“I hope they don’t serve us sandwiches.”
We stare in dismay as the picnic basket approaches. Closer, closer, to our excitement, the lid slides open to reveal chips, candies and cake. We grin as we spot the array of comfort food. And oh – My taste buds recoil upon seeing the cling wraps.
First fun fact though, it is a sweltering thirty-six degrees and I’m not even perspiring. A graduation ceremony tinkles from behind as I chew on my cold and mayo-less sandwich. The air permeates of hip-hip-hoorahs. Everything looks too surreal for a non-Australian. I blink my eyes and stare in amazement, not from the brightness of the sun.
Sprawled over sheep-grazing lawns, the locals sun-bathe in their folded 501’s. And no one has a bathing-suit on. Ducks peck food straight out of the palm. Flies zoom bravely down like pseudo-Clark Kent’s. And the birds inch in to nip anything with much headiness.
A sparkling fountain with a peacock for a cheerleader, lush blankets of green decorated with a mishmash of cliques, Californian sunshine boasting proudly on the willing backs of people, and of course – silky-mane terriers having their ribbons run over by gleeful tricycles? Check.
Somehow, I derive a sense of warmth from watching the encirclement of such unusualness.
Because I’ve never survived in such incendiary heat without emitting, at least one globule of sweat. Because we never sun-bathe anywhere except at pools or beaches, and only in our swim-suits. Because nobody ever graduates – in a botanical park. Because the flies and birds back home react with the speed of light. Because, we don’t have such crazy ducks.
With these stamped and declared, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne is a perfect tableau of the ‘Ozzie’ culture. Despite my sandwich fiasco, I am swayed by its eclectic mix of patrons. Sweet Valley reincarnated – minus the stereotypical bubbling of mindless chatter, everything is definitely in place.
However scenic it may seem, nothing is ever perfect though. Peer closely and you will be able to notice the eccentricities this garden garbs in all its royalty. My favourite garden sport – the feeding of the ducks, takes place here with an unusual twist. A giant black swan with no grace and only size to spare remains the undefeated bully of the pond. Snatching away bread bits faster than you can say, ‘Whoa Nelly!’ the rest of the ducks are coerced into hunger.
Fear not. A strategic drop of a bread crumb placed between its meticulously folded features (by yours truly) sends the starving duck population into a pecking frenzy. The tables turn as the handsome swan squawks for his life. Features float prettily in the air and the picnickers blissfully munch away, oblivious to the hilarity of the current commotion.
The contrast of such against a scenic backdrop entertains me better than the antics of soap opera aired back home.
Next up on the agenda is ‘The Adventures of Searching for The Elusive Loo.’ Trust me when I say, this is one event you’d definitely not want to miss. As you weave your way through mazes of dew-dropped daises, be careful not to stumble into the welcome-mascot of a peacock. Do not be deceived by the beckoning pebble footpaths and beware of the mosaic antique benches, adorned lovingly with carvings of Jane & Sam forever 79′. One minute is all it takes for these dandy birds to hop out from these ornamental spots and stun any passers-by with their beauty.
However when caught aware, the peacocks get mad and produce indignant squawks. Fortunately, like the conceited humans we are, they are easily pacified when given time to pose for another shot. Snap – whirr – click – and the vain fowls are now happy. They amble along, anticipating a next victim to ruffle their feathers to. It’s all good until your bursting bladder reminds you of a toilet remaining to be found.
Beside the Rose Pavilion and the Terrace Teahouses, take a moment and immerse yourself in their Aladdin-like carpets of grass. Amazingly smooth and silky clean, they tickle my back like baby’s skin. Such comfort makes me wonder why I purchased that $3,000 leather couch. With the shrieks and yelps of gleeful toddlers, graduating scholars and band recitals acting as my multi-dollar surround sound system, I rediscover for myself, another place called home.
A haven for any occasion; this is a garden like no other. Where you can be by yourself, yet never feel completely alone. Step here to regain that rightful connection of ours. Man, Mammal – Us and Nature. As if I were reborn, my human entity is already forgotten. I dig my toes into the soil and toss my shoes aside. I look up into the sapphire sky and laugh. And I run towards the awaiting spontaneity, reuniting with the rest of the animal kingdom.