A few weeks ago I flew out from a day that was pissing with rain into a balmy Sydney evening. The weather in England was on the news the following night; Mum said that the people in Oxford Street looked like they were swimming against the wind and I burst out laughing. None of it was smug laughter, of course. L greeted me at the airport and I scolded her for being too thin. She was annoyed but I pretended I didn’t see it.
The next day I was so jetlagged my eyeballs felt like they were drying up in my head. My lovely ex-Randwick flatmate had booked me into Blondes Brunettes and Redheads to have my hair done at 11am. ‘We’ll be through by 2, right?’ I asked the hairdresser. ‘Because I need to have lunch with my agent.’ ‘Um,’ he replied, ‘you’re due to have the haircut at 2.’ I then realised that the hair was going to be epic. We decided I could have a break in the middle then come back for the cut. However the foils weren’t red enough so after lunch with my agent - at Benzin, the Thai restaurant snuggled between Puegots (ah, the perks of being a writer!) – I bought another fashion mag and sat for another 2 hours to have the colour and the cut done. The hairdresser was Irish with ginger hair and a lovely accent, but he was a bit hard to hear and put off having conversation with me, I think, by my announcing that I was deaf, but I was too tired to rectify the situation. Suffice to say, 5 hours in a hairdressers is a first, and I wasn’t even getting married.
H turned up on Sunday. L had to work so I public transported it to Coogee Bay, finding (with much satisfaction) that I could get from the Northern Suburbs to the Eastern Suburbs in an hour; in London it would have taken me two hours. D had picked H up and they were sitting outside Barzura, the former wearing a pair of ‘ironic’ (his words) white-framed 80s sunglasses, and his facial hair was something to be reckoned with. Only D could have pulled off awful fashion and uncontrolled hair with irony. However I soon lost my thoughts in the bliss of Barzura’s blueberry pancakes with coconut icecream and maple syrup.
D drove us to Nielsen’s Bay after that, and it was rammed with people because it was 35 degrees out, probably more on the sand. The bay was netted in from the sharks and there were no waves so I borrowed H’s goggles and stolidly swam a few laps, vowing again to start swimming properly when I got back to London. Which I have to do anyway because my knee is buggered. Back on the beach I got hot and bored and started whingeing to H, and D kindly took us back to L’s place.
Monday and Tuesday were shopping days but I couldn’t find the jewellery, shoes or handbag that I needed. Things in Sydney seemed dull and overpriced so H and I decided to leave it until Melbourne. I flew there on Wednesday arvo and discovered the joy of cabcharges courtesy of Penguin. The Midsumma people put me up in the Marque Hotel which was a little dull (though still tasteful) on the inside, and the receptionist was very helpful and there were bottles of Bvlgari shampoo and conditioner in the shower. I was knackered so I slept for a bit, then found an internet café and did a Q&A for my publicist. It had questions like ‘Which book has changed your life?’ which is a wank but after searching on the internet for half an hour I managed to find the title of the book I had in mind – Rumer Godden’s ‘The Peacock Spring’ which, to me, always lay on the cusp between childhood and adulthood and therefore represented some kind of turning point in my life. And there were other questions like ‘Who is your favourite author’ which drives me insane because I don’t HAVE a favourite author. I read omnivorously, if you take popular fiction like Jodi Picoult to be your veges and literary fiction like Kazuo Ishiguro to be your meat. Or Jodi could be dessert if you want to follow the fairly useless assumption that popular fiction is sweet and fluffy. In my mind all good literature should constitute a meal in itself – tasty and good to read, but also satisfying in that it fills you up and gives you things to think about.
I told H I’d meet him and G for dinner and trammed it into the city, remembering where to go from the last time I’d been in the city, when I came down for my scholarship interview and J took me around. I texted H and ended up freezing my tits off on a bench opposite the train station while I waited for him and G to arrive. I decided then and there that I could never live in a city where the weather was even remotely like London’s. H + G finally turned up and then it transpired that we were to go to a barbeque at A’s and it was to be a family reunion, with C + J* coming too. That was wonderful but my hopes of a good night’s sleep slowly and sadly dissipated.
After much hilarity – with G and A screeching at the top of their voices like their mother – but how they made us laugh – G took me back to the hotel. I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was stressed about the talk. By the time I got up I was furious that I was so tired. I packed and put on my red and cream Monsoon skirt, then checked out and ordered a bad coffee from the café that was part of the hotel while I waited for H to arrive.