We arrived in Melbourne late last night and checked into our accommodation at the Pegasus Apartment Hotel. It’s hard to notice much that late at night, but it certainly looks clean and comfy and that’s all I cared about right then. But, as the sunshine beams through the floor to ceiling windows, it’s clear that its quite a lovely place, although the heated pool and spa are cold and the free wifi doesn’t work (and as I would discover, won’t work pretty much the whole time I’m here – hence the post-written blog) and really quite new also. And it’s more than adequate for the next week – shame I forgot to ask for twin beds in our room, but a good thing that I’m sharing with my sister.
Today will be a hard day. It’s the funeral service for our dear JoJo. We start the day with a family breakfast at a little café down the road called Carpe Diem. It’s a cute little café, Korean perhaps, with an upstairs level which is bathed in sunshine. What a glorious day has dawned for our goodbye. We eat our breakfast and sip our coffees and steel ourselves for the day ahead.
We locate the car hire company and my first challenge for the day is to try and get out of the city without much fuss and onto the freeway destined for Springvale. But you know, you just wouldn’t be able to say you’d driven in Melbourne if you hadn’t attempted a hook turn and that’s exactly what I need to do. Over the years I’ve seen many people attempt this and watched in horror as they’ve sat there trying to gather up the courage to cross the traffic while vehicles behind them honk their impatient horns, so I’m not looking forward to this, but somehow I manage to execute it fine and we are finally out of the city and on our way.
We catch up with our Eastern States family – AJ’s daughters Gael and Barb, Gael’s daughters Anna, Grace and Lola, Uncle Ron’s family – Aunty Marg and Aunty Judith, cousins Annie, Cathy, Rodney, Toni and Andrea and their partners. The service is very short, followed by everyone meeting for coffee afterwards. Aunty Joy was a month shy of her 92nd birthday. A great milestone by any stretch, and even though she wasn’t in the best of health for the last six months, we still weren’t expecting her to leave us just yet. Mum even had flights booked for a visit next month to spend her birthday with her. Even though Aunty Joy left WA in her twenties to follow her new husband, she never thought of home as anywhere other than WA, and had an extremely strong bond with the West, and in particular Mum. I can’t describe the feeling of loss that each of us feels at this moment, like a huge thread that bonded us across the states of Australia has been broken and we are set free to drift.
The afternoon starts to turn cool, and we need to head off to drop back the hire car before the wake.
I’ve had a cold for the last week and the late night flight over, along with a lot of tears, seems to have made it worse. My head is killing me, I haven’t stopped sniffing and blowing my nose all day, I’m so tired and my stomach isn’t feeling the best (I’m suspecting due to prolonged usage of Codral) so I decide to stay at the hotel in favour of a rest and to avoid passing it along to anyone else.
Trying to make our way back to the city to drop off the hire car, we chuckle as the GPS tells us to turn at La Tro o o o be Street. Only I miss La Tro o o o be Street and it seems like we need to do a full lap of the city before we can try again for the right turn off. I make the rest of the family very late to the wake.
Back at the hotel, I’m asleep within minutes and don’t wake up until Mum, Dad and Leigh return from the wake several hours later. We decide to head out for a family dinner to end the day and breathe. We start to walk the streets with nowhere particular in mind, but before long Dad’s whingeing about how far we are walking (it’s actually not very far at all), and its then I realise we are in Little Bourke Street, near Chinatown and that Leigh, Mike and I had dined at an awesome little Japanese Sake Bar & Grill here last time we visited. A few hundred more metres and we walk in the door of Shou, the familiar smell of grilled meats greeting our noses. We take a seat at a booth and order chicken, wagyu, pork and an assortment of vegetables and rice to dine on. Waiting for the food to arrive, we sip sake, beer and cocktails and its clear the delirium of tiredness, stress, grief and a long couple of days has set in, as Dad snaps at Mum’s nose with his tongs. It takes me back to a fond memory of our first visit to Melbourne when I was about 12. Uncle Ron was kind of straight-laced and upright until one night during our visit when he instigated a food fight. Before we knew it, there was jelly flying all over the backyard and Uncle Ron was sitting there laughing with his fingers shoved in his nose, ears and mouth trying to escape the barrage. We killed ourselves laughing and Mum and Aunty Joy couldn’t quite believe the different side of Uncle Ron they were seeing, but we had a ball and this little bit of silliness tonight is well placed.
The food, as it was last time, is awesome. Extremely tasty, light but filling and we get the added fun of cooking it ourselves, on a grill in the middle of the table. I think Shou is going to be one of those go-back to places that will be a part of any return trips to Melbourne, just like the favourites that AJ and UR took us to regularly, like Domenics, the RACV and the Eastern Bell.
The walk back to the hotel doesn’t seem as long funnily enough and I know we will all sleep well tonight.