See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.
This has been the second week of the Sydney Film Festival, at one session of which I found myself seated next to the chap from encounter Nº 14 in my last post in this series (link here). We took up our conversation where we’d left off. But there were more new encounters, most of them fleeting.
1. Sunday morning 7 November, we came across a ‘cupboard house’ in the park near our place. Someone has created this prototype shelter for a homeless person from a discarded cupboard, put it up in our park and asked for feedback on Insta at old.butstillgood. We were admiring it when another person arrived, ready for a chat. Once we’d negotiated the awkward ideological difference – he said, ‘There aren’t any homeless really,’ a comment which we ignored – we admired the handiwork, opened the cupboard door together, and commented on basic bedding inside. We swapped news about the shameful amount of old furniture going to waste, and also about what each of us had noticed about homeless people who live in the park and their complex relationships to authority.
2. Tuesday. During the Sydney Film Festival, the Emerging Artist and I are making sure we get some exercise by walking to most of our films – abut a 90 minute walk when the movie is on in the city. On this morning, a little before 9 am, we met a woman carrying a small child – school age, but no older than seven – pietà-like, except that the child was struggling and the woman was doing her best to run. As she approached us she was saying to the child, ‘If you knock me over we’ll be late.’ She then noticed us, and we must have both looked we’ve-been-there friendly. She rolled her eyes in mock despair, or maybe real but good-natured despair, and hurried on her way.
3. Friday morning, I met the young man who had constructed the cupboard house we saw on Monday. He was taking it apart in the yard of a block of flats near the park. It turned out that the Council had emailed instructing him to remove it, he had wheeled it to this small concrete yard, where it had attracted the indignant attention of the landlord who demanded its immediate removal. As it happened, someone was sleeping in it at the time and rain was pouring down, so he – the creator – insisted on waiting until this morning to remove it. He said that someone had slept in it every night it was in the park, and that a small group of uni students had used it as a drinking and smoking room, burning a hole in the tarp while the homeless man was outside. I made generally sympathetic noises: he has no illusions that his little project is a solution to homelessness, but it has provided shelter to one man for several nights, and may have some kind of future.
4. Again on Friday morning, back in the sauna, where before the last lockdown there was a limit of three people at a time, now the limit is two. When I arrived there was one other man there. I said, ‘You have to be lucky with your timing these days.’ Neither of us was keen for a proper conversation, but we agreed that it was odd that the limit had been decreased, speculated on the reasons and agreed that the regulation was likely to be ignored anyhow. A little later, a third man joined us. All three of us sat in total silence for about 90 seconds, and hen the left. ‘Typical,’ my new friend said. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘no stamina.’ ‘And no regard for the rules,’ he said. And we went back into our separate sweatinesses.
5. Saturday, again on our way to the Film Festival, we stopped for breakfast at Zenius, a little cafe in Chippendale. It’s a rare treat for us to have breakfast out, especially in Covid times, and we both breakfasts were excellent – an avo and mash and a granola with fruit pieces.Our host/waiter was a bit taken aback by the enthusiastic praise we heaped on him and his cook. He asked if we lived nearby, and we responded that sadly no, we were just passing through, walking to town from Marrickville.
Running total is 247.
More banter with waiters this week, and this one was doing it with a sexy French accent!
Oh — and I know this doesn’t count — but somebody wolf-whistled me when I was walking the dog. It made me realise that it used to be the daily experience of women when I was young, and then it was just when walking past building sites (what is it about tradies, eh?) and now I never hear it at all. I don’t expect to, at my age, but I don’t hear it directed at gorgeous young women either. And I wonder, is that just because I live in a nice area, or has there been a widespread change in male behaviour?
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This “We swapped news about the shameful amount of old furniture going to waste”. I am in a quandary! We have family room furniture that we got second hand around 1995, and had reupholstered around 1999. It is now in a pretty bad state – fabric worn through, lost much of its spring. I like it but, I’m also tempted by newer furniture, perhaps with some reclining options. No-one will want this though – and yet, I’m sure it could be reupholstered and go another 20 years. What to do?
BUT woo hoo, I do have a few different stranger-meetings this week as we went out west (well, to Wagga Wagga and Young anyhow).
At the National Glass Collection in Wagga, we had a lovely conversation with the staff member there about the current exhibitions, the popularity of Tom Moore (not the current exhibition), life in pandemic times. She was lovely, and told us – as we were the only ones there, that she didn’t mind if we took our masks off.
At the Railway Cafe (not a working railway any more) and Gift Shop in Junee, we chatted with the owner who was quite distressed because she just can’t get staff, and was overwhelmed with work. the cafe was busy and service was slow, but we weren’t in a rush. She offered the idea that the “government handouts might have been too good” though she didn’t seem wedded to the idea and we didn’t comment. It sounded like something someone else had said to her – or she was seeing if we’d take up the whinge?
At the distillery in Young, we chatted with the owner about his products, and about a bottle store in Canberra which carries his range. It turned out to be the closest bottle store to us, but one we rarely go to. He was a laconic sort of guy who seemed to be not sure about continuing his business – but his son might! The place looked closed, and we were on the point of turning away when he popped out and invited us in.
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