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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Retirement? Not on my watch

If ever I wanted confirmation that we live in a disposable society (and I didn’t), it came at the weekend and showed me that some of the kids of today just don't get it.
Now, I have a watch ... a 17-jewel movement, solid-gold watch given to me by my grandmother for my birthday in 1966. It's still a thing of beauty and I still get a kick out of the fact that I have to wind it every day ... yeah, it doesn't have a battery.
A bit like its owner, age has wearied it a tad ... the winder mechanism has worn a bit ... reckon after 46 years everything wears a bit and it's hard to get the part to repair it, but I do. (My personal winder is still in working order for what it's worth.)
I go to the same jeweller in South Melbourne about every 18 months or so and get it serviced or fixed when the need arises.
As I did last Saturday. There was a kid on duty in the shop ... about 18 or so, a really personable young fella and I'm guessing it was his first job.
I explained that I was somewhat of a regular because of my watch.
I was blown away when he said: “Perhaps it’s time to get rid of it and get a new one.”
Apart from the fact that it is (I have been told … and it was something offered, not asked for) worth about four grand (probably more given that the estimate was given to me about 10 years ago), it’s part of my life, a tangible link to my long-departed grandma. It’s something I’ll have and use until I eventually step off the coil. I love it.
My grandma, by the way, always put lots of thought into her gift giving.
I still have my first Esky – a blue, galvanised-iron number that holds just a six pack – which she gave me when it had become apparent that six packs would play a constant part in my life. Yeah, she could read the signs early.


Speaking of age wearying things, I had a hit at the local golf driving range three days ago with some mates.
Reckon in the main I hit them pretty well.
But it hit back. Three days on and the pain of using muscles long idle is finally subsiding.
I guess that means it has to become a regular thing to avoid three days of feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why shopping locally is a good thing

I always knew that Sunday would be a good day. Got up nice and early to write a blog post, then did a bit of local must-do shopping before hitting the South Melbourne Market to buy whatever.
So, unusually, I snagged a parking spot at the door.
Now, given that I’m somewhat of a bogan … yeah the hair at the back is a definite mullet when it’s not tied into a ponytail. So, I wandered in to the hairdresser and asked if someone would be able to plait it for me.
“No problems,” said a bloke I’d not seen there before. “Come on in, we can do it now.”
I grabbed a seat and the young girl, as she was busily putting a sheet over me, said: “So, how much are we taking off?”
“Sorry,” I said, “but I just asked if someone could plait the crap hangin’ down the back of my neck.”
“OK, too easy,” she said.
She did it in a couple of minutes. I wandered over to pay and the bloke said to me “Nah, on the house. It just took a couple of minutes. Just as long as you do someone a good turn today, that’ll be enough.”
I thanked them both and left with a smile on my face and headed to the stall where I get most of my shampoo/deodorant type stuff, where I bought deodorant and Band-Aids. I was telling the girl who served me about the good turn at the hairdresser.
“That’s great,” she said, “but I’ll do your plait any time you want.” I’m a regular customer and we always chat, but that’s above and beyond.
“You’re on” I said as I wandered off.
I bought some chicken and vegetables, some cheeses, a baguette, had a long chat with Tony, the butcher, (I didn’t buy anything from him, but he still has the time to be nice … he’s at stall 32 and has fantastic produce) and then bought a couple of bottle of Sunbury point from Swords (nine times out of 10 I get a discount of some sort).
For me, it’s hard to believe what I did next … for the first time probably since the seventies, I bought a jumper, what’s more, it’s a red jumper, and a long-sleeved T-shirt.
Shit, I finally own a jumper.

