66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.

cross

cross
The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.

Shark

Shark
I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock
Uluru

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track

ME IN A NUTSHELL

My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A moving experience and then some

There’s something intrinsically comforting about waking to the view over the valley in Bellevue at seven in the morning.
My first task for the day was to put on the kettle, walk onto the verandah, roll a gasper and survey the said view and it never ceases to inspire. God, I’m lucky to be here.
The distant call of Jeffrey the pig is a gentle, soothing reminder that not everyone is enjoying what I am. The porker is hungry … OK, he’s never not hungry … and I return to the kitchen to grab his bowl, laden with the excesses of last night’s meal, which was a cracker.
It’s a beautiful feeling, that grass under the feet, the sweetness of the warm, humid air as I walked to Jeffrey’s pen with his bounty … he kinda jumps up, both front legs extended, against the mesh that keeps him prisoner, chatting all the time and saying what I imagine in pigspeak equates to “C’mon you slow bastard. Make good with the food.”
This porcine vacuum cleaner moves around the bits and pieces … pigs obviously have a priority for what tastes good first up in the day. Ah, fruit … that’s a good palate cleanser. Perhaps he’s just arranging it into courses. Who knows how a pig thinks.
Back to the kitchen to rinse the bowl and make a cuppa.
Life’s good.
Sitting at the table on the verandah, cuppa at the ready, rolling the second smoke and then …
What’s this then? Involuntary movement. I started gently to move this way, then that. Am I pissed from the night before? Surely not. No, I was sober(ish) when I went to bed.
Nah, the involuntary movement is not only affecting me, the cars to my left are gently swaying like palms in a gentle breeze.
Well, well, it’s my first earthquake. It lasted for about five, maybe seven seconds. What a bizarre feeling … not altogether unpleasant, a little bit exciting. Maybe it’s the anticipation that it may last longer. Dunno, but it was a great, and certainly different, way to start the day.
Yesterday was a cruising sort of day, lounging around … Liam resited the water tank, played guitar for a while, whatever, until later in the day when it was time to take the kids into town for a swim, get some food for the night’s meal and replenish the beer supply.
Everyone piled into the ute and we made a beeline for the Chantilly resort. We commandeered a table not too far from the pool and ordered some drinks. I got the impression that Liam and Dan go here a bit because Liam was undecided about what to drink. The barman said “come back here and have a look”. Not necessary because he was already halfway there.
While Dan and Em swam, we just kicked back and solved a few more of the world’s problems and then we decamped, dropped Dan at her office to pick up some stuff and then we hit Bon Marche.
Suitably armed with all the necessaries (including travellers for the trip home) for the night’s dinner and beyond, we headed home and hit the kitchen.
While my pastry was defrosting (I was cooking a lemon tart) I was the designated potato peeler. Pretty soon, the pastry was in the oven, the curd mix was ready and waiting and it was beer o’clock again.
Em got busy creating shapes (she got a cooking set for Christmas) with the leftover pastry until she had a tray of them ready for the oven.
Finally Patto and Virginia arrive in time for a feed of baked yellowfin tuna, wasabi mash and a humungous salad of fruit, veg and whatever else looked good i.e. everything.
Dinner was a cracker, the lemon tart too. So too the conversation and laughter that followed the feed. All too soon, it was time for some zeds to prepare to get on a roll for the next day.
I just didn’t realise that the roll would come in the form it did.
Yep, the Earth moved for me.
Tomorrow we're doing a lap of the island.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

You wouldn't read about it. OK, you would

There are two newspapers in Port Vila, the Vanuatu Daily Post and The Vanuatu Independent. They both do their jobs well.
The Independent runs a lot of stories in Bislama, a fascinating language that’s easier to understand in the written form. When the locals speak, most times it’s a bit fast fort me to understand. Liam’s good … he did a course not long after he arrived.
The papers concentrate on local issues, but give coverage of what’s going on in the world … i.e. North Korea etc. There’s also a page in each designated for wacky world news and plenty of sport.
In the Post there’s a gossip and rumour column called “Mi harem se” which I guess means I hear and see ‘em.
A couple are worth sharing.
“Mi harem se the dame large breasted woman is really a blonde in disguise as she opened her front doot to let out her dog, stark naked and was shocked to see her staff member standing there closely examining his boss’ anitomy (sic). She shrieked and slammed the door. The employee was last seen getting psychiatric assistance for shock and nerves as his boss was not a natural redhead as thought.”
Or how about:
“Mi harem se an expat businessman was followed everywhere in the Grand Hotel by two security guards after a tipoff that he was in the secret society of Xmas ball grabbers. He still managed to steal a bauble when they were distracted.”
Or:
“Mi harem se the new Shakers nightclub is now selling great food over the bar including the cheapest burgers, hotdogs and pizzas in town. Great for lining the stomach so you can drink more.”
I did though like my horoscope in the Independent.
To whit: “Travelling somewhere different and connecting with people from faraway places could be your ticket to romance this week.
We’ll see.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Honeymoon, pride, honesty, the village people and other stuff


The view for the verandah at Dan's house.

There’s gotta be few things as good as sitting on a verandah at a super house, surrounded by beautiful gardens, perched high on a hill in beautiful downtown Bellevue, Port Vila.
There’s a view that cascades across a green, green valley to the distant, mist-shrouded mountains (OK tallish hills then). There are three sleeping dogs (it’s best to let them lie), music and an occasional rooster crowing in the background, a bird noise or three, a pig (Jeffrey) sometimes yelling in pigspeak that, if it’s not out of the question, he’d like more to eat, and a breeze that’s having a pleasant cooling effect on what is, in a shock twist, a hangover.
It’s day one (although I flew in on Thursday night) of what will affectionately be known as “Adventures in Vaughanuatu”.
I snagged a great cab driver to get to Tullamarine, although he must be the only Indian in the world who prefers AFL to cricket. Yeah, he did have tickets for the Boxing Day Test.
An early check-in for the overweight bag (and yep, I did get an emergency aisle seat) left me with two hours before lift-off. Just enough time for a less-than-good fruit salad … it cost seven bucks for not a lot, but it was cool and fresh … and a couple of last-minute smokes before giving the duty free a workout. Reckon at the airport I always smoke the last one right down, knowing that it’s gonna be five hours before the next.
Customs was a breeze, although I’ve never understood what makes my boots go off with the metal detector. Like, the studded belt with the silver buckle I can understand.
“Please take off the boots.” They’re a pain in the arse to get off without my bootjack (a timber device that allows me to slip ‘em off in a trice, however long that’s meant to be) but it can to pass. I passed through the metal detector again and I passed the test.
I emerged the other side of duty free with a litre of Jack, a litre of Pimm’s and five pouches of Old Holborn tobacco, which was a snip at less than $8 a pouch (usually it’s $33 for one). I was annoyed that they had run out of papers. No matter, I had enough to get me through.
There was nought left to do but sit at the appointed gate, read a book, glance at the clock and count down the minutes. Watching a clock is like watching a kettle … it never boils. But boil I did when the departure time was amended from 2pm to 2.30. No announcement, no reason, just a change to the electronic scoreboard … no way it wasn’t going to be a point deduction for Air Vanuatu. Surely it’s incumbent on the people in control there to keep the punters in the loop.
Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), boarding didn’t start until 2.18 … again no announcement … and it wasn’t until 3.15 that the pilot finally dropped it down a cog, floored it and the rubber finally left the tarmac.
What was planned to be a 6pm arrival became some time after seven. Yeah, thanks for not a lot.
In some strange quirk of fate, once airborne the announcements then came thick and fast … yep, flying time would be three hours and nearly 50 minutes, drinks and then a full lunch would be served. At last they were filling in and about to fill up the punters.
The drinks came soon enough (I had chardy) as did the miniscule packet of potato chips, which had a smell that took me back to the early teens years at the Royal Melbourne Show. I couldn’t quite get a handle on what exactly it was, but it surely transported me to somewhere else. Good feeling, that.
I try hard not to judge, but it was four hours of mostly screaming, bawling kids … some running up and down the aisle … punctuated by some really ordinary airline food (I was told that Air Van had changed caterers and it showed). The wine was OK. I reckon it’s the first time on a plane ride that I’ve actually been kicked in the head, courtesy of a screaming youngster being carried up the aisle by his less-than-careful parent, a man whose (I presume) wife didn’t smile for the entire trip. She would have given George Costanza’s mother, Estelle, a run for her money. Not so much as a tee hee. And yeah, I was snoozing at the time of the head kick. Again, thanks for that.
Finally it was touchdown just after seven.
Walking down the stairs from the plane, the air was thick, smelled of diesel and it was humid. It was foreign but somehow very familiar. I guess it should be given that it’s my fourth trip here.
Getting through the first Immigration check was quick (it seems to go for forever, but it doesn’t), my overweight case made an early appearance and I hit the Customs section. This was the first time in Vanuatu that there has been any check of my stuff. My laptop case was opened, my camera case too and the duty free checked to make sure I wasn’t bending the rules. I wasn’t.
“So, what’s in your suitcase?”
“Just clothes, chocolates, shoes toiletries, a kitchen knife set, a book, odds and ends and some music DVDs.”
I was hoping he wouldn’t want to open it because I had a skateboard securely strapped to it and it would take forever to get the bloody thing open.
“What sort of music?”
“AC/DC.”
“What’s that?”
“Uh oh,” I thought.
And then he said: “OK, you have a great stay in Vanuatu.”
Done.
Out the door and into a big hug with Dan, a truly wonderful woman. Then Liam, a truly wonderful son.
Shit, it was good to see them … and, it was cigarette o’clock. It was a great first meeting with Dan and a great reunion with Liam.
And we did what I was expecting to do … we headed straight for a bar.
“Patto is singing at Baywatch. Are you up for it.”
“Shit yeah.”
Pretty soon we were breasting the bar at Baywatch and listening to Patto, Stuart and David serve up some excellent covers. Greeting Patto (I hadn’t seen him since February) when he’d finished his set was like meeting a long, lost brother. He’s a Scot, a big unit and he hugs like a bear.
It was a sea of meeting people, beers going down like ninepins … a great way to start the holiday. Then the beer hit a flat spot. They were having trouble with their pipes, so we did what any sensible people would do … we switched to bourbon.
Pretty soon enough was enough (does anyone know how much that is?) and we were in the ute bound for Bellevue.
A couple of bottles of white, some nibbles and catch-up/what’s up chat was enough to make sleep come easily, but not before stretching out on the bed and starring at the stars.
It seems as if there’s a constant show on through that window. The next morning on the flyscreen it was a small chameleon getting shitty and determined to have a small spider for breakfast … and the spider was having none of it. Up, down, across and back again. What a super way to wake up, hangover notwithstanding.
It was lots of tea, a smoke or three (OK maybe five) and sitting staring at the aforementioned view, before Dan took me on a tour of the garden (it’s a hectare plot) … oh, and to officially meet Jeffrey, who made a meal of the leftover crackers from the night before and a huge paw-paw (think Sherrin size here). He almost inhaled it in no time at all.
The back of the block is really heavily treed up the slope … and it’s really beautiful.



