Living alone in Titirangi

2008-08-27 00:00

I’m sitting in the only sunny corner left at the popular pavement café in the art village of Titirangi. Oh, it’s such a feast of Titirangi titillation. The locals gather for Saturday breakfast. Pony-tailed, bearded artists with their shaggy dogs on shoulders or laps and a few at heel. Soppy dog lovers. It’s a restaurant full of tartan-jacketed mutts mooching on blankets with their enamel water bowls under the tables.

I love it. I come here to get my canine therapy. I miss my dogs back home that we thankfully found homes for with besotted dog lovers. If I don’t get my own pooch soon, my soul will simply start curling at the edges.

And there are plenty of babies, too. And toddlers in gumboots and teens in mini- skirts and leggings. People don’t care about the weather. It rains so much we call it “liquid gold”. One adapts. Knitted hats, skullcaps, scarves and gloves and babies with plastic pram covers to face today’s chill wind off the Manakau Bay. Who said Kiwis were dull? These ones aren’t. They sip massive mugs of coffee, tuck into eggs and bacon wrapped in muffins and laugh around tables on the pavement, their chilly breath spilling into the air.

I’ve been living alone for a month now. It’s an extremely new life experience for me. Yes, it’s true, people who live alone do talk to themselves, like Shirley Valentine. But it also means that one’s observations are sharpened. One watches more closely, observes life from one’s own fringe.

Back at my pad on my own I’ve had some laughable experiences. Trying to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. Result — red wine decorated the kitchen wall, which was seriously sanitised before the veggies got fermented.

And I’ve had some adventures in my sports car. The things a woman learns to do without their man around. There I was standing in the pit under my car, in high-heeled boots beside a greasy acne-decorated youth in blue overalls, diagnosing what the rattle in the vague vicinity of the exhaust pipe was. And twice, around the time of the reportedly worst deluge in New Zealand in 10 years, having to demurely smile at muscled joggers to rescue my car from the muddy morass.

As my spouse was born with a remote control in his hand, I’ve had to learn to change channels, and to operate the DVD and video machine. I’ve also learnt to navigate my way around this sprawling city using my Global Positioning System (GPS), to Skype and to put petrol in the tank. For a self-confessed twit on such matters, I’m constantly amazed at my ability.

As for mastering a new job and trying to decipher so many accents … the other day, my waiter said his name was “Bin”. I said: “As in rubbish bin?” Wry response: “ No Bin — B-e-n …” Get my point. In hindsight, I should’ve asked for a Gen and tonic.

Each day new uninvited adventures mean that I hit the ground running. I’ve discovered that parts of my brain that were dormant have had to go on a rapid march. My senses have sharpened. I listen more intently, watch more carefully and process with deeper illumination. On another level, my subconscious mind is no longer on high alert. I find that I relax more and my vibrations are calmer. I sleep more peacefully. The other night the back door blew open in the wind and it just didn’t matter.

I also enjoy the sense of anonymity, the invisible voyeur. The dude at the table next to mine is on his cellphone — “Hiya mate … are we gonna link up?” And there is always an acute awareness of a palpable sadness of being so far from “home”, juxtaposed against my wonderment at my new world. And I count the days until my spouse arrives and opens the next bottle of wine.

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