Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Lost in time

Olive Oscar (2012) Kodakotype by Pants

I'm on holiday which, these days, means that I've swapped the dry sweltering south of Australia for the humid sweltering north of Australia. Although, between my remote home location and the eccentricities of the Australian mass transit network, the ordeal of getting from Larrikin's End to Noosaville is not much less arduous than the journey from the other side of the world.

For a year our thrice daily train service from Eastern Victoria to Melbourne was suspended necessitating a five-hour trek in a 'coach' that would not have been out of place in an episode of Gunsmoke. Apparently, some 'grinding' work needed to be done on the single-purpose track to deal with 'rust'. I was tempted to comment that rust is usually the consequence of under-use but I have learned that even a hint that something in Australia is less than 'world-class' is not likely to be well received.

It seemed like the sort of problem that a maintenance team armed with wire brushes and oil cans should have been able to solve given a fine day and sufficient overtime. Well, that might have been the case in the nineteenth century but not in modern Australia which has its own idiosyncratic time zone. By my reckoning, it's the 1950s except without all the fun things like Bakelite and James Dean. Whenever I enquired on the long, bumpy ride back to Larrikin's End in the wee hours, I was informed in a sagely tone that 'a special piece of equipment has to come from inter-state'. This 'inter-state' place appears to be located somewhere in the Great Andromeda Nebula.

Miraculously, this 'special piece of equipment' did eventually travel the countless megaparsecs to Larrikin's End and our line was restored a month or so ago. This was good news as many Eastern Victorians, including the always suspicious Pants, thought it sounded like a case of terminal decline by studious neglect. All was well in the world except that the newly reinstated service wasn't running on the day I travelled to Melbourne airport. Signal failure, apparently. Yep, that happens to me a lot lately.

Queensland and Victoria are themselves in different time zones, despite sharing a longitudinal span. It's historical and has something to do with cows voting against daylight saving. Despite Noosaville being an hour behind Larrikin's End - it's hard to imagine anything being behind Larrikin's End - my day shifts dramatically forward four hours. I'm up at near daybreak (5.15am) to execute an elderly jog. For years I've persisted with this rather ungainly gait even though it makes me the target of endless derision. 

Australians are highly competitive and imagine that everyone is looking at them all the time. And our lack of diplomatic skill is internationally recognised. I'm not sure what my status is re nationality. I can probably be best described as ex-communicated. When I don my ill-matching and highly unfashionable jog togs, I give no thought to what others might think. The judgement of strangers is as meaningless as a Kardashian to me. On the pathway to fitness, I'm always met with either sourness or mirth. You'd think people would be thrilled that a crusty old bag is taking some initiative rather than presenting as a problem to the health system, which we are constantly being told can't cope with the idea of people living a long time. They probably guffaw at people in wheelchairs. You don't see them all that often. Who knows, maybe they're not allowed out in case they make the place look untidy. 

After suffering the unsolicited disapproval of fellow travellers for several years, I discovered that my jogging 'style' is not dissimilar to that of a famous Australian athlete. Cliff Young won the inaugural Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon at the age of 61 with his comical shuffle thereafter known as the 'Cliffy'. When I jog, I do the 'Cliffy'. It's a legitimate form of pedestrian travel. There is really no justification for the pointing and gawping.

And I don't get up at 5.15am just to avoid the madding crowd of fitness fashion fanatics. It's partly because it's too hot to go later and I also need to get in a few hours of physical activity before Ma Pants stirs. Even at 84 and with chronic asthma, she feels she ought to be able to do what she could thirty years ago. Competitive. So, after an hour of 'Cliffying' and attracting unwanted footpath attention, I take my boogie board down to the beach for a couple of hours of annoying the surfers with my elderly attempts at catching waves. I live to be a thorn in the side of whatever narcissistic rump presents itself.

In between long cups of tea and interminable present-wrapping marathons, I have also been trying to fit in a family history project. Ma Pants can only do things in snatches these days and finding the right moment can be tricky. I've always been pretty good at multitasking so I'm always half-doing something else. I feel a bit bad sometimes as she can find the speed at which I get things done a bit intimidating. (The competitiveness thing definitely has its drawbacks). But honestly, I have my own sanity to think of and I would go mad if I wasn't doing something in those frequent voids. Jogging and surfing are the only things I'm elderly at. Everything else I do at the speed of light, frequently to the detriment of quality.

With all this time-zone confusion, I've forgotten what day it is. Oh, no I haven't. It's Christmas! Now 6.45am. No 'Cliffy' this morning - exercise is banned on Christmas Day and I can live with that. Ma Pants doesn't know that I still woke at 5.15 to write this post. I am on my second cup of English Breakfast tea and herself has just put the kettle on. Niece Pants is still out to it in her room. She had a sleep-over last night. Now 17 she is a gorgeous girl, devoted to her Nana and indulgent with her ancient aunt. In a couple of hours we'll drive her back home as this year we're having Christmas at theirs. Hopefully, Sis Pants's crab pot will have caught lunch. 

Ah, I can hear Niece Pants rattling around in the room next door. Better go. 

Happy holidays. Pants will be back in 2014.