We stood by the side of the road waiting for one of the cars blowing by to stop and let us cross to the other side … when the gap came and we stepped off the curb I turned to the old man beside me I didn’t know and said. ..
‘You know, they have just passed a law in this land where men of our age can carry a knobkerry and legally smite the bonnet of any car if it offends our sensibilities.’
Two minutes later we were standing in a huddle outside a pharmacy as I listened to him describe in detail how the intricate facades and multi-faceted stones of the Vatican buildings were slowly decaying from time and inattention.
The conversation paused.
I stuck out my hand.
‘Peter, ‘ I said.
He took it.
‘John,’ he said,
then, with a boyish smile,
‘how bloody appropriate.’
She looked about seventy, sitting on a park bench by the river under the shade of a Poinciana and wearing a knitted blue beret.
Reading a book.
I halted a step or two after passing, turned back and spoke.
‘You know,’ I said, for she had looked up at me, ‘if I saw you sitting on a park bench in Paris I would stop and say hello.’
Then a smile.
‘Hello,’ she said.
There is a walkway along the riverside and where it runs next to the local RSL club local fishermen gather at the right tide to cast their floats into the narrow neck of water that runs between the piles and building in search of Luderick. The black fish.
Old men surrounded by their buckets rods and gearboxes. Gnarled old men used only to each other. Hardship reduced men as small and as sunburnt as muscular gnomes, hidden under their wide hats. I walked over and stood between two of them, leant over the rail and looked at their lines and floats drifting here and there in the dark water under the piles.
‘G’day,’ said one, looking over at me after a longish pause.
Five seconds, four seconds, three seconds, two seconds, one second.
Then the other one turned away.