Mad Dogs and Englishmen

I am a cat.

I automatically seek to maximise my comfort whenever or wherever possible.

I suppose that’s why I enjoyed working as a life model – which at it’s best, involves lounging around in the comfortable pose possible, in temperature controlled environments for hours and hours and hours.

I also hate Melbourne’s weather – especially the hell bitch winds from the desert, and the howling gales of doom from Tasmania or worse. Since Melbourne’s weather mainly involves the encounter of both of these, I spend a lot of the time here quite grumpy, checking the BOM site, and monitoring the movement of the trees outside.

We checked the forecast late last night. 39 degrees (sorry if you are from the US, I only think in Celsius, and 39 is about 100 F or more). ‘Let’s get up early and do our stuff in the morning before it heats up’ we agreed.

We both slept in. I had half an eye open at dawn while the cat used me as her trampoline. the sky was orange, and the temperature was 15 degrees. I feel asleep until 11am. Went outside to meditate, and felt like I was sitting in a sauna – my own little sarong clad, mozzie net protected eyelid sweating sauna. Bearable.

And then I realised that my phone had died.

So I contemplated cycling to the nearest mall (because 5 mins on a bike is better than 15 minutes walking).

Then I realised that my back tyre was flat. And after attempting to inflate it – punctured as well.

I borrowed one of Sir’s wheeled steeds, and headed out, realising that one brake didn’t work and the gears were set to high, and the pedals made more cleated shoes. Grrrr…..

Local mall did not have any phone I wanted before Monday, and after a brief fit of dementia where I browsed in Rivers, I got on my bike again to roll down the hill home.

Passing the end of our street on the newly refurbished bike path (that runs between two very unbike friendly roads), I decided to keep going and brave Footscray shops – where I’d be able to purchase an inner tube and hopefully the phone I wanted.

I found my inner tube at the local bike shop which displays a range of Nanna carts along with $1000 cyclesteeds on the footpath. Can you see why I love living here? Had a brief chat with the owner about global warming, while enjoying the delights of aircon and random bike gear on sale…. restrained spending to what I needed. good on me.

Then – to find a phone… and persuade eager salespeople that I don’t want an iphone, android, galaxy or touchscreen, but don’t want a ‘candybar’ phone either. The latter is the term for any phone under $100 apparently.

Then I espied one of those ‘ma and pa’ emporiums that Footscray does best. Glass windows all painted and posted over, and glass topped cabinets full of every imaginable i-phone cover, plus boxes and boxes of random phones, and a wall unit selling Nanna-style sunglasses. I felt like I’d stepped into Footscray Retravision 15 years ago. the one that Alice Pung wrote about. Three generations were in the shop, kids browsing internet, young adults on phone to call centres, older adults slowly and generously serving customers in a language that I do not speak, but suspect is Vietnamese. No one meets my eyes and there’s no aircon, but I wait, mesmerised by the Louis Vuitton i-phone covers in white and gold. Finally I am interpolated by a young adult, who then summons an older lady – who – with limited English finds me exactly what I want. Genius! the simple delights of successful consumerism, where with little English and no training in anglo-corporate cultural appropriateness, people manage to provide me with exactly what I want, at a price I want to pay.

By then it was 2pm and my eyeballs had that baking sensation. It was 39 degrees, 1 above human body temperature, hence eyeball evaporation phenomenon. My sandals were sweaty and rubbing on my now blistered feet. I saddled up and pedaled slowly.

Slowly rolling down the Nicholson street mall – with a brief detour up the alley next to Cheaper By Miles. A friend told us about the secret courtyard in the Footscray CBD and I wanted to see it for myself. I regret not bringing my camera – to photograph the wonderful mural by Baby Guerilla (local graf artist who does massive pasteups of figurative images).

I had a brief sip of water, and then headed back to the mall, turning right into Paisley street. Usually it is a bit of a hubbus – ie a bustle of busses and commuters struggling with nanna carts of all shapes, and prams of the humungous variety, but today no buses, and the only humanoids were committed recreational substance users wafting zombie like down the middle of the street. I swerved to avoid them, rolled calmly over the landscaped cobble inserts on the road (random streetscape beautification attempts), rolled down to Victoria street, and negotiated the awkward tangle of non-cycle friendly traffic options to the island oasis where the Rising Sun bridge used to be.

Rising Sun was the highest point of the freeway tangle that is the gateway to West Footscray, and where pedestrians could look over the cars to see the CBD, and marvel at the closeness of West Footscray and Middle Footscray stations. It was the perfect cycle thrill moment with its southern ramp down met with the ramp heading up to the station overpass, and an attractive option for pedestrians and cyclists trekking from the yuppie side of the tracks (Seddon), up to Footscray.

Alas, now gone, though the gum trees and park remains, as does the articulated concrete wonderland beneath Geelong Road, and the bike ramp broken by a single traffic crossing where I waited, sipping water. Today was too hot to even think about facing a bridge crossing anyway.

On the gravelly footpath beside the decommissioned local football field, which has had millions of consortium funds poured into it, and yet largely remains empty, I prepare to face the mild headwind and baking heat as I head on the final stretch home.

No one else is crazy enough to be outside in this heat – I pass one grimacing pedestrian – as I remind myself that I am better off on a bike, that I’ll be home in 5 mins instead of 20, and will have an airconditioned home to hide in, and a new phone to play with.

All of this was true.

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