Merri Creek, Melbourne, Mother’s Day 2020.

A low grey sky hangs over the Merri Creek as I walk our Pip around the cold, squelchy parkland flats. It is the Time of Coronavirus. But we could be in County Clare. Pip chases a ball through the gloom and she does not hesitate to run straight into a muddy puddle. And she stays there.

As we head for home, I spot celebrated singer and songwriter Paul Kelly on the track in a beanie and beard. He walks with a young fella. Pip runs ahead while my spirit performs small cartwheels of there-is-no-such-thing-as-coincidence. And my mind runs back, back, back.

==

It is 1993, late winter.

I am a first-year uni student and everywhere, everything is wide open.

Why?

Where is that?

What does it all mean?

Why not?

It is a field trip to Kinglake. It is a Sunday and rain tumbles down onto the mountain ash and onto the ferns. We are all of us aspiring botanists and ecological biogeographers; all roll-your-owns and elastic sided boots, plaits and flannelette shirts, earthy knits and freckles.

For about five months I dreamt of sitting next to K. Recently that has repeatedly happened. And today here we are working side-by-side on a Kinglake transect, identifying the number and species of plants that live within a circle of some specified diameter, half-way down the sodden slope. And it is everything. She is everything.

Despite my coat, rain water runs down my back, runs over our notes. Her hair of auburn waves is drenched. We spend the day laughing and soaked. Before we are back onto the bus to uni.

We each wear a woollen jumper and jeans. And leather boots. Which sets off another round of laughter. The bus is along Alexandra Parade and wedged in late Sunday traffic when K grabs my arm and at the next lights we’re off the bus. We skip along Rathdowne Street, in the way that only young hopefuls throughout history have skipped.

Headlights shine in early evening puddles.

Long necks peer over brown paper bags.

And we clatter down the brick and concrete sideway of the original Carlton brick terrace that she shares with two housemates. Wet coats, wet jumpers are off in the kitchen. Bread is in the toaster as the rain moves up a gear.

The lounge room is gloomy. A Salvador Dali poster above the fire place can barely be seen, but K grabs the axe and she laughs as she splits wood and she laughs as she makes a fire and her blue eyes sparkle with it all and she stands with hands on hips to admire the flames. I’m alongside her with a heartbeat to power a small village.

“Sit down, why don’t you? How about some Paul Kelly?”

And this is the very first moment that I hear the opening to the Comedy album.

Don’t Start Me Talking.

As I stand in that loungeroom on that cold and miserable winter’s day, I feel that my whole life alters its very course.

The opening bars of Don’t Start Me Talking take me there across years and across space. And looking back, though K and I haven’t seen one another for 20 odd years, that lives on as one of life’s Big Moments.

Don’t start me talking or I’ll tell everything I know
Don’t start me talking, I’ll spill the beans for sure
Right before your eyes
I’ll blow it all open wide
Don’t start me talking

==

Mother’s Day 2020

Pip and I are into the backyard at home and I fill a bucket with water and I wash Pip’s muddy legs. Most of my mind is joyously still in 1993. I feel light with it. Inside, immediately I put on the Comedy album.

I settle in, feed Pip and turn on the heater. I take off my coat and place it on the hook.

And at that very moment Track 3 starts up: Winter Coat. I look at the coat before me on the rack. It is the very same coat that K and I bought together back in 1996.

My Winter Coat.

Oh boy.

Don’t start me talking.

 

Photo by Eric Algra

Stereo Story #509

 

The Stereo Stories Paul Kelly  Collection

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele.