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.


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


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

oodnadatta track

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


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.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I get pretty annoyed at the amount of junk mail that finds its way into my mailbox ... I'm talking here about the mailbox out the front of the house, not the spam-filled bunch of crap that is the inbox from the interweb thing that seems to rule (or tries to) our lives. Most of the junk mail is straight into the recycling bin, although some, if they are addressed properly, get a cursory read just in case before being consigned to the bin.
Yesterday, there was a letter from the ANZ bank. I wasn't expecting anything from the ANZ, I don't have an account there ... perhaps, I thought, it was offering to do something for me. Yeah, that'd be it, of course, a bank wanting to do something for a customer, other that is than bleeding money from them at every opportunity, ripping off every cent, treating them like shit.
So I opened it to have a read and I noted that it was addressed to
Micheal Waughan.
Yeah, good on ya. Both names wrong and you're asking me to do business with you. Seriously? What chance that the ANZ would get other things wrong, especially if it can't get names right.
To Steve Rubenstein, who made it his personal business to invite me to do business, shove it up your clacker, mate.
All you did was give me another reason to hate banks and their blood-sucking parasitical approach to people.
Oh, Steve, I did spell your name right. Pity your company didn't afford me the same courtesy, but then again, banks don't care about people, do they?


“Nobu the world's most recognised Japanese restaurant, known for its innovative “New Style” Japanese cuisine, launched it's (sic) Australian location in 2007 at the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne.
“With the original in New York, the Nobu brand is now an empire that spans the globe, offering signature dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, tiraditio Nobu-style, and black cod with miso.
“Over looking the southern banks of the Yarra River, Nobu Melbourne offers a stunning view inside and out. River stones suspended in mid air, cherry blossom adorned ceilings, burnished woods, and rich hues create an ambiance of elegance and refinement.”

Those three paragraphs are how Nobu sums up itself on its website, although as the world’s most recognised Japanese restaurant, you would reckon that someone would proof read the copy (they charge enough for dinner, so it’s not that the place can’t afford someone to check things) and at least got it right. It may just be a rogue apostrophe (in the first paragraph), but it is an indication that attention to detail has fallen down. I wonder whether someone wouldn’t get slapped over the knuckles if they had forgotten a minor ingredient in a signature dish. Small point, I know, but it’s all about details. When you’re blowing your own trumpet, be in tune. Now I’d like a say on the night I had at Nobu.
THE One and I ate there last weekend. We both love good food and wine, and given that Nobu has, in my circle of friends, never had a bad word said about it, it seemed the ideal destination for some quality time and company, quality food, quality wine in quality surroundings … mind, that doesn’t include the giant money box outside the confines of Nobu.
After a glass of chardy at my place (it was Eden Road’s The Seedling, a cool-climate chardonnay from Tumbarumba and not too bad), we snaffled a cab. We arrived at Nobu a tad early, but that was easily fixed by a glass of chardy at the bar until we were collected and shown to our table. I’d also got a call from my son, Joel, who works at the casino (he deals poker … I say this because I can’t spell croupier). It had been a while since I have caught up with him and there was also the fact that he and THE One had never met.
Almost to the bottom of the chardy and we were duly collected and whisked away to our table for two downstairs. The seating at the table was A), a chair on one side and B), a couch-type arrangement against the wall. I took the chair, which gave THE One a view of all and sundry going on in the restaurant. The problem was that THE One isn’t quite as tall as me and when she sank into the comfy couch, it was just too low for her, so we swapped. Mind you, her then view … of a wall … was hardly a stunning one in the way the Nobu describes such things. A wine list and menu delivery later and we were on our way to a memorable night. Or were we?
Now the tables are bloody well close together … a tad too close for our liking … which turned out to be less than ideal. The couple on one side of us was having a spat … quite serious inasmuch as it was liberally laced with “you fucking this” and “you fucking that”. They were, how do I say this nicely, pissed. Well at least that’s how they looked when they left for pastures greener or wherever pissed, fighting people go to after dinner. Not that it was easy to hear any of the regular insults or rants … or even each other across the table … for Nobu with all its “elegant, refined ambiance” is one noisy place. I’ve been in quieter public bars during 10 o’clock closing … OK, I’ve been in public bars that are almost as noisy as Nobu. My god it’s loud.
After consultation (with each other … yeah, we yelled politely across the table) we ordered some water and a bottle of Curlewis chardonnay (it was about 60 bucks). The water arrived swiftly and was a surprise given that it was a commercially labelled bottle sitting in a metal sleeve (Nobu, it seems, recycles (from where, I thought, after all it doesn’t sell the stuff by the bottle), an admirable thing although it does detract from the “refined” descriptor that the restaurant uses regarding itself.
The wine took far, far too long to make an appearance on the table … about 10-12 minutes from memory. Not good enough, not even close.
Joel sat with us for a while and he and THE One behaved like old friends. They got along just so … that made me smile. Them too for that matter. Pretty soon he was on his way and so was our dinner. We’d left it to the staff to provide us with shared dishes of their choice. We had wanted the nine-course version but the waitress said that it wasn’t on for the night. Why then was it on the menu? Attention to detail? Oh well.
The food came at regular intervals and was obviously from great suppliers and well plated … the quality of the ingredients and presentation was beyond reproach but there was nothing that was going to make either of us say “We have to come back for this.” Even one of the signature dishes, the black cod with miso, which several of my friends have raved about and would leave home for, was, well, nice enough, but leave home for it? Nah, it just wasn’t that inspirational.
Five (from memory) courses, a bottle of chardy plus two glasses at the bar and it was 320-odd bucks (plus a tip) and almost a need for an Aspro (yeah, it’s that noisy … at about the same level as in the Atrium Bar in the casino where we had a couple of drinks before fleeing into the night).
Nobu? Would we go back? No. Not in a hurry anyway. The food was very good (read not great), the atmosphere was daunting because of the noise, which took the experience well out of the realms of fine dining, the service was, at times, slow but always with a smile … and value for money? We have had more enjoyable, less expensive Japanese food at Eis (mentioned on this site several times) in Albert Park. There are Eis dishes that we still talk about over and over and that we plan to have again.
There was more chardonnay (Best’s at Great Western … it’s called VIC and it’s good), some music and a fair bit of laughter involved in a nightcap to end a memorable if somewhat noisy and a less-refined dinner than we’d hoped for.
Refinement was best left for Sunday anyway … and it involved opera.
It came early, refinement that is, not Sunday, and it involved a latish lunch … a dozen and a half fresh oysters, some decent blue cheese, some smoked salmon and a fresh baguette … and a drop of lime-infused olive oil. Oh, and a bottle of French bubbles … Grande Cuvee 1531 de Amery, a traditional drop imported by a company on the Mornington Peninsula … and what a pleasant drop it is. There are hints of fruit (so lunch WAS balanced) and a fine, constant supply of bubbles. It tasted good too.
There’s a bloke at the South Melbourne Market who shucks oysters to order … I often have six on my way through while I’m food shopping … and they were a great way to start the day.
Sunday arvo was a kick back and not do a lot sort of afternoon before later opening a wine that THE One had managed to source … MOMO sauvignon blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. We had had it at dinner at Eis a couple of weeks before before and we both loved it. Sure, like all the sauv blancs from that neck of the woods, it has a big fruity nose but this one, unlike those taste-bud-stripping others, is soft in the mouth … an absolute treat.
A shower, shave and whatever was the order of the day before heading to Lina’s Wine Bar for dinner and a night at the opera.
Fortunately I’d booked a table for two earlier in the week because the place was packed. The crew there did well to hold said table … it was being eyed off by all the standing punters and, of course, we were fashionably late.
No matter. The place was filled with the most magnificent sounds, courtesy of three wonderful voices.
Tenor Ben Logan, who manages Lina’s, bass baritone Matthew Thomas and soprano Nicole Wallace were individually, together, any which way, simply magnificent.
There seemed to be the ideal marriage in terms of the trained voices and the place’s acoustics …
Nicole Wallace has performed with the Schools’ Company with Opera Australia and her voice just blew us away. Twice my eyes filled with tears as she finished off a piece … wow.
Matthew Thomas, a young artist with Opera Victoria, has a voice that’s just so rich.
And Ben Logan, he’s a knockout too. I spend a bit of time at the bar and have gotten to know him quite well. He’s a decent bloke and what a voice.
He has worked variously with Opera Victoria, Opera Australia and recently spent three weeks in China doing gigs with the Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra, during which time he played about a dozen concerts.
The three singers on the night did solos, duets, whatever, and each time got a standing ovation.
Somehow during the music, we managed to each enjoy a decent piece of beef (with café de Paris butter) and some zucchini, squash and roasted hazelnuts on the side, all washed down with the house white, which, according to THE One, was just a bit too acidic, something I hadn’t really noticed before. But she was right on the money.
All too soon the singing came to an end … but not the entertainment.
Chris Howlett, a cellist at The Australian National Academy of Music, laid about half and hour of Bach on us … he too was a knockout
What a great night, fine music, food, friends and wine … does it get any better?
Can’t wait for the next night at the opera.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I reckon recently that I discovered the true meaning of the expression “sinking feeling”. And I’ve had a few over the years. There I was walking from my morning job at Crikey, bound for a tram stop outside the casino, nursing a hangover after catching up with my best mate and several bottles of good wine and a few shots of whatever … well it had been a while and he was keen to talk about his new job and catch up on my news, whatever that was. Yep, the night lingered on a tad too late for my liking for a school night, but best mates do that without a thought of the consequences. I’ll admit to doing the same thing with people I’m really not friends with, but that’s another story.
Anyway, back to the walking. There I was walking past the aquarium, across the bridge until I got to the footbridge that leads down to Crown. The rain played a part. As I stepped onto the footbridge, there was some slippery stuff on the bridge, so I did what any sensible person would do. I slipped. My left foot went forward at what for me was an alarming rate of knots. I almost broke into a gallop. In a bid to halt this sudden propulsion forward, I reached out for the handrail on the side of the bridge. It was an instant reaction, ably demonstrating that my reflexes were still working well, hangover notwithstanding. What I didn’t take into account was … now I’ve already said it was a quick reaction … my bloody mobile phone was in my left hand. Contact with the handrail was exactly as it was meant to be, other than the jarring of the phone from my hand and propelling it out above the murky waters that are the Yarra. It was kind of like slow motion ... the phone seemingly hovering for what seemed like almost a second before I heard the fateful plop noise. Shit, shit, shit. Well that’s what I tweeted later in the day.
I didn’t realise just how much I relied on the bloody thing. Thank God there are numbers that are still accessible in my head … THE One, my eldest son in Vanuatu, my ex-wife’s house, The Age (why? I ask myself) … OK, that was it. Four numbers … but I still have a land line at home.
I immediately got onto the phone company, which assured me that, no, I didn’t have insurance. Shit, shit, shit. No worry, the Very Helpful Girl (VHG) at the phone company said that as my contract was up in a month or so, they would waive that and I could have a new phone.
What’s this them? Service from a phone company. They are five words not normally seen in the one sentence. Take a bow 3.
The problem though was a new phone would take seven working days to find its way into my letterbox.
“You’re kidding,” was my exclamation, which was countered by the VHG at the phone company with “No, sorry, but that’s the best we can do.” Shit, shit shit. Oh, and I did something I swore (I actually swear quite a bit sometimes) I would never do. I opted for a phone of the perpendicular pronoun persuasion. That's an iPhone in case you were wondering.
I managed to organise a borrowed phone (my ex-wife’s husband is a good man) and I was back in town. Well back on the air (with the same number) but not able to call anyone other than the four mentioned above.
Life went on, as did work the next day. And yes, I did manage to get across the footbridge without mishap, although I did stuff the borrowed phone into my pocket before I got above any kind of water.
A tram ride later and I was soon having a coffee with two friends who were having lunch around the corner from my house. Yes, they kindly offered me some wine, but I opted for a coffee. That should reassure any doubting Thomases that, yes, there are times when a drink doesn’t seem appropriate. Second time this year. We solved a few of the world’s problems and ordered two cases of wine from Randall’s (a delicious chianti and a pinot nois), which were to be shared between four people so it wasn’t excessive.
I bade the boys farewell and headed home to get things in order … OK, that’s cleaning and straightening the place up. I was having dinner with THE One the next night at Nobu, so I didn’t want to seem like a total slack arse.
I cleared the letterbox and, surprise surprise, there was a note saying that there was a parcel at the post office.
Could it be? Surely not. Not the phone the day after I reported the drowning of the old one. I’d had a parcel earlier in the week … I’d ordered a Deepak Chopra meditation CD (and one for THE One, which had lobbed at her house) … I thought maybe there was some kind of hiccup with that.
Anyway, I braved a post office queue that stretched about 10 or 12 people outside the place. Why is it that with three counter staff that all of them were dealing with new passport applications … photocopying, wandering off to check things with supervisors, generally moving in almost robotic motion. Finally someone twigged that it was starting to look like a queue for Kylie tickets (OK, I wouldn’t buy one but you get the drift) and organised for someone to deal with parcel pick-ups.
Bugger me, I thought, this is my new phone and it’s a week early.
