At Motherduck

Yelena Sidorova (2)

Walking along in Goolwa, suddenly hungry, and a little place leaps right at me; so there we eat. It is beautiful. It is warm and sunny; it feels as though summer is approaching again, but this is just a memory in the wrong place. Summer is a while away yet.

But it isn’t just me. Everyone is ambling.

Motherduck has a sign right in front of their door. We bend down to read it and puzzle it out. We can’t get in. We dither and wait. And someone comes.

‘Can we sit here (outside)?’ We can. ‘Of course you can.’ She bows us to a table right in the sun, in the warmth, in the middle of what seems everything.

The coffee is proper. A punch from a good friend.

Our food is simple and divine and gets its picture taken.

There is time to watch the passing by of the passers-by. People approach this little place with enthusiasm and bend down kindly to read the sign. Some read it, and their lips move. Some read it out loud, loudly. Only ten people allowed inside, only eight allowed outside. We apologise for any inconvenience. But there is no harm done. People turn and count. And dither, like we did. Then the kindly young waitress comes and beams everyone upright, and they are happy again.

One man tried to get in without waiting. His wife pulled him back. She said, ‘You can’t go in.’ He is genuinely perplexed. ‘Why?’

‘You know, it’s the virus.’

‘What, in here?’

‘Just get back, here she comes.’ The waitress approaches and gathers them in. The cross husband beams.

A couple have a table, a high one, but no chairs. A man, dining alone, gives them the chairs at his table, including his own chair. They all look at each other. They beam.

Two ladies pass that know each other. One calls out shrilly, ‘Jan!’

The other turns and scans us all. ‘Who…’

‘Jan, it’s me.’

‘God, you gave me a shock. How are you? Been ages.’

They look at each other. ‘Well, you know, with everything…’

‘I know. I’m on my way to see the grandies, two of ‘em now. Guess you haven’t any yet?’

‘Hell, yes, four now.’

They looked away from each other so there is no need to acknowledge a winner. They win. They beam.

‘Keep you busy.’

‘Yes, yes. Yes. Well.’

‘Good to see you, Jan.’

Behind them, a man was bending solicitously over the sign. ‘It says only ten people, Bridget.’

‘Just wait dad, there’s people leaving.’

We start to eat faster, feeling guilty.

The waitress flew, carrying coffees, a pepper grinder, beautiful little rounds of gentle, soft bread, burgers clasped within a shouting sourdough that wins every time. Beetroot dip in a bowl: a bowl of blended jewels.

A man sipped coffee. The waitress beamed. A couple sat on stools at a thick wooden bench, leaning over each other, melting.

We finish our food. Honoured. Give up our little table.

An older couple stop abruptly, ‘Albert…here..’

 

Art by Yelena Sidorova

 

 

Noah leans back.

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It is nearly the last day of our holiday and we are having lunch, by the sea, in summer, in the heat, under cool glass and next to the blue. Morgan and I have chosen mussels, I remember these from a year ago and they made me happy so I have ordered them again, mussels in shells, a thousand of them, too many, whirling in tomato and garlic and other things with chilli, red wine maybe. I am wondering if the chilli will be real and it is because when we lift the lid, the steam comes out angrily and the chillies lie there, amongst the mussels, obscene and arrogant and not knowing their proper place, perfect.
We are elbow deep in mussels and shells and ciabatta bread and there is too much food and too much sky through the windows and the babies are hooting and eating things and Noah is at the end of the table, between his parents, supreme amongst food and family and spoons and forks and garlic bread.
He and his baby cousin Max are hurling things to the floor and gazing open mouthed at the response from family, they are filing away the satisfying response from family.
I cannot eat any more food, but there is still too much food waiting to be eaten. I can only stare at everyone else. Family, ordinary and ordinary but still defying understanding.
Morgan, is gone, lost in the mussel pot, the good cold beer and hunger, and his son, Noah, is leaning back superbly into the armchair of summer, and his parents gaze over at the floor and the scattered food and the toys and they look down at all of this with joy.

The House of Brie

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It is September and it is warming up. Passers-by are not so huddled, and they do not walk by so fast. They stand in the sun and look through the shop window.

A couple came into the shop and bought Alice in Wonderland for their daughter and a Star Wars novel for their son.

They said, ‘Well, this is great, this book being blue, also with summer coming and everything.’

Outside there are young people leaning against the wall, the warm wall.

Robert visited and said he wouldn’t look around because he knows what will happen to him: he will be ambushed by some book on the Ancients, and at the moment, he just needs to pay his AGL bill even though they don’t deserve to be paid. He also said that the Thames and Hudson Art and Imagination Series is the best thing he’s ever seen.

I am asked for dozens of obscure titles; the sun is warming up everybody’s reading lists.

A little boy sent his grandmother to the shop  with a pirate book reading list. There were hand drawn illustrations on the list to make sure she got the right books. She said he always makes these lists for her.

I take longer going down the street because I want to stay in the sun, and so does everybody else.

An older couple spend ages looking at a copy of Pinocchio.

I am asked if I think Harry Potter is a suitable series for a young person.

A man buys three very worn cartoon books and tells me they are brilliant, but his wife says they are stupid.

Down the street I see Alan buying wine and beer. Alan is Swiss and has a fabulous accent. He is gloomy because he grows his own vegetables, but his wife said they are all shit and just bought a lettuce from Woolies. He looked at the brie I had bought and said I must leave it out of the fridge for at least ten days before eating it, as is proper for brie.

I said, ‘Maybe.’

He said: then you pack it into a good house of  bread, cuddle it up with roasted garlic, a square of butter over the top and bake it. It is the proper way.

I said I was going home to make it.