As you come down the slope there are fruits of all sorts … mango, avocado, custard apple, passionfruit, paw-paw, tree peanuts, pineapples … it goes on. There are also pumpkins, tomatoes, herbs of all sorts … there’s even a huge cocoon of spider webs, housing plenty of inmates, that the gardener is under strict instructions to keep intact.
Dan said that it was almost a case of accidental self-sufficiency, and that she’d had a story published about it. If I can ever get hooked up to the interweb thing, I’ll find a link.
Breakfast loomed large and Liam took over the kitchen. You’ve heard of the three egg omelette … well he went for the three-pot omelette with lots of ham and tomato. Speaking of lots of ham, Dan and Liam bought one for Christmas. It’s about the size of a small house … and so it should be. It cost about 300 bucks. Tastes good but.
After breakfast there’s not a whole lot to do other than hit the bed on the verandah and have a nap before Liam and I head to town to get a few supplies.
Post-nap, and armed with a couple of Tusker travellers, we pointed the ute at Port Vila and headed down a road that makes the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley look like a billiards table (more on roads in another post).
The traffic in downtown Port Vila was like it always is … a shit fight, but we managed to get a parking spot near the bank and after the banking was done, we bumped into Patto and his girlfriend Virginia, who’d been doing the last of their Christmas shopping. He was still a bit ginger, courtesy of too many bourbons the night before.
After a quick chat we headed to Bon Marche (supermarket) to stock up on some vino, beers, lemonade and dry ginger and cucumbers (for the Pimm’s).
French wine was the order of the day, with a bottle of Domaine Ventenac, a de Pennautier Syrah, a bottle of a de Pennautier cab sav and a case of Tusker (the local beer). Job done for about 100 bucks. Nothing left to do but to open the Tuskers, grab a couple of travellers and head home via a small but good bakery where it’s actually decent bread. Just what the doc ordered … wholemeal toasties with (of course) ham, cheese and tomato, the perfect prelude to an early-arvo nap. I woke about an hour later and Dan and Liam were having Pimm’s. He walked to the freezer, and grabbed on for me … “here’s one I prepared earlier.”
Ah, Pimm’s No.1 Cup, the most heavenly drink on Earth. Liam and I shot the breeze while Dan had a nap … her daughters Tahlia and Emmogen were flying in on the midnight special. To give her some breathing space (she was getting pretty toey), we boys headed to the local nukamal, run by Cathy and Abel for some kava and a beer and a chat with some of the locals (Liam knows, it seems, most people on the island … OK not all, but it’s a lot). It’s a weird place … there are tracks going every which way and a central bar where Cathy was sitting, waving a banana frond over some freshly cooked beef, snags and sundry other stuff. “They’re still hot,” she said to Liam who has the appetite of a small nation. He was into it.
We chatted with the local ex pats and solved a few of the world’s problems (especially the media), enjoyed a couple of shells of kava and a few beers before heading home to wrap the last of the Christmas presents, a task that was pleasantly interrupted by Patto and Virginia, who arrived with Christmas pressies (including a soccer ball for Jeffrey) and a thirst for bourbon.
If this is what my holiday is about, I like it. Oh, and my phone has no service and there is limited internet.

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE

Dan’s girls’ plane got in an hour late on the 23rd … at 1am on the 24th actually, a pretty tough gig for the girls. They didn’t go to bed until 3am, not the ideal preparation for Christmas Eve, but they did it well.
Liam and I went out to Mele to pick up a wide screen TV, which was to be part of the girls’ Wii Christmas package.
We wandered out on to Devil’s Point road where there is a security station … apparently there were a couple of murders out that was a while back, so the residents set up the manned boom gate.
It’s mostly ex-pats who live out there. The joint we went to is a pretty cool set-up. Private beach, a surf ski moored at the private jetty, a couple of sea kayaks all ready to check out things such as the pod of dolphins that we can see not too far offshore.
After a quick chat with the woman, who is selling all her stuff and moving back to Oz (why?), we loaded the TV and sundry other black boxes, a kilometre and a half of cords, and we hit the road.
Cruising back towards town, Liam jumped on the phone, said g’day to someone and told him we’d be there is a couple of minutes. (Everyone talks on the phone here while they are driving … they drink too and don’t wear seat belts … well they aren’t fitted in the back of utes … reckon the coppers are tolerant because the roads are so, so bad, it’s impossible to speed, hence I’m not sure there is a road toll. Yes, I’ve just read in one of the local papers that the year’s toll is three.)
We turned in to the Mele village … there are about 10,000 locals living there (that’s not counting the pig and dog populations) … it’s a maze of dusty, bumpy tracks that all looked the same to me. We twisted and turned and finally pulled up at Johnny Bangalulu’s place. Johnny’s a great bloke … we had a great time when I last saw him in February … and I got to meet his family, including his daughter Cathyfreeman. Yep, that’s right, it’s one word. She was named after Johnny became enamoured of Cathy Freeman’s performance at the Sydney Olympics.



We shared some smokes, a chat and then pointed the ute towards home although we did have to treat a huge pig as a roundabout just down the track from Johnny’s place.
We stopped on the way out of Mele so I could take some photographs of the black sand beach. My god, it was beautiful.



THE HONEYMOON IS ON

Christmas Eve was time for the girls, Em and Tahlia, to open a few early presents and get cranked up for the main event in the morning.
We did the full Christmas thing for dinner. Roast turkey with all the trimmings. It’s the first time I’ve ever stuffed a turkey. Dan and I kind of made it up as we went along, but in the end (that’s a turkey arse joke) the stuffing was excellent, as was everything on our plates.
Unusually, the girls slept in a Christmas morning, but it wasn’t long before the house was a sea of wrapping paper.
I did well … a whiter than white pig’s tusk mounted in silver (it was made by a local) to wear around my neck and a bottle of New Zealand pinot to put down my neck.
Then it was time for the Christmas Day activities. Nothing to do but pack the ute with everything … lots of food, grog, floaties, boogie board, Eskys, baskets of clothes changes , whatever … and head to Honeymoon Beach to join about a dozen families for some celebrations, which included lots of floating in the shallows, Tusker in hand, and enjoying the sunshine.
Everyone brought food and lunch was a smorgasbord … it was all there including the ubiquitous ham.
It was the sort of day that Christmas Day should be, including the beach, good people, good food, lots of beer and wine … and for me, a long sleep.
I woke to a long chat with a wild man called Jim, a nomad who was just cruising by on his motorcycle. He’s live all over the world and has some great stories to tell.
Pretty soon it was time to flee, so we pointed the ute towards Bellevue. Seems the ute is well versed in the ways of the world here. It only travelled as far as the local nukamal (yes, it was open on Christmas Day). It’s the closest to home and is a well landscaped block, with lots of table and chairs, a couple of thatched bamboo huts and a bar.
Dan caught up with some Ni-Vans she hadn’t seen for a long time … they were happy to see her. They storied on for ages and just before we left, they gave her a beautiful hand-woven basket as a gift.
Patto arrived solo … his girlfriend Ginnie had jagged a night shift at the casino where she works … and Kelvin and his girlfriend made it a crowd, a good one but. Through it all, we managed a few shells of kava and some beers, the kids had a great time just tooling around before we headed to home base to kick back and watch a White Stripes movie, via a projector to a big screen set up on the verandah.
We were running low on beers and Liam, Patto and I headed into town and cruised around to see if we could call in a favour at several resorts by borrowing a case of Tusker (we’d return one in the morning)
We interrupted the search to go to a nukamal that overlooks the Port Vila harbour. A shell and a beer later we were on the search again.
We got some and headed home. It’s the first time that kava has ever affected me. I had what’s known as kava legs. It’s kinda like a case of the feet refusing to do their duty.

