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Being in bed, the teeth have been cleaned and there’s that lingering minty freshness, and then, with a book in my lap, leaning over to the bedside table and taking a couple of sips from the glass that’s there, the glass that’s filled with newly poured, fridge-cold water.

Planting – it might only take a couple of minutes for the pot to be filled with soil, the plant to be eased out of its punnet or dug up from another part of the garden, and then for it to be patted down and watered, but the benefits last for days, weeks even, potentially whole lives.

Going for a drive while listening to a dusty old home-made mix CD and coming across a forgotten song.  I experienced this yesterday when driving in the rain between here and Robertson (the home of the big potato, would you believe) – happy behind the steering wheel ‘Grace Under Pressure’ by Elbow came on.  I had to reach for my hanky, let me tell you that (and stay clear of cars overtaking as if there was no tomorrow).

Absently – even aimlessly – walking down my hallway and catching a glimpse of my library.  There’s nothing like it; it’s as warming as an open fire, as reassuring as an arm on the shoulder.

Riding down the street on my trusty treadly.  I just love being on that thing, especially at the end of the day and the brain’s looking to empty.  Hands on handlebars, riding gloves on hands, the sense of silence and stillness in the traffic, despite all the energy required and the movement.

These things that are ordinarily ecstatic.  Yours?

Where I live I get to do something special: ride my trusty treadly around the most beautiful lake in the world.  All those different landscapes.  The native parklands with their old-man eucalypts.  The oak groves, which for a few days in autumn light up as if on fire.  There’s even a secret cork plantation.  And the water: it can be mirror-flat, it can be whipped into a frenzy, but always it’s deathly cold, so they say.  And the mountains, that hazy blue wall to the west.  Some days I simply have to be down there, at the lake, just man and bicycle, and silence.

But last weekend, I didn’t have silence.  Before I left I ripped an old CD, Reykjavik by British DJ Nick Warren. There was a period a while ago when I’d come home from a significantly extended Friday-night adventure and, with the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window, I’d peal out of my sweat-soaked party clothes, slide between the sheets, and fall asleep listening to this gorgeous electronica.

I have no idea why I wanted to hear this particular music again, because I can’t remember the last time I was in a nightclub – these days I get the wobbles if I’m out after 8pm.  But it seemed that I had to do it.  So, with my MP3 player loaded up and ready, I slipped into my very unsexy bike shorts and yellow safety jacket, pressed the headphones into my ears, donned my stack-hat, and off I went.

And off I went indeed.

The music.  It’s everything I remember it being: fake yet beautiful, soulful even.  As I reach the lake’s edge, a certain song comes on, the infamous fourth track.  The insistent drums.  The little keyboard notes floating slowly, like autumn leaves.  Then the impossibly maudlin, effects-laden guitars over the top.  And the whole lot of it builds and then builds some more.

My head starts nodding in time.  One hand comes off the handlebars – I’m punching a fist into the sky!  I look like an idiot but I don’t care.

I’m back there, on the dance floor, people pressed in tight, some of them are great dancers, they know the moves – all I’ve got is a bit of a left-foot, right-foot shuffle which makes me look like a robot trying to squash grapes.  But I’m loving it.  I don’t talk to anyone; I just want to get lost.  Once in a while someone nice (or not so nice, depending on your position) comes along and they drop something into my palm and off I go even further.  And I break into the wildest of grins.  And then I feel warm.  And then hot.

I close my eyes.  My other hand comes off the handlebars.  Now I’ve got two fists punching the sky.  My heart-beat’s rising fast, my treadly’s going on without me.  And I realise this: I’m happy.  Happy being middle-aged and on my bike and riding around the lake listening to music that’s past its use-by date, remembering a time that was dangerous (if not stupid), a time that won’t happen again, happy that some things are behind me, happy that some things are still to come.

Yes, some things are still to come.

As long as I don’t career headfirst into the lake.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, April 26 2008)

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