R&R par excellence, a fantastic beer and other stuff

Being in her space … it’s like the feeling of being in love for the very first time …

The prospect of some well-earned R&R loomed large for a quite few days … it finally came to pass last weekend. Some time at Balgownie Estate winery in the Yarra Valley was a perfect way to blow away the cobwebs of the city.
It’s not a long drive before finding yourselves in the rolling hills and myriad signs directing you to all sorts of good things from the vine.
The sign that first got our attention was Fergusson’s, and it was a good thing. We opted for lunch there, providing they had a platter of bits and pieces and a place to sit in the sun and a glass of decent wine. Tick, tick, tick.
The girl doing front of house in the restaurant would be an asset anywhere. She was super in organising lunch (super in all she did). There were options … a menu that included various roasts (they were sitting, being warmed by the large open fire and smelled fantastic), but we wanted a platter.
Although she explained that the chef usually did an antipasto platter or a cheese platter, she said she’d organise a mix.
We grabbed a glass of a most excellent Fergusson’s chardonnay and snaffled a table in the sun. It started out perfectly … the wine really hit the spot with plenty of fruit (think melons and berries) … and then it got better. The platter arrived and it was a bloody cracker. Warm, spiced calamari rings, warm and chunky garlic prawns (with some excellent home-made aioli), some smoked salmon, some ham, a hard cheese, a soft cheese, pitted olives, pan-roasted veg including eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, various greens, thick slices of crusty, freshly baked bread, a basket full of water crackers … was this the best $25 ever spent? Yep, it was $25. OK, maybe not the best but it was right up there. It was one of those lunches that deserved to be taken slowly … and it was. The sun was shining, we had the large balcony to ourselves, the food and wine were great and it would have been so easy to camp there for the weekend. But Balgownie was calling. Check-in time was 2pm and there were some cold bubbles on ice.
The room was spacious, well fitted out, there was a large spa, and from the balcony (and the spa for that matter) there was a leafy view of most things Yarra Valley.
So what better place than the balcony to sit, chat and sip … the drink of choice was chilled Moet. It was a perfect way to relax before heading to the day spa for a massage … yeah, OK, but I did say that this was a weekend of R&R.
Although the day spa staff was running a bit behind schedule, it was worth the wait. We were ushered into what they call a dual room and the girls set about unleashing all the stresses and knots, whatever. It was at times painful (but always good pain) and I can’t remember feeling physically better after a massage.
As we were leaving the spa, the girl at reception apologised for the lateness of the treatment and gave us a couple of discount vouchers for treatment at any of the Natskin outlets (there just so happens to be one about five minutes from my house).
Feeling so relaxed was a good enough reason for a glass or two of 2011 Ad Hoc Hen & Chicken Chardonnay, a perfect prelude to dinner at Rae’s Restaurant in the Balgownie complex.
A seat by the window, watching the beautiful light show that is the large tree by the road, was the setting.
Dinner was a mixed bag (in a good way). One starter of squid was simply too much squid and the other of scallops; there were just three on the plate and they were tiny. Both dishes were well cooked, tasty, but the size of the serves deserved more thought.
The wine, on the other hand, was perfectly thought out. While there are plenty of good options on Rae’s wine list, it was no contest: the Balgownie Estate 2004 Chardonnay from the Museum Collection. Sure, it was $85 a bottle, but it sang like Ella Fitzgerald. It was everything I love in a chardonnay … and I really love ‘em.
It sat well with the mains too, which were aged beef, one medium rare and one rare, with some (I reckon) hand-cut spuds and veggies.
The (eye fillet) beef arrived at the table under a plate dome. The reason? They were being smoked with (I think) some grape vine cuttings … and it was a masterstroke. The smokiness had attached itself to the beef … shit it was good … and it was the perfect way to end dinner and a great day.
OK, it wasn’t the end … a couple of cognacs delivered by room service made it just so.
Breakfast at Balgownie is a buffet at Rae’s … and there is almost everything you’d ever want at the ungodly hour that is 9.30 … eggs this way and that, bacon, beans, snags, mushrooms, hash browns … juices of all sorts, teas and coffee of all sorts, bread of all sorts for toast, buns, pastries … OK you get the idea. A table by the window didn’t do any harm either.
It was the second trip to Balgownie. Reckon it won’t be the last.


