It’s kinda nice to get the odd complimentary comment on this thing … I don’t get too many … so thanks to Lottie J. Vera for the kind words.
Words (on the blog) have been hard to come by lately, a courtesy of just doing too much and being too buggered to find the time to post.
Work’s pretty much back into full swing, the weekends have been packed with trips away, lots of good food, wine and friends, hence the blog laziness.
My dear friend, Julia, celebrated her 50th a couple of weeks ago at a fantastic old house in Balnarring. And true to her method of doing things, she did it in style.
One of the great things about the drive down there was the chance to blow away the cobwebs … on me and mainly the ute. A bit of dirt (OK a lot) notwithstanding, it looked a whole lot better by the time I’d arrived.
It was like tent city in her front garden, cars everywhere, and every couch, mattress, bed and whatever was in full use. I’m not sure just how many people stayed over, although there were probably 10 for breakfast in the morning.
The party was a ‘60s-‘70s fancy-dress thing and just about everyone got into the swing. There were beads, kaftans, wigs, long white patent boots … all the usual suspects. I reckon I may have been the only one there who went in normal clothes i.e. no real effort required … a Thai-dyed T-shirt with a matching headband, torn, tattered and patched jeans and of course a pair of kangaroo fur cowboy boots. And I drew plenty of comments about how I looked the part. Guess the hippie in me is alive and well.
There were about 100 people there and the weather was kind enough to allow us the entire night on the expansive front lawn. Lots of tables and chairs made it easy, the band was fantastic (they had lots of lights happening) and in true Julia style, the food and wine were just great.
She had four hogs of beef on the barbecue, lots of salads, breads and bits and pieces, even desserts, all lovingly put together by the well named Sarah Vaughan. She’s a cracker in the kitchen.
And there was beer, wine of all sorts and plenty of it to ensure that everyone had a great time.
Even the walk home in the dark was a piece of cake.
Life in the swag that night was a pretty easy sleep, the snoring of the woman in the tent next to me notwithstanding (OK, reckon I may have done my share too).
Waking at 5.30 wasn’t the ideal preparation for the day, but it gave me a chance to have a smoke, relax and enjoy the fresh air … yeah I know that’s a contradiction, you know, the fresh air and smoking thing.
People amassed at the huge garden table … they seemed to come from everywhere … and Julia produced some sensational sourdough bread, pots of tea, pots of coffee, eggs, whatever.
She’s the consummate professional when it comes to catering … for one or 100.
Breakfast was done, the swag thrown back onto the ute and it was time for all to head to the venue to clean up the excesses.
Thank God for the ute. We managed to fill it, and then some, but an hour or so later, the place looked like a new pin. Cars were loaded with the leftover drinks (and there were lots), boxes and boxes of glasses (there were just two broken on the night) and it was a convoy back to Julia’s place to unload.
And unload she did. She insisted (OK I didn’t take too much convincing) that I take a box of wine and some beer with me (not for the trip home, I hasten to add).
The wines were a mix of T’Gallant viognier and Balnarring Vineyards single barrel point noir … the beers were Peroni.
The pinot (I had a bottle that night) was as good as it gets … really enjoyable and moreish, which is always a good thing in a wine and it was the perfect way to see out what had been a memorable weekend.
I tried the viognier the next night … it’s just about my favourite grape … didn’t disappoint and turned out to be the perfect quaffer for the week.
It was a good week at the offices … the work was interesting and the people were on song … perhaps it’s a summer thing.
On the Monday I was waiting at the traffic light to cross when a bloke wandered over and said: “G’day mate, I’m not from around here and I’m lookin’ for a good old-fashioned pub.”
Reckon he may have figured that, because I was wearing a blue singlet, I may have been an old-fashioned pub type.
The best I could come up with was the Exford on Russell Street. The last time I was there the carpet still had a reassuring stickiness and it was predominantly a beer-drinkers’ pub.
I gave him directions and sent him on his way and walked to catch a tram.
When I reached my stop, there was a woman in a leopard-skin coat and matching boots, sitting there and smoking a huge spliff. She, like me, was obviously enjoying her day.
The week involved rose, shiraz, viognier and pinot, the perfect preparation for a weekend that effectively was to start on the Friday with a reunion of former Fairfax employees and The Rising Sun Hotel in South Melbourne.
It turned out that mostly the people were from an era long before my time there. Of the 50 or so there, I knew about half a dozen people. Mostly the blokes were in suits, so my black singlet and black jeans stood out like a sore thumb. I actually felt like one of the young people there (OK I was). Suffice to say, I didn’t realise it was also a sit-down dinner, so after bidding farewell to those I know I beat a hasty retreat to the tram and headed for Lina’s for a quiet glass or two of rose before heading home for an early night, which was essential given that I had a two-hour drive to get to a party at Tooleen to celebrate my friend Jodie’s 40th birthday (it’s the year for milestones).
Early night did I say?
I called a friend for a chat and ended up in a cab, bound for her place for a drink and a catch-up, which was good. I finally climbed into bed at 4.45 … normally I only recognise one 4.45 a day and it’s not the first one ... so it wasn’t ideal.
My phone went just after nine. “I’m awake, so you’re awake,” explained my friend who was none too thrilled at the late hour of my departure, but it was a fair call.