PRIDE AND HONESTY

I really love the pride of the N-Vans. They are as friendly as all get-out and love their country.
I was standing beside the ute the other day having a smoke while waiting for Liam to get something from the shop.
A bloke called Steve walked up to me, held out his hand, and shot the breeze with me. He worked at the jail as a corrections officer (he was a major) and it was just great to chat with him.
A couple of days later, Liam got a call from Amy, an electrician who works for him. He needed some money. We cruised to pick him up (he travelled in the tray of the ute) and head for the bank.
When Amy got his Christmas pay and bonus, Liam told him that he would hold it for him so he didn’t blow it and find himself short. They met occasionally so Amy could get a drip feed of what he wanted. Five thousand vatu here and there just to get him by.
This time he needed it all to pay the rent and go food shopping.
While Liam was in the Bank, Amy and I had a smoke and a chat.
“I really love this place,” I said to him.
“Thank you,” he said in a beautiful, heartfelt and proud response.
Ah, you can’t beat pride like that.
Liam lobbed with Amy’s dough, told him to count it to make sure of the amount and in a touching display of honesty, he said: “That’s five thousand too much.”
Given that five grand is about a third of a week’s wages, it was a big call.
He then looked at me and said: “He’s a good man, Liam, we need people like him in Vanuatu.”
I met up again a couple of days later with Gabby, who also works for Liam.
The greeting was a cracker. Although he couldn’t remember my name, his face exploded into an almost complete smile … he has one front tooth missing … and he said: “Ah the old man.” He’s one lovely bloke.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Life's a beach and then some

The countdown to Vanuatu is well and truly on … four more sleeps until I climb aboard the big silver, airless tube, eat some very good airline food (no, fair dinkum, the tucker they served last time I flew Air Vanuatu was the best mile-high grub I’ve ever had), the endless bottle of red (ya gotta love that) and finally catch up with “picaninny blong me”. That’s Bislama for my son, Liam.
There are more than 100 Ni-Vanuatu tribes, each with their own culture and language. Estimates of the local languages spoken in Vanuatu vary between 105 and 115.
Any wonder that’s it’s rated as the happiest place on Earth. Just hearing Bislama or reading the various signs around Port Vila makes me smile a lot.
For instance, did you know that Bislama for “bra” is “basket blong titi”? Now you do.
For 15 days and nights, it’s going to be a hard slog given Liam’s message of last week: “We’ve got nothing planned other than to eat (this is definitely going to be a seafood summer as we’ve got a deal with some of the boys that we slip them a 50 every week and they go out and catch us crabs, lobster, squid, fish, etc) sleep, beach, fire, outdoors, sleep, eat and maybe more sleep… Hence the no need to steer, just cruise …” Talking of cruising, the plan for New Year’s Eve is to take a yacht to an island not too far away (it’s uninhabited) and cook some seafood on the beach, wash it down with something good and see in the New Year before sleeping on the beach.
Sounds tough. Eh?
The really tough thing will be not seeing my other son, Joel, for his birthday, which falls on New Year’s Eve. While I’m having dinner with him on Tuesday night, it’s not quite the same as being there with him on his special day. No doubt we’ll toast him on the night.

BOXING ON

My good mate, Ben Logan, has snaffled the gig of a lifetime.
He’s a tenor who has done work with Opera Australia … he has a fantastic voice … and he sent me a message earlier in the week to tell me that he’s got the nod to sing Advance Australia Fair (solo) for the start of the Boxing Day Test.
Maybe 90-odd thousand people is a pretty fair audience. I’m sure he’ll nail it for them.
Ben’s company, Logan Musical Events, is producing a series of opera and music theatre concerts in China late in the new year.
On the agenda is the famous Bizet Opera, Carmen , and another concert of classics, such as My Fair Lady, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
The Australian Concert Orchestra will make its international debut and be joined by some of Australia’s best singers from Opera Australia, Victorian Opera and the Ten Tenors.
Ben, who did concerts in China late last year, is also negotiating with David Helfgott to be part of the concert series.
Have a look at Ben’s website at http://3-au.com/loganmusicalevents.com.au/
… he’s got a pretty good thing happening … he can organise almost anything musical.
China looms large and I’m looking forward to it.
Oh, did I mention that I’m going too?
Yeah, I’m gonna be the security element, which basically means that I get to wear a black T-shirt to the opera … I have to look the part. Me, an opera bouncer … who’d have thought it?

A BIG, BUT VERY GOOD WEEK

Given that it’s the silly season, it hasn’t disappointed.
It started a week ago, while I was vacuuming of all things … I had what I best can describe as a life-changing epiphany. It was a very personal thing but it has put me in a wonderful place from which I haven’t detoured (and won’t).
Monday was a hoot at The Weekly Review contributors party at The Carlisle Bar in St Kilda. It was great to catch up with the troops who make working there such a good thing.
I spent to good deal of time having some great exchanges with Rachel Berger, who is funny in the extreme and a bloody nice person to boot (and no, that’s not rhyming slang for anything).
Tuesday was a catch-up for drinks with friends.
Wednesday was lunch with some former and current buddies from The Age … a great afternoon at the Saint & Rogue in the city.
It was good to catch up with some people I haven’t seen for a long time, including Chris (he has a gig at the ABC these days). He sent me an email the next day and it’s one that needs to be shared.
“Sign in my mother's fav coffee shop (wheelchair accessible): ‘Men are like tiles. Lay them right first time and you can walk over them for ever’."
What are the odds that the author was a woman?
Thursday night was the Crikey Christmas party at the Olsen Hotel in South Yarra. The Crikes and Crikettes always put on a good show, which kicked off with a bus to get us all to the venue.
It was a warm night made all the better by being on an open-air terrace (yeah, we could smoke) by the pool.
Everyone got a present (yep, Private Media knows how to look after its staff), there was plenty of good wine (the chardy was excellent), finger food doing its thing and bloody good company.
And I reckon I may have been first onto the dance floor … will wonders never cease?
Friday was the Crikey contributors lunch … but I pulled the pin, given that my liver was trying to punch its way out of my body. Truth was though, that I just had/have shitloads to do to get organised for the trip away.
And the liver didn’t get a complete break. Dinner on Friday was smoked ocean trout, goat’s fetta, greens and good sourdough and a bottle of Dona Pateuno Alvarinho, a cracker wine from Portugal.
Alvarinho is an aromatic crisp, dry, young wine with excellent balance. There’s a bit of citrus happening and maybe some honeysuckle. There’s no oak used in production. And while it’s not exactly a snip at 30-odd bucks, it’s a bloody good drink.
I also had a sniff around some Domaine Marcel Deiss Alsace 2010, which is a super drink, and also some Ceretto Zonchera Barolo 2007, which is a super-duper drink. The Barolo is a special-occasion drink at about $75 a bottle that’s gonna be on the table for the first special occasion I have in the new year, whatever it may be.

HERE’S ONE FOR JASON

I follow Jane Barnes (Jimmy’s missus) on Twitter and the other day she tweeted a site that’s made up of helpful hints.
There are a lot of things on it that don’t make the grade for me, but there’s a couple at least that do, not the least being how to fold fitted sheets.
Crikey deputy editor Jason (aka the town crier on Twitter) apparently cannot fold fitted sheets. Who can? Well on http://www.thedailybuzz.com.au/2011/11/25-clever-ideas_household-tips_storage-ideas/#.TurBR6cyk4O.twitter , there’s a step-by-step guide. Get to it, Whits.

WHAT A WASH

And just to prove a point, yesterday I washed my car for the first time in about two years. It was looking like a Guinness Book of Records entry for the world's biggest collection of cobwebs. I also managed to (sort of) wash my jeans in the process.
Now the car looks a picture. So there.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

That's what mates are for

Picture this: there I was, sitting in our South Melbourne office doing our last magazine of the year. Man, that’s a relief … don’t get me wrong, I love The Weekly Review … but like I said, it’s the last for the year.
Anyway, the call goes out: anyone want to come and be part of a marketing photo shoot at Claypots (at the South Melbourne Market)?
Well, yeah, a break from the desk would be good, I thought and, bugger it, I’ll have a beer while I’m there.
Thank heavens for EB, our editor. “Get going,” she said.
So six of us took a walk.
We all settled at the bar, waiting for the photographer to strut his stuff. The ever-present waiting staff took drinks orders. “Sure, I’ll have a glass of white.”
Renan, the owner (he’s a champion bloke), barked orders to the kitchen staff. “Get cooking.”
And cook they did as the snapper (yeah, there was snapper on the menu too) started to do his thing.
While he was snapping away, we were snacking away on grilled octopus, grilled prawns, grilled squid, Moreton Bay bugs and a whole fish (not too sure what it was).
Then the waitress brought a couple of ice buckets with chilled bottles of white.
Jesus, it really beat working. All too soon, the photographer had what he wanted, we’d been well fed, and after a second glass of wine, it was time to go back to the bump and grind at the office.
“You want to stay and have a few?” Renan asked me. “Sorry mate, but the office calls. What about the Elvis night on Thursday?”
“Sure,” he said, “I’ll look forward to seeing you here.”
Done.
Mateship (thanks Damo) is a great thing when the surprise is as good as this one.

ON A ROLL, MANY TIMES

And speaking of the market, last Saturday I did something I’ve never done before.
I went to my usual fruit and veg shop to get some stuff for a salad … a lettuce, some wine-ripened tomatoes, one zucchini and one pear.
I went to the cash-only checkout. The young girl operating the till just didn’t want to be there. There wasn’t a please or a thank you anywhere to be heard.
The woman in front of me in the queue handed her a $50 note. I watched in horror as the checkout chick struggled to get enough change … she’d almost run out of coins and, being the lazy bitch she was, handed the woman almost $2 worth of five cent pieces. The woman looked at me and just rolled her eyes (that’s not the first time that’s happened to me, but usually it’s for other reasons).
My turn. The tomatoes were $5, the lettuce $2 and apparently the one zucchini and one pear totalled $5.30. “I said to the girl: “Are you sure that’s right?”
“Yeah,” she said. I handed her a twenty and this time she rolled her eyes. Again, a handful of small coins and a $5 note, which she just dropped on the bench.
“Thanks for not a lot,” I said to her as the woman behind me in the queue rolled her eyes.
I went and bought some pork and chicken and pistachios for the terrine I was going to make, and I thought: “Bugger it, this is about principle.”
So I headed back to the fruit shop and queued again. When I finally got to the checkout, it was with a woman to whom I chat every time I’m there.
“I’ve already paid for this … that girl at the end charged me $12.30 … how much should it be?” I asked politely.
“She’s a bitch, all the youngies are,” she said, “it should have been $8.60,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “Go and tell the owner. He’ll fix it for you.”
I explained to him that, yeah, I shop here most times and I expect better treatment than that meted out by the out-of-sorts youngster. He rolled his eyes.
I went with him as he went to the head of the queue. “Can you refund this man’s change and then take a break,” he said as the woman, now behind me in the queue, rolled her eyes. The checkout chick was without eye roll … she just fixed me with a steely “you bastard” glare.
The woman second in the queue in fact worked out for the girl just how much change it should be. It was almost eye-rolling material for me as the checkout chick decided she had to go and get change. She almost had to be cajoled by the new checkout chick to do it.
“Just get the change,” she said to the unmoving girl, as she too (no, fair dinkum) rolled her eyes.
I don’t usually quibble about a couple of bucks, but this time I took exception to being treated like she was doing me a favour.
There was just one thing to do after that. A beer and a smoke at Claypots (the woman behind the counter just smiled … not an eye roll to be seen) and then head home to start the terrine (The recipe is already at the bottom of the blog somewhere).
By the way, I reckon the terrine was excellent. I took half to the office to share … the troops were complimentary.
In fact, no one rolled their eyes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

THE END-OF-YEAR BLUES

It has been a while since I’ve put pen to paper, as it were.
It wasn't helped yesterday when my email account was hacked. It took yonks to again retrieve the suspended account. Apologies to everyone who got some sort of shit email.
Hackers should be shot with shit balls. End of story.
It has not been because I haven’t wanted to write something, just the end-of-the-year blues … aka I really need a holiday because I’ve read more stuff this year for work than any year in memory, which, not doubt due to the excellence and quantity of the year’s wine, is on the way out.
There have, however, been some things indicative of just what a good life it is.
To whit, the fresh wasabi saga. I gave my friend Sue a chunk and she being the good woman that she is, reciprocated the next day with my lunch of a crusty baguette stuffed with home-cooked eye fillet, ribboned zucchini and corn salad and fresh wasabi.
Like I said, she’s a good woman.
I also tried the wasabi with some smoked ocean trout and while it did overpower – to a degree – the flavour of the fish, it was good. And for me, the smoked ocean trout is as much about texture (it’s better than smoked salmon for that reason) and married with Meredith goat’s fetta and avocado … and some greens from the garden … it was a winner.
I went sans wasabi with another smoked ocean trout thing and substituted some black caviar. OK, it was Danish, but while I was preparing the meal, I was eating the caviar by the spoonful. Shit it’s good.
My two smoked ocean trout meals were washed down with some Sword’s chenin blanc, a great pairing. I’ve made a real mess of the case I bought, so the time is right to grab another. Reckon I’ll drink it right through summer.
It was a big seafood week. On Thursday night, I had crispy-skinned barramundi with cured king salmon on the side, some crème fraiche, capers and baby herbs, which I washed down with an Australian rose that was a bit thin on the ground. I switched to tempranillo, which somehow sustained me for the rest of the night.

10 REASONS TO GO ON HOLIDAY

As I said earlier, I really need a holiday. I’ve been tossing up what to do … the two most popular ideas were to hit Vanuatu or perhaps go bush (I said bush, not butch) and give the LandCruiser and camper trailer a bit of a hit-out.
Vanuatu won.
I got an email from my son, Liam, suggesting 10 reasons that should be enough to swing my thoughts.
They included:
1) I’m here and on holiday … So if you were to come here, we’d both be here. Have you noticed that here rhymes beer, cheer, beach gear, no need to steer etc…

2) We’ve got nothing planned other than to eat (this is definitely going to be a seafood summer as we’ve got a deal with some of the boys that we slip them a 50 every week and they go out and catch us crabs, lobster, squid, fish, etc), sleep, beach, fire, outdoors, sleep, eat and maybe more sleep… Hence the no need to steer, just cruise …
4) Given that most of our activities come directly from nature (lobsters and mangoes and sand and sun) and your accommodation is covered, you will spend less than if you were to stay home …
5) Andy is away and staying in his place will be a 40-year-old old Canadian woman named Carol, who could take your interest …
6) As I write I’m sitting looking over the Bellevue hills (the view is probably around 150 square kilometres of a combination of cattle-filled paddocks and dense bushland set before the Mele mountain range), there’s a lizard walking past, dogs asleep at my feet, a Jeffery (his pet pig) grunting for attention in the distance, classical music playing in the background on a luscious hectare plot with one of the most wonderful established gardens, full of every fruit and flower you can imagine (have you ever tried a Brazilian cherry?). On top of which there’s not a hint of civilisation to be heard …
7) On the balcony where I’m sitting there’s a pool table, dart board, ping-pong table and a set of speakers hooked up to a pretty serious system … When it’s time to play, it’s a good place to do so …
8) Although I mentioned no need to steer, Paul will be in Fiji and has let me have his tinny with motor and all the trimmings … Fishing anyone …? Island hopping anyone …?
10) And most of all, we’ll get to hang out … I miss that cause I love you and there needs to be much more of it …
What do you think???
I didn’t think too long. I booked today. I’m outta here on December 22 and staying until January 5, Tattslotto notwithstanding this week or next.
Oh, and I did edit the top 10. Some was a bit on the personal side.
And the other good news is that my youngest son, Joel, will house-sit for me and water the garden.
It’s a win-win, especially given that he works shit hours and having a place to crash in the wee hours without the need to drive for 45 minutes is a bonus for him.

WELL PLAYED, WOOFER



I went on Friday night to the opening of Crikey lunatic First Dog On The Moon’s exhibition at Platform Seven in the Degraves Street subway.
There was a decent crowd and a more-than-decent speech by Julian Burnside to open the exhibition.
The artwork is all crackerjack … watch out for the eyes on the Jesus character … Dog has nailed it … as he has with everything there.
Do yourself a favour and check it out. You probably won’t get a free beer or wine as we did (thanks Dog), but you’ll have no regrets.
He’s a very clever Dog, except when it come to dates. December 4 really was December 2.
And afterwards, I fled to the Saint and Rogue bar in Little Collins Street to catch up with some friends, where pinot grigio was the order of the day (OK night).
It was great to catch up but it wasn’t to last long into the night. That was left for Lina’s wine bar, but that’s another story.

SUE NAILED IT

My friend, Sue, also gave me a bottle of magnetic nail polish, direct from Europe.
It’s the first time in a while that I have pained a nail (well mine anyway … and I did only one).
It’s a charcoal type of colour and the deal is that once you’ve applied a thick coat, you hover the magnetic bottle cap over the nail to move particles and create a pattern. I did the pinky on my left hand and it was, well, it sucked.
My friends at Crikey, Amber and Sophie, gave it a go. Amber nailed it with tiger-like stripes.
Reckon I may have another try once I finish typing this lot. Oh, and Sophie’s just went.

FRUIT OF THE VINE

I’ve just had a crack at another Sword’s special, this time a blend of shiraz, Grenache and Mataro.
It sells for about 12 bucks a bottle and is worth the price of admission.
It’s got chocolate, liquorice and spice on the nose and is really soft, but lasts in the mouth. I could get used to it.
I also went halvies in a case of WTF Shiraz from Trevor Jones in the Barossa. By the way, WTF stands for wisdom, tenacity and focus. I haven’t decided whether it’s a WTF (read other version) wine yet, but will give it a crack later.

SCHOOL OF HARD KNOX

Age writer Malcolm Knox got fair up my frock with his description of New Zealander Dean Brownlie’s batting.
“He has no discernible talent other than staying in and making runs. Clearly unconvinced that he belonged in this arena, the Australians spent the first innings trying to intimidate him with short-pitched bowling.
Because he has no tickets on himself, playing with neither backlift nor frills, he didn't take the insult personally. Gary Kirsten and Justin Langer made great careers from never hitting a ball out of the middle of the bat, and NZ's prototype of this kind was the wonderfully annoying Andrew Jones, who averaged 43 against disbelieving Australian attacks.”
Malcolm, you and I must have seen vastly different Test matches.
Justin Langer was a gun.
Read the full story here.

THAT’S A NEWSPAPER??????



The Most Humiliating Newspaper Ever Invented
This looks like a joke, but apparently it's real? Check out http://gawker.com/5863606. It’s hard to disagree with the headline.

AND FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON …

OK, I can kind of relate to this diagram tweeted by David Campbell, a son of my hero Jimmy Barnes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bingo, it's fresh wasabi

Recently, I sussed out the possibility of getting fresh wasabi in Melbourne and the only place I could find it was on the interweb thing through a Tasmanian company.
So what a great surprise this morning to be wandering through the market … yeah, I bought more Spanish anchovies, some verjuice, a few deli bits and pieces and a baguette … there was a sign at the organic shop “fresh wasabi”. Hello.
The very friendly woman went through its paces for me and gave me a taste … apparently you should wait five minutes after it has been grated because then it hits full power.
And what power. My days of buying the prepared stuff (it’s mainly horseradish because wasabi doesn’t last longer than two weeks) are long gone.
It’s not cheap … about $10 for a piece about 10 centimetres long, but that doesn’t matter.
It’s going to get some sort of workout at my place this week
I was sitting at Claypots have a celebratory beer after finishing the shopping, well pleased with my wasabi find. I’d also bought a new baking tray (there’s a Mediterranean tart in the oven as I type … OK, it’s out. The oven alarm just went off), a barbie scraper and a filtered, refillable water bottle for work.
A good beer it was too. I was people watching while I drank the beer and had a smoke. There was a group of five sitting beside me having a feed and a chat. Then another bloke arrived and did the rounds, shaking hands with the blokes and then he pecked one woman on the cheek and went to the next woman and shook her hand.
What sort of message is that?
Got me buggered perhaps even a little more than the couple (plus kids) who walked by at that time … he was carrying a small plastic bag while the missus was straining with a huge box of fruit and vegetables. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt … maybe he had a crook back although he was walking bolt upright. Just not a good look And if his back is OK, then he was an ill-mannered bugger.
Anyway, enough. The tart is smelling up the house a treat. It’s time, qalbeit a tad late, for lunch.

