I’m a creature of habit, but I’ve had to do some tinkering of late with the daily pre-work routine. I’m now teaching evening classes, and find myself with the luxury of long mornings to squander on strolls to the waterfront, coffee, books, music and unbridled daydreaming — well, let’s call it “planning”.
I don’t have to be at work till 3:00; preparation, four hours total in the classroom, with a sliver of dinner break, and I’m home around 10:00 for an hour of couch time and bed. I’m not completely sold on the new lifestyle — idiots on the late-night trains, a disrupted eating regime, and though the working day flies, the working week drags its sorry arse — but I’m a big fan of the free mornings and middays.
Early winter is just about my favourite time of year in Brisbane. I’m making the most of those slightly chilly but clear-skied mornings for my now-customary leisurely stroll to the waterfront. Yesterday was windy — butterfly-downing windy — and leaving the house, I rescued this colourful but disoriented fellow from the road. It perches uncertianly on my hand for a minute, permits me a couple of shots, and takes off again to brave the gusts.
Some research reveals that it’s Delias argenthona, the Scarlet Jezebel, an Australian native more at home in the tree canopy. Yesterday was no time at all for those of a delicate disposition to be fluttering about the tree-tops. My good deed done, I aim for my coffee hit with a righteous bounce to my stride.
What a morning. I’m enjoying the somehow-timeless lo-fi melancholy of the new Kurt Vile album, Smoke Ring for my Halo on my iPhone — immediate rapport. At my coffee place, my loyalty card registers 20 hits — damn it, Goat, you are a slave — and today my loyalty is rewarded with a free coffee and a muffin. This could be a beautiful relationship.
Glare fractures off the silvered surface of the Bay. The tide’s halfway out; a few masochists jog and slog into the wind. I resume my favoured perch on a sheltered concrete wall among the cotton trees. These are the iconic vegetation along the Queensland waterfront, members of genus Hibiscus that thrive on the sandy, wind-battered coast and are generous with their large-leafed shade and the climbing gyms they offer children amid their gnarled, contorted trunks and elderly limbs bending and stretching to the ground.
Cotton trees are also the favoured haunt of another icon of coastal Queensland childhood: the stink bug or stink beetle. These are gloriously iridescent sap-sucking insects which give off a rank odour if harassed. I recall collecting them by the handful as a kid; yes, I also recall the stink. These blue ones are the nymphs — they’ll change to orange through their life cycle.
The coffee is reliably wonderful. Soon I’ll be having to up my dose. The muffin — well, they lose points for refrigerating the unrefrigeratable, but the price was right. Time to dig out the reading matter. I’m re-reading David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, which had a strong effect on me when I first encountered it in Japan about a decade ago. And today, since time is not exactly pressing, I indulge in a flick through the latest addition to my expanding John Hillaby library.
The Australian dollar is stomping all over foreign currency lately. A good time to be buying used books on eBay and Amazon. Almost weekly there’s a new package on my doorstep; suspicious glances from the postman. This one is a coffee-table compendium called Hillaby’s World. Nice colour plates illustrate extracts from his walking adventures; this is a bonus as the little B & W shots in the Paladin paperbacks don’t do their subjects justice.
A random quote from the Journey Through Britain extract as I finish my coffee:
‘From Cornwall?’ he said. ‘Do you mean to tell me you’ve walked all the way here?’
I nodded. Shaking his head sadly, he said, ‘Then all I can say is it’s a pity you couldn’t be doing something useful.’
Trouble is, when the caffeine kicks in, the reading tends to suffer as the day-dreaming takes over. I’ve been worrying over a plan for a week-long trip in the next month or so to compensate for backing out of a planned three-week excursion along the Larapinta Trail with my friend Chris. Three weeks without pay would cripple my pathetic attempts to escape the debt from last year’s freedom.
I’ve looked into a couple of tropical adventures: forests, waterfalls, peaks and crocodiles on Hinchinbrook Island, even a trip to the Deep North to climb Queensland’s highest peak, Bartle Frere. Unfortunately both were hammered in the cyclone early this year and are presently off-limits. Finally I settled on the Great Ocean Walk, a week of wind-swept beaches and rugged coast in far-off south-western Victoria. I’ve sent in my application for campsites in mid-June and have my hooves crossed.
It’s a pity I couldn’t be doing something useful. Sigh. Back to my book…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote