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Showing posts from January, 2008

"I just want to hear some rhythm ..."

It was a long time ago. A warm night in 1975. I was driving my first car, a white XP Falcon four-door, to the Mornington Peninsula where my family had a holiday house at Somers. I had just turned into Coolart Road, that long stretch that always seemed to take forever. 1975 had not been a good year in music, unless you liked disco ducks or Barry Manilow. As usual, I was punching the radio buttons to find something decent with which to drive past endless pine plantations. I hit a button and a new song came on and by the time it had finished I was most of the way down Coolart Road without even noticing. A kind of haggard vibrato was dragged along by an insane chop of a beat that sounded like a Harley Davidson ticking over and then, near the end, a sax break blew the whole thing out of the water. In fact, it almost blew the speakers out of the car, which would have been a shame because they were only new. That year they were calling Bruce Springsteen the new Dylan. * The other day I
'Usually,' began the doctor, carefully feeling Thomas's forearm between his thumb and index finger, 'They bounce.' But this time, Thomas hadn't. The doctor sent us off for x-rays that revealed a greenstick fracture of the lower forearm. That was two weeks ago. Thomas adapted to the half cast perfectly well. He wore it like a vambrace, often taking to William with it. An excellent piece of armour indeed. Food was a problem. Fifteen-month-olds play with it. His bandage was covered in mash after each meal. Then Tracy hit on the brilliant strategy of wrapping it in a plastic bag at mealtimes. As well as at the beach and at bath time.

What to eat when there's no restaurant and you can't cook.

Hardware store owners always look like hardware store owners and newsagents always look like newsagents, but the people who run motels never look like they run motels. I wonder why. The woman in the office was in her fifties and tall, and had intelligent emerald eyes and a sensitive mouth and long hair stacked up in a kind of two-storey nest with a tortoiseshell stick the size of a chopstick separating the two storeys. She could have been a folk singer or a psychoanalyst or a society page editor, but here she was running a sleepy motel in a sleepy town on the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range. The woman looked up from behind the counter as I entered and I asked her if there was a room and she said, yes indeed, there was, in an Irish lilt. She gave me the key to room two and would I like any milk? Yes, I replied and she disappeared and came back with a small ceramic jug. I got back into the car and handed the jug to Tracy and drove the car fifty metres to room two and wonder

The wind, the bees and the cucumber.

I lifted the sash window in the loungeroom and a blast furnace came into the room. I closed it again and the blast stopped, but the room was about ten degrees hotter than before. The loungeroom faces north and the wind was a northerly and it was a big wind and it was an angry wind. The temperature topped out at 42 yesterday. The overnight was to be 30, about the same as Tennant Creek and Broome and a degree or two lower than Port Hedland. Why so hot down here, then? The wind sweeps the country from top to bottom, across the dead heart, sucking heat from burning rock and molten sand and dumping it on Melbourne before blowing out across Bass Strait and on to Tasmania, the full point to the mainland's question mark. * The night swam by in a barely-remembered swelter of black heat. The boys slept surprisingly well. Tracy, not so well. I slept like a log. The heat doesn't bother me. William had stood on a bee in the late afternoon. I had set up a small pool on the lawn beneath

Umbrellas.

7.30 p.m. Still 38 degrees. I was in the bay, a few hundred metres off shore. Tracy was on the beach in the shade of some ti-tree with Thomas, who was snoozing on the big white and blue beach towel. I was playing with William. The water is still only knee-deep here. Another few hundred metres farther out, timber depth markers indicate where the shelf drops off; and beyond that the jetskis go smack-smack-smack one way along the gentle swell and then smack-smack-smack the other way. You'd think they'd tire of it but they never do. Like mosquitos in the night. William and I looked back towards the shore. You know what I miss about the beach? Canvas unbrellas. Espcially the old ones designed in alternate concentric circles of colour and white with fringed edges. Or segmented into primary colours between the ribs; green, red, yellow, blue, etc. You see them in pictures of the beach printed in photogravure magazines of the 1950s; delicately poised on the sand over canvas deckcha

Thomas.

One day, he wore a hole in his trouser knee. The next day he walked, and he hasn't stopped since.

The year in food. (And I found my brother.)

He rang me the next day from a hotel on the other peninsula. He had completely forgotten. I said not to worry about it, we'll catch up later. I might even visit Alice Springs this year, finally. * Back to food matters, Food Nazi posted this culinary summary of the year the week before Christmas. Here is my version, a little shorter, I'm afraid. I don't get about much any more. Dish of the year: Flash-fried steak, a minute each side and topped with a thin slice of blue cheese and warmed, thinned home-made pesto. Rich but stunning. Served with fine chips and a simple green salad. Best eating experiences of the year: 1. See above. 2. A plate of glistening, quivering seafood dumplings at any number of the new Asian cafes that make the old sesame toast, sweet and sour, fried rice places look like something out of the 1950s. Which is what they usually are. 3. Barbecued salmon steaks under a setting sun. Favourite cafe snack: One man's journey through a world of f

Roast.

In a large bowl, I tumbled quartered peeled potatoes and chunks of pumpkin in olive oil, salt and pepper, set them in a baking tin along with a whole head of unpeeled garlic and some rosemary and placed the tin in the oven. It had been a cooler day. My brother - the vague one from Alice Springs - was coming to visit. He would arrive some time in the afternoon or early evening. He couldn't be specific. Things change. He might see something interesting on the trip from the city to the Peninsula and be diverted. A lot can happen in ninety minutes. The rosemary was starting to get fragrant and I was chopping some more garlic. The radio on the shelf was broadcasting the cricket. I used to listen to the cricket just to hear the voice of Alan McGillivray. Now I listen to it to find out who is winning, if anyone. A five-day game that ends in a draw is a marvellously Victorian thing, like a steam omnibus. Cricket should be heritage listed. Half an hour later. I made slits in two pieces