ALMOST FAMOUS … OK, NOT


What a great way to start the day.
I was walking to the tram the other morning (God, I don’t really like being up at that hour … I reckon we should only recognise one eight o’clock a day and it’s not the first one) and a twenties couple was walking towards me.
The girl said: “Good morning, mister, I see you around here a lot.”
“Morning,” I chirped.
I am around the neighbourhood a lot and am pretty well known by lots of locals and the shopkeepers, although I reckon I’m avoided by a lot because of the way I look i.e. hairy, unshaven, blue singlet and tatty jeans, tatts, cowboy boots … I mean, what’s not to like? OK, plenty, but that’s me.
“Are you famous?” she asked.
I didn’t have to think too long about that. “Nah,” I said, “Have a good one.”
It lifted my already high spirits.
My mood was lifted to greater heights later in the week after talking to my son, Liam, in Vanuatu.
His girlfriend, Dan, was in Australia having cancer tests and she came back with, thank Christ, some positive news.
I’d spoken to the boy several times during the week and have never heard him so down.
I actually went within an enth of flying over there on Thursday to offer some support. Fortunately I didn’t because he was planning to be in Sydney that day to be with Dan.
Suffice to say, Dan is back in Port Vila … and the news is good, and they have a great opportunity now to build on their love. I hope they get married sooner rather than later.
As he said to me, “Maybe you’ve got to have a great kick in the guts to put you back on track.”
Amen to that.
I am so looking forward soon to meeting Dan and spending time with them.
I also got to spend some time with Joel, my youngest son. He works dealing poker and stuff at the casino and really works shit hours … 10pm to 6am and the like, so when he’s not working he’s trying to sleep.
To prepare for Joel, I hit the market last Sunday and made a beeline to South Melbourne Meats (stall 32), where the meat is brilliant.
I bought a fantastic boned, butterflied lamb leg that was marinating in oil, herbs and spices. We had some spuds, greens from the garden, vine-ripened tomatoes and cucumber and we smeared the lamb with some thick yoghurt with garlic and a few chunks of cucumber.
I gave it 15 minutes on either side on the barbie … reckon next time I’ll cut that back to 13 minutes. Not that there was anything wrong with it … just could have been a tad pinker.
It’s great to see your kids come on in leaps and bounds and that certainly sums up Joel. I always treasure what little time we get to spend together. He’s a good level-headed influence on me.
And these days, he even eats his greens.

GOING THE DISTANCE

Speaking of the garden, I’m really pleased with most things happening there … I’m getting a few feeds here and there … but it’s also wonderful to see flowers on the potted gardenia.
It holds a special place for me as it was a gift from quite a while ago. I don’t have a great record with gardies … I knew a girl once called Gardenia, aka Gardie … but this one looks as if it will go the difference. What a perfume.

THE WHOLE HOGG

Former Australian fast-bowling legend Rodney Hogg was a bit close to the bone on Twitter on the weekend.


@RMHogg To all our New Zealand friends, there are only twenty eight shop lifting days to Xmas

THE STEAKS WERE HIGH

I revisited The Montague Hotel during the week for what I hoped would be one of its trademark steaks, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a cracker.
My friend and I had eye fillet with hand-cut potatoes and wasabi coleslaw (which is brilliant). Mine was ordered rare and so it was … perfect. The pub also does great bread and has real butter on the side.
We washed it down with a bottle of Pizzini Sangiovese, a great match with the beef. It was soft, full-flavoured and very moreish. We rounded off the night with a bottle of Oomoo sparkling shiraz, just what we needed. Yeah, right.

MAKING A POINT

It doesn’t seem like 10 years since I renewed my licence, but apparently it is.
The renewal notice arrived during the week and it was good to see that I’m entitled to a discount because I haven’t lost any points for the past three years.
Just for the record, I have never lost any points, full stop.
My dodgy driving record extends to a speeding ticket when I was 18 … and that was in another century.
Reckon I’ve done enough to warrant a free licence.

CHEERS

It has been a big week on the grog front, sort of.
I decided to stock up the grog fridge with a (current) favourite, the chenin blanc from Sword’s at the South Melbourne Market, so I grabbed a case. And given that the weather has been warm, the temptation has been getting the better of me. Reckon another case will happen sooner rather than later.
I also treated myself to a 2009 Chateau Brondelle Grand Vin from Bordeaux. Treat being the operative word, given that it was (I think) 35 bucks a bottle.
One French review I read explained it: Fine nose with a lot of expressions and nice hints of fresh and mature fruits. A charming mouth slightly fat with a nice complexity. A greedy finish… full of fruits.
I couldn’t argue with any of that … it’s on the money, especially “the greedy finish”. It was a treat with no regrets and went especially well with some toasted sourdough with shallots through it, some Meredith goat’s fetta, smoked ocean trout and some greens from the garden including a handful of finely chopped dill.
I reckon I also found my next favourite of the summer … OK, two favourites, especially for hot days.
I had a tasting of Seven Oaks Farmhouse Bramley’s Seedling Cider on Saturday morning. Yeah, the sun was over the yard arm somewhere in the world.
What a sensational morning drink it would be if I did drink in the mornings (I don’t unless it’s the really small hours).
The cider is made by Lisa Cresswell from Merricks North … she’s a good woman and passionate about her cider … and it’s a dream of many years that has finally come true.
She uses the traditional “wrack and cloth” method to extract the juice. The apples are pulped through a macerating machine and wrapped in a cloth, similar to hessian, and pressed to extract the juice, before fermentation.
The end product is a cracker.
At just 2.9% alcohol, (it’s 11 bucks for a 500ml bottle, but worth it and then some) it’s easy drinking. A half litre bottle is equivalent to just 1.1 standard drinks.
It is seriously summer apples in a bottle.
I also had a crack at a new beer … Black Heart Brewery’s American Brown Ale.
In terms of taste, this is one big unit and it is seriously good. It’s a dark brown colour, has hops and malt to burn, and has hints of chocolate on the palate. Like the label says, “it can pass for dessert in a glass”.
It’s 5.6% alcohol and it’s available at Sword’s.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

To market, to market ...

Since Scott, the Hire a Hubby, got my barbecue fired up, it has been getting quite a workout … I’ve had more barbies in the past week than I managed in the past two years.
Last night’s was a cracker. Marinated lamb backstrap (olive oil and herbs), thinly sliced potato and onion (and garlic), big, thick asparagus spears and a salad of fennel, tomato and oak leaf lettuce. It was made all the better with a bottle of chenin blanc from Swords.
I put the mandolin to good use … gotta used it more.
I buy all my meat at South Melbourne Meats (stall 32 at the South Melbourne Market) and I can’t remember even getting anything but the best and the service is as friendly as all get out.
It was about an hour and a half market trip, chatting to the various stall holders (yeah I even went to buy some wine for Anna, the woman who runs a stall that sells everything from garbage bags to paper plates and serviettes … and shitloads of things in between).
And you know that you’re really in your comfort zone when you walk by Paul’s Jeans Shop at the market.
The time was right for me to invest in a new pair, given that there are now iron-on patches on the iron-on patches of my last but one pair.
I just walked up to Paul and said: “The usual, thanks.”
Without batting an eyelid, he went to a pile, went down about a dozen pairs, grabbed one and stuck it in a bag.
No need to try them on, no need to tell him the size, he knows what sort of creature of habit I sometimes am.
And he gave me a price cut … that’s I guess not for everyone, after all I have been buying my straight-legged Levi’s from him for about 25 years.
What amazed me though was the lack of attention people pay to the fruit and veg that they buy. I watched as so many people just pick up the first thing they grab … no close examination … and plonk it in their basket.
The bloke in front of me at the till had a huge basket of bits and pieces, all loose and mixed together. So do you reckon that he helped the woman on the till, you know, put the nectarines together, the apples together, whatever, just to help out. Not on ya Nellie.
I looked at some of the things he’d bought … bruised, spotty and the like. Some of these things creep through given the volume of the produce that goes through the place, but why not leave ’em on the shelves and take the time to make sure you’re getting the best. It only takes a smell here, a squeeze (gently) there and a quick look.
It’s about time to fire up the barbie (it’s 9.30 on Sunday morning) for a breakfast of bacon and eggs, asparagus and some toasted sourdough with shallots mixed through it.

IN SEARCH OF A QUID

Finance has been on the agenda. I was hoping to do better than my four and the sup effort in Tatts last night, and it will happen.
I spent almost an hour and a half at the bank on Friday sorting out a couple of new accounts, something I should have done a while ago.
Reckon it’s a first … I will actually get something from the bank rather than the other way around. It’s a few grand a year in my pocket.

BENNY ON SONG IN CHINA

My mate Ben, a tenor who does some work with Opera Australia, looks as if he has stitched up a tour of China at the end of the year. I think he mentioned involvement with David Helfgott … and almost two dozen concerts all up.
I’ll hopefully get some details when I catch up with him for a glass later in the day.
By the way, Ben’s company can organise whatever you need … from a solo singer serenading you at dinner or a fully staged musical spectacular. He reckons nothing is impossible! Gotta get him working on my personal life if that’s the case.
You can find Ben on Twitter @Loganmusicevent

THE OTHER MR CRICKET

It was great to hook up with to hook up on Twitter with Luke Gillian, best described as a cricket tragic and a really good bloke.
I’ve bumped into Lukey at various places watching cricket. I first met him at dinner in Adelaide with a heap of cricket journos and our paths have crossed many times since. The most recent was a while ago and I was sitting at a café in Albert Park and he walked up, sat down and filled me in on his latest travels.
He runs Waving the Flag (at http://wavingtheflag.com). Have a look at the site and you’ll get some idea of just what a legend he is. He hasn’t missed a Test for yonks anywhere in the world.
He’s rated by the players in a big way, so much so that when he attended his 100th Test (it was in New Zealand), the players invited him into the inner sanctum to sing the celebrated Under the Southern Cross. Reckon he might have even carried the drinks during a county game in England.
I remember being at a Test at Eden Park in Auckland (it was when Warnie broke Dennis Lillee’s Australian wicket-taking record) and at the end of the game the whole team saluted Luke.
Yep, they really rate him and his support.
Luke’s putting together a tour of the West Indies (cricket’s holy grail) … go to http://www.wavingtheflag.com/tour.asp?TourID=57 and have a look at what’s on offer.
I reckon I met Luke in Trinidad many years ago … and if you fancy some cricket and some partying (OK Port of Spain really is a party town) … get to it.
Luke’s tour would be a great vehicle for a great time.

