Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Mending man

  • 02 November 2018


On one of the first warm days of spring I took myself to the Fitzroy Pool — the place made familiar in Helen Garner's iconic book Monkey Grip. The sign for deep water, Aqua Profunda, is still there. The day had a blissful warmth and I swam beneath a stretch of blue sky. I was gliding along and lifting my arms with gentle effort in the unhurried pace of the slow lane.

Next to the slow lane at the far edge of the pool was a bank of concrete benches where people lay reading or sunbathing or chatting. I could glimpse them as I turned my head to take a breath. I had a better view when I did lazy laps with the paddle board, my head lifted and arms outstretched for the length of the pool.

A young man was sitting upright on the lowest bench, his feet on the ground. A woman, I presumed his girlfriend, lay along the bench at his side with her head against his thigh: she lay very still reading a book. He was shirtless and she in her bathers. The man was holding an item of clothing; it looked like a lightweight woollen jumper in a soft grey.

The man held it in front of his chest with no apparent effort or impatience, away from the face of his reading girlfriend.  With quiet attention he pulled a needle and long thread through it over and over again, gently re-positioning it as he progressed.

I did lap after lap and still the man was sewing. His easeful concentration was beautiful to watch and the relaxed presence of his companion gave the scene a lovely calm — a sense of things aligning, while he was mending and she was reading.

I felt a love for this moment and for this mending man. The way he was paying attention to realigning or reconnecting the weave of threads that have been broken or frayed.

From my slow lapping lane, I watched the man with affection; his shoulder length strawberry blond hair, his darker red beard, his hair falling across his face as he leant forward slightly, to better see his work. I was fascinated by his quietude. My sewing is lumpy. I do not have skill or patience with needles and threads. The last time one of my mending efforts was worn people asked 'What happened to your jumper?' But I love to