May 9, 2011

On a picnic blanket in the park

Yesterday was Mother's Day here. The day started hazily, before becoming a bit Tupperwary by lunch, and then clearing by mid-arvo into sunshine and warmth. I wasn't feeling well, and spent most of the day either in bed or struggling to get comfortable on the sofa. But I was enticed into Waterline Crescent Park to take the air, on a picnic rug beneath a bottle tree.

There was not a garden gadget to be heard. Nor was the idiot-on-the-park, who can't drive his Audi without constantly gunning the engine, going to and fro between garage and wherever. It was peaceful. Was everyone out visiting?

I have noticed our neighbours don't do what we were doing: maybe their yards catch more sun than ours at this time of year. Only kids seem to use the park. They gather with mates after school; play footie; practise kicking with their dads sometimes; oh, and schoolies stagger out to the swings at 5am after an all-nighter, but that is highly seasonal usage. One neighbour once told me that people would sometimes get together in the park for drinks and a barbie. But you'll never see it happen. This isn't an official day rest area, you see: there's no barbie provided by the council; no picnic benches; just low walls, around the swings, to sit on. It's just a lovely green oasis in the middle of suburbia, where people didn't cut down the trees and name streets after them.

I curled up with my back to the sun, lizard-like. Soon I had to shed a layer. That's the thing about living here: it's the equivalent of November in the UK, and there I was, lying in substantial warmth, and feeling much better for it.

A mackerel sky was developing from the north.

We spotted an old friend.

But then the ants came. It's taken me a long time to respect Australian ants. There are many varieties and all shapes and sizes. We have ants on a mission with large, orange-brown end-bits: they march day and night up and down the front and back walls of the house. The lines are at the same point along the walls, so maybe there's a meeting on the roof. One of these stung my long-been friend when she opened her bedroom window during the night, and her finger swelled up for two days. We get small blacks on a particular worktop in the kitchen if we inadvertently leave food crumbs around: these don't sting when I squash them. Other tinies live in a nest by the garage door: they move so fast I can't even focus on them. And angry ants live in similar nests under grass. These go apeshit if you disturb them while mowing the lawn or lying on a picnic blanket. One got my friend on his back once as he lay recovering from a run, and the puncture wound was reluctant to heal for a while. And I had many a painful toe before I started wearing proper shoes for gardening.

On this occasion, we moved three times to escape the cross ones. Then the sun went in, and so did we.

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