Exploring Nicholson Village while it is still cold, holding hands and holding coffee, squinting into the parallel sun. Toy stores with hand-made and hand-painted wooden bicycles, puzzles, little upholstered toddler armchairs made by an old man in his shed on the coast. A bookstore just for children: pop-up books, cut-out books, glorious collections of classics. Then it is our dear friends from Sydney, Aaron and Jutta, well-met in Carlton Gardens. To me, "You're so big it's hard to hug you now!" And to Mr B, "You look positively svelte by comparison." The instant chatter of good friends with months of sharing to pack into mere hours. Aaron and I lag behind. I am footsore with pregnancy, and he limps after having just finished the Oxfam Trailwalk at 6am. I am astounded he is upright.
Outside the the historic Carlton Exhibition buildings, the lineup for the Taco Truck snakes around corners, but we head straight inside to browse the Finders Keepers markets and marvel in all the crafty talent. We buy some hand-painted gift-cards, a three-tiered cake-stand made from old records, and little grey winter pantaloons for the baby, spotted in ladybird red.
Back into the sunshine, which is high and hot and glorious now despite the calendar insisting it is mid autumn, we enter the happy, eclectic bustle of Brunswick Street. Italian paperies, an old-fashioned puppet workshop, vintage clothing, milliners, outlets for emerging artists, and pubs, cafes and restaurants that spill out into the sun-drenched street.
We take the back streets to Min Lokal for a late lunch of grilled haloumi on radish and chat potatoes, Moroccan spiced baked beans with labna and dukkah, and crispy pork-belly over caramelised apple salad.
Then we hug and kiss again. "I can hardly reach you," they insist as I awkwardly try to bend forward, past my own belly and into their arms. We part ways but I am not as sad as usual because I will see them again next week when I head up to Sydney for a brief visit of my own. Mr B and I walk hand in hand back up Brunswick Street, looking in all the shop windows. A drunk man sitting on a park bench enjoying a brown-bottle beverage from a time-honoured paper bag yells at me: "You're pregnant!" then dissolves into gales of laughter.
Home as the sun begins to set, it surprises me how early it sleeps these days. Mr B heads into the bedroom for a little rest and the dog follows, eager steal a nap on the bed since I always tell him no. I rest my aching feet on the couch and read a couple more chapters of The Harp in the South before starting on the roast butternut squash soup that will be our dinner.