GETTING RID OF COFFEE BREATH


I used to go jogging/walking every morning with a great friend, Gaynor. Yeah, it was 7.30 each day and I'm on the record as only recognising one 7.30 a day ... and it's not the first one.
Anyway, we used to do five kilometres each morning and usually we'd finish up with a coffee and a cigarette on the way home. For a bloke my age, there was always a good feeling hangin' with a 24-year-old .... but I digress.
The coffee shop we went to had a tradition ... with every cup of the essence of the bean, they served a shot glass ... God knows, I'd have been happy if it was a vodka ... but it wasn't. It was a shot glass full of soda water, designed to get rid of coffee breath. It worked. But that bullshit aside, anyone walking past and seeing a boofhead and a young girl drinking shots at that time ... no doubt they thought we were legends.
I reckon every coffee shop/cafe should do it.

THE SON IS SHINING

I had a chat to my son, Liam, in Vanuatu this afternoon … and he’s in a really good place.
He hasn’t had a cigarette for a week and he’s cut right back on the singing syrup. Two beers on Friday night is the extent of it.
He has been hitting the pool and gym every day … he actually woke at four this morning and got up and headed to the pool.
I wanna go on the record here that he never got those genes from me.
He’s trying to stack on some weight (please, take some of mine). He said that his appetite is going through the roof.
“I put on three and a half kilos on Saturday,” he told me: “I’m eating huge amounts.”
Suffice to say that he’s going through a “let’s be positive stage”. His girlfriend has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer (again) and she’s just about to head off to Oz for tests, although the preliminary diagnosis (in Vanuatu) looks positive.
I wish her much love on the journey to recovery.

THE LOCKS ARE GOING

The time is right to clean up the act. I've booked a haircut for next weekend ... it has been about a year ... and I'm hitting the weights ... time to ensure that when summer finally comes, I'm half a chance ... whatever that means.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The heat is on ... and on ...

When you are, in the old money, a bit over 6’3” and about 13½ stone or so in the old money (yeah, the weight loss has kicked in and stayed … it’s down eight kilograms … and yes, I know I’m mixed up, but who understands kilopascals anyway?), you are considered a big unit.
A big bloke, right? Someone who should be able to do the things that blokes are apparently meant to do. You know, like putting together a barbecue.
Yeah, right.
I started as soon as I got the bloody thing home and after an hour and a half, I packed it all up and went to sulk with some cans of bourbon and coke.
Then I phoned Bunnings to ask for help. Sure, someone said, bring it back to the leisure centre and someone will help assemble it. Weather intervened and I postponed it for a week. Then I thought that I’d better phone again and confirm that some sucker would help.
Nah, they said, you should never have been told that we’d help. “Phone our installation assist people. There should be someone there who can help.”
Not.
It’s one of those services, and I use the term loosely, that makes it very hard to actually speak to a human. When I finally did, I was politely told to call a company called Hire a Hubby.
Now that’s just what a bloke needs to hear. Here I am, a single bloke, and I need to hire a hubby.
Of course I didn’t cop a lot of crap from my friends … right.
But because I proudly boast on this blog that, yes, I’m in touch with my feminine side, I did the honourable thing.
I phoned Scott, my soon-to-be Hire a Hubby.


And what a good call it was. He arrived at the appointed time, but again weather intervened before he could put his talents to use.
The following Friday, he reappeared at the appointed time (now there’s a first, a hubby who comes when he says he will).
And this Scott is definitely one big unit. He looked like he’d stepped straight off the set of a reality TV show.
But, most importantly, he’s what my old man would have described as a champion bloke.
We chatted sport, wine, women and song, while he achieved what I’d found impossible. He put together my barbie.
But the clincher was when it came time to settle the bill (which was a reasonable as all get out), we were standing in my kitchen (OK, I was having a bourbon … Scott had to flee to meet his girlfriend who lives not far from me, otherwise he probably would have at least had a beer).
He asked about the picture of a girl on my fridge door.
I explained and he looked at me and said: “Geez, you were punching above your weight.” No away I'd argue with that. She's The One.
It was the clincher because he was honest. That’s just what he thought.
I’d certainly recommend giving Scott a call. Reckon he could probably do most things that you can’t … and in my case, that’s plenty.
The next morning on the barbie, I made a mushroom bruschetta … beautiful olive sourdough bread, field mushrooms, plenty of butter and to serve, a sprinkling a chopped chervil.
It doesn’t get a lot better … at least not until dinner, when I cooked a rare (it almost had a pulse) eye fillet, some mushrooms and asparagus. I threw it on a plate beside a salad of oak-leaf lettuce, tomato, fennel and cucumber, dressed with lemon-flavoured olive oil.
Reckon it’s welcome back, red meat and I’m gonna spend more than my fair share of time in the yard applying the heat to dead beast.

ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANNA DO YOUR BLOCK

Living as I do in the inner southern suburbs, I pay for the privilege of parking outside my abode. Yeah, I get a sticker that entitles me to park, you’d think, anywhere in the suburb overseen by the council.
Nah, it’s confined to my street. Full stop.
It’s a shit area to get a park at the best of times, especially market days.
And it was on the way to the market last weekend that I noticed a new sign “Works Parking” or some such thing, it says. And it’s right outside the site of the latest houses to be done up by the TV show The Block. In fact, it’s right across the road from Father Bob Maguire’s church Sts Peter and Pauls in South Melbourne. (Father Bob’s blog is at www.fatherbob.com.au). Reckon I read somewhere last week that he had to ask the blokes on the site to stop sawing during a service or something like that. (They did, by the way.)
But I digress.. Back to the new sign.
I hope The Block people are getting slugged shitloads to park their two big rubbish hoppers on the street at the expense of ratepayers' parking.

DRESS CODES … WE WERE POLES APART

I wrote last week about maybe being responsible for the dress code being introduced at the members’ at Adelaide Oval. Said it was a story for another day. Well, it’s another day.
It was a hot day, I was wearing a press pass (I worked at The Age), jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt. I’d just been outside the members’ area and arrived at the gate to get back to have a drink with my mates. Yeah, even I have mates.
The bloke at the gate was polite. “You can’t come in here dressed like that,” he said.
Hang on a minute,” I countered, I’ve been here for three days (and have two to go), in and out of the members. Here, look at my pass.”
“Sorry,” he said, digging in his heels, “you need a shirt with sleeves.”
“Mate,” I said, “I’ve been coming here for years and I’ve always dressed like this. It’s a bloody hot day. Let me through.”
He intimated no dice. Time for me to fire up.
“Mate, if you’re not gonna let me in, then you have to ask that woman (I pointed to her) to leave. She is wearing a sleeveless tank-top (with a bare midriff) and hipster jeans. Either she goes or I’m coming in.”
He relented and ushered me in, with a warning to wear something better tomorrow. Sure, I said. I didn’t.
The woman in question was the Sydney Olympic silver medallist Tatiana Grigorieva and her husband and fellow pole-vaulter Viktor Chistiakov.
A good mate of mine, Andy, was sitting directly behind the glamour couple (well she certainly was) and as we walked to the marquee out the back to get a drink, he said: “I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but she has the finest of fine blonde hair at the top of her bum crack.”
Yeah, thanks for that, Andy.
Oh, and by the way, the next year at the Adelaide Test, it was announced that a polo shirt was the least best you could get away with without being barred.

IT'S TIME TO GET MY HAND ON MY CLOCK

I reckon it has been long enough ... there are two clocks on the wall in my dining room, the place I go to type ... (OK, I eat there too.) Both clocks have Elvis on their faces.
I just glanced up to check the time and it says 9.30.
Guess I haven't yet adjusted the clocks since daylight saving kicked in.
I've made a promise to myself to do it tomorrow night, a good glass of wine notwithstanding.

WHAT A GREAT COUPLE
I got a call last Friday from my mate, Andrew McUtchen, inviting me to a barbecue last Saturday.
Now, regular readers of this blog will know Andrew … he’s a talented writer with whom I work at The Weekly Review, he’s a mega-talented singer-songwriter-musician (see his website for details … in fact I’m listening to an INXS cover of his as I type this) and he’s also a former neighbour and sometimes drinking buddy.
He entertained the troops a while ago at a dinner party I had … everyone there (including The One) said it was one of the great nights … mainly thanks to Andrew.
But I digress.
Back to the barbie, his, not my new one.
I was having a cup of tea before I called a cab (now there’s a revelation, drinking something other than wine … and the cab isn’t as reference to cab sav) and I had a feeling about the barbecue.
When I walked into his girlfriend Fi’s house, he made a beeline, grabbed me and carted me off to a quiet area and blurted out: “Mate, I’ve got to tell someone. I asked Fi to marry me last night. She said yes.” My earlier feeling was on the money. Dunno why I knew, I just did.
It was a great afternoon, meeting Andrew’s and Fi’s families and friends … a great bunch of people, especially Andrew’s granddad. What a gun fella.
It was Fi’s birthday the day after, so Andrew launched into a speech that culminated in him telling everyone that Fi had accepted his proposal.
All I can say is thank heaven I was wearing sunnies, cos I teared up big time under them.
Beautiful moment, beautiful people.
And I reckon they’ll make beautiful music together.

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Pimm's o'clock

I have a rule about cooking seafood in my house: I don’t. Quite honestly, I can’t stand the stink. But this weekend I’ll probably fire up my newly assembled backyard barbecue, courtesy of Scott, a Hire a Hubby (laughter here if the mood takes you, but it’s a story for another day) and cook some sort of fish.

Last weekend though, I broke my rule (not the first time I’ve gone contrary to a rule or two), and I funkified the house with the smell of the sea.

After baking a great tart for dinner on Saturday, I trawled the market on Sunday and came away with, among other things (including lots of fresh flowers for the house), some blue swimmer crab meat. The crab cake recipe called for just 200 grams, but the only place I could find crab meat at the market refused to sell any less than a 500-gram pack. (OK, there’s 300 grams in the freezer so I can have a crack again on another day.) I used a Nigella Lawson recipe, which is at the bottom of this blog.

The hardest part was waiting for an hour after mixing the ingredients for them to set in the fridge. Although the recipe called for desiccated coconut, I used the shredded variety (which offered a bit more texture), along with plain flour, chilli, coriander and rice vinegar. And the cakes were meant to be balls, but I said balls to that and I flattened them with the help of an egg ring. The preparation and cooking time was only about 15 minutes (the hour in the fridge notwithstanding), making it an ideal thing to cook and eat during summer.

