Sunday Serial – The Unexamined Life (2)

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17th May

That Sophie. Now it’s colder she has taken to wearing a tattered mohair cardigan down to her knees over her tight black skirt. With her tousled hair and eye make-up she looks a fright. I could just hear Mother saying, as she did to me on one occasion, with that acid tone in her voice, ‘You’re a real smart line, aren’t you?’ But Sophie always seems happy with the way she looks. She is what one could call irrepressible. Last Friday she had the cheek to ask me, ‘Want to have lunch together, Rose?’ I closed my lips and choked back the reply that sprang up and replied in a dignified but distinctly cool manner, ‘Thank you, Sophie. I am afraid I am otherwise engaged today.’ She smiled and said, ‘Okay, some other time then.’ When I came back from lunch Ern with his bleary eyes and boozy breath had the gall to say to me, ‘Why don’t you give Sophie a go, Rose?   She’s a good kid.’ I just smiled at him in a neutral manner and got on with my work.

29th May

This is most annoying. That Sophie has driven me into a ridiculous situation. But first I should say Des has taken to putting a small flower in a glass on Sophie’s desk. The first morning it was a gardenia and even in the dusty office its lemony fragrance caught my attention. What did it mean? Was he developing an inappropriate elderly man’s crush on a young girl? But she bowled in and grabbed the glass and stuck her nose in it. ‘Oh Des, I see what you mean. It smells delicious, not at all like that sickly gardenia perfume.’ And old Des flushed and began to drone on about his garden and the best places to plant gardenias. I must say she listened quite politely.

But since then, every Monday there has been a new flower on her desk. Daphne, (my particular favourite, how many years had I been there and he didn’t even know that?) violets, a tiny rose bud, all sorts. I was therefore feeling a little put-out, and  when Sophie asked me what I had done at the weekend. I heard myself saying, ‘It was quite exciting actually. My friend Beryl has just arrived from Zambia and we sat up talking for most of the night. Then on Sunday we went to lunch at Fanny’s. Oh, I’m so tired.’ She beamed at me and said (the cheek) ‘That’s great. Sometimes I think you might get lonely at the weekends, living by yourself.’ How dare she think about me, and in a pitying way? I felt so irritated I added, ‘Oh no, I’m very immersed in the local Historical Society. It might sound dull to a young person like you but there are some very interesting people there.’ And now she keeps asking me about talks that are coming up and about all our interesting speakers. I feel quite harassed.

19th June

Winter now and almost three weeks since I have written here. When I started this journal it was in response to a desk calendar quote I saw, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ so I decided to keep some sort of record that I could later look back on. It is not working as I intended. I seem to leave the book gathering dust beside my bed and then seize it and scribble feverishly when life becomes more annoying than usual. I suppose it is a safety valve of some sort. But lately I have had very little time. Due to that pushy Sophie I have been forced to join the South Melbourne Historical Society and attend their meetings. My ‘friend’ Beryl went back to Zambia, not without occasioning me to spend  hours with the encyclopaedia before she left. However, in self-defence, I have begun to attend the Historical Society. I had thought a Historical Society was a quiet studious affair, but this lot are very active. They are engaged in defending several buildings in the area from developers. I find I am signed up to go with Bid Tumble to sit in front of Scarborough House, a grand and beautiful building threatened with demolition. We bring our folding chairs, we are armed with mobile phones belonging to the club, and we sit on guard. The Building Workers’ Union has banned work on the site, there is a preservation order, but apparently developers have no respect for due process and are likely to pull up with a great smashing ball and begin demolition at any time, especially at the weekend. We are told to ring the police first and then the union and then the club. I can’t imagine what my father would say if he knew I was on the same side as the unions. One of his great themes was the lack of respect workers these days had for their employers. And sometimes I had to quickly repress a little voice inside me that said, ‘And how did your boss treat you? Got rid of you with none your legal entitlements when your sight began to go.’ So it actually gives me some perverse pleasure to be aligned with the other side.

 to be continued next Sunday

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