Today is the winter solstice. The shortest day. This year it might also take a prize for the wettest.
Melbourne is doing its thing. Not its variable, four-seasons-in-one-day thing. Its grey thing. Its Rainy City thing.
We need a little injection of sunshine, a little reminder that winters in Melbourne don't last forever ... and a little bit of excitement.
So here is a wee sneak preview of Maureen McCarthy's new novel The Convent, which will be out in October.
Set in and around the Abbotsford Convent over four generations, The Convent is definitely a Melbourne book. But it's bigger than that. It makes me cry just thinking about it. It's full of everything you love about Maureen's writing: big gutsy love, identity, faith, family, friendship, sex, motherhood. It's funny and it's heart-aching and it makes me wish I could mail a reading copy to EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.
But for the moment you'll just have to settle for this extract. Think summer thoughts. And enjoy!
I love the Fitzroy Swimming Pool and so let me count the ways. It's Olympic size, so the laps you do are proper ones. It's open all year around. The water is virtually cold, with just the chill taken off. And best of all it's outside. Indoor pools make me feel like I'm swimming in soup.The sky has darkened again by the time I get there, purple black with dramatic streaks of white light breaking through all over, and the crowd is leaving in droves. Suits me. I head into the women's change rooms. Around me there are women in varying stages of undress. Any body size or shape fits in here. I tell Stella this but she doesn't believe me. I'm changing into my black Speedos right next to a large muscly woman in her sixties with grey hair and tats on both forearms. She is having an animated conversation with a really old skinny woman - must be about eighty - about hip-replacement operations. They're cackling about how bits of their bodies have begun dropping off. Other people are listening and smiling. The really old one has plastic daisies hanging from her ears. Her bathers look plastic too.On the other side of me are three glamorous young mums trying to deal with babies and tired preschoolers who don't want to put their clothes on after their shower. Then there is the pack of teenage girls gossiping and preening in front of the mirrors in their skimpy underwear. And next to the showers are two tall, brown-skinned women dressed in bright purple and orange with cloth wound around their heads. They're laughing as they muster about half a dozen little kids who don't want to go home.I pick up my towel, walk out, pick the fast lane and hit the water.One lap, two, four, eight. I surge through the water, the frustration rushing through my arms and legs, making them strong. Before I know it I've done fourteen laps and it feels like I've just started.I could swim forever.