It’s raining. There’s a man pacing up and down….

It’s raining. There’s a man pacing up and down outside my shop. His phone is on speaker. I can hear the phone speaking back to him, a thin stream of information, like a pilot giving air directions, and none of it making sense to anyone else.

‘The things they get away with down there is ridiculous.’

The phone answers what sounds like a long list of facts.

‘You can times that by five, mate. The problem is… the problem is… what they don’t realize is…’

The phone speaks back. Agreeing.

The man is pacing, agitated, up and down. It is still raining.

‘I contracted it all out though. It’s such a hassle. Turns out that – ‘

The phone interrupts.

‘Yes, yes, yes, yes…is it though?’

The phone delivers a short lecture, this time without interruption.  

‘All right buddy, better let you go.’ The conversation ends. The man, wearing an orange safety vest, muddy boots, and a beanie, picks up his coffee from my windowsill and strides away.

It’s quiet again. It’s dark and raining, not right for September. There are long heavy trucks outside, slow and creaking and hissing. But now they have all stopped. This is unusual, and I look out. There’s an orange indicator going somewhere out of my sight, the rain and the hot orange light flicker and flacker all over the front of the shop. K and S Freighters are stuck out there, massive and shining, then a huge carrier with cows looking out at the rain, a soft wall of eyes, then a cement mixer with its wet belly turning slowly, then a bus.

Someone walks past whistling, a bright light idea uninterested in rain.

When the sun comes out, it is warm, its light has gold edges that are told in the puddles, the puddles read it swiftly in gold lines with metal stops. The puddles are flints. People look down, then up and shade their eyes.

Everyone becomes a jogger, simply everyone. They have to cross the road. The sun has dropped abruptly, rain again. I stand at the window and look out.  People run rustily, puffing dramatically, eyes screwed up, legs lifted high to avoid the spray, laughing because there is so much water, and because we need it.  My town, thirty minutes away and always dry, lay on its back this morning drinking heavily, weighed down by liquid, the trees hanging sodden, their roots and toes alive with water and digging for more.

Customers come wheezing in, happy and unbothered, ‘Do you have book two of Tim Severin’s Viking stuff?’

The trucks drag nets of spray behind them. A child in a car parked just outside the door has his arm out of the window catching the drops. He is on his knees. He puts his head out. A drench catches him, and he shakes and shakes, alive with nourishment. Somebody inside the car speaks, and he abruptly withdraws.

Another child, on the footpath, is being a duck. I am startled because his duck sound is so real, so loud and so close.

‘He’s being a duck, Grandpa.’

There’s a whole family out there. They’ve been to the bakery and are noisy with paper bags and loaves of bread and coffee.

‘Show Grandpa how you’re being a duck.’

The child is wearing soft thick clothing, red and dark blue, and tiny stout boots protect his webbed feet, and he quacks and quaeks and hoots.’

 ‘Hey, come here duck’, says Grandpa.

But he does not want to get into the car.

Grandpa, who drops to help the youngster, gets a boot in the side, and the son, the father, takes over, stern. ‘Get in. Now. Get in. Stop it.’

Now the ducky is in, fitted into a duckling seat, the rain runs down the windows and I can see him making duck hands to himself, and there are little arrows of sun smoking down and making a sheen of warm green emeralds on the top of their lolly green car, and then another truck goes speeding past sending us all us a new version of the same water.

You got caught

The sky behind the trees is silver and bright – so bright it hurts your teeth to look at it. The wind is cold. People coming past the shop do it fast, collars up, faces prepared.

A young mum gets caught in a brief chilly shower that lasts the exact time it takes her to cross the road with a pram, a baby, a toddler, two bags of shopping, a drink bottle, and a toy white rabbit that gets dropped on the shining road half way over.

The child wails.

There’s a tradesman outside my door, waiting it out with coffee. He shouts:

‘You got caught in the rain.’

She shouts, ‘I know, it’s terrible.’

The rabbit lies there, its eye a desperate button.

He dashes and scoops.

‘Thank you, thank you so much.’

‘No worries.’

Illustration by Margaret C. Hoopes

Nathan, I’m going back to the car

A man put his head in the door of the shop and called, ‘Nathan, I’m going back to the car.’

