It was a 'working' weekend. It was just me and the boys. I painted the lounge room floor of the beach house in the quiet morning while the boys, outside, threw toys on the roof. It was the wind, they said. Nothing to do with us. I got the ladder and a broom out three times. The floorboards are varnished clear and I redo them every few years. The painting part is easy; it’s the moving furniture. There’s always too much.
I stopped at midday and cooked lunch for the boys. Sea air and flinging toys gives you an appetite. Pasta shells with canned tuna and peas and sprinkled parmesan, pancakes with maple syrup, glasses of milk. After lunch I moved some furniture back over dried sections of varnish and painted some more, and the boys played on the balcony and shot model cars off the edge and climbed down the stairs and retrieved them. Tiring of that (and speaking of retrieving) Thomas let next door’s dog, an overweight, amiable Golden Retriever in through the gate in the fence. Then he held the back door wide and the dog loped in and Thomas opened the fridge and unwrapped a fresh croissant and offered it to the dog. I couldn’t do anything. I was defending wet paint territory like a border guard, or a goalie. The dog accepted the croissant and took it down the stairs and swallowed it whole. Bailey didn’t need that croissant, I told Thomas. But he liked it, Thomas replied. I put the brush down and led Bailey by the collar back through the fence. It was like herding a long-haired yellow cow.
Back to the city near two o’clock. Let’s take a different route. The freeway jades. I turned right instead of left at the bottom of the hill and along Brown’s Road and past the Boneo vegetable farms and towards the blue mass that is Arthur’s Seat. Then half right again to skirt the peak and you’re in a forest of eucalypt where riding trails parallel the road and, through the trees, you can glimpse the white and black of the riders bumping along on their brown horses. Then a left and a right and you’re out of the forest and into Mornington Peninsula wine country, where the roads dip and weave and Volvo four-wheel-drives emerge like cargo ships from winery driveways, loaded to the gunwales with pinot and grigio and gris and shiraz.
I don’t know how anyone gets home. I always get lost here without having drunk anything. I seemed to drive through Red Hill at least three times and Merricks twice. We passed Ten Minutes By Tractor and Tuck’s Ridge and T’Gallant and another winery starting with ‘T’; and a few miles on, an enormous building made from concrete curves and no roof unfolded itself into view on the top of a hill. It looked like a postmodern milking shed the size of the Sydney Opera House. We came close and the curves snaked past and a sign that said Port Phillip Estate, and then the whole thing poured itself into the rear vision mirror and disappeared. Maybe I imagined it.
Twenty minutes later we were down out of the hills and the grapevines and into the flat and we rolled to a stop at a red light in Hastings. After that, it was all freeway and home and the baby gurgled a welcome on her mother's knee.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin'.