The man who always says,‘How you going?’

 

George Dyachenko (2)

I saw him this morning when I was setting up the shop for the day. He is someone I know by his voice. And his dog. There used to be a group of dog lovers here. They met at the bakery and talked all morning. He would laugh. His laugh bounced out out over the road like some mad buoyant pack of tennis balls, and all the dogs would swing their heads around sharply to look at him, and then turn back to watch the traffic with their eyes half closed again.

I heard him over the road this morning, still with his beautiful dog. He said, ‘How you going?’, to the people sitting on the grass, waiting for buses. His voice is the same. He still says the same things, simple and strong, and happy like chutney that is home made. I heard people answer him, nodding, saying things back to him, and he laughed the same way, leaning back and lobbing it straight upwards into the pine trees and making the cockatoos rustle and look down with jealous eyes.

The people on the grass are all grinning, looking up at him. One man says, ‘Yeah mate, I reckon that too.’

Then the bus comes and I can’t see them anymore, and I have to go inside where all the books and stories about people are, and record another story about another person.

Artwork by George Dyachenko

This Weirdy Weather

Pascal Campion.jpg

Yesterday was hot, and the ducks on the road into Strathalbyn sat too close to the road and refused to move. People came into the shop and said, ‘God, it’s hot!’

Today is cold, rain in the morning and people coming in and saying, ‘My God, this is strange.’

One man said that a second ago, it was summer.

His girlfriend said that she doubted it, and would he pay for her books.

He said, ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ But he paid for the books and looked pleased.

She said, ‘I love this weirdy weather, you can read in it.’

He said, ‘I know.’

She pointed out that he didn’t like reading.

He said, ‘I know, but I might be going to start,’ and he looked around for a book to start with.

She said, ‘I don’t believe you’, and looked pleased with him.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

Dutch

Kenne Gregoire.jpg

A group of people came in off the train. There were about fourteen of them, all friends and all speaking English and what I thought was German, but turned out to be Dutch.

They loved the books. They moved from room to room. They knelt to read the children’s books to each other, in Dutch and in English, a working counterpoint that swam in bright notes all over the shop.

The husbands were shouted at. They were too slow. One man wanted a certain picture book with a kangaroo on the front. They stood in a circle around the book, tapping the pictures, talking about the kangaroos and the fairy penguins. Then he couldn’t find his wallet, or his phone. He was shouted at again. The words were beautiful, effective, unfamiliar. The wives waved bags in the air and made shushing sounds. They made sounds of impatience. They made sounds of derision. Fluent cascades of words and argument clattered about everywhere, Patricia Cornwell, Agatha Christie, Asterix were all examined. A John Grisham book was thumped back into the shelf.

No, no, no, no! A husband offered a possibility. But, no!

Two husbands went outside and stood with their shoulders raised against the shop. A wife tapped the glass, and they swayed but did not turn around. They looked across the road.

There were so many conversations. So many books. So many opinions. Somebody brought some books to the counter and said, ‘We’re from Holland!’

Then it was time to go. The husbands were shouted for, ‘The train, the train.’

When the last person had gone, it was quiet.

 

Painting by Kenne Gregoire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Bridgewater a town or a place?

Pascal Campion 2.jpg

This excellent question from a family in front of me. I am following them back to my shop. The father and three children move fast, the children hopping and pouncing and asking questions.

‘Is Bridgewater a town, or a place?’

The father explained. ‘It’s a town, like this one.’

‘I know that place, there’s a circus there.’

‘Well, maybe not.’

‘Wasn’t there a circus there?’

‘Don’t think so.’

‘But I remember it, that person did cartwheels and spins.’

‘Is Bridgewater not a town?’

‘Want me to do a cartwheel?’

The children are fast, disappearing through the sunlight, the father only just keeping up, and they were almost at the bakery.

‘Dad, when you’re at work, we sleep in your bed.’

I saw the father go still, look down at them, delighted.

And then they turned the corner, gone.

 

Artwork by Pascal Campion

 

A solid winter’s day, with sun

2019-06-21 10.30.00.jpg

Three children are passing outside, it’s the end of the afternoon, school is done. My door is slightly ajar because at the moment, it won’t shut properly. One child makes a graceful leap at one of the spinning balloons and knocks it to the ground. And stands aghast.

His friend is outraged: You put that back up! You just put that back up, now. Quick, do it. Before they see.

A third boy is looking through the glass door and is amused: Yous, she’s just sitting in there reading a book. Look, she’s just sitting there. Oh my God.

I look down quickly, not at a book, but at an electricity bill. Hopefully they will stay a little longer. But they are anxious to be gone. One child has put the balloon back very gently,  upside down.

The all regard it seriously. He explains: I can’t reach it. They nod because it’ll do.

They all turn in a single movement and leap in various angles down the street, lightly, like grasshoppers, scratching gently at the surface of life. I can still hear them, one is telling the others not to touch the posts because he once put chewing gum there.

