Sydney’s Penguin Colony

‘Yes but equating family with national identity is a sol-(mnmnmnm)-icism, surely.’ says my friend Tom who I haven’t seen for possibly twenty years. We don’t bother to calculate exactly how many or when we last met. We just “pick up” like boys.

I rifle through my inner dictionary. My real dictionary is in my bag and not to hand. “sol-(pluhrpluhr)-icism”…?

I can see the Harbour Bridge from where we are. It is eight at night and the bridge is perfectly lit. It blends with the stars. Yesterday M (7) was less than impressed with the Harbour Bridge. I wonder if an icon’s value is directly proportional to its novelty. M has never seen the Harbour Bridge or an image of the Harbour Bridge so there is no thrill in seeing it for real. It’s a bridge, a bit like the one across the Severn because you can see the sky through a web of metal strings as you drive over, and also because it goes over something – that’s what a bridge does. Also this one has incredibly large flags at the top and incredibly small people under the flags looking at the view. Those people booked three months ago to get up there. That’s pretty fascinating.

‘I don’t know if family and national identity is… hang on… solipsistic? How is that solipsistic?’ I ask, wiping my eyes and my cheeks downwards with both hands. I probably look like a dog.

My eyes are aching and I have a notebook full of literary sludge after 48 hours here. I feel like I had flu yesterday and like I might have a tummy bug tomorrow. Nothing has an outline – nothing has any colour. It hurts to walk and to smile. I long to lie down and when I do I can’t sleep. That flight has siphoned everything I need out of me.

My husband put P (9) on the phone from England when we landed in Sydney. I was walking from customs to the taxi rank in 24 degree overcast heat you could slice.

“Hey Pazzie.” I said.

“Mummy when are you coming home? When are you coming home?”

“Oh Pazzie – twenty-six sleeps…”

“No! You’re not! Not twenty-six! Five!”

“Oh little boy…”

“Five!” He takes a sobby breath. “Four!”

My husband takes the phone after more of this and P has given up, “Sorry, I didn’t know what he was going to say.”

“It’s good he’s cross.” I said.

Pazzie has trouble Naming Emotions. My husband tells me our youngest (5) took two boxes of tissues to bed with him last night. We reminded each other we love each other. We both pressed the red hang-up buttons.

Now sitting here under The Bridge I am frustrated that my head is sore and slow. I only got off the long-haul flight 48 hours ago.

‘Solecism.’ says Tom. ‘It’s a fallacy to put the two together.’

Oh solecism. Those two are a solecism. I think it’s silly, sure, but it’s not crazy, it’s human. I don’t string this or any other sentence together. I’m not sure what we are talking about.

He tells me about the rise in shark attacks in the Harbour. The water is warmer, the bait fish are coming in and the sharks follow. A guy lost a leg recently. Tom talks about seahorses too, how they are small and transparent, camouflaged in the seaweed in the Harbour. Tricky to find.

I caught up with my schoolfriend, Lucy (ten years since I saw Lucy), yesterday who has stopped her marathon ocean swims. “Harbour’s got sharky. The bait fish are coming in.” Lucy described a sea dragon her stepson found – its legs like leaves, how it was only recently washed up so still had its beautiful colours. My brain could not cope with asking what colours those were. It was dealing with the legs.

There is a new baby elephant at Taronga Zoo. Everyone mentions the baby elephant – the vet  to the press that it was dead and how it might take months for the mummified baby elephant to be delivered from the mother – elephants having the gestation period and birth habits that they do – and the next day it was born, standing, feeding and posing for photographs. Artificial insemination and an animal in captivity – it can work and it can boost news sales.

M visited Taronga Zoo this morning with his Aunt/ my sister – he tells me often how far an elephant can pee – and with what force. The novelty and triumph of the baby elephant’s survival was no match for the emus and… the Komodo Dragon.

“3 metres long!”

He has never used the word metres before.

Tom tells me there was a colony of penguins under the very wharf we are sitting last year.

‘Apparently two penguins is a colony,’ he says. We laugh.



9 thoughts on “Sydney’s Penguin Colony

  1. Third-day jetlag blues. It was in Taronga Zoo I had mine. I sat in an ever-so-small patch of shade, dreading moving out of it again, and wondered what the point of life was. All the animals seemed miserable and hopeless. They stared at me; I stared at them. Day 4 was much better. I hope yours is too. I wonder how many metres from Sydney to Lewes? xxx Bobbie

  2. Love your thoughts about the Bridge and how it is to M. That’s a keeper! I don’t want to dwell on the inconsequential, but how far can a elephant pee?

  3. Everything famous seems to end up being smaller in real life, especially dinosaurs and the Little Mermaid. As for Australia, on the other hand, I never really appreciated just how big it is until I was in an aeroplane hanging over it and watching our position on the map change…. so slowly…. as the hours passed and we made our way across it. I ended up looking at a sad kangaroo and some dozing Tasmanian Devils while waiting for my jet lag to disappear. Do I see a trend emerging?

    • ‘s true – everything looks sleepy and sad when you’re having dinner at brekkie…
      Re-learning the concept of ‘space’ here. x

  4. Hey Fed,

    What a beautiful piece! You capture the pain of being on the other side of the world from loved ones, mixed up with jetlag, so well.

    I am so looking forward to seeing you (and M) in person. I have been communicating with you for so long via technology. How exquisite it will be to see you in the flesh.

    Much love, Nessxxx

    • see ya in a min, ‘ness. arrived in melb about half an hour ago… after days and days of internet-free bush! Looking forward to exchanging boys! x

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