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international librarian of mystery

Monday, November 08, 2004

My day in the sun

The end of my last post can be partly explained by my exploits from the weekend, which left me short of time for blog-writing.

Josh and I met for a coffee on Saturday morning, having called a truce to some pretty petty mind games that had been going on over the course of the week. He commented favourably on my new World blouse: a white cotton number with short-sleeves, a high neck and festooned with the most fantastic little-yellow-duck print. His praise of my garment choice melted any resentments I may yet have been holding against him. When he asked whether I'd like to head out to Island Bay to check out the primary school fair, my plan A - which had been to go home and write up the rest of my Friday afternoon meeting with Artemis - went out the door.

It was a beautiful spring day in Wellington. We caught the bus out to the southern coast suburb of Island Bay, and traipsed up to the primary school where Josh had received his childhood education. On the playground where some miniature cars were doing loop after child-pleasing loop, Josh showed me the exact spot where he'd pooed his pants in terror when called upon to answer a question that required him to demonstrate a working knowledge of the difference between left and right, a knowledge he did not have at that fateful moment.

We wandered amongst the sugar-laden kids and frazzled-looking parents, taking in the sights. And then, without warning, I was introduced to a woman - 'Kate' - who was manning one of the plant-selling stalls.

"This is my mum," Josh informed me.
"Oh, hello,"
"Natalie, I've heard so much about you!"
"Ah, really?"
"Oh yes, Josh sings your praises. It must be very satisfying being a librarian."
"Er, Yes."
"Did you love books as a child? Josh didn't. Just playing with himself all the time. Don't know where this librarianship notion came from,"
"Mum!" cried Josh. "Don't be an egg."
"Sorry dear," said Kate to Josh. She looked back at me. "My mistake Natalie. As far as I'm aware, Josh has always played very well with others."
"Um, yes. How much for one of those flaxes Kate?"
"Oh, a dollar for you dear. Take two, in fact."

I did, and was then whisked away by Josh. I'm a big one for judging a person's character by their parents, and I was now intrigued enough to wonder what Josh Sr. might be like. I mentioned this to Josh. He laughed, predicted I would love his father, and told me a story about him (sworn to secrecy again, unfortunately - it appears some people are becoming aware of how the blog thing works) that made me suspect his prediction might be right. It has to be remembered that male librarians like Josh are still pretty rare - a bit like male nurses - and that it takes a particular sort of man to want to dedicate himself to a profession the is traditionally seen as feminine one. What makes them tick? Is it in the genes? I am intent on finding out. Josh is my test subject.

Anyway, we loaded up on candy-floss, and then participated in the most flaccid raffle-wheel competition I have ever seen. Instead of spinning 20+ times and slowly clicking its way around to a number, this wheel seemed to be lacking in any sort of spinning impetus and managed nothing more than half a turn on any spin. "The Speed-Wheel!" the hawker called it, perhaps talking up the speed with which it was removing $2 from every unsuspecting dupe in the vicinity. At least the coconut shy was satisfyingly easy, and Josh and I both sent our targets clattering to the ground with a satisfying clunk.

By this time, a little after noon, with the sun beating down and the throng getting even larger, we made the decision to skip the no doubt picked over second-hand book stall and just head down to the beach. It was such a nice day, standing amongst a couple of hundred tantrums-in-waiting was starting to wear thin.

So we looped around via the supermarket and got ourselves a wee picnic and a couple of bottles of wine. Island Bay really is the most beautiful place. Some of the pohutukawa trees that line the Parade - the main street that runs down to the beach - were starting to bloom, which, Josh assured me, is a sign of an impending long hot summer. I could easily believe him - the day was scorching. I was regretting not having bought a hat of some variety, and I could feel the sun's rays burning into every part of exposed skin.

Walking to the beach laden down with our various picnic supplies, a couple of small flaxes and our coconuts, we were both completely sweating up a storm by the time we got to the beach. I would have loved to have gone for a swim, but was sans swimming costume. Josh didn't even hesitate, stripping down to his boxers and plunging into the sea without even breaking stride. I stayed on the beach, cooling myself instead with a large plastic cup of cheap Pinot Gris. And then another. And then, when Josh returned from his swim, a couple more, as we decided we'd better drink it all before the sun warmed it up too much.

Needless to say, on a stomach containing little more than candy-floss and some belated sun-dried tomatoes, feta and pita pockets, we were absolutely rollicking by mid-afternoon. After a quiet, alcohol-induced doze in the soporific UV rays, we decided to head back to town to continue our day in the shade somewhere, but, as we walked through the park to the bus-stop, we saw noizyboy playing with his two kids and stopped to say hello. He invited us back to his place where he was intending on getting the first barbeque of the season under-way. We accepted and did another round-trip via the supermarket to re-stock the booze and food supplies.

Noizy's got a lovely place in Island Bay, on the spur of a hill that gets sun until late in the day, and with a huge back lawn on which his two young sons seem to do nothing else but tear around playing whatever game takes their fancy at any moment. Tucked into one corner of the yard is a big brick BBQ, on which noizy cooked up a feast of dead animals and my token vegetarian sausages. Mrs noizy had prepared some delicious antipasto type treats, and Josh and I tucked in to the whole feast with gusto. The wee one's went down for story-time shortly after dinner, and the grown-ups retired inside once the sun had finally dipped below the horizon and went about finishing off another few bottles of wine, accompanied by a couple of smokes as the evening wore on.

Josh had been making noises about going to the Fly My Pretties concert in town, so, around 10pm we bid noizy and his lovely wife farewell, and wandered down to the bus-stop. Walking in the cool night air with only a light cardigan for warmth, it occurred to me that I was feeling far hotter than I should have. I touched the back of my arms, and felt the sting of sunburn upon them. The instant I became aware of it, I could think of nothing else. When the bus got to Newtown, I decided to leave Josh to it, and, despite his protestations that he should walk me home, I ordered him to stay on the bus, jumped off alone, and shuffled home to survey the damage.

I stripped off in front of my full-length mirror, and literally shrieked when I saw myself. It looked as though someone had painted my arms and legs a particularly shocking shade of neon pink. The tan lines from my blouse and shorts so sharply delineated the burn from my winter-white skin that you might have been fooled into thinking I was wearing some sort of elaborate pink coloured arm and leg warmers. I praised the stars for my SPF+15 Oil of Ulay that I use as my face moisturiser, which probably stopped me from taking on the total lobster look, but that was of little consolation as I climbed into the shower to 'take the sting out'. I ended up shrieking again as a million pin-pricks of pain lanced into my tender limbs.

I went to bed, pointlessly as it turned out, as I lay awake all night, tossing and turning as the burn settled in. By morning I had a colossal hangover to add to my misery, and my limbs were even redder than the day before. I had another stinging shower, drank several litres of water, popped some panadol, considered getting drunk again just to ease the pain, but ended up just sitting in my room for the afternoon with the curtains closed, listening to The Streets and Ghostplane. Every time I got up to turn on my laptop I felt a stabbing sensation in my temple and my arms and legs threatened to crumple up and fall off like so much old desiccated paper.

Hence, no Artemis follow-up. It is coming, I promise...