Suffer little children unto Gertrude Street, soup kitchen of the art world, purveyors to poor and undernourished souls; tonight's special is pea soup, a broth so thick and hearty its mere memory shall bring about rumblings and phantom indigestion for years to come.

This liquid is neither hot nor cold but has a tepidity bordering on perfection. Handle your spoon tenderly and with the utmost respect, it is the sole instrument which shall enable you to digest this fare fit for the gods of Olympus.

You are entering heaven, hell, limbo and purgatory They are one and the same. Each spoonful gives you a further insight. This is called life.

Ignore the scraping of chairs from your fellow diners. With your serviette placed neatly in your lap, relax and savor the multitude of sensations. Roy Grounds has joined forces with Venetian boatmen in a once only duet. A mummy has returned from its cedar sarcophagus to aid as your tour guide, its parchment-like wrappings acting as a shawl to guard against the initial chill of surprise ... onward.

Through the haze of hunger you see the welcoming and smiling faces of a Chinese couple coupling as only couples can. You hear waves crash, smell the salt, and sense the seaweed-covered cries of a shipwreck. All is well. There will be survivors.

To your left there are sweet clouds of dust and the adventurous clatter of horses feet. You are joining two riders on their frequent pilgrimage to a Shangri-la of grey and pastel clouds. As your spoon strikes against the side of your decidedly indifferent china bowl, it occurs to you you are yet through this fertile swamp.

"What ho!" Your delightful reverie is disturbed by a drunken member from a crowd intent on seeing the cold silver of steel change to the blood red of revolution. You have witnessed the demise of a monarch without lifting the salt container from its place by your right elbow, the excitement of the meal having caused your manners to lapse.

You hear someone question the recipe of this fine repast and once more you are distracted, this time to the land of colour and light. Your spoon sinks to the bottom and the muffled click signals the arrival of geishas. You allow your soup to be becalmed. In its shimmering surface an image clarifies. It is of downy petals that hail from a great American city, whilst in your neighbour's dish you discover a lithesome tree which gave your bowl's image its pedigree.

You sense anxiety. There is confusion as some feeble souls throw down their napkins in disgust and exit hastily Relax my friend, this soup shall not curdle.

Well fortified, you now see only metal where there was once liquid and replace your spoon. You clutch together your paltry possessions and regretfully head for the chaos of the empty streets. But wait...

Lest we forget the tip.

John Matthews
Travels without my Aunt Catalogue, Melbourne 1985