Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The Long Walk.

The following figures are quoted by Dr John Lee, recently retired professor of pathology and former NHS (UK) consultant pathologist, in last week's Spectator: since September 2019, there have been 38 million infections, 390,000 hospitalisations and 23,000 deaths in the US – from flu.

On the other side of the world, in a small riverside town which was once Australia's largest trading port and is now a sleepy arcadian village where old paddle boats still steam around the river bends, a grandmother, completely recovered from CV, went shopping and 'received vile abuse', according to a newspaper. She was photographed and her image placed online – wild west 'wanted dead or alive' style – and someone wrote the comment "I hope you die you bitch".

Meanwhile, a ban has been placed on solitary – or any other kind, but solitary is the key word here – fishing. Nor can you go camping, away in the high country, far from the madding crowd, far from shrieking, hysterical women and men. Hysterical is the only word for the state's premier who with a straight face said, "no fishing trip ... is worth someone's life." The sheer inanity, indeed insanity of that statement was ignored by the state opposition leader who could manage only a pathetic rejoinder that "more clarity was needed around the rules". The poor distressed timorous little man was obviously fearful that any stronger statement would expose him to the hysteria of the mob.

Earlier in the week the same premier banned people in relationships – i.e, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends – from visiting their partners residing at another address. More madness from a mad man. He was backed by his police minister, the robot with the little-girl voice. It took a health bureaucrat to overturn the idiocy later in the day.

The last day of good weather was Wednesday. OK, I'll go for a walk. A Raymond Chandler walk:
I walked. I walked. I walked. ... They built the Pyramids and got tired of them and pulled them down and ground the stone up to make concrete for Boulder Dam and they built that and brought the water to the Sunny Southland and used it to have a flood with. I walked all through it. ...
William came with me. He has shown signs from early years. We walked to Carlton once for lunch when he was nine. No complaints. On Wednesday we set out at eleven and headed due east, through North Coburg parklands where the great yellow film brand once had its Australian plant and where the film for 67 billion Australian holiday snaps originated. Now Kodak is gone and the land is sub-divided and people sit in their grey apartments and take another 67 billion photos, this time not as picturesque. We crossed Edgar's creek where mothers were out in small groups, straggles of children performing non-essential play as children will do; and we strode on into West Preston – or is it Reservoir? – and hit St George's Road, the wide boulevard that shoots directly north like an arrow, and where I once walked northwards as a teenager to the brand new athletics track at Edwardes Park on mythical Saturday afternoons that somehow had the golden glow of teenage optimism. This time we turned south, the teenager beside me the same age I was then. Here, St George's Road splits into two roadways with a wide grassed strip in between and a walking path down the middle and palm trees stretching along each side. We walked. The sun was hot. "L.A.," he said nodding at the palm trees. The concrete path stretched away down to the city skyline and I could imagine bikinied roller skaters emerging out of the distance but maybe that was just a clich├ęd image and anyway this was getting to be Northcote and they don't dress like that there. "Yes," I answered. "The palms. Or the wide pathways." Cyclists were passing in both directions now and there were more walkers than you would usually see on a Wednesday. We walked. We stopped at one of those pocket parks where a bridge passed over a small pond and some seats were shaded by trees. We sat on one of the benches and ate and drank and then resumed. The road went on, and the palms turned to some kind of deciduous tree that I couldn't work out, small-leaved and medium-sized. They would be bare in winter, but now we were in almost full shade. Then after a long time the road forked. "Here's the turn," I said. We crossed the road to the west side and walked along the path southwards until a small break indicated another pathway, which led down a long slope below the road level to where Merri Creek was a picture of reflected sun and curves and reeds. People, riding or walking, were blinking at each other as if to say who knew a week ago that Merri Creek on a Wednesday would find us here? There was plenty of space; no-one was on top of each other, and small groups were parked away in the grassy verges illegally eating lunch out of picnic baskets, or silently listening to something on headphones or just sitting. We walked. Moreland Zebras, Brunswick velodrome, CERES. We passed a woman with two small children on tricycles. One child said I don't want to go to CERES. I heard his mother reply, we're not, it's closed anyway, we're just going past it. And the child replied, but I don't want to go past it either! This was day or day two.

We walked. The sun beat down. Thornbury on one side, Brunswick the other, then Coburg and the old suburban farm that they never got to shut down and where they still grow crops that you can buy. Then over the new bridge that was built a few years ago when the old one kept getting washed away in Merri Creek’s frequent floodings. Gaffney Street, then up the hill overlooking the old Pentridge prison now full of grey apartments, and across Sydney Road and the railway line, and home. Three hours. Twenty kilometres.

He passed the test. Must be heredity. I had an uncle who walked. I don't mean walked to the post office. He crossed mountains, that kind of thing. He moved to New Zealand when I was a kid, but when I was sixteen I joined the same Melbourne bushwalking club of which he had been a member. They remembered him. He still walks in New Zealand, over 80 now. They call it tramping over there.

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