Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

1.1.05

Australia on a plate.

Alright, for a weblog supposedly about food, the headline is misleading.

Australia is a flat country on a large tectonic plate. The plate stops, at one end, near Sumatra. That is where the crunch came last week, causing the undersea earthquake and the resulting waves.

Another edge of the plate is somewhere between Tasmania and New Zealand.

On Christmas Eve, a little-reported 'quake occurred. It was said to have been the world's largest 'quake in four years. There were no casualties, no damage.

But it sounds as if the entire plate moved. There was a double blowout. Were the two connected? Did one set off the other? Or were they both the reaction to another movement? If that is the case, should scientists place all points along a plate's perimeter on high alert following a major occurrence?

I don't know. This is just idle speculation. I'm no scientist. I'm just recounting my thoughts as I sat on Blairgowrie beach on a 37 degree afternoon, a sombre New Year's Eve. Idle speculation is useless.

*

The waves twinkled on Port Philip Bay like diamonds on a hundred fingers. The sun bore down brutally as if it had been doing so for weeks.

It hadn't. Just two days earlier I had been lying on the beach, reading a book, enjoying a little mild sunshine. Then a southerly had sprung up and produced some clouds from nowhere and spread them around. So I went back to the house, put Goldie's leash on and took her for a walk along the back beach instead. (The peninsula is three kilometres wide at this point - from bay beach on Port Philip to crumble-cliffed back beach facing treacherous Bass Strait.) We were picking our way along the cliffs when the clouds turned black. Within minutes, the skies were throwing hail into my face. Thirty minutes after sunbaking - a hailstorm.

But that was then. A couple of days later, it was suddenly New Year's Eve - a sombre one - and the temperature was 35 degrees C. The scent of ti-tree weighed heavily on the hot, dry air. On the beach, children splashed in the shallows, quietly, their parents watching them and thinking about other places. People were standing way out in the shallows like fat ibises. Out beyond this, maybe four or five hundred metres, jetskis buzzed up and down, busily, pointlessly. They didn't have to, they just did. Left to right, right to left. Like mosquitoes looking for flesh.

I sat on the sand. It was too hot to read my book, so I did the crossword in the newspaper instead. Work that one out. I can't. Maybe it's the shorter attention span. Three letter word meaning limb. Four letter word meaning celtic tongue. A seven-letter planet. Thailand's former name.

I looked up. I watched a jetski buzz from left to right. There were three people on it, sitting bolt upright, holding onto the one in front, looking uncomfortable - as if they were on the back, as they might have been fifty years ago - of a tired old donkey at a beach carnival. Five cents a ride. Hee-haw.

*

It stayed hot and the house stayed hot, so - later - we came back to the beach and had dinner on the sand, spreading a rug and setting up the beach chairs. Goldie, of course, thought the rug was for her and sat in the middle of it, raising a slew of sand. I unpacked the basket and a german short-haired pointer bounced over to greet Goldie. Friend of yours? More sand. No matter. The owners rushed up, all apologies and stern words to the GSP. We didn't care. Take more than a couple of bouncing dogs to upset the applecart at this particular point in time. We held our plates on our knees, served ourselves straight from the basket. Simple food for new year's eve: a green salad; boiled potatoes with red salmon, cheese and onions; boiled eggs on beds of peppered spinach; corn with salt and vinegar. Cold white wine. Then vanilla ice cream with chunks of fresh mango folded through.

Three or four ships slipped noiselessly down the bay, just a smudge of diesel showing they were under any power at all. There goes the Spirit of Tasmania. It was getting dark but still the air held an intensity of heat you could almost grasp in your hands. We finished eating, walked up the beach a little way. Families, couples, children were swimming, eating, walking.

We packed up slowly, folded the chairs. Teen lovers walked by, voicing their dreams to each other, bare feet stirring the shallows.

Home by ten. Fell asleep. Not really a new year for fireworks. Maybe a quiet prayer instead. Especially for the children. Those who drowned, and those whose families were drowned and are now alone.

I woke at a steamy two in the morning. It's 2005. Life goes on. HNY.







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