The little speaker on the ochre-rendered wall outside the cafe at Blairgowrie was playing MIX 101.1FM, or whatever they're calling it this month. It used to be TT-FM and decades before that - when there were actual announcers speaking in smooth tones instead of foul-mouthed oicks broadcasting their coarseness in bass-enhanced stereo - it was 3DB.
Anyway, the radio station was broadcasting its daily noon-to-1pm 'eighties' program and Simply Irresistible by Robert Parker - no wait, he's the wine guy - Robert Palmer was playing. Twenty years after it was a hit, the song still sounds to me like a caveman trying to frighten a lion away by shouting at it while somebody hits two steel rubbish bins with cricket bats in the background.
Eighties music gets worse every time I hear it, which is far too often. It's no wonder so many people switched off their radios on 31 December 1979 and switched them on again on 1 January 1990. It was a dreadful decade for music. They should destroy the master tapes. Now radio stations are playing the stuff all over again, as if the eighties never went away.
The cafe faces north. It's just across the road from the water. You can see the bay twinkling through the ti-tree, and every now and then you’ll see a ship sliding down the horizon towards freedom, the high sea.
It was a perfectly still, almost warm early afternoon. Like most weekdays, the traffic on Point Nepean Road was all retirees in their Mercedes and Veradas driving slowly and delivery vans and tradesmen trying to pass them. Every now and then the Portsea bus wheezed to a stop to let someone off and wheezed slowly away again. If you’re going to be a bus driver, this is the bus you want to drive, all day up and down a lazy highway next to one of the prettiest bays in the world.
By the time lunch came out, Robert Palmer had stopped shouting and Duran Duran was making some weird droning noise with lots of echo, no tune and idiotic words.
The house salad doesn't come with bread because you don't need it. In a large white bowl, a bed of interesting greens that never includes iceberg lettuce was surrounded, fort-style, by a fence of finely sliced cucumber, discs of beetroot, shards of carrot, cross-sections of mushroom, rings of red onion and strips of red capsicum. In the middle, tomato eighths sat on the greens like red boats and on top of it all, folded around and around like a turban, sat a mound of smoked salmon showered with capers, which are getting to be my favourite ... what the hell are capers? Vegetable? Herb? Flower? Fruit? I don't know, but they taste good. The salad was about a foot tall and a little cruet of house-made dressing was delivered alongside it so you can decide whether or how to use it. I used it as a dipping sauce rather than tossing the whole lot over the bowl. Crunch, crunch. It’s huge. Tracy’s cream-kissed pumpkin soup was spiced up with chili and coriander and came with a fresh-baked savoury muffin about the size of a boxing glove, warm and full of shards of grilled vegetables. Even though I didn’t need any bread, I had some anyway: William’s cheese sandwich made with Flinders bread was always going to be far too big for even the hungriest two-year-old, so I helped him eat it. Thomas just gazed and smiled and showed off his five teeth. He'd already had his lunch.
Someone in the café tired of 101.1FM and switched it off and put on a CD: the 'best-of' collection by Crowded House, Recurring Dream. Is that one of the best compilation albums ever put together in the history of recorded music?
Yes, it is.
And seven worlds collide
Whenever I am by your side
And dust from a distant sun
Will shower over everyone.
We walked slowly back up the hill to the house. William and Thomas fell asleep in their double stroller along the way in the sun and the early afternoon quiet.
That sound in the distance was the Portsea bus groaning back along Point Nepean Road.