Sunday, March 05, 2006


The day is already warm at 10am. March is the beginning of the paradox - hot summer-autumn. Here we have blue skies that threaten to break and dry ground with wet patches. We find ourselves driving up the Maroondah and the wind plays with my hair as I listen to the laconic tones of my travelling companions. Occasionally there is a shriek of laughter or a hushed whisper that breaks the monotomy of voices umming and ahhing. It is background noise mostly and I join in and tune out as it suits me. I look out the window at the trees whooshing past and navigate the way from the back seat. A mistake, I think - as I have never been especially good with direction, but I surprise myself and do okay.

The three of us are squashed into the backseat. Me, then R and then S. R plays with her blonde curls and pushes her sunglasses back so that her fringe is pulled back off her face. S is animated, hands everywhere as she describes the perfect pair of silver heels that she bought for her son's wedding. In the front A and RO ignore the rest of us and have their own hushed conversation. In the back, I keep dropping the Melway and losing the destination page.

The city dissapears behind us, ahead dry large patches of yellowing grass interrupt a sequence of olive coloured trees and low hills. We are almost there.

RO guides us up a dirt road and in front of a charming little blue hostel which overlooks a rippling damn and 40 or so rows of grape trees and we pile out of the car, stretching our legs and smiling into the sunlight. The sky is a dry pastel rubbing of deep blue. The lawned pathway is edged by a row of deep white roses and we make our way up it and take our seats on the patio/restaurant.

For a moment we are all silent except for the occassional peep of blue bells, and stare out at the hazy landscape. It is a typical Australian affair - greys, muted greens, browns, tans - splashed hapazardly this way and that. Not too far away are the rolling hills I spied on our journey up here and there they stand now, so close - a dusty brown against a blue sky. We marvel at the view, which is what city folk tend to do when they leave the city. An echidna waddles along in front of us and toward the grape trees sending us all into gasps of delight.

This is a table filled with a generation of women and a generation of teachers. S, the matron a lady of 60 then A who is 50 this year, followed by RO who is 40 and then R and I who are 26 and 27 respectively. But the numbers blend, they are insignificant except in the stories we tell. We sit there for hours before moving - sharing tales, tasting wine, swapping gossip and saying farewell to RO who has been my mentor, my best friend and saviour especially in that first year of teaching. This was my first team and despite the scattering of roles and ages we have bonded even more closely these past 2 years.

The Australian way is to share a laugh, drink some decent wine/booze, eat good food, sit back and enjoy the view. The "serenity" (so to speak) in this case was good. We settled back into our cane chairs and watch the sunlight make its way across the manicured lawns as we toast good times and following dreams.

By the time we reached Melbourne, the day had dissapeared behind the hills and the trees are dark sillouhettes against a dusky purple sky. We hug and kiss goodbye as the crickets make their sound; a strange background to the typical city whispers of wheels against tar roads.

Home again.