Sunday, March 29, 2009

Windsor, Friday

On Friday morning I awoke to the sounds of a happy baby. Etta Basanti Tyers was having a bath. She's 7 months old now and super cute. She is caramel coloured with shiny black eyes. When the mail arrived I compared her to it and announced that she was actually cardboard box-coloured. No, corrected her parents, she's caramel coloured alright.

Suparna looks very well and is right into full-on natural mothering. She bring all kinds of age-old south asian knowledge to it, as well as surfing the net for the very latest tips. It seems to work pretty well, as;
a) Etta was happy all day, and
b) their house isn't untidy or odorous in that acceptable-but-still-stinky we've-got-a-baby way.

In India babies learn very young to announce if they are going to poo, and they are moved to the potty or the appropriate spot. Nappies are absolutely NOT for poo. This makes the washing/germ killing process a snap. Suparna says that babies know how to do this, mum and dad just have to keep their ears open and encourage the little button to be as clear and prompt about it as possible.

After the bath, we moved to the main event of any day in Windsor, which is breakfast in Chapel Street. We went to a place called Batch which seems to be an island of New Zealand culture. Over scrambled eggs and chorizo we caught up on the last few months, and tried to avoid any discussion of football. Minor TV and music celebrities came and went. The menus were sticky taped into old Enid-Blyton era clothbound books.

Anthropology side note: Hip cafés in Hobart try hard to be very Melbourne. I have not been anywhere hipper than Melbourne in my life that I can think of (Santiago? Jaipur? Albury?) - so I can't pick quite where the Melbourne cafés are trying to be. But they are trying, so hard.

After breakfast we walked home. Alex took me to his studio and ran me through his current work. He started out as a graphic designer/illustrator like myself but he has taken his work to a few levels beyond that now. He takes a holistic look at the communications of an organisation (super fund, bank, telco, power company) and cleans them up - graphics and text.

One interesting point he made is that "Plain English" is a furphy. If someone doesn't understand something labelled thus, they are guaranteed to not ask questions, as they think they will look dumb. Unfortunately a lot of documents labelled "Plain English" aren't designed to be read by anybody except lawyers. Alex's mission of clear communication will often meet with a big obstacle: the client explictly prefers jargon and weasel words because they don't want to be understood.

While Etta had a sleep Alex and I went for a big walk around Windsor and Prahran. The Grand Prix buzzed in the distance, like having a cloud of mosquitos around your head. Not far from Alex and Supa's is the Melbourne Bowls Club, which featured prominently in one of Australia's finest recent lawn bowls movies, Crackerjack. I have urged Alex to join up as soon as Suparna will let him.

On the corner of Alex's street is a large knick-knack shop, that is full of the sort of stuff I love. Old wall maps and anatomical charts, deer skulls, old factory machinery and so on. Metal letters. They had tons of those wooden lasts for manufacturing shoes. The longer I was in there, looking at the frankly staggering prices, the more I decided I don't like all that stuff any more. Or perhaps it depends on the provenance and price. If something has been salvaged at the tip and is sold for $15, maybe that's OK. If something has been snapped up as a factory closes for practically nothing, and then sold in Chapel Street as decor, for $25, maybe that's not OK. I'm not sure.

We picked up the girls and hit the strip again for lunch, this time at a small butcher-shop-turned-deli that served meals in the old cold room out back, at one big table. Shiny metal walls. Half the people on the street said hi to Alex and Supa and goo-gooed at Etta. In the deli she is obviously a regular. There were only about five items on the menu. I ordered a chicken avocado roll - the lady had just made one for her husband so she gave me that. It was superb.

We walked back home after lunch (negotiating more hellos and goo-goos) and it was time for me to head to the airport.

It was really wonderful to get home even after just one night away. I was so tired. I just piled children on my lap and closed my eyes.

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