Under a heavy duvet I was warm but I knew it would be frosty once I got up that morning.
I’ve written about this before. As I write this it is 13 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 Celsius) in St. Paul, Minnesota. This is normal. It’s been cold and dark since November, and it will remain cold and dark until April. And so there’s this psychological hurdle I can’t get over where I believe everywhere else must be warmer. And mostly, everywhere else is. But not Melbourne in spring.
I don’t know how cold it was in Melbourne last October—below 50F/8C in the house in the mornings, for sure. I could hear a feeble whishing of air from a “heating vent.” My heating vents at home issue forth gusts of hot air that could knock you off your feet. There was no basement in Dean and Lisa’s house, and the windows weren’t double glazed, so any heat went straight out the windows, literally.
I summoned the courage to crawl out from under the duvet and made a run to the toilet room. The dog, Penny, a black lab, came loping toward me and I hugged her, if nothing else for the warmth. Heidi was up making a cup of tea.
“Oh hi there, how’d you sleep?”
“Really well,” I replied. “I think I’m so tired here every night that even my Restless Legs are taking a vacation.”
Dean and Lisa had left for work. They work at a nearby Aboriginal girls’ college, a boarding school, and—I’m not going to get this all right—but there is a branch component for Aboriginal kids in the outback. So Dean flies to the back of beyond and stays for weeks at a time. He loves the kids and the job, but there is nothing to do when he’s off duty.
“We don’t have a ute,” (a truck) he said, “although even if we did there’s nothing in town to do.” Dean teaches maths and science and Lisa is the school’s e-learning coordinator.
Before leaving Minnesota I’d spoken with my cousin’s wife, who is Native American, about maybe bringing some Native American-related gifts for the girls at Dean and Lisa’s school. “They’re Black, aren’t they?” she asked. “Then get them some magazines like Ebony and Teen Jet. They probably don’t see Black faces in ads or billboards or magazines.”
That was an excellent idea, so I had handed Dean a stack of teen mags. But the one I had bought on a whim, a publication about how to live off the grid, would prove to be the most popular. There was a full-page ad for guns on the back cover. “But it’s got good articles on starting a worm farm and making lamp shades out of animal hides,” Dean had observed as he’d flipped through it.
How do we all know each other? Simple. Heidi was in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt looking to go diving and someone said, “You should go see Dean; he’s an Aussie and he’s the Mayor of Sharm El Sheikh.” The unofficial mayor, of course. Dean had been living there for some time and knew who to talk to.
Eventually they both wound up living in London, where Dean met Rob, who is from Bemidji Minnesota. A mutual friend introduced me to Rob when I was living in Oxford, and one day he said, “Hey Annie, wanna go to Greece next week? There are these two Aussie girls who teach with me who want to go and we need four to avoid the single supplement.”
Heidi was one of the Aussie girls.
Dean and Lisa being at work gave me the opportunity to snoop around. Not that I looked in any of their drawers.
The house is perched on a steep hill.
I couldn’t get over all the fruit trees growing—just growing!—in their yard.
This appeared to be a giant daisy tree.
I have this plant in a pot at home but it’s 12 inches tall, not twelve feet.
The three of us faffed about for hours, then Dean came home on his lunch break to take us to the train station.