Seriously, service from a phone company twice in two days. Bless you, VHG at the phone company. I mean, I had to buy a Tattslotto ticket.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


There rarely seems to be a week go by that, by the evening that is well-known as Sunday (and it’s usually after a few and/or a bottle of vino), I have decided to spend the upcoming week alcohol-free and liberally lace the nights after work with something that apparently is called exercise. It shouldn’t be that hard … the exercise bit, that is, not grog ‘cos that’s a tough ask sometimes … but invariably someone or something rears its head and the possible exercise regimen goes out the door (which is where I should be, you know, walking on the beach or whatever), but never am … unless it’s walking to the local wine bar. (I do, mind, walk about three kilometres or so every day.)
I hasten to add that I do have a home gym, some free weights and a one of those Danish balls (it could be a Danish pastry by now for all the time I’ve spent using it lately) so, like I said, it shouldn’t be that hard.
Last week was no different … best laid plans and all that, except that I had a night where my youngest son, Joel, came for an overnight visit, one that coincided with an out-of-town mate who was to work in town and stayed for a few nights (and a second out-of-town mate for another night … he had to pick up his son (aged three) the next morning) … so the only walking was to a restaurant or pub, whichever seemed the best option at the time. A restaurant was first, given that Joel doesn’t drink (or smoke for that matter … not sure where he was when the majority of the family genes were being dished out or maybe they’d given all the bad ones to his older brother right from the get go), but the three of us wandered to Basilico on Bridport Street, Albert Park. At this stage I was a Basilico virgin, which is strange because I’ve been to every restaurant within cooee and it has been there for a few years since the two local Greek brothers sold half of their huge hardware shop and it became what it is now. Later they sold the second half and it became Randall’s, the wine merchants. Good trade, I reckon, a wine shop and a restaurant for a hardware shop. And there were bonuses when the hardware shop closed ... I bought all their fishing lures for a song, but I digress.
Basilico was OK in terms of food, wine list, cost and service, the ideal quadrella. And it’s close to home. The three of us had a hankering for the chicken parma, which did the trick on all three counts. And, as always, it was good to catch up with Joel, who works at the casino and does nights a lot so I don’t reckon our paths cross often enough.
The next night out was to the pub, although not, mind, the closest one to my house … that’s for wannabe wannabes and footy groupies … no, we took the longer walk and was it beneficial? Too bloody right it was, not though for the exercise (which would have been beneficial had we not detoured to Lina’s wine bar after the pub), but for the fact that I found the best steak I’ve had at a pub since God’s dog was a pup.
Take a bow, the Montague Hotel (on the corner of Park and Montague streets in South Melbourne). It’s one of those places that I go to once in a while and always enjoy … and I always say something about going there more often and rarely do. My mate Lloyd had a porterhouse and I had the eye fillet, both cooked exactly as ordered, his medium-rare and mine rare (with a pulse thanks). He had the red-wine sauce and I opted for the café de Paris butter, which I was told later by the bloke behind the bar (he looks more like West Coast’s John Worsfold than does the real John Worsfold, a one-time chemist and now footy coach) was house-made and consisted of 30 ingredients. It was just great … and we made sure we told the bar staff what we thought of the tucker. I reckon people too often complain about stuff but neglect to praise the good things. The steaks came with hand-cut chips, some watercress and a house salad (with fennel, greens, onion and a tasty dressing) on the side. A few glasses of a full-bodied rose did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm for the dead beast. And the pub has the sort of bar in which you can have a conversation without the need to shout … yeah, you do have to shout drinks … but it’s a good atmosphere.
We doubled up at Lina’s (on the rose that is) after the pub. It was there that the owner’s wife told me to get on with the planning for the dinner party that I’m having. It seems to have maybe grown to 10, which, given the size of my dining room table, was/is going to pose a problem. “No matter,” she said, “Let’s have it at our place.” Nice offer though that is, it’s my party and I’ll fry if I want to.
A few roses at Lina’s to tide us over and soon we were on the way to my place to catch up with my other mate who got there some time after 10 … and everyone knows what a bloke should be doing at that time of the night, don’t they? Well, from my point of view, it was bourbon time. Little wonder it was with a heavy head that I meandered my way into the office the next morning.
I was meant to be at Lina’s to meet friends on Friday night, so I hustled through the afternoon doing all my washing, paying all my bills, organising shit that I’ve been putting off for a while … well, you have to be in town to do stuff that’s in town.
I got all my stuff done, gave the wine bar a wide berth, and settled for a well-earned night on the couch with a bottle of chardy ... and a chat with THE One.
I wrote something I shouldn’t have on Saturday morning … and posted it here. I was sorry I did (hindsight is always great benefit or a piss-ant excuse, take your pick), especially when I received a message to say that she had read it.
