Preparation for the trip takes on huge proportions when it’s a cold morning, the sky grey, ravens cawing ominously. I can’t decide between my trusty old sneakers, and my fancy negative-incline shoes.
Then I have to harness the hound.
“Pup!” I shout. “Puppy!” Pupika is six years old now, but still called Puppy. He’s a Chihuahua crossed with a Jack Russell. The size of a loaf of bread, and just as smart. Pupika dances around me, ready for his walk, but cannot stand still long enough to have his purple dog jacket on. I realise we are matching, both of us in purple. People will think this is deliberate, and I’m that sort of lady dog owner. I grab the purple leash. Great.
Our route is simple. We live on the edge of the outer east in Melbourne's Vermont South. We head along Hawthorn Road. I like to visit my favourite tree, a huge spreading jacaranda that goes brilliant orange-red in the autumn, as though it’s on fire. It glows.
Today, the branches are still bare, but buds have pushed out of the woody, waxy twigs. Imbolc, the pagan festival called The Quickening, has just passed. The trees are awake, the ground is starting to warm. It’s August, and light is returning to my Antipidean world.
Pupika has a friend called Oscar in one of the houses on Hawthorn Road. Oscar is not out and about this morning, but Pupika dashes into the yard anyway, to leave some wee-mails. I can see a hint of yellow behind the garage. Lemons. All over Victoria, lemons, oranges, tangerines, and mandarins have ripened and are falling off trees. But never where I can reach from the footpath.
We head left up Stanley Road. One by one, the older 60’s and 70’s brick veneer homes are being demolished and smooth rendered concrete, low-rise double-storey new houses being built, all sharp angles, with black or white stone gardens, lion and dragon statues at front doors, a water feature and big iron fence.
Out the front of one newish house is a dilapidated chair with tatty flat cushions. It catches the sun, if there is any. An elderly Indian lady is parked there each afternoon. She wears thick flannelette pyjamas, woollen socks, and sheepskin slippers under a faded yellow sari. I think she is blind. Her face is turned to the sun, but she doesn’t blink or shade her eyes. I have called out "hello" to her, but she doesn’t answer.
Near the corner of Stanley and Mullens is the House of Boys. It’s landmarked by many, many cars. They fill up the driveway, and both sides of the street for several houses either side. As far as I can gather, Mr and Mrs Householder have four young men living at home. Those young men invite their friends over. House of Boys.
There is always a couple of lads standing beside a car, making plans of some sort. As Pupika and I approach, one will get into the car and drive off, while the other makes a quick note on his iPhone.
I used to think it was a halfway house for lost boys, or a crack house. I asked one day. No, just a House of Boys.
Another left turn onto Mullens Road. The fence of geraniums is looking tatty after a long winter. It needs trimming. The fence is leaning just that little bit more towards the footpath. I give it another three years before the weight of the climbing vines pull it down.
The park is empty. School is in and all the mummies have dashed off to jobs or home to tiger-tame other young children. Pupika is fussy about the park. Some days he will not sully his paws with nature. Other days he dashes onto the grass and waits for me to fling my hands in the air and shout: “Super Puppy!” This is his cue to dash off madly, running in big circles to show off.
The sight of an eclectically-dressed middle aged woman is enough to make more than one walker change direction to avoid me – me wearing a bizarre beanie and shouting in the park, apparently to herself because Pupika has run off into the bush and can't be seen.
A few stalwart women in tennis skirts and legs bright pink with cold are having a hit of tennis on the courts near the bowling club. They chat and lob bright green tennis balls back and forth. We are now back on Livingstone Road.
Vermont South Special School is opposite Livingstone Primary School. No children at the Primary School, but the Cooking Teacher is taking a straggly group of Middle Schoolers to the shops to buy groceries. It’s an exercise in behaving well in public.
“Hi, David’s mum,” they say.
My son has not attended this school twelve years, but some of the teachers greet me, and when their charges ask who I am, they are told: “This lady’s son, David, used to go to our school. This is David’s mum.” They don’t know who David is, have never met him. Nevertheless, I am forever David’s Mum.
“Hi kids,” I say.
They fuss over Pupika, who doesn’t know whether to run, or frisk. He does a little of both, and endures a few pats from the brave. One lad announces, as he pats, that he is "Afraid of dogs, all dogs".
The blue-uniformed group move off, and Pupika and I are on the home stretch. We amble up Livingstone Rd, and there, in our driveway, is our ginger cat waiting to interrogate us.
"Oh,” he seems to say, "you brought the dog back again. Why?"
I can see the Dandenong hills from my house. They are misted with rain.
Tomorrow, we will walk again. It will all be the same, it will all be different.