I stacked the coals in the grill over a firelighter, lit the firelighter with a match and walked back inside to skewer some chicken for kebabs for the barbecue.
I skewered one cube of chicken breast, one segment of onion and one square inch of red capsicum in that order; repeating until four large skewers were loaded, and shunting the ingredients close together as possible on the skewers. I find they cook better that way and the chicken breast - prone to drying out if not cooked with care - stays moist. I set them aside on a platter and showered them with lemon juice and chopped garlic. Then I speed-dried a sprig each of thyme, oregano and mint fresh from the garden in a heavy pan, crushed the dried herbs over the skewers and finished them off with a heavy drizzle of olive oil.
The cooler day had been a relief after what – two weeks? - of unprecedented spring heat. Unprecedented only in a mere 150 years of weather bureau records, of course. The place has been inhabited for 40,000 years. I can’t speak for how the Wurundjeri spent the early spring of 20,894 BC, for example. I suppose they had the odd hot spell. 40,000 years is a long time. They came from Tasmania. Walked.
The sky had remained overcast most of the day but the air had stayed humid. Pockets of warmth buffeted every now and then.
Before lighting the barbecue, I glanced at the sky, checked the wind direction (a leisurely north-westerly), looked at the radar and decided the rain would hold off. It started five minutes later, when we sat down for dinner. So much for the radar. It came down finely at first, and then started drumming. We moved under cover.
It rained all night. There is an ominous tap-tap at thirty second intervals in the roof. I can't complain: Britain is having what meteorologists are calling once-in-a-thousand-years rainfall. The newspaper subeditors as usual are going one better and calling it 'biblical'.
Chicken kebabs, continued. Plus: spiced zucchini strips
I placed the skewers over the hot coals, covered them with the wok lid and left them for eight minutes. That was about two minutes too long. I turned them, poured over the remaining herby, garlicky olive oil and lemon juice mixture and left them for another four minutes - that was about right - and the coals reacted angrily, but very fragrantly, to the remaining marinade.
Meanwhile, I cut two zucchinis into quarter-inch strips, brushed them with olive oil and dusted them with fenugreek flakes and ground coriander. Resisting the temptation to eat them just like that, I placed them radially over the coals, around the kebabs, and grilled them for just a few minutes each side until they had lines on them, not bothering to crosshatch the lines. Only food stylists do that. I served them with sweet mango pickle and a salad of finely chopped tomato, onion and fresh coriander, alongside the chicken kebabs.
It rained all Sunday morning. Now the wind had turned around and the clouds were heading inland again, like a turning tide, on a light south-westerly and last night's chicken leftovers had become today's lunch: barbecued chicken on fresh white bread with shaved lettuce and a little mayonnaise. And coffee.
Afternoon. The rain is gone and the air is warm again. Through the kitchen window, the garden is limpid green, sci-fi movie-style, glowing with suffused sunlight reflected in the water droplets hanging on the tiny leaves of the lilly-pilly hedge at the back and the viburnum hedge at the side.