We talked, I took down the post. We chatted for a while, always a good thing, before she had to go.
It wasn’t long after that I got a call from a mate who was keen to catch up for a bite to drink, always a fair option on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon.
I decided to meet him at the Vic Market because I had to buy a couple of new sleepers (for my ears, my back yard isn’t big enough for the other sort of sleepers). I lost my long-time sleepers and earrings during one of the more robust activities in Vanuatu a couple of weekends ago … including an axe earring that was given to me by an admiring woman about 20 years ago. Perhaps it was a sign to move on, hope so, cos it’s long gone ... the earring that is, not the sign.
Anyway, long story short. I bought some sleepers and we decamped to … well it had a good track record that week … to the Montague Hotel for, of all things, a couple of Cooper’s Pale Ales, a bottle of Heathcote shiraz and a beautifully cooked eye fillet with Café de Paris butter. Again the steak was exemplary, cooked just so.
It’s amazing how an afternoon flies when you’re in good company, good surroundings, with good food and a good drop or two.
Can’t get any better. Can it? Well, yes it can.
At five o’clock on Saturday afternoon, sitting in the bar and I thought “what about dinner? I wonder whether she would say yes.” So I fired off a message, asking THE One if she would like to have dinner with me.
The response was quick, decisive and welcome. Simply “yep”.
Then followed a quick farewell to the Saturday lunchers, a brisk walk home, stopping along the way to book a table for two at EIS (literally translated, it means ACE … I’m sure I read that somewhere), a tiny restaurant that serves contemporary Japanese next door to Randall’s the wine shop.
We had been there before and loved it, so why not? The degustation/Omakase menu, at $105 a head, is a cracker and well worth the price of admission.
A shower, a shirt (for me) and a minor traffic jam (for her) and a glass of Scotchman’s Hill chardy (for both of us) later, we armed ourselves with a brolly (for the rain not protection or anything like that) and made a beeline for EIS.
The staff is friendly in the extreme. Welcoming smiles all round and a firm handshake from the boss and we were seated, ready to rock.
And rock we did.
Here’s the menu with matching wines. Accept that there were plenty of ooohs and aaahs from us as the courses rolled on.
Fresh oyster shot with mint vodka, sliced chilli and wasabi tobiko, some ocean trout carpaccio with basil pesto and a glass of Louis Boillot Champagne from Bourgogne.
The oyster was nothing short of amazing, the trout (it could well have been salmon) was excellent and the Champagne was yeasty, bubbly and delicious and smelled a treat. Jesus wept, what a start.
That lot was followed by a chunky scallop with orange vinaigrette, again delicious.
Next, seared eye fillet sushi (not sure of the fish type) with sea salt and lemon juice, and a spicy tuna nori roll with roasted sesame, complemented by a glass of Momo sauvignon blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. The fish was beautiful but it was the wine that starred here. It, like all sav blancs from that region, had a huge nose but was unusually mouth friendly in the extreme. It was magnificent. It just keep getting better, the night not the wine.
Next, it was pumpkin soup (yep, true) with truffle paste and three king prawns submerged in its goodness.
Next it was a change of pace, with some grilled Wodonga beef eye fillet, matched with a glass of Bay of Apostles pinot noir (from near Geelong). I’m a sucker for pinot, THE One not quite so, but sheesh, we loved it.
We nursed the pinot along to accompany the grilled eel, steamed rice and Dashi green tea, a combination made … OK not in heaven, but you get the drift. It was good.
Miso-marinated lamb with sautéed spinach and mashed potato was the last savory dish for the night, accompanied by some Mt Langi shiraz from the Grampians. Three tiny cutlets, sweet as all get out, and shiraz to wash it down. Jesus was still weeping (with joy) at this stage. It really was good although I reckon I may have done better mash at various times in my mash career. No matter.
Dessert. Like we needed that … but we had a crack. It was warm chocolate cake with 70 per cent Belgium cacao and black sesame ice-cream, served with a glass of Umeshu plum wine into which was plonked a large round ice block.
Neither THE One nor I could finish the chocolate cake … not because it wasn’t good, but because, well, enough was enough.
And you think so, eh?
Well after we paid the bill, it should have been off into the night, but no, a last nightcap … one glass of chardy at Lina’s seemed like (and was) a good idea.
The food, service, wine and general atmosphere at EIS made for a memorable night. By the time we finished dinner, THE One and I were the last two in the place, although there were still four staff hard at it.
We’re still smiling about it. Lots.