Lordy, this was a big week. There was a nerve-wracking job interview, there was an eye-watering tax bill, I spent 8.5 hours on a train to attend a 1.5-hour meeting in Sydney, where I was drenched twice by monsoonal rain, and now we’re experiencing the mother of all heatwaves. I’ve been moping around in a state of grumpy exhaustion today, not achieving much at all, so I decided to think about the small, quiet, pretty things from this week instead.
The first one was that slow train ride to Crazy Town (Sydney). I could have caught the bus and saved, oh, 45 minutes in the day, but I love the way the train sits in the landscape, travels through it rather than next to it. It was a blessedly cool, rainy day and I had two seats to myself. The train is only three carriages long: A, B and D. Why there’s never a carriage C is a mystery I haven’t cracked yet. The train often malfunctions (doors won’t shut, toilets block, aircon breaks down) but it’s staffed by a small crew of lovely people who are unfailingly nice.
As we trundled along, a common topic of conversation was why there isn’t a fast train yet, when the government’s been talking about it for decades. But, you know, if the train went faster we wouldn’t see the mob of kangaroos splashing through streams in a gully. We wouldn’t see the sunlight catch the bleached grass seeds on the top of the embankment. We wouldn’t notice that black cows run away from the train but brown cows don’t. (Not scientifically proven but definitely observed!) There’s something about the landscape of the southern tablelands that sings to me and makes me so glad that I live there.
Sydney was as busy and noisy as ever. Even the weather was ostentatious. The rain was coming from all directions and there was no way of keeping dry, so I sat dripping in a café and drank chai and ate the best masala dosa in the known universe and felt that I could be in actual India in the actual monsoon.
Every time I’m in Sydney I try to meet my friend Ian at the Maya Vegetarian on Cleveland Street. We always say next time we’ll try something else from the menu but we never can. The dosa is too good. The slightly fermented taste of the crispy pancake, the chilli in the potato/lentil filling and the three sauces—bitter, hot and cool—are a winning combination. The desserts are lip-smacking as well. Besan burfi, loaded with cardamom and pistachios, is my favourite. I’d show you a picture but it didn’t stick around long enough to be photographed.
Another small thing that I’m grateful for this week is this book:
I really think books find you at the right time. This is exactly the book I needed to read this week. It’s been wonderful accompanying Patti Smith while she sits in cafés and writes and thinks about life. She lets you into her brain and makes you laugh out loud at some of her thoughts.
A pretty thing appeared unexpectedly in the garden this week:
This pale pink lily decided to bloom while everything else wilted and got sunburnt, which just goes to show there’s always an up side if you look for it.
And back to that slow train. On the long trip home I listened to random songs, tracks from old CDs I hadn’t heard for years. It was so good to have the time to sit and really listen. As Paul Weller sang “Broken Stones” I noticed what a beautiful soul voice he has, and I reminisced about when I was a teenager, when I was in love with The Jam. I listened to French pop and Indian dance music and imagined dancing down the aisle of the train and getting all the other passengers to join me. Then the Eagles sang “Take it easy” and I thought how right they were. When the week is overwhelming and you’re stuck on the slow train to Crazy Town you still have a choice:
Take it easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy.
Cheesy, but true. Have a good weekend. If you live in the heatwave zone, stay cool. In fact, stay cool anyway, wherever you live.