I used to be able to wake myself at any time during the small hours, such as three in the morning. I taught myself to do it when I was a kid and had a paper round.
(Paper round? Kids delivering newspapers on bicycles. They used to slide them neatly into the round hole over the letterbox or, if there was no round hole, between two pickets in the fence near the gate. These days they wrap the paper in unpeelable plastic and fling it at the property from a moving car that doesn’t stop, like a drive-by shooting, and the newspaper might land on the property or it might not. I spent five minutes looking for the paper recently. It was on the roof. I am not making this up. )
I tried waking myself up this morning at 4.23 to see the eclipse. I woke at three. I tried again. It worked. 4.20 a.m. William woke up, co-incidentally. We went outside. The moonlight was still bright and cut a frosty white slant across the lawn and up the fence. The eclipse had just begun. A small stain like spilled ink was growing on the moon in the one o’clock position. It was too cold to stay outside long.
Up again at six. This time, Tom was awake. Now the moon was lower, a dirty red misty orb, and it was disappearing fast behind clouds. We watched it disappear and went inside for breakfast.
Breakfast here is jungle animals. No, we don’t eat them, I’m describing the attendees. It’s a slow insurrection, a bar room brawl without the swing doors, a tornado that doesn’t go anywhere.
There’s one rule. We never rush. Never. I tell them to riot slowly. The baby, who still keeps Tracy awake half the night, has recently joined us as she is old enough to kind of sit up. To add to the noise, we have entertainment from the radio on the fridge. Nothing on FM (other than the subscriber stations) is in any way suitable for a family audience, so we have the AM station that plays Cash, Presley, Miller, Sinatra, Cline, Allen, O’Keefe, Parton, Orbison, Jones, Springfield, Monro, Rogers, Franklin, McPhatter, Sedaka and Johnson. The children get rowdy, I just turn the radio up.
Here's how it goes: load up the table. A Roger Miller song comes on the radio: Put a smile upon your face as if there’s nothing wrong. Oats with milk and honey. Poached eggs with toast on the side, sliced into inch strips. Think about a good time had a long time ago, think about forgetting about your worries and your woes. Hot tea. The baby has toast strips and grated cheese. La La La La Lah-di-o, whether the weather be rain or snow. She’s at the stage where they get their finger and thumb working like a pincher crane and then they swing it around like a cantilever and unload over the floor. Steve Pinker’s The Language Instinct postulated an innate, universal grammar capacity at three years old. That’s nothing. My ten-month-old has conquered construction engineering. There’s a book in it. Pretending can make it real. A snowy pasture, a green and grassy field. Roger Miller’s phrasing is perfect. So was the morning. Then the fridge door fell off.
Yes. The fridge door fell off.
It’s a nine-year-old Kelvinator, barely run in. It’s a big fridge. The door has been sagging slightly but to completely fall off is ridiculous. That’s the only word I can think of. I’m going to start an organisation called The Ridiculous Society and hold monthly indignation meetings. We’ll have a million members by July and I’ll be president and we’ll hold annual Ridiculous Awards.
The bracket holding the lower pin had completely snapped off, along with the base bracket holding the right front castor. Ridiculously (again), the castor itself had caved in around its axle, like a flat tyre. That failure itself might have caused the door to come off, because an intact castor should have held the door just high enough to keep the upper pin in its bracket. But it didn’t. Rubbish products are one thing but what really annoyed me was that some time ago I threw out a 1950s Crosley Shelvador refrigerator in perfect working order. It used to purr loudly and thump to a stop but it worked like a swiss watch for almost sixty years. And the door on this piece of crap fell off in less than ten.
That was at five to eight. By half past eight I had arranged delivery of a new fridge from Clive Peeters and removal of the old one and its ridiculous door. Then I walked William to school. The Principal was standing with a mug of coffee in his usual place in the sun in the schoolyard. I greeted him and he pointed out a new 10-year-old just arrived in Australia, whose parents had fled Greece's economic meltdown for a new land. They'd been here two days. He had not a word of English, the Principal told me. He was playing soccer with the other children. William ran off and joined them.
Then a walk to the station to wait for the 8.57 city train. It was a very cold morning, but the sun shone.
Walkin’ in the sunshine, sing a little sunshine song