Breakfasted downtown in one of the laneways off Little Collins Street. I had chosen the smallest of the five or six cafes in the alley, one man to do it all: the orders and the cooking and the serving and the clearing and the register; the owner too presumably. A customer, as he left, called out: 'see you tomorrow.' I feel pleased he has regulars. It is the morning of the great-flood-to-come and Minyin said I might as well go out for brekkie -- that if the heavy rains begin as predicted that afternoon it might be the last restaurant meal we have out for days: no need to start on the laid-in groceries earlier, nor dull our stomachs with mediocre home cooking (or soapy washing-up.) No hospital for her this morning; there was a medical conference in the city. I rouse myself earlier than is my wont and we walked downtown together, she revelling in the cold change and the wind in our faces, I puzzling (jacket zipped high to the collar) that we should both have been born on the equator.
The sky was ominous as I ate but rain when it came came and went in wild but short spurts. I dwaddle over the brioche and eggs as long as I dare and scan the headlines of the Melbourne dailies on my phone -- each still counselling storm preparedness -- prudence vying with the impish wish to lingering till the very last viable moment to set out for home. Prudence won with an hour to go: went up to the counter and stood silently until I caught the man's eye and smiled brightly to indicate could I have the bill -- it's not the mutism, but it's related to that [Did you like your brekkie? Big smile, earnest nod -- but no words.] -- that often when on holidays in countries where I speak do the language natively my language buttons are jammed just because the context has changed, and I find it not only easier not to speak, to be assumed unproficient, but I'm perversely unwilling to even try to unjam them.
Two streets away from home I veer away in the direction of the market instead: today's a market day, though through the city other shops were closing early. Bought myself some savoury pastries in the Dairy Hall and half a kilo of cherries -- the cheap kind, at $6.50 for the kilo (dark, dully sweet and a little overripe.) When I left the rain was blowing in sheets again. My feet are damper by the minute. At home I pop the wet umbrella in the bathroom where it would do least damage to the carpets and put the kettle on and rinse the cherries. It is not yet noon. Two days later, the Bureau of Meteorology would be fending off media recriminations for sensationalist advisories. Elsewhere in Victoria the flooding ran to script but the city centre functionally unscathed -- though one tree had fallen across the tram tracks downtown and had delayed services for some hours. Much ado else. But here and now we are only anticipant. I settle myself at the high kitchen table. Potato and cheese borek, mug of tea, cherries chilling in the fridge for later, laptop and Netflix and a tall, tall stack of books. And Minyin will be home mid-afternoon bringing spicy veggie jaffles for tea. And what am I but a reading ape in a tall tree? All my essential comforts and a high perch. Now we'll wait for the rains. (1 Dec 2017)