with The Shrieking Violets, my book club

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Meeting people

When you arrive in a city where you know just three people it can of course be a challenge to get to know some more. Andrew has a knack – because of his tentacle-like brain organisation that manages to find connections between people (and ideas), sometimes when none even exist! – of finding people and connections in the strangest of places and ways. He tells me about the guy he met on the plane whose aunty is related to his biology teacher at school…that kind of thing. We have found it actually quite fun seeing if we know anyone when we walk into a place. The first time this happened was at our favourite little café in Austinmer – the Fireworks café, where the chef (who used to live in Magill) has a monthly gourmet evening. This was our first night out in the region, and it was a Greek smorgasbord. We even got a babysitter as we thought we’d go out to the Rolling Stones cover band later (that we’d heard about at the Keyes, Cotton and Morris concert we went to on the first Sunday we were here - where we bumped into the weed man who advertises on the roadside on the way to Andrew’s work and Zoltan who spotted Andrew’s rolling stones shine a light T-shirt and sent us an invite to his show…). So we walk into the café, or rather, we sit out on the pavement as it is a beautiful balmy evening and we have the dramatic escarpment in front of us and the sound of the ocean just down the road. We have just finished our main course and a colleague of Andrew’s walks past with his family…(I told you we only knew 3 people in the region at that point!). I thought this only happened in Adelaide. Later at the pub we bump into another of Andrew’s colleagues and his wife – OK – that’s not so surprising, but three days later we walk into a Chinese restaurant and there are three of the Chinese Policemen he has just met the previous evening over here studying…well even that is not so surprising in a Chinese restaurant of course (they told us the best one to go to down the road…). We have had perfect strangers invite us to dinner – friends of friends in Adelaide. Very kind. Jack also has a knack. We go to the basketball stadium to try to join him up as there was no school team and just as he is folding his arms and saying he is not going to give it a go, no way, two of his TIGS mates come over, put their arms around him and jostle him into playing! Yesterday, scootering along the sea promenade he bumped into one of his little friends from school with his family and then last night, when Marinella, over to teach in Andrew’s course for a few days, joined us to eat out (at a lovely little restaurant overlooking the ocean), Jack walks in and another of his mates is sitting there with his dad - who owns the restaurant. We went to a special screening of a French film at Anita’s theatre in Thirroul (happens every two months or so). There was a stack of people. And yes, there was that real estate agent who has been faithfully pursuing us and who would love us to buy one of her houses (too late…) Actually I met the other faithful agent at Jack’s swimming carnival – she spotted me – which was good of her as we eventually have bought our house through a private sale despite all her hard work! As for me, I don’t have maybe as many possibilities to meet people, being not yet a full time member of the ranks of the employed, but I have twice had conversations about people I don’t even know, who are known by two separate and unrelated people that I also know…if you get what I mean! Like, at Uncle Tom’s 80th birthday at the RAA club off circular quay, I am sitting having a lovely conversation with a woman who knew the parents of someone in psychology at Wollongong Uni. When she mentioned the name – a very distinctive name, I immediately remembered the conversation I’d had with my physio in Adelaide, who had mentioned her cousin was partnered to someone of that same name…and they lived in Austinmer! Another woman came over to say she wanted to talk to me because I looked like I had a friendly face (that was nice!) and that she had heard we were moving to Thirroul, where her son lives – he works at UNSW and commutes in from Thirroul (something I might consider if I get a job in Sydney) - they live in the same street as Jack’s little friend (the first one to invite him over) and has two boys aged 9 and 11. I write all these names down in my little black Moleskin carnet that Ann-Marie gave me, as they will come in handy when I drop in to the psychology department at Wollongong Uni and ask for the chap, and let him know that he doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him but we both know two different people who know him and his partner…! But perhaps you have to be desperate to do this and I’m not feeling that desperate yet! You do of course meet people when you work and I’m sure that will all happen in the fullness of time…a house to move and settle into first, and a novel to edit – making some progress on that! On Monday we played tennis - we joined Wollongong tennis club for the social comp - and have since played and beaten some youngsters (OK – only division 2)! But apart from that we met a very nice woman in our team who works in a community legal centre and writes a column in the Mercury – the Wollongong daily. We had some interests in common – she’s interested in creative journalism. Of course it turns out she is well connected with the Law Faculty at Wollongong and everyone knows her there. And then one of our opponents is a parole officer who studied psychology and criminal justice at Bathurst – Andrew mentioned she might have studied his text book, and yes, sure enough, she had! (but then, he is famous, so we get to expect that!)

I guess all this ambling around is getting to the point that if you are open to it, you do tend to find points of connection with people, wherever you wash up in life! And that we are just meant to be connected as human beings. It’s easier when you work of course, when you don’t, there is always the P and F and school canteen (which I have always strenuously resisted, somewhat shamefacedly – Jack would love it…

And in the mean time, just observing is fun. I love going down to the beach at North Wollongong – there is a bikeway that goes through the park and all along the beach front, sort of like an Australian Riviera! Last week I rode my bike from Towradgi to the lighthouse at Wollongong Harbour (about 3 k) and this is what I saw: the surf life savers having a family bbq on the reserve, kids scootering and biking along the path as well as the more serious cyclists and joggers with their mp3 players and sweat, a group of seriously competitive Croatians all set up with their armchairs and picnic tables, playing whatever is their equivalent of the Italian bocce or the French pétanque, sky divers floating down onto the reserve, ‘Savvies’ fitness group members boxing each other, a group of touch footballers playing, another group of beach volleyballers enjoying a dusk game, a huge group of Spanish-Australians squabbling and ordering their fish and chips and gelati at Levendi’s, a family group sitting along the foreshore with Dad passing around the bong, a small team of surf life savers taking out their sleek little black rowing boat, pelicans and a small grey heron, lots of lizards (blue-tongues and quite large geckoes) a rabbit, two horseriders along the beach, countless pooches of many different breeds… I think that was all…!