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Showing posts from July, 2009

The meeting.

A COLD, STERILE MEETING ROOM IN A LARGE INNER CITY PRIMARY SCHOOL. EVENING. SIX PEOPLE AROUND A TABLE, A SHEET OF A4 IN FRONT OF EACH: THE AGENDA. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE IS A RUBBLE OF PUBLICATIONS AND DEPARTMENTAL REPORTS. AN ELECTRIC CLOCK ON THE WALL HAS JUST WHIRRED PAST EIGHT. HAROLD (COMMITTEE CHAIR AND PRINCIPAL): Thanks for coming, everyone. GEORGETTE (COMMITTEE SECRETARY): Thanks, Harold, but most of us didn’t actually come; we’ve been here since the last class of the day writing reports. HAROLD (LAUGHS): Me too! Now. Where do we start? GEORGETTE: The motto, I think. ANNE (NEW COMMITTEE MEMBER): Is that the mission statement? GEORGETTE: No, the mission statement is the ten paragraphs in the inside front cover of the school annual. ANNE (PICKING UP AND FLICKING THROUGH A HEAVY PAPERBACK A4 PUBLICATION): Oh, that one. I thought that was our five-year plan. HAROLD: That’s something else again. The five-year plan is essentially the strategy to implement the mis

Fragrant white zucchini stew over peppered polenta with a gremolata of kale and rocket.

Recipes are few and far between here these days, so here's one with a long restaurant-style name (that must by chefs' law include at least every item in the recipe, often with several descriptors each). * Not so long ago Australian olive oil was an expensive 'gourmet' item. Now production is a torrent and it is available in four litre cans in supermarkets. About time. Who wants to pay top dollar for supposedly '100% olive oil' from Europe that isn't? All right, we've been through all this before, let's on with the recipe. * Saute a large chopped onion in olive oil (Cobram Estate, near the bees, see yesterday's post) until tender/translucent/melting/choose your own description. Or about five minutes if you prefer a prescribed time. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't; although a prescribed time is dependent on variations in cooking heat and utensils so I veer to words. If they convey the sense well enough. I digress. The onions are

The Sting.

Timbercorp liquidators have convinced three banks - ANZ, Westpac and Bank of Scotland - to stump up the $3.4 million needed to truck 1.6 billion bees to the Murray region in an attempt to save the $100 million almond crop . But is it too late ? "The order for the bees was required to be placed on 16 July, and as a result of the delay no guarantee as to the effectiveness of the pollination can be given, but we remain hopeful," (liquidator) Mr Korda said.

The new rose.

Monty arrived in 1986 when my now grown-up son - William and Thomas' older brother - was ten years old, and his sister seven. Monty was an eight-week-old Brittany spaniel pup; a breed known now simply as the Brittany, because the dog is more of a pointer or a setter than a spaniel. Monty lasted thirteen years. The children edged into their teenage years, there was a divorce, the children finished school, I remarried, we moved house. Changes. Monty went along with all this and never complained and sat quietly in between walks - on my chair if I wasn't in it - and hardly ever even shed hair. Although he did eat my dinner once, and another time chewed up a brand new pair of ASICS Tiger Excalibur-GT running shoes, the very best running shoe in history, bar none. Brittanies have boundless energy. Monty would run ten kilometres. I knew: I ran with him. In the old days. Except he zig-zagged, so he probably ran twenty. Then, suddenly one day he was old and he faded, and succumbed

Is Skylab still out there?

I went out to the letterbox and fished out the mail. There was an insurance bill. It was heavy. I tore it open. A book fell out. Terms and conditions. One hundred and seventy-seven pages. Gloss cover in heavy stock. Perfect bound. Insane. They don't call it terms and conditions any more. They call it a 'product disclosure statement'. With capitals. To make it sound important. Now, let me see. What could they have usefully fitted between the front and back covers? The Postman Always Rings Twice , by James Cain? You'd get that in almost twice. Albert Camus' The Stranger ? Conrad's Heart of Darkness ? Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby ? James' Washington Square ? Animal Farm by George Orwell? Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy ? Easy. Most of those novels have chapters, of course, meaning plenty of blank pages; but this product disclosure statement just ploughed along, type falling on page after page like a concertinaed train wreck.

But what was the date on the moon?

Two days of winter warmth. A north-easterly off the alps in the morning, picking up some warmth after midday; perhaps turning slightly westerly and dragging in some heat off the flat floor of 10 million acres of Mallee desert. Too early to be thinking about spring. But buds are forming on the trees. The pruned roses are starting to shoot. And this evening, did I notice the light seemed to hesitate before failing? * The papers - all media - have been full of moon landing nostalgia, dutifully pointing out that it was 21 July 1969 here and 20 July 1969 elsewhere, and even releasing 'previously unreleased footage', like new Beatles songs or an extra reel of The Godfather . I don't remember this degree of coverage on the tenth, twentieth or thirtieth anniversaries. Maybe they're just warming up for the half-century. * Rice again. This time, another winter favourite that is more a lunch thing; indeed, a breakfast thing in Asia. Congee with fish. Bring to boil t

Send bees.

