There was a little sun as high morning swung into early afternoon. I sat at the kitchen table. The radio sat on the fridge, Off the Record playing the result of a station survey about the best songs ever recorded in Melbourne.
There had been three opened rice paper packs in the bottom drawer. It's one of my pet hates, several of something all open at the same time. I had them on the table, along with chicken thigh fillets poached in garlic and a few drops of soy, capsicum, carrot, cooked rice noodles, beanshoots - and a jar of that Vietnamese dipping sauce that tastes like what a rollercoaster feels like to a teenager. A massive salt attack followed by a sugar plunge with a chilli chaser. I had hot water in a shallow bowl to soften up the rice paper, and a damp teatowel to roll them on.
Brian Wise on RRR-FM played the predictable Daddy Cool, Spectrum and Skyhooks songs and then announced the number one, towards midday, as a controversial choice: From St Kilda to King's Cross, a 1985 Paul Kelly song. Why controversial? He didn't say.
I want to see the sun go down/From St. Kilda Esplanade/Where the beach needs reconstruction/Where the palm trees have it hard/I'd give you all of Sydney Harbour/All that land and all that water/For that one sweet promenade
Nobody from out of town could understand that trade-off. St Kilda's ancient out-of-body beach south-facingness with some kind of carnival place like the ones in Brighton, or Blackpool, or Coney; or wherever ancient timber structures reach up to the sky like pillars in a cathedral and support tracks that bear small carriages in which teenagers hold each other and scream sheer unadulterated ecstasy they will never experience again. But more than that. The monster theatre next to it, an elephantine block of cinematic archaeology as if revealed by erosion; inside, red velvet, and old leather, and polished brass, and heated foot-warmers; an early twentieth century crumble that will never see another crowd dressed like they did in the 1940s.
And those sere palm trees shivering their canopies in winter all along the concrete walk below the esplanade, Jacka Boulevard winding flagstoned around a sunny arc of path past more pines to Acland Street, where the last Jewish cafe's customers read menus with eyes that had seen horrors indescribable.
Yes, that song deserves its number one in Wise's survey.
This is how your mind works when you are doing mechanical work. You have to think of something. The platter had about twenty rolls on it now, and I had enough fillings for about ten more, more than enough for everyone and later, I would deliver six - with a little vial of dipping sauce - to the ancestral home in Deakin Street where the matriarch lives out her days with the television and her memories.