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