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


Small plastic fish.

One report said that more land than France and Germany combined is under water in Queensland. That will be your fruit and vegetable crops and your sugarcane, as well as Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Condamine and other towns. A photograph showed a man in a dinghy rowing past the Bundaberg rum warehouse halfway up the wall in front of the polar bear symbol. (Who came up with a polar bear for a rum distiller?) Another photograph showed a snake toiling along the top rail of a fence, and there were reports of people returning to houses full of reptiles.


A couple of nations worth of water, and work continues at the desalination plant down here in the south. A big water pipe would have been good. They built one from near Perth to Kalgoorlie in the 1800s, but that was for the goldfields. Gold got things done.


There was ham last week after all, but it was cold and thickly sliced. It had been a long drive out of town on Christmas day; a kind of reverse peak hour at the wrong time of day on the wrong day of the week. It didn’t feel like a Saturday. I pulled off the freeway half an hour past Berwick and we were north into the rolling country where the foothills of the Dandenongs lose themselves in rich West Gippsland soil. Upper Beaconsfield was a blur on the side of a hill where the road swings east, and I looked for a line of old windbreak trees and found it, then turned north again. Ten minutes later, through an iron gate and along a winding lane lined with agapanthus and I rolled the car to a stop at the end of it in front of a screen of cypress. But where was the house?


It had been more than four years. All different. My brother-in-law had since made garden rooms with hedges and lines of shrubbery and lawns and vistas and pathways. Now, if you have an argument, you can disappear for half a day like Bertie and Aunt Dahlia and come back when you’ve forgotten what it was about. I sent the boys ahead of me left around the cypress screen and followed them carrying boxes of presents and wine and they crossed a lawn and rounded a corner where an ancient cotoneaster crouched over some pumping equipment, and came out south of the house, at the back of it, where a covered verandah gives onto a paved outdoor dining area overlooking a pool with a waterfall edge. We were below the waterfall. A flock of aunts above waved and shouted and pointed the way and we skirted the south wall and came up the side, following a glass fence, and found a gate secreted in a tall shrubbery of photinia. Tracy, carrying the baby, had turned right around the cypress instead of our left, and had walked ten metres through a walled garden to the front door, which is at the side of the house, and so had arrived about five minutes before the boys and me.


Christmas lunch was at two and five o’clock, main course and dessert respectively, preceded by appetisers at midday. Of course, it became impossible to keep the boys away from the water. One of the cousins had given them nets and tanks and they were fishing small plastic fish, trinkets from the crackers, out of the water and placing them in the tanks and then tipping them into the water again and fishing them out again.


The afternoon was a haze. Clusters of golf cap-wearing uncles drifted by on the lawn below and several aunts and a grandmother, wearing borrowed costumes, and some cousins were in the water. Grandmother, in up to her waist, clasped a Teacher’s and water in one hand and a five-month-old baby in the crook of the other arm. Which would she drop in an emergency? Neither, of course.


It was a warm day but the sun had been behind cloud. It came out at five o’clock. I was in the east garden. A nephew told me he and his father did all the work, and it took only about a week to prepare it for Christmas. We left close to seven. A small group of stooped aunts and uncles farewelled us at the gate. They are not getting younger. That’s the bitter-sweet taste of Christmas, because some years you don’t see them between December 25ths. I watched them with one eye in the rear vision mirror until the agapanthus lining the curved drive blocked them from sight, freeze-framing them in a wave.


Anonymous said...

My grandmother was like that, except it would have been a cigarette in one hand, whisky in the other.

Another animal rum trademark:

White Dove said...

Hi KH...and let's hope it's a great New Year for you and your family. I'm hoping to get back to blogging soon...was hoping it would be before now...but then I live in Bundaberg and things are still crazy around here.

All the small crops are gone as well as many small businesses, but the saddest of all is to see the once loved possessions of people stacked on the footpaths of many streets, waiting to be cleared away...some never to be replaced in homes that are not habitable....

No time for tears...courage and resilience...that's what's needed now...and country folk seem to have plenty of it.

Christmas was great... the new year so far hasn't been the best!

kitchen hand said...

There were a few like that too, anon. (Polar bears and seals? do they hold focus groups with dreaming sailors?)

Hope things start to improve up your way, White Dove. Just heard more rain is on the way ...

Gwen - Dishes said...

Happy new year to everyone, and my best wishes for a great 2011!