 

The boy who bought his friend a bookmark

Pascal Campion (2)

These children come into the shop on weekday afternoons, school bags, drink bottles, friends, phones, everything. They had been looking at the bookmarks and talking about their lives. On other days they stand by the tables or the windows and talk about their lives. Sometimes they stand outside and look in and talk about their lives.

One day one of the girls asked me to put aside a bookmark for her as she didn’t have the money. So, I did. Then, some days later, one of the boys came back. He had a job now, mowing lawns and he said he did a pretty good job with them.

He would like to get that bookmark for the girl, his friend. A gift. And he did. He looked pleased with it but while he was looking happy, staring down at the bookmark, thinking about it, she came in!
Then they both stood there looking at the bookmark. It was a silver pirate sword with blue glass drops and silver swirls that sparkled or maybe it was their faces that sparkled, was hard to tell.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

The Dog Man

A Man And His Dog by Gary Bunt.jpg

He is always out there. He is always laughing.
He is always talking.
Sometimes he is with a quiet group at the bakery; they line up along the windows, everyone with morning tea and a dog. Many of the dogs have a mat and a bowl and are important. Some just have the ground, and these dogs are also important. Everyone talks about their dog and how they manage. It is a happy group. The dog man sits here and his laugh scatters and scribbles up and over and up and over, sailing and swooping and interested in everyone and really liking dogs. Everyone smiles, even people are who not in that group.
To me, hearing from inside, the dog man’s space always seems to get bigger. He influences the air across the motorbikes and the galahs, the traffic and the parking dilemmas and the bus queue. His laugh folds out and up, it concludes over the top of everything and then returns to him, like a lasso, ready for the next go.

Two motorcyclists outside my shop window are shouting: do you need fuel, do you need fuel, mate… three times they roar at each other over their engines, they won’t turn them off and nobody can hear anything. But the laugh of the dog man is even louder, it touches them like the end of a whip and their heads turn sharply toward it, they are silently trying to locate it, that loosening knot of mirth that punctures power with a new authority and then slides away from them again before they can place a boot on it.

Artwork: A Man and His Dog by Gary Bunt

The Bookshelves

be63955ede69b851bb58db7d869038f4.jpg

Many customers describe their bookshelves as unfinished. Everyone tells the story with pride. One lady told me that all her shelves were double stacked. She said this with glee and gluttony, looking at me carefully, looking for disapproval. I said that mine were triple stacked and she screamed with happiness. Her husband looked at her and said it was time to go.
Michael said that he had books in Spanish, the most beautiful language.
One man said all his low shelves were broken. He has just wedged them up with beer bottles and old westerns, does the job.
Everyone says they should not get any more books but they do anyway.
All children examine a book from the outside in.
Young people who are friends and who come in pairs or triples stand in tight groups and say oh my god over every book that is good. They will do this for ages.
Old people who say that young people don’t read anymore are wrong.
Louis always says to me: what’s good at the moment? This means any book about Mahatma Gandhi or 20th century art. He has been given a new bookshelf and wants to fill it even though he already has more books than he can read in his lifetime.
One lady said that her husband threw all her books out when he left so now she is out to get another library together again. She said she is pretty happy right now.
One lady bought her son a stack of books for Christmas but then she kept them all for herself.
Young men say: sweet or brilliant or that’s really keen. One young man said that Freud is a radical and a sweet gone read. One boy said that the only one is Tolkien.
One lady said that she would not read Mark Twain.
One man needed a copy of the same book for his three adult children because otherwise they would fight. He said they were all in their forties.
Peggy is really sick and is going to read all her Game of Thrones as quickly as possible and this made me feel really sad.

When I went to Melbourne to buy books for the shop but it was too hot so ended up drinking chilled white in the suburbs instead.

51159530_229610681319044_9104524180035993600_n (2).jpg

It is too hot. I got the books for the shop but it is too hot. We packed the books into the hot, hot car. But the weatherman had minced the carpark with the asphalt and the gum trees and when somebody backed their car into another car, a Mercedes, everybody stood and looked at the incident through the heat with narrowed eyes and hot feet and then turned away to swim through the heat to find their own car and get on home and the owner of the stoved in Mercedes looked at their car through the heat and just got in and drove away with their shoulders raised and ears flat, easier to get through the Melbourne heat that way. Who wants more things to do…
But then I am back in the suburbs of Melbourne, the hot- heated gold dust suburbs alive with weatherboard and coffee and jacaranda and heated evening and I am eating steak and salad and iced cabernet sauvignon and looking at the Melbourne city shape that is welded across the horizon and listening to family gossip that is all true but you didn’t hear this from me…
I did get Wide Sargasso Sea, the Gormenghast trilogy in three penguin volumes and the David Malouf Complete short stories.
It was worth it. What’s heat anyway.