It’s Australia Day so I go for a walk. To Ashfield. The weather is sultry, purplish clouds louring to the south and humidity in the 90s; I feel malcontent but can’t work out why, though my ongoing correspondence with the Kafka-esque State Debt Recovery Office might have something to do with it. Just like the Indians in Adelaide, I’m on a losing wicket. As soon as I think this, on the corner of Norton and Holden, I meet four sub-continental belles in their western finery going up towards Liverpool Road; the first one dazzles me with her smile and I forget my mal, at least for the moment. At the back entrance to the mall there’s a tired looking Chinese man supervising two shopping trolleys full of groceries and a tiny girl with a pristine white (synthetic) feather duster, with which she is attempting to sweep the floor. I smile at her Dad and he smiles wearily back; the girl does nothing, looking gravely up at me as I pass through the automatic doors into the air-conditioned nightmare beyond. There’s a butcher I haven’t patronised before so I buy the special (a sirloin) then continue across the way to the strangely named Ashfields of Fruit where I manage to drop two separate bundles of buk choy on the floor and yet escape unnoticed with my broccolini, my sweet potato, my truss tomato. In a haberdashery shop I see a portly woman holding up with unfeigned joy a card of something unidentifiable; the image, in that po-po-mo way, translates instantly into a photograph but only amongst the digitals of my brain; and my mal returns. Why would you wear a brassiere made out of an Australian flag, I wonder, as four beefy Skip girls go by? Why, suddenly, are there Union Jacks everywhere? A survey, just published, has found that the more patriotic a person in Perth is, the more likely he or she is to be racially intolerant. I remember DB, years ago now, saying that there wasn’t a spiritual bone in his body and think, inter alia, there isn’t a patriotic bone in mine. But I wasn’t born here, was I? No help there, since I can readily imagine feeling just as alienated amidst the chest-thumping bravado that will be going on across the Tasman in ten day’s time. Why should I even care? I amble past three real estate windows in a row, checking the rentals, and learn that you pay less, for an equivalent property in the same suburb, if you lease through an Ashfield rather than a Summer Hill agency. Choice Liquor is full of people stocking up for the afternoon’s festivities; outside Josh’s shop, Bravado, I pause to admire the elegant design of the two dresses she has in the window and wonder where she’s gone since being evicted from next door? I miss Josh, even though her guests were always loud; either Lebs partying or drag queens. The oval is almost deserted, it’s been mowed and looks like a dream of a green lacking only men or boys in white to make it perfect. Outside St. Vinnies, which is closed, the little mannequin in a gold lamé mini-skirt, bronze jacket and sequin top, with curlicued arms and head-piece for holding jewellery, is still standing there on the blue step and, though I usually won’t allow myself to pilfer donations, I pick her up and go on home. The second one I’ve found this month. It feels strange to have my heat-swollen hand wrapped around her slender trunk, as if I were King Kong and she Fay Wray; but not too creepy. She rattles slightly and I realise her head-piece is loose and screw it back in. There she is, standing on the book shelf in front of the print of the 1957 Rex Battarbee painting of a ghost gum at Simpsons Gap, looking elegant as Josh’s dresses. After three attempts I think I finally have the Hilary Wirri watercolour of Mt Sonder hung right. It’s curious how the profile of Rutjubma, way out west of Alice in Tyurretye, echoes Ruapehu as seen from Ohakune; so that, when I look at the Wirri hanging on the east wall, the two mountains seem not so much to echo as mirror each other; and the distance between them becomes illusory the way mirrored spaces are . . . and then—or now—I remember, with relief, that I’ve forgotten my mal, all the possible reasons for it, and also what kind of day, officially, it was meant to be.