It’s into the third week of not smoking for me. Yeah, I’ve done it before but this time is different.
I went to see Angelo, the hypnotist, and said to him: “Mate, this time is different to the others. I really want it more than ever. I’m ready.”
The treatment (dunno if that’s what you call it) was as I remember it … and I went really deeply into it, to the point of the odd snore/snort probably half a dozen times. I apologised for that when it was over but, according to Angelo, it’s normal for those of us that go really deeply.
As I was leaving, I said to Angelo: “Thanks mate. I never want to see you again.” To which he replied: “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
I headed home and did what any new non-smoker would do.
I slammed some ice into a glass and poured a couple of huge belts of bourbon, something I’d normally do with a smoke in my hand.
No problems, I didn’t really feel like a smoke.
Undeterred, I headed to Lina’s wine bar and met up with some friends for a gargle, some of whom were partaking of tobacco.
Again, no problems.
Yeah, there has been the odd time when I’ve had a pang when I’ve been up close and personal with a smoker, but I’m not gonna be broken. And the fifty bucks a week that it was costing is going into a jar every week. I can feel a holiday coming on later in the year.
If you’re keen to get a bit healthy, give Angelo a call … 1300 116 117 … apart from being a bloody good bloke, he’s good at what he does.


It’s always a good test for ex-smokers to go to a rock concert … I reckon I always used to enjoy that first one when I stepped outside the venue, ears ringing, still feeling the buzz of the music and the buzz from whatever I’d had to drink during same.
With a few mates, I went to watch Cold Chisel last week at Festival Hall … it was great to see the band again and they were in great form after the first couple of songs where, to me, the mix was a bit muddy.
And what to drink when you’ve got Chisel doing their thing … it’s a can a Jack, I reckon … but sweet mother of Jesus, 10 bucks a can is a bit steep. I remember whingeing about paying ten bucks a can in Vanuatu earlier this year.
But hey, it was Chisel. And great news for the band … Barnesy announced that they would be in London in July, touring with Bruce Springstein.
Maybe that smoke money in the jar will get me a ticket.
After the gig, we (my son Joel and mate Fulvio) headed back to my place for a quiet drink (not for Joel) and a debrief of the night.
Given the Fulv and his wife, Jacinta, married to Warrenmang winery in 1997, I thought it appropriate to open a bottle of Warrenmang Grand Pyrenees 1999.
It was a good decision although not without its moments. The cork decided to break up a bit while making its exit, but some careful and dextrous work by yours truly got it out cleanly and poured the precious liquid into a decanter to give it a breath of fresh air … surprisingly there was no sediment.
Bloody good drink it was, although it changed (OK it seemed to) character several times on the way to the bottom of the decanter … spicy, well-rounded, soft and well balanced.
It was very, very good, probably the best drop of late in a wine list that has included some decent drinking:
Among them Te Kairanga Martinborough Estate Pinto Noir 2009; Roland Masse 2010 Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley; Camelback 2010 Pinot Noir from Sunbury; and the beautifully named Lethbridge Menage a Noir 2010 Pinot Noir from Geelong. It’s a cracker drink (about 28 bucks at Vintage Cellars).
For me, the bargain … is that best value … dunno, I just like this one. It’s Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010 from the south of Burgundy … it’s the Macon area (I went there many moons ago). The wine is available from Vintage Cellars and at $18 or thereabouts, it’s great drinking.


