Saturday sporting pursuits were out of the way early in the afternoon and that left the rest of the day free for idle recreation, such as reading the newspaper on a chair under a tree in the back garden. But how did idle recreation square with two small boys bursting with energy that came from having devoured large bowls of spaghetti and meatballs for lunch followed by an energising nap?
It didn’t, was the short answer, and there was no long answer. So I took them to the city by train. Boys love trains. And I could read the newspaper while they looked out the window.
We blinked out of the darkness of Flinders Street station mid-afternoon, into hot sunshine, and against a tide of humanity surging up the steps. The city is busy all the time now, and the tide stretched along Swanston Street. We dodged down Collins Street and into an arcade and rode an escalator to a basement bookstore that has a toy corner. The boys played with small trains on a wooden track while I read the dust jackets of several books and half a chapter of another and tried to remember a recipe for lentil soup with lemon juice from a Middle Eastern cook book by Tess Mallos. It’s almost impossible to cast to memory a recipe with more than seven ingredients.
Then up the escalator and into Little Collins, through David Jones, across the mall and into Little Bourke Street where Chinese New Year’s Eve celebrations had commenced, noisily. The boys were hungry again. We bought rice and waded through Chinatown’s red lanterns and clamour. A lady from one of the dozens of Chinese cafes along the strip was offering trinkets to passers-by. She gave the boys two tiny candies in red and gold foil, each with a Chinese character and a picture of a dragon. "Happy Chinese New Year," she smiled.
We sat on the lawn in front of the State Library and ate the rice and then went into the library and up to the fourth floor to see the boys’ current favourite exhibit, Ned Kelly's suit of armour. The fourth floor is a circular balustrade half-way up the library’s dome. We crept in dead silence around the gloomy arc and then the suit of armour appeared out of the darkness and it was creepy like the remains of a medieval knight. William and Thomas shrieked with both delight and horror and their shrieking smashed the library’s hush and echoed down the dome to the green-lamped reading floor way below. We left then. But crossing the reading floor, we saw no books being read. Library patrons had their noses in notebook computers and their ears blocked with iPod earpieces. They wouldn’t have heard a thing. There could have been a murder up there.
We caught the train home in fading light. It was still hot. Rain fell during the night.