I've been guzzling T2's Melbourne Breakfast tea to try and keep the Melbourne vibe going. It's great tea so it's kind of working…
Ah Melbourne. I do love you so.
Once again I marvelled at the ease in which one can find quirky fabulous cafes, restaurants and shops in the CBD and surrounds. There is something about the inner city, when it is not filled with so many towering high-rises that the streets are dark, whatever the time of day; and where street trees grace the footpaths (whatever the season); and where enough of the old-world architecture remains to create a sense of place… that I relish being in the midst of the thriving heart, where busyness, dirt and grime and even ugly commercialism (in all its forms: street signage, blaring noise, crowds and traffic mayhem) all become somehow more bearable…even beautiful.
I have been reading this darling book to Arch with a secret agenda on my part, to revel in the wonderful illustrations of Melbourne's Collins Street. It's called Peggy by Anna Walker. It's about a chicken and her brave adventure after she is blown by the wind in to the city.
Have you seen it?
|Peggy by Anna Walker (animation)|
Back in Melbourne, I caught a tram to Fitzroy and spent a glorious rainy day tramping up and down Brunswick and Gertrude Street(s) gazing at and sighing with pleasure at the array of fab design, quirky objects and all things gorgeous … As I hurriedly ducked into one fabulous clothes shop the lady behind the counter declared, "You must be from Hobart, New Zealand or Sydney - they're the only people out in this weather shopping today!"
Slightly unusually for Melbourne, the grey skies and drizzly rain was not accompanied by freezing cold temperatures. Perfect weather for my Finnish raincoat, which, as usual, initiated a number of conversations with people marvelling at its style and usefulness and wondering where on earth they could get one.
Finland, I replied.
Here's the story of how I came to be wearing a Finnish raincoat.
In 2013 our little school was blessed with the arrival of a family from Finland. They had arrived in Australia just before Christmas, six months into a year long adventure of travelling through different countries, taking a break from their normal life. It turned out that the four Finnish children had had enough of living out of suitcases, and wanted to settle somewhere for a while and go to school.
Australia effectively closes down in December/January but the Finnish family had found an unfurnished house to rent and had then rung around schools in the local area and beyond to see where their children might be welcome for a half-year stint. Upon ringing our school they were offered a place.
We came to know and love this family - it was fascinating to hear of how life is done on the other side of the world. The Finnish school system is often held up as a vastly superior system - and they certainly challenge many of our accepted views (Finnish children don't start school until they turn seven; their school hours and days attending are much less than in other western countries; there is no private schools - only one public system is available and it is 100% government funded; there is only limited homework prior to high school) and their results of high school graduation, progression to higher education and maths and science results are the best in the world.
Our Finnish family revelled in connecting with our school community. They attended every assembly and event and were wholly involved in a way that they knew that their busy lives in Finland would not allow.
One night they came to our home for dinner. We talked non-stop about decorating styles, parenting, living as Christians, schooling, and all manner of subjects. It felt like we had known them forever.
I had agonised over whether to cook salmon (Finnish national dish) or lamb (Aussie fare). I went with the lamb and was therefore greatly relieved to hear that the finnish family were enjoying having a break from salmon. The baked dinner was a great success.
All through their stay, the Finnish mother, wore a beautiful raincoat. It was a hugely versatile everyday coat, weatherproof and super stylish. I don't know if many people commented on it to her face, but I was secretly admiring it madly. Nothing like it exists here.
Around the time the Finnish family were starting to prepare to leave for home, they gave away bags of clothes that they had finished with. One bag we received had a pair of pyjamas in it from the eldest girl, that fitted Eleanore perfectly.
"It's so special having her pyjamas," I told Ellie. "It's a sign of true friendship. Infact," I continued, warming to my theme, "I might ask the Finnish mother for her pyjamas - as a sign of our warm friendship."
"No," said Ellie, my bright-eyed, sharp-as-a-tack nine-year-old. "Ask for her raincoat."
I honestly had NO INTENTION of asking for her raincoat. But I did share the story. I thought it was so funny that even though I'd never mentioned it to her, Ellie had also noticed the striking caot.
On their last day, a year ago now, following a few weeks of near constant rain (which they assured us was hardly rain at all, compared to European precipitation), we lined up to say sad goodbyes.
"Come with me to the car," said the Finnish mother. I followed her out, thinking maybe there was some last minute things she wanted me to dispose of for her. She hugged me hard and I hugged her back. Meeting a kindred spirit doesn't happen every day. It's an honour when it happens, and it was so clear that their brief time in our school community had brought blessings to many.
"Take my raincoat," she said while taking it off and handing it to me.
I gasped, horrified. It's one thing to admire someone else's coat (and note here, I say admire, not covet!). It's quite another thing to take it from someone's back.
"Oh no! I don't want it. Truly! I did not tell you what Ellie said because I wanted you to give it to me." I felt quite sick at the thought. "It is yours. Don't give it to me. Please!"
I tried to push it away.
"Look," she said, trying to be fierce. We were both near tears from our forced farewell. "I want you to have it. You are the only friend I know who would want to wear someone else's old dirty raincoat."
That was probably true. Years of dedicated op shopping do mean my sense of ownership is more flexible than most.
And so, with a bit more arguing, all fruitless, I took it. I took it as a sign of the brief but kindred love and friendship that had grown between us.
Every time I wear it I think of her and the mighty positive connection her family had with mine. We shared faith, a similar aesthetic, a love of home decorating and of making a welcoming home, and a love of life and family.
We also now share a fabulous raincoat.
|Me wondering why I'm so rubbish at selfies..|
When people stop me to admire the coat and to ask me where it is from. I smile and tell them that my dear friend from Finland took it off her own back and gave it to me, just before she returned home.
It's an act of friendship I'll never forget.