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The couple walking up the hill was bent into a wind; or rather, were: she slightly ahead, he struggling. We crossed the road just ahead of them. Recognition: she was the mother of my two grown-up children; he, the man who married her later. Two couples, a partner of each who were once married to each other, had converged on a corner in one of those disjointed greetings that grow out of sudden recognition. Cordial now, have been for years: children in common. They had had a child. We had had three. Total: six. This week, we baptise a great-grandchild. A generation seems to have been overlooked. How did that happen? How? Years collide, crash; like waves on Inverloch beach in 1978 when I filmed on Super 8 the innocent gold optimistic sunset like the colours on her yellow and ref caftan, while a one-year-old child staggered on the sand as she watched, sitting, the fluctuating breeze alternately flicking her long auburn hair, revealing and obscuring her pale face, and later set the three-mi
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Rosella: the preserving company, not the bird.

Rosella was an early Melbourne cannery. The following link (that seems to be un-hyperlinkable) is a potted history of the Richmond company.  Rosella products included game soup, kidney soup and mutton broth and were far much more important than what today would be merely ‘convenience’ foods; in the pre-refrigeration era they provided reliable weatherproof sustenance. As an example, see in the link a letter of commendation from Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson. Thanks to State Library of Victoria for the link.

"Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far ..."

The song burst onto the charts in the golden halcyon days of early 1972; a rollingly precocious, almost insane melody with bouncy allusive single-syllable lyrics,  bringing forth in the listener nothing but sheer unadulterated joy; except for the actual adults of the time who, as always, read into the song every weird obsession they could think of. I remember the song being banned from some radio stations, as if in 1972 we were still struggling vainly against the Reformation.  The writer, Melanie Safka, who died last week at age 76, later admitted having written the song, Brand New Key, in about fifteen minutes. It was a very good fifteen minutes, producing two minutes and twenty -six seconds of pop-song perfection. RIP.

Why read Hemingway?

Blurb on a bottle of AirWick air freshener:   Transport yourself to the orange-lined streets of charming cities like the city of Seville, Spain. Be transformed with the zesty fragrance of sweet citrus accompanied by warm and alluring aromatic undertones. I'm glad they pointed out that Seville was in Spain.

The height of summer.

Six feet high and rising, to be precise.  Rain and moderate heat have conspired to produce this multi-bloomed cluster of magnificent pure pink petalled flowers; just one of many on the incredible Radox Bouquet rose variety, first developed in England in 1980 by Harkness, with one of its ancestor varieties being Fruhlingsmorgen. The photo is not intentionally soft focus, it is just sheer out of focus - the cluster was swaying in the wind. * The rose taps at the window ... with flower-laden boughs (With apologies to Gustav Mahler)

Rockling in cream sauce with peppercorns.

In Martin Boyd's 1969 novel  The Tea-Time of Love  one of the characters, a Brigadier Cheston, describes a favourite fish recipe:      'There's a very good way of cooking haddock in cream,' (the brigadier) was saying, 'but a bit expensive nowadays. You put sliced tomatoes in a baking dish with some peppercorns and a bay leaf.  Lay the haddock fillets on that, pour cream over the lot, and give it a quarter-of-an-hour in the oven.'      Boyd's novel is set in the immediate post-war period of food shortages and the expense the brigadier refers to is not the fish but the cream: such luxuries were often not available.       I tried the recipe. Rather than haddock which is not available here I used rockling, a mild-flavoured white fish which holds its shape well and flakes away into ideal fork-friendly pieces when cooked.       Lining the base of a casserole with fresh thinly sliced truss tomatoes, I placed the fish - probably almost a kilogram - on top and threw

Pasta with a twist and home-made pesto.

Fusilli avellinisi are long pasta shapes with an irregular twist. I buy them from the fruit shop in Sydney Road where they are a couple of dollars cheaper ($3.99) than the supermarkets, not to mention the 'gourmet' food stores ($5.99-$6.20). It was a hot summer night, fewer of which we have had this season despite the horror-show predictions of the weather obsessives, given the change from El Nino to La Nina or vice versa. Can't ever recall which is which. Moreover, right now we are in the middle of a forty-eight-hour curtain of rain that has dropped on the first act of summer and broken the banks of Merri Creek. Nevertheless a few nights ago we were on the bay and it was hot and dinner was a large serving platter of fusilli avellinisi served with flat beans.  Also known as romano beans, these flat bean monsters are about eight inches long at their peak. I cut about ten of these into inch-long sections, blanched them with some broccoli florets for a minute and then sauteed

Christmas redux.

Same place, same food, same kookaburra  This Christmas was  2009  all over again. Just fewer aunts and uncles. Fourteen years takes its toll.  And, of course, more children, including our thirteen-year-old.

