I’ve said before and I’ll say it again … dealing with Air Vanuatu is as good as it gets. I booked a ticket … yep, I’m outta here on December 20 for Christmas in the tropics … and everything about the airline is how it should be … n.b. Qantas and Virgin. No request is too much trouble, right down to claiming an emergency exit seat (I’m a tall unit) alongside my son, Liam, who is on the same flight. And let’s not forget, Air Vanuatu is a full-service airline. I wrote about it last time I went there … the food was the best I’ve ever had at 35,000 feet and the wine bottle makes a re-appearance regularly. It’s all included in the cost of the ticket. I talked a couple of times with Liam during the week and he is pumped in more ways than one. He’s so excited about the new house. “I had to fill the pool,” he said, “and I reckoned it would take about 50,000 litres, so I went and bought a pump, dropped a hose over the cliff and filled it with sea water. “At five the next morning I was swimming in it. “I bought a new surf rod, so the next thing it to crack a beer on the deck and try my luck.” His mate, Johnnie Bangalulu, lives in a village not too far away and he gave the place the thumbs up. Johnnie and his mates fish quite a lot in the area and he suggested that the place is live with heaps of crays and the line fishing is great too, with lots of tuna to be had. And he also said it’s an area from which the boys get lots of coconut crabs. Johnnie, by the way, was so enamoured of Cathy Freeman’s performance at the Sydney Olympics that he called his new daughter Cathyfreeman Bangalulu. Yep, Cathyfreeman … one word. And she’s a beautiful kid. I met her last time I was there. Tuna steaks, anyone? Perhaps fresh cray? And don’t forget the coconut crab. At that rate, we’re only ever likely to leave the house to buy something to drink.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
The trip and the prospect of some warm weather have me motivated to get into … well … let’s call in summer shape.
I usually walk a couple of kilometres a day, but I’m now a month or so into a weights program of sorts. A few sets with dumbbells every morning and every night, salad lunches most days and not too much in the way of beers is helping to turn back the clock a bit.
The weight (that’s mine, not the ones I lift) has dwindled to 86 kilograms. It’s long been a target to get back to 84, somewhere I haven’t been for years and that was when I hit the gym five days a week. So I’m pretty pleased that 84 kilograms is not out of the question. Yesterday I even hit the (home) gym for a short, sharp session. Hope that becomes a daily thing too.
Part of the weight-loss program has even included a haircut. Reckon it’s the shortest it’s been in quite a while. That’s a small price to pay, given that the hairdresser (OK, I call him a barber) again introduced me to the six others in the salon as “This is Michael. He’s one of those weird heterosexuals”. Yeah, thanks again Chris.
The healthy kick will continue at a rate of knots this afternoon. My friend Gaynor and I are heading to Sunbury to see Angelo, the hypnotist, and give up the smokes. Guess I’ll write plenty about that later.
GREEN WITH …
After an early start to the day yesterday (yeah, I was up and at ’em at about 6.30 … remember it was Saturday morning) and after the usual domestics, emails, twittering, lots of tea and a weights session, I headed to the market to see what was good for dinner.
The market ritual is one of life’s pleasures … talking to my favourite stallholders, seeing what looks good in the fruit and veg bits … not just buying willy-nilly. I’m the sort of pain in the arse who, for example, picks up a bunch of coriander, smells it, checks for any sign of wear and tear, puts it back if there is, and then checks another bunch and maybe another until I get one that looks and smells just right. You get what you pay for.
I popped in to see Chris, the Tattslotto man (he’s married to Anna, who runs a stall just across the way), for a chat and to buy a ticket. He handed me a bottle of 2006 Coolart Estate pinot from the Mornington Peninsula. “You’ll enjoy this,” he said. How about that for service?
He was right. It had plenty of fruit, but was really soft and, well, round.
Dinner was looming as a green pawpaw salad. I found a beauty at the Chinese grocer, along with some fresh ginger (it took five minutes to find the piece I wanted), some Thai basil, a couple of limes, some kaffir lime leaves and some chillis. I already had whatever else I needed at home except a feed of prawns, but they would be the last thing I bought before heading home.
And anyway, there was beer and wine to taste at Swords.
The beer, Holgate Brewhouse Road Trip, was an absolute beauty at 5.8 per cent. My mate Dave, who runs the shop, knows his beers (he tweets as @vulgarbeerman) and said the hops were what made it great. He wasn’t wrong. It was gonna be perfect with the salad. I wasn’t a fan of the new chardonnay … too much sugar for my liking.
A couple of bunches of fresh flowers for the house from Lou, the flower man, and it was time to scout the fish shops for the prawns. Finally, I found the ones I wanted. I told the bloke how much I wanted to spend and he grabbed a heap and held them up to me. “Nah, better throw in a few more,” I said. He did and then charged me the original price. I’ll be back.
For the record, I reckon I was the only person in the whole market who was wearing a Remembrance Day poppy. That was a bit sad.
Dinner was a cracker (yeah, I know I say that a lot). I shredded the green pawpaw, threw in some beanshoots, a few strips of tomato, ditto some cucumber, ginger, chilli (it was a firecracker), some deep-fried shallots, diced spring onion, lots of torn Thai basil and Vietnamese mint (from the garden) and some peanuts that I dry-roasted and the crushed a bit. The dipping sauce/dressing was veg oil, fish sauce, a splash of wine vinegar, lime juice, spring onion, kaffir lime leaves shredded, a bit of sugar and some chilli. I tasted every time I added something and reckon in the end I got it right. I piled the salad onto the plate and whacked a pile of prawns around the edges. The deal was, dip the prawns, drain it onto the salad to dress it, and get amongst it. And the Road Trip beer, with lots of Chinook hops (among others) went perfectly with the tucker. I probably could have got a meal such as this on Victoria Street for much less than it cost me, but there’s something about making it yourself. Self, I said, you’ve done good.
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.