Cafe in Lane Cove, on Longueville Road. Two days before Christmas and the sweat sticks to my skin The day is overcast and threatens, then delivers, even more humidity as the sky lets loose a light shower, closes up, then releases another once the pavement has dried off.
The heat is exacerbated by a furious kitchen that churns out lunches and coffee. It is a busy place abutting a small village shopping centre that is bustling with last minute shoppers. Like myself. Who is not only a last minute shopper but a two minute one as well. A hunter gatherer approach to shopping.
Around the corner eight year old girls play a cello and violin and sing. They and their instruments are decorated with tinsel, as if to make up for the fact they are not in tune, in sync, and clearly have only put their ensemble together in the last two days since school closed for summer. And competing with the two boys playing carols on their trumpets two shopfronts down. Also out of tune but fervour and filthy lucre drive their performance. Each has an instrument case open which catches a generous shower of silver from bustling shoppers. It’s that time of the year after all.
The obligatory black T-shirts and strappy tops adorn the girls behind the counter and those who rush around the tables which spill onto the street. Entirely appropriate attire for this glistening sweat day. And good for those who admire a tanned shoulder or decorously adorned decollete. Don’t we all?
Kids saunter past with foam reindeer antlers on their heads, mouths rimmed with chocolate. Some are well behaved and fresh to the street. The rest have clearly been out all morning and are irascible and ready for home. Faces of their parents confirm it.
Plates clatter, bottled drinks clink as the fridge is raided. Cutlery chatters as it is unloaded from the dishwater. As the dishwasher door had opened the sharp smell of detergent bit the senses and a billowing cloud of hot vapour rolled to the ceiling and into the cafe, adding to the humidity. A five cent piece tings off the floors as a kid fumbles his treasure and argues with mother about ice cream flavours. Happy shouts as friends discover each other.
“Nothing mate. Keeping my head down. Going slow. Bugger of a day.”
“Yeah, mate, need a coffee to keep going.”
That it is a hot coffee is illogical but no one cares, or minds.
“Who’s next please?”
“James! Howya doing?!”
“Next please!?” Shouted a little louder and through yet more friends focused on catching up first, before placing an order.
Traffic creeps past, all leaking condensation onto the road from air conditioners. A shower of rain waters us all then stops again. Indian accents. Muslim headgear. Irish accents. Australian “ocker”. All mixed up and adding to the tableau. S&M arrive. Shane and Mark. (Apologies to any of you who have gotten this far and were hoping for something else).
We order lunch and spend a couple of hours talking about everything and nothing. Which is part of the pleasure of these sorts of friendships. Indeed, Shane referred us to C.S. Lewis (well known for his Narnia series but for the thinking person a deeper well in his other writings) who he is reading at the moment, and Lewis’ description of four loves, one of which is affection – the sort of love that is delivered without any expectation of anything in return and which, in the view of C.S. Lewis is most commonly expressed in its purest form between men. Not erotic (Lewis discusses eros in another context) I would hasten to add, but those friendships forged between men through tough times, especially war. But also common through early friendships and which can last a lifetime. Something I must dig out and read for myself.
The converse is no doubt true. At a time when male suicide rates are at an all-time high in this country how little salve might have been applied through a firm friendship? And a death prevented? What tough times do we share with reach other. What welding of friendships occurs through heat? Not much these days. We are all individuals and are all the poorer for it.
Whatever the view of C.S.Lewis, a pleasant lunchtime interlude, with pleasant company, in a great city, all at a time of the year when we are full of goodwill towards each other and we are all grateful that we are alive. Even if it is humid!