Smoke and mirrors.

A large panel on the front of the 500g pack of bacon proudly boasted: Smoked Using Australian Hardwood .  In tiny print on the back of the pack: 'imported bacon' . The majority of such bacon comes from countries subsidising their pork production, placing Australian producers at a disadvantage. (Importation also adds, for those obsessed by such matters, to carbon dioxide emissions; however those who care about this see only that Australia's net pig production emissions are thus reduced.)

Eggs on toast under threat.

The ninety-five-year-old does little cooking now, a notable exception her ever favourite supper. She fries two eggs, toasts two slices of bread, and enjoys eggs on toast surrounded by memory's ghosts, seated politely in empty chairs around her like Dickens’ semi-formed characters from A Christmas Carol. As she ascended the mountainous nineties, Edmund Hillary-like, she occasionally forgot to take her daily medications, suffering some kind of oxygen deprivation, ditto. The family, meaning my sister and I, appointed one of these franchise nurses, to visit and administer medication, nineteen pills morning and night.  The health franchise company soon decided that the ninety-five-year-old was at risk of also forgetting other things. Other things included turning off the gas after cooking eggs on toast.  The message (received) read:  we recommend you cut off your mother’s gas supply. This measure will mitigate the risk of gas explosion. The doctor disagreed. (The health ‘industry’ no lo

Letter from Germany: torturing the neighbours.

The ninety-five-year-old can still read, but likes to have someone read to her, especially four-point type cooking instructions in pink out of red on food packages, for example. Oddly enough SBS foreign language film subtitles are no trouble at all to her. She reads along perfectly but still has the sound at top volume presumably so the next-door neighbours can have a French lesson. A letter arrived yesterday. I read it for her. It was from an old friend in Germany; probably of a similar age, maybe a little younger, a mere octogenarian perhaps. The card inside was printed with a snow-capped alpine village scene and a greeting in a similarly snow-capped Jena Gotisch font which read:  und ein gutes neues Jahr .  'Dear Mary ...' the letter accompanying the card began. At some length the correspondent wrote of ' ... a weekend walk with my friend Otti in the Sauerland ... ' , and a page later, of planning a festive meal:  ' ... I bought two kilos of beef. I put it into a

Whispering wind imitates Cerulean blue Holden Belmont.

She rang me late; it must have been 9.30 or 10 o'clock. He was coming up the drive, she said. She had heard all the familiar noises, she told me; the big side gate that was built in the late 1960s, steel and cyclone mesh, to keep children in and wandering dogs out. It groaned with its sheer weight when anyone opened it. She had heard it just like that day in 1968 when my father had to stop and get out of his cerulean blue Holden Belmont and open it before continuing up the drive; and these noises of gate dragging and car purring and soft coming-home voices had made her call me because he hadn't come into the house and his dinner was ready, and he hadn't acted out those familiar little rites that no-one notices until they are gone: coat, warm, smelling of Melbourne autumn and coffee-dense cafés, and hung on the back of the chair; Melbourne Herald, a reasonably respectable broadsheet, folded rustling onto the table like a placemat you could read, which in my father's case

Well, what the hell did I cook last night?

Twenty years and twelve days ago I started writing recipes into an online diary. It was easier than my earlier habit of writing on bits of old paper or on the backs of used envelopes which were then filed inside cookbooks in no particular order. My new online system eliminated the need to find notebooks or paper, or pens for that matter. As a professional writer, I was always running out of these things thanks to my habit of scribbling random thoughts on any white space I could find. Since that time twenty years and twelve days ago, I have accrued (if that is an appropriate word) three more children; seen one close relative turn from straight to gay, another from gay to straight, and a third from female to male; lost several aunts and uncles signalling the closure of my father's generation; watched a frail, ailing 75-year-old very close relative on thirty pills a day into a frail, ailing 95-year-old on thirty pills a day; fostered fifty greyhounds and adopted a couple; owned ten ca

A beach walk in early spring.

Tom and I walked down from the beach house on the hill, and along Canterbury Jetty Road towards the ocean, and then branched off where the walking path follows the shoreline. Here, the wild broken cliffs of the beach itself are obscured behind impassable dense bush and steep sand dunes, and at night you can hear the groaning ocean roar as it smashes itself against the rocks.  As usual we were talking about music as we went in single file along the overgrown path, the occasional bird flitting startled from the overhang. Fifty years ago a record hit the charts, progressive rock it was called, and it was good and it was on high rotation in that year that the genre reached its zenith. Putatively. The record was Yes’s Rick Wakeman who, solo, had released The Six Wives of Henry VIII; and once again time was standing still, I being precisely Tom’s age then as he is now. I played it over and over on cassette, taped directly off AM radio; Tom has the actual record - yes the original 1973 vinyl