They really were very good, with just enough chilli to give them suitable grunt without overpowering the taste of the crab, served with a simple dressed salad of rocket, nashi pear and shards of parmesan.

And given that it was a summery dish, what better thing to drink with it than Pimm’s? Yep, Pimm’s. Now, Pimm’s and I go back a ways. I remember (it was probably the late ’50s or so) an ad on the wireless, along the lines of “Pimm’s No.1 cup, the most heavenly drink on Earth”.It took me a few years to get up close and heavenly with the drink again and it was an unlikely venue. It was the members’ enclosure at the Adelaide Oval (yeah, I’m a cricket tragic who went to the Adelaide Test every year for 12 or so. OK, I had a press pass, which was the only reason they’d ever let someone such as me into the members. I swear that I’m the reason they introduced a dress code. Again, another day.)

Adelaide Oval must be one of the few sporting venues in the world where you can get freshly cooked food (and good wines) — King George whiting, steak sandwiches to die for, decent sandwiches, et al (although I can vouch for the great food at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, where a thing called bake and shark is a delicious local favourite. There are people cooking a range of foods in what seems every 20 metres or so. Insert Queen’s Park ranges joke here.)

But there is one Adelaide members’ venue that always stood out; a bar that sold nothing but pints of Pimm’s ($6.50) and plates of fresh prawns. The Pimm’s was served with the bar’s version of fruit salad in a glass and given that the weather was always hot, it was a most welcome thing, time and again … and again.

I prefer my Pimm’s a tad simpler, and there are no grounds for argument. (It’s also a reason why, in a certain North Adelaide Indian restaurant, I became known as the Pimm’s man.) A good glug of Pimm’s (remember it is 25% alcohol), a couple of ice cubes, half lemonade and half dry ginger and the mandatory slice of cucumber (skin on, if you please). Too easy, and too good.

It’s great with crab cakes, whatever. OK, it’s just great. Try it. If you haven’t given it a go, you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The best dough I've spent in a while

I cooked a tart for dinner on Saturday … and it was a cracker.
It was about 20 minutes (tops) from start to eat.
I used puff pastry topped with pesto (coriander with a hint of chilli), anchovies, olives, capers, basil and bocconcini. And the best thing about it was the anchovies. I’ve always liked them and usually keep a jar of them in the pantry, but this time I was caught short.
In the deli section of the market, I spied some white Spanish anchovies and despite the 90-odd bucks a kilo price tag, I grabbed a dozen. They were whole, so that meant two dozen fillets.
Best money I’ve spent it a long time. Only about a dozen or so fillets made it onto the tart. I ate the rest as I prepared the tart. My god they were good.
The tart (the recipe, from Delicious magazine, is below) wasn’t half bad either, washed down with some chenin blanc from Swords. (See a post or two back. I reckon it’s gonna be my preferred summer drink … OK, whatever the weather’s like.)

HARD TO WATCH

I watched the Four Nations rugby league game on Saturday night. Good game, good result as the Aussies stuck it up the Kiwis.
But I reckon it has to be the worst TV coverage I’ve ever seen. The camera got up close and personal at the play-the-balls, then panned back to give a broad view of the action. It was almost like watching it from another suburb. No close shots of hit-ups, tackles and the like.
Hope the Poms lift their game (the TV blokes, not the England team) for the rest of the tournament.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The wonder of science


I got this from an old mate, Des, at Castlemaine. It's "In Vino Fertilization" and a New Yorker cover cartoon by Drew Dernavich. It struck a chord with me. By the way, you can buy it in three sizes from the New Yorker website.

THANKS FOR THE PLUG, NICK

And thanks to Nick Green, aka ‘Teddy Hernandez’ (his stage name with geek rock band Heartbreak Club), who gave my blog a plug. Nick, by the way, runs a website called Journal of Sparkling Shiraz.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Don't suffer from pinot envy

My wine writer mate Ben Thomas (@senorthomas on Twitter) has just spent some time in New Zealand doing the pinot run and and while he was there he did a terrific interview for next week's The Weekly Review. Ben got up close and personal with pinot fancier Sam Neill (he has three wineyards and is really hands-on). It's well worth a read.
Ben also had some good things to say about the wines. He also sent a link to a sale of Kiwi pinots.
Have a look. You just never know.

CHEESE TO THE FORE

A few years ago, I did a Donna Hay cooking class somewhere down on the Mornington Peninsula. I wasn’t that keen on her then, but I’ve mellowed a bit (maybe it’s an age thing … OK, it’s an age thing).

The biggest things to come out of that day were learning to soak olives in vodka, and the subsequent hangover after an amazing lunch at the T’Gallant winery. The olives taste great and the vodka afterwards is sensational. I’ve since done olive shooters as a starter for a dinner party (soak ’em for a couple of hours at least) and they’re always a hit, in more ways than one.

I saw Hay on the telly the other night, preparing three-cheese pasta, and I thought I’d have a crack at something similar. I’m glad I did.

I used L’Abruzzese organic durum wheat fettuccine, which, at about seven bucks, is not cheap, but it’s worth the price of admission. And it cooks in about six minutes.

The sauce took about the same time. Too easy. A big chunk of butter melted gently in a pot, a handful of cubed Jarlsberg and a handful of fresh ricotta, and about a quarter of a cup of freshly grated parmesan, all stirred gently until it became a creamy glug. Then I stirred in a handful of finely chopped fresh tarragon and threw in a big chunk of blue Castello (which may not have been the blue cheese of choice, but it’s what I had in the fridge).

I stirred the sauce (OK, mine is four cheeses) through the pasta, threw some finely chopped fresh basil on top along with more grated parmesan and it was the end of the penny section. Bloody good ride it was, too. It was salty, sweet, savoury and very, very moorish. I’m planning to try it again, the next time with a scoop of crème fraiche just to make it a little runnier.

I washed it down with a glass or two (all right, a bottle) of Amherst Pyrenees Dunn’s Paddock Shiraz 2009, which is somewhere in the mid-20 buck range. It’s a modest 13.6% alcohol and has a screwtop. Good drink it is, a deep colour with berry fruit (your call) and a bit of chocolate on the nose and nice oak and no-over-the-top tannins. It lasts in the mouth. In the bottle as well if you, unlike me, have the ability to put it down for a few years.

But it wasn’t the best wine I’ve had this past week, and I’ve had a few: 2004 Oomoo sparkling shiraz (see last week), Wedgetail Estate 2009 chardonnay (very good), a Yarra Valley cleanskin chardonnay (a beauty) and Chateau de Sours Rose from Bordeaux (a bloody cracker) among them. Nah, the best wine I’ve had this week is going to be a regular inhabitant of my fridge over summer. It’s a 2011 Margaret River chenin blanc from Swords Wines and it’s summer in a bottle at just 11.8% alcohol.

On the nose, it’s fruity, with buckets of lemon/lime things and melon, although I’m convinced that there is passionfruit and fresh basil. In the mouth again there’s citrus and melon and it lingers longer than a St Kilda supporter waiting for a flag. It’s a touch sweet (the wine, definitely not the Saints fan, and a very good thing in this case) with fresh, clean acidity. I love it.

I’ve gotta fess up that the first bottle I tried was a freebie from Dave, the manager of Swords at the South Melbourne Market, who suggested I should review it. I’ve bought it three times since.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The bird that made my life a misery for two years

Adrenalin (noun): a chemical produced by your body when you are afraid, angry, or excited, which makes your heart beat faster.
Affirmative to that … it’s now spring and it was a time that in the past has made me, in the case of what I’m about to explain, mostly afraid and angry about something that weighed less than the handful of scallops that I cooked recently.
Now given that I was then a sizeable citizen and not supposed to be afraid of piss-ant things … read 192 centimetres and somewhere between 94-104 kilograms (although I’m a trim 87 kilograms now) … what was it that got my adrenal glands working overtime?
It was an Indian myna and it made parts of my life a misery for two years ... and it became known as the great war of Albert Park.
The declaration of conflict was set in stone when the myna and its partner decided that the eaves under my front verandah were the ideal place to do their AV Jennings thing and raise a family … to whit, a nest.
Once the bird version of the suburban three-bedroom brick veneer (with pergola) was established, the aggressor decided that whenever I left the house I was a Hitler to its Poland. Every time I walked out the front door, it would be sitting on the fence post, staring a mad stare at me (think Julie Bishop) and screaming like a cross between Jimmy Barnes and Bon Scott, but always in tune. It never bothered anyone else. Just me.
Then the attacks got really personal.
My girlfriend and I had just returned from the local plant nursery. I was laden with punnets of seedlings and a bag a potting mix. We were walking to the front gate when the screaming myna came straight at me like Casey Stoner dropping it down a cog and trying to overtake. I raised an arm to frighten it and all I succeeded in doing was to provide a target.
First blood to the myna. The feathered Rambo left a beak hole (and yep it hurt, heaps) in the top of my right arm. There was blood running down my arm.
The attacks became more concentrated. Every time I walked out of the house, the screaming myna would swoop at me, each time getting up close and real personal, while on my part, frantic arm waving and the occasional scream of my own were the only things to save me from again bleeding on the street.
It got to a point where I was frightened. I mean, I went to the pub occasionally at night and this bastard was hard to see in the dark, although I could hear it, usually from about 20 metres away.
After a couple of really close calls, I took drastic action.
The neighbours thought it was a great joke, watching me, a grown man by this time armed with an ice-hockey stick, on the street doing my best Wayne Gretzky impersonation and trying to belt the bird into the back of an imaginary net. No score, apparently I was swinging the way I’d imagine Boy George would swing a hockey stick. I missed every time.
A walk down the street to the local 7Eleven became a nightmare … the myna started to follow me for a 100 or so metres and it would swoop multiple times, screaming as it went. Again, neighbours laughed.
What to do? Like the real bloke I am, I took a break interstate. A mate and I were heading to Adelaide for the cricket and he was picking me up in a cab. I’d warned him about my feathered foe and as I put my bag into the boot of the cab, I stood up and was attacked. The myna hit my hair. Yeah, it was that close. Maybe it would be an eye the next time. My mate’s flabber was gasted.
I was away for five days. When I got home, the cab pulled up a few houses down from mine and I was ready. I was wearing a disguise … dark glasses and a broad-brimmed hat. I thought I was home scot free. Well no.
As soon as I stood up after getting out of the cab, my mongrel, free-loading border came at me – I reckon it was screaming the chorus of Dirty Deeds done Dirt Cheap — and collected the brim of my hat.
Yeah, the driver and my mate thought it was a great joke. It wasn’t.
It really came to a head (not mine, although not for a lack of trying on the myna’s part) when I walked to the pub to get a couple of takeaway beers and a bottle of wine.
The myna swooped me six or so times until I got to the lane. It had never followed me down there before, but this time, the bird’s bravado kicked in. It followed me for about 50 metres down the lane, having a screaming crack at me every 20 or so metres. Then it was gone, probably for an afternoon tea of worm snacks or other shit prepared by the missus back at my place. God knows.
Then came my one moment of triumph in the great war of Albert Park.
There I was, carrying my alcoholic booty, walking up the street towards my house, about 50 or so metres away. There was a hand-holding couple walking towards me.
Enter the maniacal myna.
There it was, doing more clicks than is reasonable for a small bird, barrelling straight at me at about chest height … and doing its best Barnsey impersonation.
I braced myself … it’s either it or me, I thought.
Closer, closer it came and, whack, I punched it (it would have decked Rocky) right out of the air and over a parked car and onto the road. My timing was perfect. The hand holders stopped dead in their tracks, mouths agape, and stared in disbelief.
I walked onto the road and there was the myna, standing, stunned, and no doubt thinking something along the lines of “Jesus, what the hell was that?”
I’ve won, I thought, it can’t come back from this.
Well, not for a couple of days anyway … and then it started all over again.
And then spring was gone, so too the myna.
At least until the next year and it started all over again.
There was just one thing to do. I later moved house. Enough adrenalin rushes.
My new house was about a kilometre away and I was welcomed by a friendly family of magpies.
But that’s another story.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sharing the load

