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Monday, January 13, 2003
The call of nature

I am out to dinner with a friend from university days. We have an enjoyable meal in a pleasantly cosmopolitan part of the city. I go to the toilet. There are two doors: one is marked 'Male'; the other is unmarked. I go to the 'Male' one but the cubicle is occupied. I go back to the unmarked one. One of the managers is coming out. She tells me 'This is the women's toilet.'

I put my face up against the door. 'That's funny,' I say, 'I can't see a notice to that effect.'

'It was there a few days ago,' she says, 'The men's room is along there.'

'It's occupied,' I say and return to my table. I forbear from telling her about the following incident in London a while ago: The Lady and I went to Tate Britain and we went to use the facilities. There was a queue for the women's loo so I transact my business and sit, waiting for HRH to appear.

A well-dressed woman of about thirty appears. She sees the queue, pauses momentarily and marches into the men's loo and is out a minute later, looking pleased with herself. No-one dissents, comments, tells her off.

Is it possible that I have, at last, come across evidence that Australia is not as laid back as I had thought? What's wrong with unisex loos, anyway? Perhaps the idea wouldn't appeal to the 'All men are rapists' school...

A surreal event

Here I am, at the tram stop at about 11.15 at night. It is dark. Dimly, I perceive a duck walking about among the traffic. It has one or two close calls. I also see my tram approaching. I try to shepherd the duck on to a grassy area, away from the traffic.

I fail dismally - the silly creature resolutely refuses to go to the safe area. The traffic stops because I am on a crossing. The drivers are as bemused as I. Eventually, I give up, the traffic starts to move and the duck is run over. It flaps for a moment and then dies. By the time I board the tram, the duck is well and truly squashed.

The tram driver has watched the whole thing. He commiserates: 'You did your best,' he says. He is right.

When I get off the tram, the driver says that it was clear that the duck's time had come, that it was time for it to die. I do not demur. Inwardly, I am thinking that predestination is rubbish and that had there been a few more people about, together we might have saved the poor thing.

I wish the driver good night.

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