It was still light. I walked out of the motel driveway, up the wide empty road to
the main street, crossed it at the traffic roundabout near the supermarket and continued up a steepening hill towards the churches.
Two stood on opposite corners, ignoring each other and looking down their noses at everything else. In those days churches always got the best real estate in town, high up on the hill, where the atmosphere was a little more refined than down on the main street with the dirt and the horses and the hotels. Other churches dotted the hill, spires jabbing the sky. In the 1870s, probably the whole town spent Sunday morning walking up the hill and down again. Repent; and build up an appetite for the Sunday roast.
I passed the churches. Here, the hill gets even steeper. Another five minutes of puffing and sweating and you reach a gateway into the Botanic Gardens which sprawl over nine hectares of hill crown at the very top of Daylesford. I walked into the gardens and along a sand pathway. A lawn was turning gold beneath some blue cedars and oaks and there was a rotunda nearby. I remembered it from last time. Ten, maybe twelve years ago we had a picnic here on a night that was almost as hot. You forget a lot in ten years but you always remember a picnic.
I walked a little further along and looked to the west, where the sun was a low orange ball. The view is as breathtaking as you could imagine, not that I had any breath to take after the clamber up the hill. Usually you need to be in an aircraft to look down on church spires but in Daylesford all you need to do is walk up to the Botanic Gardens and look over the edge.
On the way back, I almost slid down the hill, past mansions behind old red-brick walls overgrown with wisteria, hedges of this and that, little verandahed weatherboard cottages and stark new houses with vertical slit windows, pre-rusted metal doors and plantings of cordyline and dianella.
It was cool back inside number four. After a gin and tonic (does anything taste better after a walk on a hot night?) Tracy and I ate a late supper of cold
smoked salmon and chilled asparagus on a bed of salad - shredded carrot, red cabbage, onion, capsicum and capers bound with a little light dressing of lemon, garlic, olive oil and a smudge of mayonnaise.
It was late now. The airconditioning rumbled on for a while then gave a cough and stopped. The night had cooled down. At last.