‘Two floaters please’

Sunday columnist Peter Leith is 89. He’s seen a lot of the world, a lot of Australia and a lot of life. In addition to his observations, real short stories and impassioned pleas on behalf of older Australians, today he starts an occasional series broadly titled Vanishing Australia.

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As a 20-year-old junior storeman working in 1950s Adelaide I learnt that overtime was called ‘working back’. One night, after ‘working back’, Lyn, the other junior storeman, said: “Let’s ride our bikes down to Victoria Square for a floater.”

I had been in Australia long enough to have learnt not to ask dumb questions.

Victoria Square is set dead centre in the city of Adelaide and surrounds a statue of Queen Victoria about which the irreverent locals used to say: “The only virgin standing around in Victoria Square after dark.”

We rode our bikes down King William Street to the square, leaned them against the side of a long trailer kitchen and pulled up a couple of stools. It was a chilly night and the smell of hot food was mouth-watering.

Sitting next to me was a man busily wrapping himself around a big bowl of thick soup with something submerged in it. It looked and smelt delicious.

When the motherly looking middle-aged woman came to take our orders, I said: “Can I have one of those please?”

Lyn said: “Me too please.”

“What are they?” I asked.

“Pea soup with a pastie in it,” she replied. “Floaters.”

Do you have an idea for Peter’s Vanishing Australia series? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith

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