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By Bruce Williams

Across the road from the kiddie park in Camperdown, they bake the pies favoured by the Cumbersome Viceroy. The pies above which the photo of Derek still rests, although the notification of his funeral is long since removed.

Colette, Sabina, Sally, Sophie and I turn our backs on our children for the nearby park bench, set in concrete, where we unzip nylon bags and snap open plastic containers, peeling off sandwich segments, bits of banana, slices of apple, or crescents of vegemite-smeared rice crackers.

Armed with these, we cruise the feeding-fields of Camperdown, like reverse predators, popping tiny chunks of food into the mouths of our unsuspecting, tiny prey.

We’ve been talking about how the city has come to a stand-still, all for the sake of World Youth Day. And replaced with what’ At least with the Olympics there were gigantic video screens in public places, and Kathy Freeman. And Marion Jones with a smile so sweet it was able to shine through ‘ even out of a face caked with makeup to hide steroidal acne. And at least with APEC there was the Chaser security breach. This time, it’s Pope Benedict taking Gaye Waterhouse’s rightful place as cock of the walk at Randwich Racecourse, and a horde of pilgrims with tags around their necks, clogging up Devonshire Street Tunnel and turning the Hungry Mile into the Cheerful Mile. What’s up with that’

‘So,’ says Colette, returning from her third and final morning fag. ‘Catholics. They’re the ones that don’t believe in sex before marriage, right”

‘Yes,’ says Sabina, born 29 August 1970. ‘That just about covers it.’

Colette sizes up a shiny, red apple, before biting into it and replying with a mouth full of juicy, Red Delicious flesh: ‘They’ve gotta be kidding, haven’t they”

We don’t realise it’s funny until Colette starts laughing. Then we all let go. Except Sally, who, we assume, can’t believe we’re even talking about this. And except for our children, who have better things to do, falling out of the shrubbery or spiralling down slippery dips.

Post-apple Colette asks: ‘So, what’s better do you reckon: sex before marriage, or sex after”

‘I know what’s more frequent!’ says Sophie. This gets a laugh, too, but we all know it’s avoiding the issue.

I venture: ‘After.’ And not just because of my audience.

‘Me too. After,’ and we turn with surprise to hear it’s Sally speaking.

‘I love it with my Dan. Once a week, Saturday morning before breakfast, with the kids in front of the DVD.’

‘Really!’ says Colette. ‘Just once a week, and just like that. Like clockwork”

‘The more like clockwork the better,’ says Sally.

‘I dream of clockwork,’ I say. Which is insincere; fishing for an insincere laugh ‘ which I receive with sincere gratitude.

‘But although I like it better now,’ Sally confesses, ‘I’m sure Dan doesn’t. He wants his girlfriend back. But that’s just not me anymore.’

‘What you need is a holiday,’ Sophie suggests. ‘You can leave Oscar and Jenny with me one weekend. How about it’ Rediscover the girlfriend within.’

‘Thanks, but I don’t want to be a girlfriend. I hated being a girlfriend. I just want normal, plain, five-minute sex. I don’t want him to go down on me ever again.’

‘That’s right!’ says Colette. ‘The missionary position rocks!’ Colette, I’m sure, thinks that Sally is in the middle of a joke but has forgotten the punch-line, so she’s trying to help her out.

‘Then I can see it in his eyes afterwards: the disappointment,’ Sally continues with her voice becoming quieter now, but not softer. ‘And you know what’ Too bad.’