Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Melbourne: Sunday

On Sunday Marcus and I were both awake about 6.30am. I sent him out to the kitchen to do some drawing but there was no way I would get back to sleep. The previous night Alex and Suparna and I stayed up talking past midnight, which is pretty late for me these days.

While Suparna made us a deluxe cafe-style hot brekkie, Marcus was pinging around the house with excess energy, so he and Alex and I went to the park at the end of the street with a flat football. There we relived the heroics of the night before on the very dewy grass. There is a Seventh Day Adventist church beside the park which has been designed to look as though one corner is sinking into a swamp. I do not know what this symbolises.

Suparna called us in when our breakfast was ready. Their house is beautiful, a very calm and serene space. Alex has a wonderful collection of colourful tin robots. They are very keen to have kids, and judging by how they doted on Marcus, I think they would very happily swap their serenity for some noise, scuffed walls and the occasional broken robot. We really enjoyed their company.

They drove Marcus and I to the zoo via a neighbourhood cafe. Windsor is a little corner sandwiched between Prahran and St Kilda. It is notable for the Astor Theatre, a train station and a number of dodgy second-hand fridge retailers. Alex and I shared a flat two stops up the train line, sixteen years ago now. I remember buying a fridge and some Mexican tin folk-art ducks in Windsor. There was a tapas bar, which was a daringly new concept at the time.

After fond farewells to our hosts at the zoo gate, we went in, turned left and got amongst the simians. We paced ourselves fairly well, and although we only saw about two-thirds of the zoo, we saw all that we were capable of in one go, including all our favourites. Here is a rundown on highlights.

The gorilla lay very still, and seemed to have a hangover. His head was the size of a 44 gallon drum. The spider monkeys were a little subdued as well. The porcupine was in his box, but was very attractive nonetheless. The lions were a little bit skinny-arsed, like they were down on their luck. I really liked the fishing cats - I think the next new AFL team could be the Fishing Cats. They were pretty much like a domestic tabby sized up about 400%. There is a pic of Marcus below sitting back to back with a grizzly bear (with some thick perspex between them admittedly). Marcus enjoyed that. It looked a bit like he had dropped in to watch telly with the bears - and the other grizzly had gone off to get them all some snacks. The seals are the happiest animals in the zoo. They seem very pleased with their gig. All the big cats and many of the small cats radiate a sort of intense annoyance at being in a zoo in Melbourne. The elephant area now goes on and on - it was an "elephant village", but seems to now be a small elephant country. My favourites are the co-located zebras and giraffes. They don't have savannah or acacias, sadly, so they are very easy to spot. I'm all for animals having a good familiar habitat, but if I can't find them after five minutes looking I am likely to feel peeved. The zebs and giraffes are right there. Also I like the hills-hoist arrangement that they use to get the giraffes food up to the right height.

I teed up my old friend (and ardent friend of this blog), Michael to pick us up at 2.00pm. This he did with his beautiful kids Cooper and Mackenzie in tow, and we all went off to Barkley Square for late lunch. (No nightingales sang). Michael's just started his own business, and his office is located at the old Essendon Airport. This is handy, as he is a keen pilot, and uses a plane that lives on the apron there. He took us through the gate and out onto the tarmac where he opened up the plane for the kids to climb about inside. It's just occurred to me that I would have liked to do this as well, but I was too busy taking photos. We walked down a covered way, which I gradually realised was an old walkway for passengers coming and going from the aircraft. The signs for gates 10 and 11 were right there, mouldering away, complete with rotary handles to change the destination and flight number. I tweaked one around to advertise a Special to Flinders Island.

The kids got on very well, devising games, shouting and shoving quite happily. On the way out I saw a dog with one leg in a cast being walked, then another. Besides Michael's consulting firm, there are also a veterinarian, many other small offices of various kinds, the Armaguard headquarters, and soon a mega Coles supermarket. Perhaps the Essendon Football Club may need to change its nickname from The Bombers to the Hobbling Huskies.

After this Michael dropped us at the Real Airport, where we flew home uneventfully. Michael and Elf were delighted to see us, and we them. Marcus said a few times over the weekend that he was really having fun. He kept saying it right up to when he fell asleep in the car on the way home.

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