So last week I commented on your (slightly lechy and gratuitous) interest in my love/lust life. This week I note that none of you have asked about my root canal. Not so much as a single word of even fake concern for my wellbeing. Well, I’ll lock that away in the compartment of my mind marked “bitter and resentful”. And, never one to hold a grudge, I’ll draw a line under this little incident and get on with today’s post (you thoughtless, uncaring sods …)
“You choose, you lose”
The glowing orange sun hangs low in the sky like a big fat pumpkin. Crickets chirp, cicadas hum and the warm breeze rustles through the eucalyptus trees; the familiar sounds of dusk. Five hours have passed since lunch and the effects of the afternoon wine and dizzying heat have subsided. Across the vast open stretch of parkland, a group of young men have started pre-season footy (Aussie Rules) practice. Their dropkicks and handpasses make me smile. How often did I watch the boys at school run through this identical routine two decades ago?
I’m sitting cross-legged on a thick log, shaded by a tall Red Spotted Gum. Following lunch, the day has passed in a serene daze, and I’m not drunk from alcohol, love or the sun; the book I’m reading has held me entranced like a magic spell, in the way only good books can. A hopeless bookworm, I’m still absorbed by the characters long after I’ve put down my Kindle. What are they doing now? What are they going to do next? By the time I’ve finished thinking about the make-believe people, the footy-guys have finished their robust training and the sun has been replaced by the glittering stars of the Southern Cross. Their silver bling is beautiful against the navy sky. The tranquility is intoxicating.
Yesterday I was in Melbourne, the only place in the world that makes my heart ache with longing. Today I’m back in rural Victoria, one of the few places in the world that soothes me.
I’ve always found Australia to be an ugly, harsh country. Away from the beaches and mountains, a dry haze of khakis, browns, yellows and beiges stretches on. Unlike the striking lushness of England, Australia’s beauty has to be sought. Australians, in their dogged patriotism, berate me when I comment on the unappealing countryside. But finding it unattractive doesn’t remotely undermine my affection for it.
Though I’ve lived in cities for eighteen years, I was raised in the country and often yearn for it. I wasn’t living on a farm, but was based in a farming community and there was no escaping the lifestyle and enduring impact of the environment. I miss the paddocks, the animals, the long arid grass and the muddy river banks. Sometimes I even miss the terrifying sound of the flapping wings of a maggie as it swoops and aims to peck the back of my head (I certainly miss the amusement of it happening to others!). I miss the rusty barbed wire fences keeping the sheep enclosed, and I lament the skills that are now useless to me. No one’s ever going to ask me to assist with a lame calf, or test the voltage of an electric fence with a piece of grass – both skills any girl should have, surely?
I’ve lived in West London for almost as long as I lived in rural Victoria and whilst I love it, I don’t yet miss it. Perhaps pining doesn’t come until the absence is much longer.
I’ve chosen city life. But for every choice, something hasn’t been chosen. I think about this in relation to all manner of things: Careers, relationships, places. Choosing a certain path doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have enjoyed, or don’t still want, the un-chosen path. As I walk home in the bright light of the stars, I grieve for some of the things – people and places – I haven’t chosen. Thankfully, I can still experience and sample some of them. Others won’t ever be mine again.