Blogging’s a bit like having a drink. There are times when it becomes a regular thing; there are times when you just can’t be bothered (that’s more likely to happen with blogging rather than the fruit of the vine).
Sometimes you need a fix. You know, those times when you’ve had a biggie on a Saturday night and by about four the next afternoon it’s probably time for a hair of the dog.
Blogging has been like that for me. Call it winter hibernation, whatever you want to call it. For many and varied reasons, I’ve put the blogging glass away for the past few weeks. But now, it seems, it’s time for a hair or the blog.
It’s hard to know where to start because there has been lots of good food, good wines, a bit of culture via the opera, some gardening, plenty of hard work, lots of friends (old and new), the odd new responsibility and some parenting … among other things.
One of my priorities has been to clean up the backyard and get the food supply (such as it is/was) into some semblance of order.
I somehow managed to fill the ute with shit of various forms to take to the local tip, and reorganise my supply of pots. I have just two small patched of dirt in my yard, one of which is home to a (newish) lemon tree and the other to two chilli bushes that are self-sown bushes from a tried and true variety. They last about five years, grow to more than two metres tall and yield several kilos of little firecrackers that have lots of poke.
I’ve added some coriander, flat-leafed parsley, a few varieties of mint, nasturtiums, chives, some rainbow chard, oregano, sage, thyme (three) and a native lemon myrtle. Yeah, and there’s also an olive tree and I also planted a few flowers. Well, you’ve gotta have some colour.
It’s a nice thing to come home from work with nothing planned for dinner. What to do? Do the rounds of the garden, pick a big bunch of herbs and a chilli, chop them all finely, mix with some olive oil and toss through some pasta and grate some parmesan over the top. Viola! Dinner in just eight minutes.
And now for something completely different. Opera.
Regular readers will know that my usual haunt, Lina’s in Albert Park, holds occasional opera nights. And so it came to pass a few of weeks ago.
There’s something kinda nice about having a rare steak and frites dinner (with greens on the side), a bottle of tempranillo (a bloody cracker that has become my regular tipple of late) and being entertained by my mate, Ben (he’s a tenor) and big Ed, a Samoan who played rugby (he’s a big unit) before discovering that his bass baritone voice was an easier living than being at the bottom of a scrum.
These guys, accompanied by a girl on the piano, took turns in wowing the crowd (it was packed) in between sets from a duo who play French café-type jazz.
Musically, it was a great night.
I ended up out the front having a smoke and chatting to big Ed. I asked him where he stood on popular (read rock) music and his response amazed me.
“I used to sing in the backing group of an Elvis tribute band,” he said. My flabber was gasted. I reckon I know the words to hundreds of Elvis songs. Suddenly we launched into song, (I think it was Don’t be Cruel … to a heart that’s true) me singing the lead and Ed doing the backing. It ended too quickly (great fun though) because the lure of another tempranillo won out.
The whole shebang was packing up and I did the honourable thing and offered to carry the piano to a car. Too easy, and I did.
Back inside having a drink with the piano player, she said that she had seen me around the village quite a bit (there’s a surprise). I decided to ask her whether she’d like to catch up for coffee but she beat me to it. “Would you like my phone number?” Well yeah.
Ben (he of Logan Musical Events) staged an opera concert at the Melbourne Town Hall a week later.
The music was from the Verismo genre by composers Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Giordano. It was also the debut performance of The Australian Concert Orchestra conducted by Stephen Mould and managed by principal cellist Chris Howlett. It was brilliant.
The players were joined by Opera Australia tenor Rosario La Spina, bass baritone Gary Rowley and sopranos Donna-Maree Dunlop and Ariya Sawadivong. Rosario was a knockout.
Oh, and my mate, Hanks, was the very effective door bitch.
About the only downside was a quick after-show drink with my friend, Maria, in the bar at The Weston Hotel across the road. We settled by the fire for a chat and a glass of Veuve (just the one because she was driving). We made it last about half an hour. Time to go and I headed to the bar, white silk scarf trailing behind me (well, it was opera) to pay. Sixty bucks for two glasses. Man, that’s some mark-up.
In a shock twist, Lina’s beckoned for a few before heading off into the night.
ROLL ON OCTOBER
My youngest son, Joel, is in a share house with some friends and, many good things in life, it’s about to come to an end with each of them going their separate ways.
It seemed logical for him to move in with his old man, given that he works bullshit hours as a croupier at the casino and lives far enough away to be in another country in Europe.
He was very lucky a couple of weeks ago when he and his friend, Mel, (she was driving) clipped a broken-down car in the left lane of the freeway (the driver didn’t bother to pull over into the emergency lane). Their car spun wildly and, thank God, didn’t roll. It ended well.
Gotta say I’m looking forward Jo moving in. Perhaps his sensible attitude (no drinking, smoking, etc) to just about everything will rub off on me. I hope so.
STORM THE BASTILLE
I was invited to my friend Pippa’s house on Bastille Day to celebrate her birthday. And what a cracker night it was. My mate, Hanks, and I armed with French wines and black berets cadged a lift with the rare and lovely Toni to the wilds of Bentleigh.
Toni’s a hoot. She blogs at Style Weekly. Have a read at www.styleweekly.com.au.
The company and dinner was a great combination. Pippa, Michael (he did the cooking with some help from Toni), Charles, Hanks and me.
Oysters, grilled asparagus with almonds, beef Wellington, potato gratin, and cheesecakes were the order of the night, each one a triumph … washed down with French bubbles and wines of all sorts.
I even took the time to serenade Toni (she actually suggested that I can sing).
She responded by painting some bright red nail polish on my pinkie. It does look incongruous alongside the silver skull ring on my wedding finger (it must seem like a sort of anti-wedding ring, but it really isn’t. I just like it).
I had a drink with Toni on Friday night and she was surprised that the nail polish was still intact. So there.
And speaking of drinks, there are a couple that regularly make it to dinner with me of late.
Vintage Cellars has a special at the moment … Macon Village chardonnay … and at $10.99 a bottle (by the case), it’s a steal. It’s not, mind, a great wine, just one that’s very, very drinkable.
The French chard’s partner in crime at my place is a durif … Date Brothers 2004 … available at Sword’s wines at the South Melbourne Market. It’s on special at two for $30 and I grabbed a case yesterday. It’s full of liquorice, smooth tannins and is bloody good value given it has a bit of age about it.
Yesterday was local farmers’ market day in my neighbourhood. For a change, I got there early, had my usual cup of chai and gave the wallet a workout.
To wit: organic cavalo nero, organic kipfler spuds, an 11-gram piece of black truffle, six truffle-infused eggs (in a glass jar) and some goat sausages (they’re amazingly lean with, it seems just enough fat).
A trip later to the regular market yielded some brie, Gruyère, Spanish anchovies, dips, cornichons, pastrami and a baguette.
Yeah, it’s gonna be a good week for food at Chateau Mick.
IN THE CHAIR
My editor, Eils, at my afternoon job decided on some R&R recently and left me in the chair. It was a good week and seemed to go well.
But the following Monday it was with some trepidation that I walked into the office.
“You did good,” she said as she gave me a hug.
Gotta be honest here and say that, yeah, it was OK, but only because Eils did all (and I do mean all) the hard work before she left.
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.