Tuesday 22nd November – Evening – Botany / Banksmeadow Area
The incessant yet gentle precipitation had left me feeling mildly depressed. My Monday morning jog had been washed out and the Tuesday morning raincheck was, well, rainchecked again. On top of that the exercise bike was broken, which tends to happen when you plug the incorrect transformer into the socket. I knew something was wrong when the digital display began smoking like a peer-pressured teenager. Riding was no longer a possibility.
All out of options, and feeling a little stodgy from the weekend excesses, I hit the road in the rain for a seven kilometre dash.
The first kilometre was reasonably uneventful. My Nike GPS application on the iPhone was reminding me of my pace whilst shuffling through my playlist of motivational songs. Richard Clapton sang ‘Get Back to the Shelter’ as the Telstra truck clobbered the puddle in front of me. It was like wading into a cold, muddy ocean. First your calf muscles get goosebumps. Then your hamstrings begin to shiver. Finally your undies soak and creep up into your crutch. I was destined to spend the next six thousand metres with a very wet wedgie. Perhaps Mr. Clapton had a point.
Traversing Botany Road is always a scary experience. For some reason the semi-trailer drivers don’t believe in pedestrian crossings and when the guy in the BP tanker finally saw me it was all I could do to get out of the way. A blast on the air-horn, and a verbal assault from the shadowed cabin, left me in no doubt that I had made him late for whatever life-saving appointment he was due to attend. How dare I use the zebra crossing.
In spite of British Petroleum’s attempt on my life, I eventually made it to the park with its peace and saturated tranquility. Tiny droplets danced across the pond as the concrete gorilla glistened in the gloom and the empty swing set swung silently in the breeze. Large grey eels slithered through the murky water while giant carp gorged themselves on the soggy bread crusts that were floating on the surface. The only sound out-of-place was the thwack and cheer from the dedicated golfers on the fifth tee of Royal Botany Golf Course. Seriously guys – golf in the rain?!? You’re crazier than I am.
Traffic on Foreshore Drive was at a standstill, which probably explains why the eighteen-wheelers were tearing through suburbia and not on the expressway. An A380 lifted lazily into the air on its way to Singapore or some other salubrious destination and a plump of swamp hens honked at me as I interrupted their bath.
By the third leg of my journey I was in the zone. Led Zeppelin’s ‘Trampled Underfoot’ offered a raucous testament to the growing death toll of snails that kept finding their way below my Reeboks. A drenched Kookaburra perched on an old fence post looking more like a drowned rat than a kingfisher. I laughed at him. Is that ironic?
Water dripped from my wet hair as another wet hare shot out into the path in front of me. Perhaps he had been flushed from his warren by two days of deluge. Maybe he had been routed by one of the mangy foxes that are sometimes found lurking near the golf course. Possibly he was just late for the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Either way, he was certainly not expecting to run into a large bipedal mammal in this weather and almost collided with my right leg. I watched on amazed as the brown bunny zig-zagged across the track. His ability to change direction with such a tight turning circle was incredible and after a couple of 90s, several 180s and a full 360 degree backflip, he was gone.
As the Nike app noted the completion of three kilometres I came across the only other person I would see in the park. An elderly lady with a floral dress and matching umbrella wandered up the wrong side of the bike lane. Her face was hidden, her shoes were tattered and I briefly wondered if she was a local, or lost. Before my thoughts could dwell on her I rounded the corner and there, sticking up out of the grass ahead like a signpost for addiction, was a syringe – needle down into the soil. I paused mid-stride and stooped to pick up the dangerous object. It was the third time I had found a needle in the park and I knew I would have to carry it with me until I could find a garbage bin.
After a fruitless five minute search for more sharp objects I resumed my run. Unfortunately I had begun to cool down and now my ankles were aching. As my Achilles spontaneously combusted I briefly entertained the concept of quitting, until I remembered the pothole in the pathway up ahead. In all this rain it resembled a little lake and my feet achieved nirvana as they plodded through the cold water.
The gentle sprinkling had now become much heavier and a mist was rising from the grass. Small birds had stopped singing and the larger ones were nest bound or grounded. The family of marauding magpies that usually pecked at my ears as I jogged through their trees, were feasting on fat, juicy worms. Shiny black and white parents with their gangly grey offspring were so engrossed in their meal that they didn’t even pay me the slightest attention. A flock of large Puddle Ducks waddled across the road. White feathers, orange beaks and no fear of human beings made them an interesting obstacle, so I was left with no choice but to plow right through the middle of the brace. As the Catatonia song ‘Road Rage’ began playing through my speakers, Jemima let out a loud hiss and nipped at my knee. Perhaps she was related to the man from BP.
Leaving the Sir Joseph Banks Park brought me back to reality. My floral friend was still meandering her way around the grounds in a wide arching loop. She had a bag of bread crumbs for the birds and I figured that she was a local after all. I found a bin for the dirty hypodermic and, frankly, I was glad to be rid of it. There are many isolated spots to seek solitude, but collecting thoughts and clearing your mind are not the only things people do there.
The Steggles van on Botany Road also pretended not to notice the pedestrian crossing and only missed me by the narrowest of margins. Live ducks, dead chooks, something fowl was out to get me. The sun was setting, light was getting dim and I picked up my pace.
Suburbia was silent and still. Christmas lights twinkled from the windows of early decorators and wreaths hung in the closed doorways, but the families had settled in for dinner and the houses were locked up tight. There was no yoga at the cafe, no tai chi in the reserve and nobody to welcome me home except a battered old tom cat wanting his dinner. I think I’ll have leftovers tonight.