I faced the day by assembling the tipples for the party … a few beers, a Bowen Estate shiraz, a Balnarring pinot, a couple of bottles of chenin blanc and a bottle of Moet for Jodie … throwing some clothes and a toothbrush into a bag and drinking lots of tea.
It took me until one o’clock to summon the courage to face the drive. It was all plain sailing until I reached the Kalkallo pub, where I was confronted with traffic from arsehole to breakfast. There had obviously been a prang or something. It took half an hour to drive about the next two kilometres where there was a burnt-out car and four very desolate people being comforted by police and firies. At least they got out with their lives.
I was pretty pissed off that Tooleen is not on my GPS. Fortunately I’d been there quite a few time when I was young, so I was never gonna get lost.
The driveway to Jodie’s house (what a view) is as rough as guts (OK not quite that bad) and almost a kilometre long, but it was worth it.
There were lots of familiar faces.
I threw up the swag and joined in the festivities, which were highlighted by the food prepared by Jodie’s siste-in-law.
There were chicken curry pies, plates of prawns, roasted (Chinese-style) pork, pastries with scallops, pastries with smoked salmon and cheese, a huge bowl of steamed mussels and probably a dozen other things that have faded from the memory.
The spooky part of the afternoon involved a graceful (aren’t they all?) wedge-tail eagle soaring on the thermals above the house¬¬. It hovered above us for ages, coming down to not a long way above us and obviously eyeing off one of the many dogs that, like us, were enjoying the party in the sunshine. Of particular interest would have been the smallest … a Jack Russell … but the flighty one was perhaps deterred by all the other dogs … oh, and the people. But Jesus, it looked like it was ready to swoop. It didn’t.
It was about this time that I realised the chenin blanc wasn’t doing its thing. I still had a hangover big enough to photograph, so I did the honourable and tried for an hour or so tucked up in the swag. No sleep was forthcoming. There were dogs, kids, singing, cars coming and going, not ideal for getting some zeds under the belt.
What to do? Get up, of course, and get some pinot under the belt. It worked a treat and was helped along by the presence of my great friend, Cookie and his girlfriend Belinda. I hadn’t seen then in yonks and it was great to see them.
As darkness descended, out came the guitar and there was lots of singing. Darkness also descended in the form of the 2008 Bowen Estate shiraz, accompanied by an endless supply of little Frank’s (he’s not really short, we just give him shit) fantastic pizzas. He’s a truly great pizza cook.
The swag provided welcome respite despite the stragglers still being in full voice.
There’s something about sleeping in a swag in the bush. It must be the air because, despite the excesses, there was little sign of a hangover (what little there was, alleviated by a coffee). It was just tiredness but not enough to hinder the long drive home.
The troops who had stayed were planning another night there and were planning to ease into the day with lunch at a local winery. I’d loved to have done it, but the thought of getting up at 5.30 the next morning and driving to Melbourne for work … nah it was never gonna happen.
The drive back to Melbourne was as easy as it gets and was over leaving me plenty of time to get to the market to stock up on some fresh food for the week.
No trip to the market is ever complete without a chat to David, in the Sword’s wine shop. He helped sorting me out with some cider (OK I have a hankering for one or three). He’d sold out of Bramley’s Seedling cider (damn) so I bought a four-pack of Cloudy Lobo Cider from the Adelaide Hills. The label boasts that it is “unfiltered, untamed, full flavour”. Tick, tick, tick.
The week that followed again was great, especially work. I’m at the age when I’m supposed to be slowing, but shit it’s good. I also resurrected the Crikey word of the day on Twitter, a bit of fun.
Chats with the kids, Joel and Liam, were a bonus and helped make it a better week, which flew by.
Lunch on Saturday with a friend loomed large. I hit the market and grabbed plenty of nibbly bits … aka stuffed chillis, olives, prosciutto, smoked ocean trout, a couple of dips, some stuffed artichokes, some fantastic Spanish anchovies, some peppery rocket and an onion-and-caraway sourdough loaf. Oh, and five bunches of flowers to brighten up the house.
For starters, though, it was a couple of dozen South Australian oysters (so, so creamy with just lemon juice) washed down with some bubbles … Blue Pyrenees Midnight Cuvee Chardonnay, a snip at 30-odd bucks a bottle. It was a great start.
But there was better to come … in the form of Sancerre Florian Mollet, one of the better tasting things to come out of a bottle lately for me.
It’s intense and quite flowery on the nose and, for me, a hint of sweetness (just enough). There was also lots of fruit (take your pick … smoking doesn’t help my palate) and the taste lingers well in the mouth.
Reckon when I’m finished this post, I’m heading back to Vintage Cellars to grab another (about $24 from memory) for dinner tonight. Dinner will, incidentally involve food as well).
Other wines to cross my path recently included 2009 Brokenwood Chardonnay (quite oaky), some Balnarring Single Barrel pinot, Hennings 2011 Viognier, T’Gallant (I just love straight viognier) and Kilikanoon Clare Valley rose, a fruit little number that’s just the thing on a hot day.
It’s looking to be a quiet week if for no other reason than my planned trip next Friday to Warrnambool for a catch-up with a truckie mate, Perrie, who I met on the road at various places around the country. I haven’t seen him for a few months, so I’m looking forward to it. We’ll probably drink up a storm.
Roll on Friday.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- 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.