endlessly throughout our discussions. I wouldn't be surprised if she publishes a novel about us all one day.