And speaking of great drinking, reckon I’ve found a beer that’s gonna hard to beat.
Yesterday morning (OK, it was just before noon) I had a taste of three beers at Sword’s wine shop in the South Melbourne Market.
The standout for me was Little Creatures Single Batch The Quiet American in a 568ml bottle. 568ml??? What the hell size is that?
It’s beautifully malty and the hops are huge on the nose … as the brewer says, it’s got a thought-provoking bitterness. I got bundles of green apples on the nose. I grabbed a couple of bottles, one of which I had later in the day after stocking up the freezer with some home-made laksa. (The freezer now has about eight meals of beef and veg casserole, a dozen serves of bolognaise sauce and eight serves of laksa … veg soup will be added today. It’s gonna make those cold winter nights a bit easier.)
A couple of glasses The Quiet American was a beautiful way to see out the afternoon. Seven bucks a bottle, it was worth every cent. Go to this link for a check at what Swords has to offer ... http://www.swordswines.com.au/


And speaking of things glass, it was unfortunate to discover that iPads do not bounce, especially when introduced to a tiled floor. Mind you, the cracks in the glass made a really pretty pattern.
It was $249 to replace the glass. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Slack is as slack does ...

Because I’ve been such a slack unit these past few weeks … OK, that’s not entirely true, I’ve been slack about writing anything for this site ... everything else has been go, go, go … and then some.
Reckon since I last posted I’ve had a lot of dinners, more wines than I can count (I had to write ‘em down), discovered a new but fabulous US beer (yeah, I know that the words fabulous beer and US don’t normally belong in the same sentence), been to a buck’s party that ticked all the boxes, a wedding that ticked all the boxes, cooked some food that even maybe surprised me, jagged tickets to see Cold Chisel, sucked up to one of my editors (yeah, just the two of us working and I made her lunch), totally stuffed my neck, which led to a trip to the physio, which led to a bout of drinking too much too early, seen the hypnotist to stop smoking, proved that even at my age I can still party … to whit, a 5am finish on a Saturday morning and backing up with a 7am the next day (yeah, both those nights involved a drink) … managed a few days in bed with the flu … yep, I has been the full package.
I am planning to expand on some of the comings and goings ... the buck's turn, the wedding, the hypnosis ... that's my target.
Since the last entry on this site, I have managed at home to have a crack at:
Ad Hoc Hen & Chicken Chardonnay 2011 from Pemberton WA. 13%.
Rocland Duck Duck Goose Chardonnay 2009 from SA.
Auldana Reserve non-vintage Sparkling Shiraz 14%
Henschke Tilly’s Vineyard 2010 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc Pinot Gris Riesling Chardonnay 12.5%
Di Giorgio Lucindale Pinot Noir Chardonnay (sparkling) 12.5% from Limestone Coast
Mitcham Estate 2011 Chardonnay 13% McLaren Vale SA
2008 Santa Carolina Chardonnay from Chile (x2)
2010 Provenance Golden Plains Pinot Noir 13.3%
Geelong Chardonnay 2011 cleanskin from Vintage Cellars 13.5%
2004 Clarence Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5%
Kris Pinot Grigio 2010 12.5% from Montagna Italy
La Tour Travers Bordeaux Rose 2010 12% (50% cab sav and merlot)
House of Rabbit 2010 Pinot Noir From Sunbury Ballarat (x3)
Elderton 2004 Barossa Shiraz 14.5%
1882 Reisling
Ass Kisser Vanilla Pale Ale 5.5% (x shitloads … a great beer)
Ingram Pinot Grigio from the Yarra Valley
Te Kairanga 2009 Pinot Noir from Marlborough in NZ. 13.5% (x3)
Roland Masse 2010 Pinot Noir from Yarra Valley
Pepper Tree 2010 Chardonnay 14%
Pepper Tree 2011 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 11.8%
The Riebke Shiraz 2010 14.5%
Curious Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc 13%

Yeah, that’s a fair list, but it has been supplemented with a few here and there at various establishments, but the winner is:
Torbek 2009 The Struie Shiraz. 15%, rrp about $54
It is everything you’ll ever want in a red apart from the fact that the bottle can be emptied, a sad occurrence when you have just the one.
I shared it with a friend and she is not normally a red drinker … OK, her cheeks glow a bit sometimes when she’s had a couple, but I digress.
She loved it, as did I … it’s a bloody crackerjack drink.
I have just booked a weekend away in the Yarra Valley ... I think it may involve wine.