Life in Vanuatu has its ups and downs …
I got an email from my son, Liam:
“What you don’t want is … for the 20-tonne crane to fall on its side, under load, out the front of the Australian High Commissioner’s house, destroying gardens and retaining walls, while your boss is on his honeymoon. Yep, just another day in paradise.”
He rang just after that had happened to offer another insight into the way they do things over there.
Seems that a few hundred Kiwis (there’s always a lot of them no matter where you go) got into the Rugby World Cup spirit. Now given that there’s a strong French presence there (it used to belong to France … and the French women there are, well you get the picture), what better way to show your affection for the land of the long night crowd.
The Kiwis blocked the road outside the French Embassy and the 300 or so strong crowd did the haka en masse and apparently created quite a rumble.

CALLERS ON THE LINE

So, are tram drivers bound by the same laws as car drivers?
I was waiting for the No.96 the other day outside Packer’s money box and the restaurant tram came ambling up to the stop. The driver was busy having a chat on his mobile phone.
Then a tram going the other way had the driver, no doubt calling home base or whatever, chatting away on the installed phone in his cabin.
Just wondering why the rozzers don’t give trammies a hard time the way they give it to car drivers.
And the coppers could do a lot worse that hang around Port Junction on the No.96 line. There’s a stop sign for the trams and, last week was a first in a long time, the driver actually stopped. Be a great revenue raiser, cos normally the drivers just steam right past the stop sign.

BANGERS PAR EXCELLENCE

I reckon I’ve just found my new favourite sausages … pork and fennel.
I had a feed at Lina’s, my favourite bar, the other night … with mash and some greens, all washed down with some excellent Château de Sours Rosé from Bordeaux.
There’s not a lot wrong when the temperature is still in the twenties and you’re eating and drinking in the courtyard.
Good to see, too, that the kitchen has just reinstated the nibbles plate … mainly preserved meats … which is not a bad thing occasionally, although I copped a serve from a friend (a verbal, not a feed). She suggested I was being over-indulgent in the dead beast department, but given that I have red meat about once every two or three weeks, I’m not too fussed.
That may well change if I can ever assemble the barbecue I bought last week.
I’m also looking forward to Lina’s chef, Raf, using the mountain pepper berry leaves I gave him last week. I have a small tree in a pot in the yard. He’s a fan after tasting them for the first time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

An early tilt at the festive season


Christmas has lobbed early at my joint.
At the end of last month, I got a tip from a wine writer mate, Ben Thomas (he’s @senorthomas on Twitter) to buy some Oomoo Sparkling Shiraz, which, according to Ben, was an ideal cellar filler for the festive season.
Yeah, like it’ll last that long at my place.
It was a special online deal (http://skyecellars.ewinerysolutions.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showD
rilldown&productid=ad651533-cccf-05c7-8722-a84757b355fb) and an absolute snip at $108 a case (delivered). You reckon that’s good? Think again. With the case of the 2004, yes 2004, sparkling shiraz came a bottle of Moet Imperial, usually priced at somewhere in the mid-50 buck range. The deal has finished although there is talk that it will be reposted within the next two weeks. Monitor the site, people, if you know what’s good for you.
I’m a bit of a fan when it comes to sparkling shiraz (OK, if it passes the lip test, I’ll like it. The lip test is, by the way, if it’s wet enough to pass through the lips, it’s good) and after popping the cork on the Oomoo, nothing had changed. This fella is of mid-ranged sweetness and is deep red with a full body … not quite a middle-aged spread, but you get the drift.
On the nose, Hardy’s suggests fresh cherry and satsuma plum notes (I got the cherries, no plum though) and mulberry jam, whatever that smells like. I kept getting strawberries and cream, which probably means my olfactory set-up is really an old factory set-up. I did get the chocolate and spice thing although the claimed liquorice was among the missing.
On the palate, it says raspberry fruit with dark cherries, nougat and spice. I’m sticking to the strawberries and cream thing. There’s a pleasant bit of oak and it finishes well. Hardy’s suggests that it would go well with duck liver pate, quail and game meats and Christmas pudding.

My choice probably broke the rules … I opted for a Middle Eastern lamb tart. No matter.

Besides, I’d just had an “I want to bake a tart” epiphany.

And bake I did. It’s a filo tart of spicy lamb mince (I bought lamb chunks and cut it into a one-centimetre dice. It’s a texture, have-a-chew kind of thing) with hummus, fetta and topped with a tomato, onion, parsley, mint, sumac, olive oil and lemon juice salsa. All up it took maybe 45 from start to eat.

I did, however, have the mandatory whinge using the filo. Why is it so difficult to use? I reckon it’d be easier to knit an aircraft carrier, but having said that, my filo turned out OK.

But what a good eat it was, especially washed down with a glass or two (OK, it was a bottle) of the Oomoo.
The full recipe is at the bottom of the blog.
.

PS: the explanatory label on the back of the Oomoo is in Japanese, indicating, I guess, that the company had punted on selling truckloads in the Land of the Rising Sun, something that perhaps didn’t come to fruition. No matter, it’s the taste that matters. And anyway, sometimes after drinking a bottle of something, the label may as well be written in Japanese anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The 20-degree rule

Thank God it’s the time of the year to invoke the 20-degree rule.
As soon as the temperature hits the magical 20, out come the blue singlets. I’ve gotta, mind, get the body into some sort of better shape. I’ve managed to rip off about eight or so kilos during my traditional “put on the pounds” winter, which was no mean feat.
It helps to eat well and certainly by cutting out the beer (OK, I have an occasional one or two) it gets easier. But it’s time to start throwing around a few weights and put a bit of shape to whatever is left clinging to my bones. It should be easy, given that I have a home gym and a few free weights. It’s just a matter of finding the motivation, a not-easy task because I’ve been doing (and will continue to) some paid work at nights.
Being a sizeable citizen, however, means bugger all when it comes to things mechanical (OK, it’s not really mechanics) when it comes to putting together a barbecue.
Sounds easy enough, but sweet mother of Jesus, it’s not for me.
I went to Bunnings yesterday to buy a smallish barbie (I have a small courtyard already crowded with pots of this and that) so size matters.
I spent an hour and a half getting it to a stage where it was time to spit the dummy. I packed all the bits (and when I say all, I mean shitloads) into the box and went and sulked with a later on bourbon (OK, two).
I rang Bunnings this morning (God bless ‘em) and the ever-helpful girl told me to bring it back (with the receipt) and someone from the leisure centre would assemble it for me.

WELCOME BACK CHISEL

How good is it to see Cold Chisel back on the road.
I found out yesterday afternoon (post-barbecue) over a beer at Lina’s wine bar that there were still tickets available. Gotta get me one.
The Northern Territory News last week had a yarn the summed up Chisel’s appeal.
The band is playing a Darwin gig for the first time since God’s dog was a pup and to celebrate, a Darwin FM radio station is going to play Chisel 24/7 for the 10 days leading up to the concert.
Have a look at the yarn at http://yfrog.com/z/nvjjilj ... There are a couple of links to tune in.

GOOD WEE

Speaking of Chisel, I was talking to a mate from the Age two Fridays ago and he told me to buy it the next day because there was a Cold Chisel yarn in Good Weekend.
Now I haven’t bought The Age for about six months (I’ve got with the program and I read it daily online) so I surprised my newsagent with a purchase.
I grabbed a coffee and headed home for a read.
What the hell has happened to Good Weekend? It was a paper-thin 32 pages with I think 14 full-page ads and a front cover. That’s 17 pages of reading. Seventeen! There’s more reading in my local suburban giveaway. Perhaps it’s time to rename it Good Wee.

AH, SHUCKS

I’ve gotten back into the habit of having half a dozen freshly shucked oysters every time I head to the South Melbourne Market. How good are they? At a buck each, they’re sensational value. Just a squeeze of lemon juice and lunch doesn’t get any better.