But there was nobody in here. I didn’t get time to tell him though. He backed out and got into his car and waited in the driver’s seat. Soon he got out and rang someone on his phone. He moved against my window to talk, ‘Well, where are you then? And where’s the ladder?’

Outside, the air is gold, with splits of light and leaves moving all through it. It’s warm. Visitors say, ‘It’s glorious outside.’ I sit and look out at it.

There’s a baby in a pram in here, singing, and the mother is looking at the books, tapping a water bottle. She has brown hair and so does the baby. Can she hear her baby singing? It lays there, making soft noises all on different notes, looking at the mother, one foot hooked over the edge of the pram.

Over the road a bus driver is helping a lady in a wheelchair onto the bus, and someone has reversed has into a rubbish bin in the car park behind the bus stop. Doesn’t matter; it’s glorious out there. A young woman is crossing the road slowly, despite the traffic, and the light is all over her clothes.

Painting by Diane Leonard

Constantly shocked and constantly happy

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Today is so cold that it seems funny. And our Flinders Rangers has had snow. Customers come in shivering and happy. There is rain.  The cold enters my shop under the door, sliding constantly and silently like a slice of cold glass as long as the day.

Marion comes in with screwed up eyes and very happy. ‘Can you feel that?’

A couple browse and leave reluctantly, holding the door open for a while before dropping off the jetty into the freezing lake, holding hands.

Robert is hilarious with anticipation. He orders more books. Someone has backed into his car recently. Actually about six people have. The size of the car parks is criminal. We criticize the council in comfortable tones. We talk about yoga. A young woman, looking through women’s classics, asks if yoga will help her with a sore neck. She and Robert exchange news in joyful symptoms.

A man passes the shop outside wearing shorts and a t shirt. He has muddy boots and is eating something hot from a paper bag. The food must be too hot because he stops suddenly with a pained expression and sucks in air to cool the system. He raises his shoulders and closes his eyes. He is wearing the most beautiful sky blue and moss green striped soft beanie that I wish were mine.

A customer adds more titles to her already impossible library, a library that is now growing according to its own laws, and within which she has become the explorer, constantly shocked and constantly happy.

A couple visit to see if I know about the snow in the Flinders.

A crowd of students pass the windows, loud, puffing white breath. One says, ‘Well, fuck him then.’ She has her arm around a friend. Is walking and leaning in kindly. The friend is snuffling, she looks cold and loved.

A lady crosses the silent frozen road wearing gold corduroy trousers, a soft jumper, a scarf, and good solid thongs. She watches her feet as they tread gently through the water. I wonder if she knows about the snow in the Flinders.

 

 

This Weirdy Weather

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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

Dark outside, not cold

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Dark outside, not cold. We’ve had rain and all night the garden was drinking. This morning, it just lay there.

Robert came into the shop this morning, furious because his friend had a joint when he was 16 years old,  and now at 60, can’t get a job. He said the government has ruined this country. I am glad he came in. I always feel better, adjusted and balanced, whenever Robert visits. It is a calibration of sorts. I forget what is valuable. Now I remember again.

A lady bought The Blind Assassin, Caleb’s Crossing, The Awakening, and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

A man told be about Charlie Chaplin. His wife said, ‘Come along, that’s enough of Charlie Chaplin.’

I was advised to read History of the Rain. I ordered a 1902, first edition copy of Ethel Turner’s Little Mother Meg. This is for Lily, an eleven year old collector with a discerning eye for vintage. Scott raced past but didn’t come in, although he grinned evilly through the door. Someone hit their head on one of my hanging balloons and said, ‘Damn these decorations. Where’s the bakery?’

The sun’s out. The next person will tell me about it.

The next person is Robert, back again and who never notices the weather anyway, so I get to tell him about it. He says he’s waiting for the government to start taxing us for it!

 

 

The weather

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This morning is sunny again, there was not so much rain after all. A knot of three good friends stand up against the shop window to discuss the problem of rain. Because it won’t come.

The rain, it’s shy this year.

It is, Mavis, why don’t you get out there, get it organised.

I’ve got a garden show this morning, after that, it can come, blast it. Needs to wait off till two. Then I’ll allow it.

Well, well then, hope it obliges. You’re a card! That’s what I say!

You don’t anything, Hank!

Then they all shrieked with laughter, picked up their bags and stepped carefully onward to the next part of their day: the information centre, Woolworths, an autumn garden show.