Well, actually, no. I don't recall it ever being that hot on Good Friday. What I do recall is the silence, something even more apparent in recent times when the city never takes a day of rest. I drove to Essendon for an early lunch at the house of a thousand tins, and while the roads were not completely empty, they seemed to be missing that kind of pressing traffic that is always on a mission, tearing off to a supermarket or some other kind of store. On crossing the valley, I usually run into a long, impatient and unyielding northwards line of traffic bound for DFO at Essendon airport. But on Friday everything was closed. I understand why they legislated for seven day trading all those years ago. But a silent suburb beats a herd of black BMWs racing to be first in the single lane entrance to the shopping mall any day. Now it’s once a year instead of one and a half days a week. Enjoy it.
Shortly after three in the sultry, silent afternoon. No breeze blew through the open arched doors. Old ladies fanned themselves with their laminated song sheets. Careful, ladies; those hard plastic corners could put your eye out. Then the cantor sang. I looked up. The old cantor had been there for years; had a sonorous but slightly mournful voice. He must have retired. The new one was about twenty and she had a sweet powerful soprano that rose up to the vault and echoed around the dark timber and came back down again. Then the choir sang their part of the chant. Hymns to the silence. William asked me how old the music was. Five hundred years, I whispered. Maybe six hundred. I'm not sure. That puts a few things into perspective.
When we came out there had been a cool change and the sky was yellow cloud underlit by the late afternoon sun and we walked home. I often wonder what Easter would be like in places where it occurs in its proper season of spring, instead of here where the last dying blasts of summer warmth only remind you of the cold ahead.
Saturday brought back the familiar comforting normalcy of life without introspection. Julie, a regular, came out of the crowd in the mall and hauled out three large chocolate rabbits for the children. The jazz players did their usual Saturday morning numbers; clarinet, banjo and trombone. The coffee was sweet and bitter and satisfying. Nothing else happened. I cleaned the car, mowed the lawn, took the children to the flying fox park, read the weekend papers and noted a major typo on the front cover of The Weekend Australian Magazine. It asked if Tony Abbott would 'waiver'. I suppose it no longer matters. Or does it?
East out of the city on Sunday for lunch in the small town in Gippsland where Tracy's mother served scotch broth (the genuine recipe), Lorne sausage, potato scones and a large salad; and then fruit cake, and then chocolate. And then into the garden. My mother-in-law lives on a hill. The children took part in the now-traditional game of rolling painted hard-boiled eggs down the slope to see whose would roll furthest without breaking. As in past years, Thomas ignored tradition and unleashed his inner Jeff Thomson.
Later, through lower Gippsland and across the top of Westernport bay to the house on the peninsula, directly west most of the way and into a lowering sun that was hard as brass and blinding as a furnace. The drive takes you through swamp-prone flatlands along narrow roads that have deep channels on each side to mitigate floodwaters, and signs along the way that read: stock crossing here. Of course, William asked what would happen if the channels filled. The road would flood, I replied.