Just after two, Reuben arrived. I was checking my lettuces. Some of them have been eaten by snails. They’re so vulnerable in that way.
I made us coffee, and while we were drinking it, I proposed we make the flan/pudim which has been the focus of much speculation lately.
Inside the cardboard box was a tiny sachet containing a pinkish powder. We emptied it into a bowl, added what seemed to be a lot of sugar, then a drizzle of milk to make a runny paste. Immediately, the powder mixture turned the colour of egg yolk. But at least it dissolved pretty well. When the milk was hot enough on the stove, Reuben trickled in the paste while I stirred and took a photo. It began to look like custard, and took on a kind of eggy smell. We poured the resulting solution into two round takeaway containers, whacked em in the fridge, and went out for a walk.
I had a few chores to complete. We picked up Wolfie from next door and went down to Wenchai Publication to check on my exhibition flyers. They wont be ready til Monday. On Maria Street, we walked past the crazy cat lady house. Jane and I first checked this place out last week, and I wanted to have another stickybeak. The cat lady’s next door neighbour was out on her porch. She told us there were forty cats living in that house. The cats seemed really happy, a jumble of tabbies and the occasional ginger, no doubt all inter-related, snoozing together on a couch. A massive platter with remnants of catfood stood on the cement outside the door. The neighbour said, “I like animals, but they shit all up and down the street.” Wolfie was getting a bit restless with all these cats. He started to growl at one sleeping in the back of a ute on the other side of the road. We said our goodbyes.
I wanted to show Jarvie Street to Reuben. My spatial memory is rather poor, so of course, I got us lost along the way. Finally we found it. “Wow, this place feels special…” he said. I told him the story about how they have big Christmas parties here, where the whole street comes out. And Natalie’s story, where she mistakenly jumped into the passenger seat of her neighbour’s car, thinking it was a cab (after that, she and the neighbour became friends, and they drove around together regularly). I showed Reuben the hedge place where I’d first met Neil and his mother. And next door, there he was! Neil was chatting with his neighbour, David, in the yard with all the soft toys strung up. We waved hello. “Hey!” Neil said, “how’s your project going?” I told him I’d drop around an exhibition flyer when I get them back from the printers.
At the Jarvie dog-leg we stopped momentarily while I told Reuben about the old man whose project is to walk all the streets of Sydney. On his website, there’s a photo of him in this exact location (scroll down to see it…)
We wandered up some streets I’d never seen before, and found a dead TV dumped on its side, a mural depicting Petersham as a pastoral paradise linked to the city by train, some home made bits of signage. As we emerged from Allans Avenue onto New Canterbury, I had a moment of dread, that our meandering had led us outside the boundaries and into the foreign soil of Lewisham. But no fear, we were safe.
On the tiles under the shop window of the second hand place on New Canterbury is sprayed the command: “NO BEGGING”. I took a photo while Reuben went into the Portuguese deli for some cornbread.
As we rounded the corner onto West Street, Reuben began telling me about the concept of the “dérive” (it’s French for “drifting”). It’s a situationist thing, to do with “psychogeography”. Apparently the dérive is a kind of wandering which involves letting the urban environment influence you emotionally, rather than having any kind of fixed itinerary. I felt a bit embarrassed not to know about this already, but well, there’s a first time for everything, eh? It does sound like a key text for my project… Apparently, dériving is best done in small groups of two or three, letting the conversation be a journey too, which interweaves with and influences the physical journey…
On the north side of the tracks, we turned up Fisher’s Reserve. A beautiful hand painted letterbox with a hippo and a stork. A man (who we assumed to be the letterbox artist) was visible inside his front room. We waved to him mutely, pointed down at the box, and gave him a big thumbs up. He returned with a grin and a thumbs up of his own. Around the corner, a slumped beanbag, another dead TV.
By the time we got home, the flans had set. They were solid and wobbly as jelly. I pulled one out of the fridge, and sliced around the edge to encourage it to pop out. It schlepped onto the plate, retaining the shape of the takeaway container. Two spoons, and in we dug. And you know, it wasn’t bad.
[ps. Reuben forgot to take his cornbread home. I gave it to Mayhem.]