1.6 billion bees - 120 semi-trailer loads - required urgently or we don't eat almonds. "We have just a two-week window to get the hives and have them in place when the trees bloom next month," he said yesterday. The numbers are staggering: 52,000 hives, each containing 30,000 bees; to pollinate 12,000 almond trees grown by 7,000 growers producing a $100 million crop. Many of the trees border the Murray Valley Highway from Boundary Bend to Robinvale, probably my favourite drive ever; Murray River to one side, seemingly endless almond groves to the other. Further north the almonds give way to red soil and orange trees and beyond that, Mildura; and then nothing but vast emptiness and interstate trucks.

Winter turns a corner.

It was 5 o’clock on a darkening Monday evening. I was in the local library doing some research, called browsing, with one eye on a book and the other on the high window that looks over Victoria Street and beyond. Outside, the north-west sky was a giant black cloud crying its heart out. Beneath it was a grey veil of rain stretching from Footscray to Broadmeadows. The cloud moved nearer and the downpour hit the library like thunder. The street outside turned that intense storm colour, a kind of seething yellow grey, like reflected lightning. The lights in the butcher shop and the shoe store across the road pixillated and a flash of red was a raincoat running for cover towards the shopfront verandah. By the time the rain stopped and the black cloud had rumbled east towards Heidelberg and Kew, it was almost dark anyway. I walked home in the cold wet dusk to the white house with the perennial borders. The pelargoniums are still in flower. Or again. They never stop. * Oh look, Al Gore

Wild weather; comfort food.

I was five feet up a ladder propped against a tree that was growing at a fifty degree angle to the ground, which was a hill. I was on the south side of the tree, because of the hill, and a northerly off Port Phillip Bay was blasting into my face, as was the sawdust from the branch I was sawing off. * It was Saturday afternoon. The weather was appalling, but I had a backyard full of overgrown ti-tree, a sharp saw and no excuses. I switched the radio on, tuned it to the football, turned up the volume loud enough to hear over the wind and positioned it on the ledge of the open window of the bungalow, facing out. Then I climbed the ladder, lopped branches and listened to the game. * I have criticised football commentators in the past, but I must say that Gerard Whateley has all the accuracy, enthusiasm and tonal qualities of Bruce MacAvaney but none of his verbal tics. Whateley is probably the best currently calling. (The commentator always does a better job when your team wins,

The shorter emu?

The owl, especially in children's literature, is often illustrated as an impressive, silent, imperious creature; brooding on its perch like an old judge. It helps that it is a nocturnal creature, of course. It's harder to draw an owl at night, in flight. I was reading Squirrel Nutkin to Thomas and referred to Old Brown , a particularly wise and patient owl, as a bird. "You are wrong, Daddy!" Thomas declared, finger in the air. "Owls walk!"

Lies, damned lies and Bosch dishwashing machines.

The colour ad in the magazine that fell out of the weekend newspaper was the usual cliched rubbish designed and written by a creative team earning $300,000 p.a. between them. A stupid-looking man (they have to look stupid, or the casting agency won't cast them for the job) wearing oversized pink rubber gloves was standing in front of a kitchen sink full of bubbles as if wondering what a kitchen sink was and why he was standing in front of it wearing a pair of oversized pink rubber gloves. Advertising cliche #2,143. The ad declared that Bosch dishwashers used a fraction of the water used by obviously stupid people who refuse to buy a dishwasher. It then went on to quote 'research' supposedly showing that while the dishwasher used 15 litres, the amount used by the human dish-washer to wash the same number of dishes was 103 litres on average. 103 litres?????!!!!! On average? (I hardly ever use multiple exclamation marks, let alone question marks, so this better be good

Tasklist: get a life.

Remarking that I have never watched an episode (does reality television have episodes?) of Masterchef gets a similar response to when I let drop that I have never seen any Star Wars, James Bond or Quentin Tarantino movie (or in the latter case, film). The second admission covers most movie audience types, so there's always a falling jaw.

Layers of meaning.

If you visit a place called The Tofu Shop you kind of know what you are going to eat. I used to eat there when I worked near Bridge Road, in that old red brick building that used to be a shirt factory and became an office block in the late eighties, when Australia was busy exporting manufacturing. The old red brick building had a neon sign on its roof that read 'PELACO' and I worked directly beneath the 'E'. I used to go to The Tofu Shop ('The' was part of its name, hence the capital T, although it looks wrong) because I liked the way they layered their dishes. You didn't just get a slab of soy curd, slippery and shaking like a jellyfish, on a plate. Instead, they used to layer textures and tastes in a way that kept you interested, like reading a thriller. Frameworks of steamed vegetables, grains of various kinds and legumes were built over with salads, the starring home-made tofu, or a combination of ingredients; and then topped with yogurt, or garlic o

The house on the hill.

Of course, we used to visit relatives there. Still do. The new freeways have cut the trip to the Dandenongs by about 45 minutes. My father used to take Elgin, Johnson, Studley Park, Barkers, Canterbury and Burwood; a tour of Melbourne’s Victorian and Edwardian streetscape and architecture. On the freeway, you get to look at these . * I took the Monash freeway to Eastlink, ignored the faux art, hooked off and under at Ferntree Gully Road and then up into the hills. Within twenty minutes, we were curving into the narrow main street of Belgrave, where the shops seem to lean into the road like eager spruikers trying to shoulder each other out of the way. Past the strip, we turned south across the railway bridge, coasted down the hill into a long gully and turned into an unmade road that followed the bank of a creek towards a forest. We were visiting a relative. I had had to consult a map, because the relative had recently moved house. We found the house on the high side of the grave