Whatever happened to May?
Weeks slipped away like minutes, what with the film festival, a fairly heavy dose of good reading and the stress of working to a June 1 deadline, so that I could get away and spend a few days in Sydney. I do have various books and movies to write about, but in the meantime, some highlights from the last month:
- I was in the newspaper, on the front page even. Not in my work capacity, which has been the case a couple of times recently. Not in the court pages; I have yet to make an appearance there and, touch wood, never will. Nope, I made it into the society pages of the local paper, as an example of a male in a book club. It was an interesting experience being interviewed at length and then seeing all my good points edited out, but other members thought it was a nice piece. And, yes, I and the other member interviewed were on the front page, in the little teaser banner at the top of the page. A lot of people I know saw it, but only one complete stranger came up to me to say "I saw you in the paper". We didn't get any new members out of it either, but two acquaintances did ask if the two of us who had our photo appear were in love with each other - we were represented as gazing fervently at each other, despite the fact the photos were taken separately.
- Our book club finally picked something that we were all blown away by, after a few tough months where people struggled to finish or have much to say. Our good taste was then validated entirely by seeing our book (Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun) win the Orange Prize. I tried to call an emergency meeting of my book club in Sydney when I noticed an African restaurant which had a dish lovingly prepared by Ugwu, the houseboy in Adichie's novel, for his Master: jollof rice. Since no members were about, I had to try this dish by myself - the sacrifices one makes for one's commitment to the arts. It is very tasty: rice cooked pilau style, with tomato paste, pepper sauce, black eyed peas and chicken.
- Another fantastic dish I enjoyed in Sydney was when I left the NSW State Library to go for a wander and came across a chocolate cafe. Lunch that day consisted of a double-sized shot glass of hot chocolate (the taste and consistency of a bar of chocolate that has been left in one's pocket until just short of the absolute gooey mess) with a waffle on the side for dipping purposes, as well as a coffee and an almond chocolate.
- My favourite encounter in Sydney occurred while I was standing on King Street, Newtown enjoying a quiet smoke before entering a book shop. A gaggle of young girls, maybe 16 or 17, came along . One was heard to say "He's odd. That guy over there, he's really odd." I deduce that this statement was made with reference to me and in a slightly approving way from the fact that she then came over to ask if I wanted to eat the sugar cube she had stuck to her hand.
- Speaking of odd encounters, thanks to unusual weather conditions, the Leith found itself full of salmon, all having difficulty in making their way up to their spawning grounds because of the low levels of the water and the various concrete humps placed in their way. After class one day, I spent a fair while watching one unfortunate fellow trying really hard to get over one such hump: he'd swim around for a while, gathering his energy, then make a leap over the hump - only to go splat about 2/3 of the way up. I wonder if he'd noticed the channel cut into the hump, for the very purpose of aiding salmon. I wonder if my mate's "encouragement" helped him any: "Go on, you loser. What are you, a loser?..." I thought the least he could have done was to pray. I guess it wasn't quite as bad as the situation facing the salmon I saw in the DVD version of A Long Way Round: salmon there would arc gracefully out of the water, clearly with sufficient energy and more to make it over the natural hurdles, but straight into the mouth of a waiting bear. Ouch.